The Cost of Global Warming Policies

September 23, 2013

On September 26, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will present the summary of its most recent assessment report, the fifth in 23 years. Although the IPCC is not perfect -- it famously predicted that all Himalayan glaciers would be gone in 2035, when the more likely year is 2350 -- its many experts generally give us the best information on the fractious issue of global warming, says Bjorn Lomborg, an adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School and director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center.

Though the IPCC, according to its own principles, is a policy-neutral organization, its head, Rajendra Pachauri, will explicitly feed the frenzy by insisting that "humanity has pushed the world's climate system to the brink," and that we need to complete a "transition away from fossil fuels," maybe with some kind of "price of carbon."

As a result, the likely outcome of the report's release will be more of the same: a welter of scary scenarios, followed by politicians promising huge carbon cuts and expensive policies that have virtually no impact on climate change.

Maybe we should try to alter this scenario. We should accept that there is global warming. But we should also accept that current policies are costly and have little upside.

  • The European Union will pay $250 billion for its current climate policies each and every year for 87 years.
  • For almost $20 trillion, temperatures by the end of the century will be reduced by a negligible 0.05 degrees Celsius.

The current green energy technologies still cost far too much and produce far too little to replace existing energy sources. To insist on buying these expensive non-solutions is to put the cart before the horse. What we need is investment in research and development to reduce green energy's cost and boost its scale. When solar and other green technologies can take over cheaply, we will have addressed global warming -- without the angst.

Source: Bjorn Lomborg, "Global Warming Without Fear," Project Syndicate, September 13, 2013.

 

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