The True Cost Of Climate Change

The True Cost Of Climate Change


Leonard Zwelling

Bjorn Lomborg has been writing a series of opinion pieces in The Wall Street Journal on climate change. His latest from November 11 (see above) discusses the cost of doing something about climate change and the cost of not doing something. His argument is that there is a balance between these two and the goal ought to be to optimize (i.e., minimize) the amount society spends on dealing with global warming.

He makes good sense. There’s an opportunity cost to almost everything. There’s the cost of doing and the cost of not doing. Lomborg presents a graph derived by Nobel laureate William Nordhaus that plots the delicate balance we should be striving for in spending on battling climate change vs. the amount climate change is costing us.

I have heard arguments that the current climate change dilemma is really just normal variations in Mother Nature’s scheme, and not the result of man-made pollution. I have heard other scenarios that espouse that all of global warming is secondary to what we have done to pollute the atmosphere. If you believe the first, your likely not too keen on spending money or national wealth on fighting global warming. On the other hand, if you believe the latter, there is no price you won’t pay to curtail the negative effects of man’s activities. Well, what if what is likely the case is that the truth lies somewhere in between. Yes, the globe is warming naturally and yes, the actions of a busy industrialized globe is warming the climate and adding to the risks of flooding, wild fires and hurricanes. If you take the logical stance that it is a mixture of these factors and that we can only affect our own actions, the logical conclusion is that of Lomborg and Nordhaus. Seek legislation and executive solutions that minimize the effect of nature and reduce the impact of man on the climate while keeping costs limited. Nothing else makes sense.

The fad of hand wringing and gloom and doom is neither productive nor helpful. What is needed are concrete plans to switch to alternative forms of energy from fossil fuels and to do so in a fashion that is both economic and efficient. If that’s wind—great. Solar? Bring it on. Nuclear, why not?

People tearing out their hair over global warming is not going to fix the problem. It is possible that the problem cannot totally be fixed and that there will be a rise in global average temperature over the next 100 years. That does not mean we shouldn’t try to optimize our actions and our spending to reduce the adverse impact of our own actions on the air. We should, but let’s do so with some thought. Read the article. It is most illuminating as are the rest of Lomborg’s op-eds. Most importantly, they provide an outline for moving forward and a way to do so in a bipartisan fashion.

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