We defeated hunger through economic growth. The planet now produces more food with fewer farmers than ever, and we have efficient transportation systems to get that food to distant markets. As Lomborg explains, spreading the sort of wealth that First World nations now enjoy to everybody would be the best way to deal with global climate change. And he shows that Gore’s pet topic, the Kyoto accord, would actually make the world poorer.
“For the full Kyoto protocol with the United States participating, the total cost over the coming century turns out to be more than $5 trillion,” Lomborg writes. Yet it’s “a bad deal: for every dollar spent, it does the world only about thirty four cents’ worth of good.”
He advises us to focus instead on the Copenhagen Consensus, an attempt by economists to identify solutions to global problems. Economists involved in this project found that “preventing HIV/AIDS turns out to be the very best investment humanity can make,” he writes. “For $27 billion, we can save twenty eight million lives over the coming years.”
The group also advocates adopting policies to eliminate malnutrition. “Ending First World agricultural subsidies and ensuring free trade would make almost everyone better off,” Lomborg notes. “Models suggest that benefits of up to $2.4 trillion annually would be achievable, with half of that benefit accruing to the third world.” And making the world’s poor people wealthier will leave them better positioned to deal with the effects of global warming, whatever those may be.
Politicians like Gore don’t want to hear this, of course. They’d rather preach about the long-term problems of global warming and blame those problems on our capitalist society. But as Lomborg shows, instead of trying to adopt policies that will cause financial disruption today but won’t deliver benefits for several generations, we need to focus on what we can do to make the planet cleaner and richer.
In the end, it’s the quest for growth that’ll allow us to deal with our problems.