The cost of limiting carbon dioxide emissions far outweighs the damage that global warming will eventually do to the world and merely postpones the problem for six years, Bjorn Lomborg, an environmental statistician, has calculated. As a result, he argues, trillions of pounds that might otherwise be spent on fighting poverty and malnutrition and improving infrastructure in developing countries will be wasted.
In The Sceptical Environmentalist, to be published in August, he says that millions of lives will be lost that could otherwise be saved and the eventual impact of climate change on the Third World will be much worse as countries will be less equipped to adapt.
The findings are based on a four-year audit of a massive set of official environmental indicators by Dr Lomborg, associate professor of statistics at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, who is also an environmentalist and a former member of Greenpeace.
Details of the research have been made public as President Bush prepares for his first summit meeting with the EU in Sweden this week. Mr Bush will come under renewed pressure there over his decision to reject the 1997 Kyoto protocol, which aims to cut the developed world’s carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels. Renewed international talks on climate change control are also due to begin in Bonn next month, after the collapse of last year’s summit on the issue at The Hague.
Although Dr Lomborg accepts that human-induced global warming is a reality, he is critical of the treaty because independent scientific models suggest that it will have little impact on the scale of global warming and offers very poor value for money.
“What happens with the Kyoto protocol, according to the most-accepted model, is that by 2100, global temperatures will rise by 1.9C rather than by 2.1C if nothing is done,” Dr Lomborg says. “Another way of looking at it is that a temperature rise of 2C, which would otherwise have been reached in 2094, is postponed to 2100.”
Instead of wasting money on implementing Kyoto, he says, the world would do better to invest much more than at present in research into renewable forms of energy, such as solar power and nuclear fusion. Should solar power become an economic way of generating energy by the middle of the century, carbon dioxide emissions would decline very steeply.