What Should We Do About Global Warming?

By Tom Quiner

As seen in the Des Moines Register on November 29, 2009

Two heartbreaking tragedies hit Great Britain earlier this decade.

Tragedy #1 killed 2,000 people .   Tragedy #2 killed 25,000.

If you went by the media coverage, tragedy #1 was worse.  Those people died from a heat wave that swept the entire European continent back in 2003.  Media coverage positioned the cause of the catastrophe as global warming.  Press coverage was huge.

What was the cause of tragedy #2?  Excess cold.  It received minimal coverage.  In fact, cold temperatures  account for about seven times the number of deaths in Europe  overall  than heat-related deaths.  BBC coverage was modest.  International coverage was nonexistent.

If global warming is real, what will it do to us?  For one thing, it will help reduce deaths related to cold temperatures.

Former Vice President and global warming activist, Al Gore, told us “the debate is over” when it comes to global warming.  And yet recent and surreptitiously obtained correspondence from global warming scientists reveal some have been manipulating and suppressing data to support their cause.

What is one to think other than the debate isn’t over?

The subject of climate change raises three legitimate questions:

  1. Is the earth in fact warming?
  2. Is it caused by man?
  3. Can we do anything about it?

These questions are debatable, and the debate rages.

There is another question that isn’t discussed enough:  is this problem the best place to spend limited resources?  In other words, are there other problems, big problems, that are more fixable than global warming?

Let me introduce you to The Copenhagen Consensus (www.CopenhagenConsensus.com).  They assembled eight top international economists (including three Nobel laureates) to crunch numbers on the world’s biggest challenges.  Specifically, they assigned a cost/benefit ratio to a wide-ranging list of problems.  Since resources are limited and all of our problems can’t be fixed, countries are forced to prioritize.  These economists give us a fresh, analytical way to approach the challenges we face.

The video clip below gives you a quick introduction to the Copenhagen Consensus:

The results were surprising.

The Copenhagen Consensus believes that mankind is in fact changing the planet’s climate. However, they believe its impact is manageable.  They believe there are some upsides (fewer deaths due to cold temperatures and longer growing seasons) to offset some of the downsides.  But their numbers reveal that the cost/benefit ratio of reducing carbon emissions worldwide is cost-ineffective.  An investment of $800 billion over the next century would reduce temperature increases by just 0.4 degrees.

Is that worth it?  Every dollar spent in an attempt to reduce carbon emissions will generate but 90 cents in offsetting benefits.

On the other hand, the Consensus tells us that each dollar invested in clean energy research and development will generate $11 in results, especially technologies that allow us to store more energy from intermittent energy sources like wind and solar.

They looked at another problem:  disease in third world countries.  Affordable drugs can reduce the consequence of heart disease and diabetes. Malaria is a growing problem in these countries, too, because it’s getting harder to treat.  These problems are fixable with money.  The Copenhagen Consensus says $500 million could save a half a million lives a year, most of them children.  Every $1 spent fighting disease in these countries generates $20 in benefits.

Malnutrition is a big problem in parts of Asia and Africa.  Every dollar spent in research to make technological improvements generates $16 in economic benefits.

In all, the panel identified and ranked 30 international challenges based on prioritization, cost-effectiveness, and efficiency.  Carbon reduction finished dead last.  Issues such as expanded immunizations for children, improvements in third world rural water supplies, and microfinancing programs are a few that give a much bigger bang for the buck than cap and trade policies.

Global warming generates the most media coverage.  It’s a movement with big money and celebrities behind it.  It’s the issue of the moment.

Let’s be sure our political decisions are backed up with honesty and sound thinking.

1 Comment

  1. Paul Sharp on May 27, 2010 at 8:01 am

    Is man-made global warming a fact or a hoax? Probably a hoax, but for sure I do not conclude that from information of the mass media. The opinions of many scientists skeptical that earth is warming due to activities of mankind are not covered by the readily available media; a great failing of current journalism in my opinion.

    I am pleased that the panel ranked carbon reduction last among issues the world community should address. If only that information were published by the media.