Global warming? Climate doomsayers are the Problem

Written by Bjorn Lomborg

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Most people on the planet wake up each day thinking that things are getting worse. It is little wonder, given what they routinely read in the newspaper or see on television. But this gloomy mood is a problem, because it feeds into scare stories about how climate change will end in Armageddon.

The fact is that the world is mostly getting better. For starters, average global life expectancy has more than doubled since 1900 and is now above 70 years. Because the increase has been particularly marked among the poor, health inequality has declined massively. Moreover, the world is more literate, child labour is decreasing and we are living in one of the most peaceful times in history.

In addition, people are better off economically. Over the past 30 years, average global per-capita income has almost doubled, leading to massive reductions in poverty.

These changes have also improved the environment. Globally, the risk of death from air pollution – by far the biggest environmental killer – has declined substantially; in low-income countries, it has almost halved since 1990. Finally, rich countries are increasingly preserving forests and reforesting, thanks to higher agricultural yields and changing attitudes to the environment.

Of course, many people may hear all of this and still remain convinced that climate change will wipe out the planet. That is understandable, but it says more about the influence of single-minded environmental activists and desperate media than it does about reality.

We are told that climate change will cause extreme weather and climate chaos that will literally put human survival at risk. But this view is not only unfounded; it also contradicts the findings of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

For example, hurricanes are constantly linked to climate change. But only three major hurricanes (that is, Category 3 or greater) have hit the continental United States in the past 13 years – the lowest number since at least 1900. In its most recent assessment, the IPCC – using the term “cyclone” for hurricane – said that there have been “no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century.”

Scientists think that climate change will in time mean that hurricanes become less frequent but stronger. At the same time, prosperity is likely to increase dramatically over the coming decades, making us more resilient to such events. Once that is taken into account, the overall impact of hurricanes by 2100 will actually be lower than it is today.

Climate change is real, and it is a problem. According to the IPCC, the overall impact of climate change by the 2070s will be equivalent to a 0.2-per-cent to 2-per-cent loss in average income. That’s not the end of the world, but the same as a single economic recession, in a world that is much better off than today.

The risk is that outsized fear will take us down the wrong path in tackling climate change. Concerned activists want the world to abandon fossil fuels as quickly as possible. But it will mean slowing the growth that has lifted billions out of poverty and transformed the planet. That has a very real cost.

Rich, well-educated people in advanced economies often ignore or scoff at this cost. From the comfort of the World Economic Forum’s 2017 annual meeting in Davos, former U.S. vice-president Al Gore tut-tutted about plans to build coal-fired power plants in Bangladesh. But Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina slapped that down, pointing out: “If you cannot develop the economic conditions of your people, then how will you save our people? We have to insure the food security; we have to give them job opportunity.”

Indeed, analysis for the Copenhagen Consensus Center shows that – even when accounting for global climate damage – developing coal power to drive economic growth in Bangladesh is an effective policy. The cost would be US$9.7-billion, including the global, long-term climate costs of US$570-million, but the benefits would be greater than US$250-billion – equivalent to more than an entire year of Bangladesh’s GDP.

We need to solve climate change, but we also need to make sure that the cure isn’t more painful than the disease. A commensurate response would be to invest much more in researching and developing cheaper carbon-free energy sources that can eventually outcompete fossil fuels. That would ensure a smooth transition that doesn’t slow economies down and hurt the worst-off in society.

Doom and gloom distort our worldview and can lead to bad policies. The future is bright, and we need smart decisions to keep it so.

Bjorn Lomborg, a visiting professor at the Copenhagen Business School, is director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center


Comments (3)

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    David Robertson


    I agree. The steps taken here in Canada to combat the supposed causes of climate change will indeed impact the economy much much more adversely than any imagined influence of climate change. The adverse actions will be deliberate and blindly fanatical which makes them even more heinous. The insanity of humanity increases with every generation and it seems that the lunatics have indeed taken over completely. This will affect those least able to cope with the problems introduced and they will keep getting worse as they are ideologically inspired. Think of how long to took the USSR to wake up to their insanity. Ditto China. Yet we are going down the same road.

    Perhaps the coming collapse of the monetary and banking system, another longstanding criminal venture of greedy men that has plagued the world, will put an end to the craziness once and for all. We can only hope. These latter problems are real but far too big and too little recognised for anyone to do anything about them… unlike the imagined climate change crisis which is just a distraction deliberately cooked up for that very purpose.

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    Yo, this is a website for promoting the truth. Climate change is natural, and it is not a problem. Climate has always been changing. God Promises that the world can never end by human caused activity. Do your bible study. Plus, Principiascientific is no place for an alarmist like you to be posting? Don’t you understand that incoming sunshine does not directly hit the entire surface of the earth at once? That’s right.

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    Ken Hughes


    Sorry, but I just don’t see how the climate change we see today can be a problem. Temperatures have been much higher in the past than today and the polar bears are still here. It is also arrogant in the extreme to believe we can “engineer” the climate to fit the parameters established by,….who? Who is playing the part of God in this? Come on, own up.
    CO2 lags temperature, it does not lead it. It cannot be the cause, but is just one effect of heating the oceans. If we do not understand the mechanisms that drive climate (and we clearly do not), then surely we cannot possibly define what is needed to adjust it. let alone develop procedures to change the climate.
    These people are so stupid, it defies belief.

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