via Hit & Run by Ronald Bailey on 9/16/10Remember the silly Guardian story from a couple of weeks back that breathlessly revealed that Skeptical Environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg had made "an apparent U-turn" on man-made global warming that "will give a huge boost to the embattled environmental lobby." In an op/ed in The Wall Street Journal, Lomborg explains that The Guardian made it all up. (OK, maybe the British near-tabloid just exaggerated and very selectively quoted him.) In any case, Lomborg notes that a panel of eminent economists one of his Copenhagen Consensus Conferences in 2008 basically rejected the carbon rationing scheme that is embodied in the Kyoto Protocol as too costly and ineffective.
Last year, Lomborg convened another group of economists to rank proposed policies to address future warming. The panel found that geoengineering and R&D on low carbon energy technologies would be worth pursuing, but they still rejected carbon rationing. As Lomborg explains in his op/ed:
Our experts (including three Nobel laureates) identified a number of other approaches to the problem that were economically feasible and likely to have a quicker and more powerful impact.
The most promising involved massive increases in R&D funding for green energy technologies and geo-engineering. I spent a good part of last year and most of this year advocating for this sensible approach to solving global warming, which is "one of the chief concerns facing the world today," as I said in an Aug. 31 interview with the Guardian, the British newspaper.
What happened next was startling. The Guardian reported my commonplace observation as evidence of "an apparent U-turn" by "the world's most high-profile climate change skeptic." This set off a media stampede; news organizations around the world scrambled to report my so-called change of heart.
I tried to explain that I had always considered climate change to be a problem. The only thing that had changed was that we finally had some good solutions to consider. Some people took the point, but just as many didn't. As far as the latter group was concerned, I had finally seen the light, and that was that.
I suppose I should take some comfort in the fact that I've been accused of being both a denier and a warmist. But the polarized nature of the global warming debate is no laughing matter. Limiting the debate to only two valid positions—for or against—makes a constructive discussion impossible. If we truly want to make progress on climate change, we must acknowledge a middle way—one that recognizes that while we do need to deal with the reality of global warming, solutions based on worst-case scenarios will actually do more harm than good.
The smart middle path means making green energy so cheap everyone wants it. There's nothing confusing about it.
So no conversion to carbon rationing. I told you so.
By the way, Lomborg's plan to greatly expand government R&D on low carbon energy technologies is very similar to the plan being pushed by techno-optimistic environmentalists Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger at the Breakthrough Institute. Both plans suffer from the same defects.
Government may simply be an inadequate (perhaps even counterproductive) technology for solving the problems posed by man-made global warming.