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Monday, July 03, 2006


For the sake of argument

Let us say that Bjorn Lomborg is right. Let us say that the putative $50bn expense of battling climate change would be better spent alleviating ills such as hunger, disease and war. Let us say that he is right on that.

He is still wrong. He is either a deluded utopian or a vicious, wicked propagandist.

Does he really believe that the $50bn that might be drummed up to combat climate change will stay in a charity pot to be spent elsewhere? The idea is nonsense. This money was not forthcoming before the shadow of climate change fell over the first world, so why ought it after Lomborg and his right-wing American chums have dispelled that shadow?

And here is the point. What is Lomborg’s political hinterland? From where will he draw the resources in his ‘campaign’ to boost social spending across the world? From the American right, apparently. So he kills concern with climate change by offering a greater prize, a prize that was never on the table. He is a stooge, a Trojan horse, trundling forwards to win the hearts of political influential progressives across the world, but his programme contains only a bellyful of villains.


For the sake of argument, leaving the 50 billion in the pockets of the worlds taxpayers to do things like pay for housing and food and other essentials for the families be a worthwhile use of the money. Even if they waste on things watching world soccer matchs and reading comic books, this will provide income to someone else to spend on food for their children. All most all families will get a social value in excess of one dollar for every dollar this would allow them to spend. And the net will be a gain to.

Of course this is not the point, it us the yes/no question of is the global warning theory correct? Implementing the treaty will of course provide less than one dollar of social value for every dollar spent. Reducing emissions reduces industries that provide social value. Is this reduction in the net social worth of Western world justified by the evidence for global warming?

When I took Meteorology a long time ago I spent many hours going over “net solar energy absorption isobars.” This leaves me at something of a disadvantage. What is presented in popular arguments for global warming is simply unconvincing in view of the primary effect of solar activity, but if ever see a “net solar energy absorption isobar” again it will be too soon. So I am not in a position to evaluate the more technical arguments such as Dr Lomborg’s. But I do think instead the way to approach the argument is not to political philosophic arguments but a good review of the science and math, which if done fairly to both sides can be presented in a way that only requires basic knowledge of math and science. Even without Dr Lomburg's contibutions to the discussion, the yes case has not been made to my liking.

But, then it doesn’t really make much difference. I read the whole boring treaty. The loop holes are big enough to drive several emmission producing semi trailers side by side. The treaty will, if anything, move emissions to the third world, which could be called environmental imperialism. Keep the first world clean and export the dirt. However given the poverty in third world they might think this is good thing.
Hank, you miss the point.

Lomborg is not trying to persuade people that there is no such thing as climate change. He is an economist and does not have any expertise in this area.

Lomborg is not trying to persuade us to leave the $50bn in the pockets of industry, or whoever. That is the argument of [American] right-wingers. And that is the argument that Lomborg is acting as cover for.

Lomborg is trying to persuade us to abandon efforts to prevent and manage clmate change by suggesting that the $50bn could be better spent elsewhere. But it will not be spent elsewhere. He either knows this, and is attempting to hoodwink us all in the service of his political hinterland, or he is, and this is much more unlikely, a spectacularly stupid utopian.

The argument is not; either have climate change prevention and management strategies or spend the money on AIDS, famine, education and conflict prevention. The argument is; either have climate change prevention and management strategies or do not.
"But I do think instead the way to approach the argument is not to political philosophic arguments but a good review of the science and math, which if done fairly to both sides can be presented in a way that only requires basic knowledge of math and science."

Yes we should leave political values and ideology (bad) and normative thinking out of it and just concentrate on empirical fact and maths and stuff. Because scientists can do maths and science and stuff without norms or values intruding at all. The question of whether or not all life on planet Earth is going to die or not if we carry on the way we are is neither here nor there because it is a normative question. We should concentrate on the maths.

And anyway, the market always knows best. I'm sure when the scientists do the maths they will decide that the best thing to do is leave money in the pockets of the tax payer. And anyway, reducing global warming will reduce profit levels and output and so on and that would be a bad thing - which is just a statement of fact, maths and science.
"The market always knows best". Your comment suggests - proposes - that "the market" and "science" are neutral, value-free mechanisms, which they are not. Science, in the form of academic research, is increasingly subject to corporate priorities, while markets are creatures of the political and social environment in which they are created. In short, a "free market" is a contradiction in terms. Opponents of action against global warming, or of any multilateral democratically-accountable regulation of corporate actions, do so from a distinct but rarely-admitted political position.
Lomborg is not an econonmist, he is a political scientist who has lectured in statistics. He is often prone to 'economists say' declarations. I saw a bit of an opinion piece he did for the politics show on the bbc and he
assured the viewers that economists say that bangladesh will have, through 'development' the living standards of the netherlands by 2050, so it's better not to hinder this wonderful progression by worrying about global warming.

However, if he and what his economists say is wrong, as basically a large flood plain, Bangladesh will not exist to enjoy these promised rewards.

I've never read of an economist that could predict that far ahead, but maybe that's just my ignorance.
John, I was taking the piss out of a previous commenter.

I understood the point you were making. As usual, you made it very well. You didn’t convince me.

If there were a good case for Global Warming and the Kyoto treaty would actually accomplish something it would be a very good point. If not, it does not make much difference.

I remain unconvinced by the evidence presented for Global Warming. The provisions of the Kyoto treaty will, if fact, do nothing to reduce emissions.

Thank you for your comments; they are educational in ways you did not intend.

I always enjoy satire, even at my expense.
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