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A climate change of heart?


Global warming is “undoubtedly one of the chief concerns facing the world today”. Not a surprising statement? Well, perhaps you’d look again, knowing that these are the words of one of the world’s best-known climate sceptics.

Bjørn Lomborg (pictured) is a statistician at the Copenhagen Business School and author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming. He has argued that climate change is a problem, but it’s often massively exaggerated. He has also widely criticised policies attempting to stop the problem.

But, in an interview with the Guardian yesterday, Lomborg appears to make a surprising about turn in his views. He says that his forthcoming book – Smart Solutions to Climate Change – argues for US$100 billion a year to be invested in tackling climate change. And he proposes that more money should be invested in climate engineering methods, such as cloud whitening (Time Blog).

But what caused Lomborg’s change of heart, and is it as drastic as it would first appear?

Lomborg told the Guardian that he reconsidered his stance after the Copenhagen Consensus in 2008, where a group of economists were asked to ponder the question:

“If the world is going to spend hundreds of millions to treat climate, where could you get the most bang for your buck?"

At the meeting, policies which could mitigate global warming, such as research and development investment and climate engineering came out on top.

But Lomborg does not accept that he has performed a volte face. In fact, he has never denied that global warming is happening, nor that it is largely caused by human activities. He has, however, argued the current policies of cutting carbon emissions are achieving too little and costing too much. Instead, he says the world would be better taking measures to adapt to a changing climate, while putting more money into global issues such as poverty and disease.

In this 2007 interview with Time, Lomborg sums up his views:

“Obviously, in a perfect world we should fix all problems. We should fix climate change, and… we should also stop HIV/AIDS, malaria, malnutrition, and give clean water and sanitation to everyone, stop all civil wars. There are a lot of things in principle we should do, and I agree with all of those.

“But, of course, we don’t. We’ve had most of these problems for 50 years and we haven’t fixed all of them. It seems reasonable to me to have a conversation: If we don’t fix all problems tomorrow, can we at least talk about where we could do the most good first?”

Image: Wikimedia Commons


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