Bjorn Lomborg wins a prize for having the most misrepresented position on climate change. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Lomborg reveals he believes that climate change is a problem. The Guardian refers to this as an “apparent U-turn.” It might appear to be a U-turn, but it isn’t.
In his book Cool It!, Lomborg states that “global warming is real and man-made. It will have a serious impact on humans and the environment toward the end of this century.” But he remained a global warming skeptic because he didn’t believe the damage would be catastrophic or that capping CO2 emissions was an effective policy for addressing the world’s problems. He still believes that global warming is a problem and he still believes that capping CO2 is not a solution. Neither his detractors nor many of his supporters heard that first part. Those who claim a U-turn still don’t hear the second part.
What has changed is that the Copenhagen Consensus (a handful of economists who rank how they would spend $100 billion addressing the world’s problems) no longer ranks climate change dead last among the world’s priorities.
While Lomborg previously felt that adaptation alone was the better strategy (and that rich countries should help poor countries adapt), the latest gathering of Copenhagen economists is apparently promoting a mix that includes adaptation, some geo-engineering ideas, and subsidizing new energy technologies. But global warming is still not the top problem.
Lomborg advocates a more thoughtful approach to global warming. From The Guardian: “After the analyses, five economists were asked to rank the 15 possible policies which emerged. Current policies to cut carbon emissions through taxes—of which Lomborg has long been critical—were ranked largely at the bottom of four of the lists. At the top were more direct public investment in research and development rather than spending money on low carbon energy now, and climate engineering.”
That is, Lomborg still opposes the strategy of Kyoto, Lieberman–Warner, Waxman–Markey, and Kerry–Boxer—he says “no” to punitive energy taxes or carbon caps.
The biggest change in the new Copenhagen Consensus isn’t that Lomborg thinks global warming is a problem (that’s not new) but that he has doubled the ante on his thought experiment—the economists are now to imagine they have $100 billion to spend instead of the previous $50 billion. While Lomborg is provocative and a lightning rod, he hasn’t made a U-turn.