Boldly Attacking Global Warming – But at What Cost?

Hillary Clinton told Seacoast-region voters at the forum that under her leadership “the country will achieve energy independence and confront global climate change with market-based and bold government action to cut carbon emissions and pollutants contributing to global warming.”

Barack Osama’s campaign would not release any specific policy proposals, but did say “he would lay out a bold energy plan that will allow America to lead in the world in combating global climate change.”

John Edwards outlined a bold plan for America to achieve energy independence and halt global warming. Under Edwards’ plan, “America can lead the world in stopping climate change, create 1 million new jobs in a new, clean energy economy and freeze our growing demand for electricity.”

Meanwhile back on earth, Professor Bjorn Lomborg writes in the Washington Post that, “All eyes are on Greenland’s melting glaciers as alarm about global warming spreads. This year, delegations of U.S. and European politicians have made pilgrimages to the fastest-moving glacier at Ilulissat, where they declare that they see climate change unfolding before their eyes.”

“Curiously, something that’s rarely mentioned is that temperatures in Greenland were higher in 1941 than they are today. Or that melt rates around Ilulissat were faster in the early part of the past century, according to a new study. And while the delegations first fly into Kangerlussuaq, about 100 miles to the south, they all change planes to go straight to Ilulissat — perhaps because the Kangerlussuaq glacier is inconveniently growing.”

Environmental groups say that the only way to deal with the effects of global warming is to make drastic cuts in carbon emissions — a project that will cost the world trillions of dollars (the Kyoto Protocol alone would cost the U.S. $180 billion annually). That’s a hell of a lot of money to achieve very little.

Global Warming Guru Al Gore and his minions scoff that the IPCC (the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has severely underestimated the melting of glaciers, especially in Greenland. In fact, the IPCC has factored in the likely melt-off from Greenland, which has contributed a little over an inch to sea level rise in this century. Antarctica will actually accumulate ice rather than shedding it, making sea levels two inches lower by 2100.

That is disappointing news to us hoping to have beach front property in the next few years as promised by Al Gore.

But, wait a minute. The IPCC says we’re likely to see a 13-inch rise in sea levels by 2100 if we focus on economic development and ignore global warming. That 13-inch sea level rise is similar to what the world experienced in the past 150 years, but we’ll let that slide for now. On the other hand says the IPCC, if we spend trillions of dollars and focus on environmental concerns, and adopt hefty cuts in carbon emissions, we could cut that sea level rise by maybe 5 inches. The downside to that is that everyone will be poorer in 2100. And with less money to protect the land from the sea, cutting carbon emissions would mean that more dry land would be lost. Where? Well, in vulnerable regions like Micronesia, Tuvalu, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and the Maldives.

Apparently, the Statue of Liberty in New York City and my condo in Florida will still be on dry land.

The good news is that as sea levels rise, so will temperatures. Why are higher temperatures good? Because it is estimated that global warming will cause almost 400,000 more heat related deaths each year, but at the same time, 1.8 million fewer people will die from cold.

The IPCC says that global warming will also claim lives in another way; increasing the number of people at risk of catching malaria by about 3% this century. According to the scientific models, implementing the Kyoto Protocol with its trillions of dollars of cost would reduce the malaria risk by just .02%. Lomborg says, on the other hand, we could spend $3 billion dollars annually on mosquito nets and medication and cut malaria incidence in half by the end of the decade.

Let us not forget Al Gore’s polar bears. You know the one – the little cartoon animated polar bear seen in “An Inconvenient Truth”, swimming for its life, unable to find an ice floe. Al Gore and the Kyoto Protocol would save just one bear a year. Yet every year, hunters kill between 300 and 500 polar bears, according to the World Conservation Union. Lomborg says outlawing this slaughter would be cheap and easy – and much more effective than anything Al Gore, the IPCC, or Kyoto could do.

The Kyoto Protocol has been a farce from the beginning. Even President Bill Clinton knew it was when it was formed during his administration. It was so flawed Clinton didn’t even submit to Congress for a vote. And just to make sure he didn’t, the Senate unanimously passed the Byrd-Hagel Resolution that stated the United States would not be bound by a Kyoto Treaty that exempted China, India, and every other developing nation in the world.

In 1992, the wealthy nations as opposed to the developing nations defined by Kyoto, promised to cut emissions to 1990 levels by 2000. By 2000, instead of cutting emissions, the emission output grew by 12%. Before that though, they met again in 1997 and this time promised to cut emissions to 5% below 1990 levels by 2010. As it looks right now in 2007, those emissions are on track to be 25% greater again.

Lomborg says that we must accept the fact that climate change is real and that we’ve helped cause it. What Lomborg objects to is the hysteria surrounding it. To some people – Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Edwards and Obama – cutting carbon emissions has become the answer, regardless of the question. Cutting carbon emissions has become the “generational message.” But shouldn’t we implement the most efficient policies first, he asks?

Combating the climate challenges facing the planet such as malaria, more heat deaths, declining polar bear populations, often require far simpler and far less costly measures than carbon cuts. And we also need to remember the 21st century is just beginning and will present many other challenges for which we will need low-cost solutions.

The Copenhagen Consensus of 2004 brought together the world’s top economists together to determine not only where we can do good, but at what cost, and to rank the best things for the world to do first. The top priorities they came up with are dealing with infectious diseases, malnutrition, agricultural research, and first-world access to third-world agriculture.

Global warming? The panel placed global warming near the bottom of the list citing “the costs far exceed the benefits.”  

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