Imposing steep immediate cuts on carbon dioxide emissions in an attempt to slow man-made global warming will cause far more harm than it will do good, says Bjorn Lomborg, who heads up the Copenhagen Consensus Center, a Danish think tank.
Why? The costs of carbon rationing would far outweigh the benefits.
To get a sense of what would be involved in trying to achieve even moderate carbon dioxide reductions, Lomborg looks at the case of Japan:
* Japan's commitment in June to cut greenhouse gas levels 8 percent from its 1990 levels by 2020 was scoffed at for being far too little.
* Yet for Japan -- which has led the world in improving energy efficiency -- to have any hope of reaching its target, it needs to build nine new nuclear power plants and increase their use by one-third, construct more than 1 million new wind-turbines, install solar panels on nearly 3 million homes, double the percentage of new homes that meet rigorous insulation standards, and increase sales of "green" vehicles from 4 percent to 50 percent of its auto purchases.
* Japan's new prime minister was roundly lauded this month for promising a much stronger reduction, 25 percent, even though there is no obvious way to deliver on his promise; expecting Japan, or any other nation, to achieve such far-fetched cuts is simply delusional.
The new international goal, agreed upon by the big economies at the G-8 meeting this summer, aims to keep the increase in the planet's average temperature under 2 degrees Celsius above what it was in pre-industrial times. What would this cost? Imagine for a moment that the fantasists win the day and that at the climate conference in Copenhagen in December every nation commits to reductions even larger than Japan's, designed to keep temperature increases under 2 degrees Celsius.
* The result will be a global price tag of $46 trillion in 2100, to avoid expected climate damage costing just $1.1 trillion, according to climate economist Richard Tol, a contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change whose cost findings were commissioned by the Copenhagen Consensus Center and are to be published by Cambridge University Press next year.
* That phenomenal cost, calculated by all the main economic models, assumes that politicians across the globe will make the most effective, efficient choices.
* In the real world, where policies have many other objectives and legislation is easily filled with pork and payoffs, the deal easily gets worse.
Source: Ronald Bailey, "Carbon Rationing Will Hurt the Poor Worse, Argues Skeptical Environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg," Reason, September 28, 2009; based upon: Bjorn Lomborg, "The Costly Carbon Cuts," Washington Post, September 28, 2009.
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