Why I Am A Bjorn Lomborg Fan

I have to make a confession, which will probably alienate me from some of the most extremists green activists: I am a fan of Bjorn Lomborg.  Now, before you reach for your laptop, tablet or smartphone and start sending me nasty messages about it let me at least explain to you what I like about Mr Lomborg.

The excellent article in today’s Sunday Times illustrated some of Lomborg’s key tenets yet those who have not read his books fully may see him as some sort of crazy climate change denier. Actually he is passionate about the environment, but he is also pragmatic and openly honest about our options, cutting through so much of the hypocrisy at the heart of many recent political choices.

Let me analyse some of his most basic tenets.  First of all there is nothing we can do to arrest global warming.  Any scientist will tell you as much.  Even if today we were to stop driving, stopped heating our houses and stopped consuming, we would not immediately arrest global warming.  Quite aside from the natural causes behind CO2, the system is so complex that it’s like the proverbial super tanker.  You simply can’t turn the light off and be back to square one.  Is he saying that we should do nothing?  Of course not. Just that we must be realistic about our chances and that we need to know how to live with the changes ahead.

Secondly, we in the West are a bunch of hypocrites.  Yes.  In Europe especially we have reduced emissions by sweeping them under the carpet, exporting dirty manufacturing production to developing nations, where it is cheaper (exploiting labour in the process) and where rules and regulations are more lenient.  Just take a close look around your house.  I am certain, for example that 90% of the computer I am using to type this blog hasn’t come from Europe but has been made cheaply somewhere in Asia, returning to us after a circuitous route in which more CO2 was wasted to reach our local commercial outlets.   Yet smug European statistics show that we have reduced emissions.  Our tough climate regulations are designed to make us feel good, just like in the middle ages people used to wear horsehair shirts as penance, yet seldom shunning the opportunity to commit further ‘sins’.

Current green energy alternatives are hugely expensive and unreliable.  You don’t need to be an expert to know that even if you placed solar panels on each building and a wind turbine per person you wouldn’t be able to provide enough electricity as per current methods.  Yet again, and totally paradoxically, we create products and services that are even more energy intensive.  Some of the solutions, like biomass, can be damaging not only to the environment but to entire populations, starving people of much needed food crops and saving little or nothing in the process.

Has anyone so far said that there isn’t a problem and that climate change doesn’t exist?  Of course not.  But at the heart of it there is only crucial element.  We are attempting to change what appears to become inevitable, by doing much of the same, by not investing hugely in additional research on possible alternatives, by not saving energy as we should and above all by not putting in place the necessary infrastructure that will be required to enable us to face the inevitable environmental challenges ahead.  In short we need to behave differently.  We need to create harmonious production processes and models that are radically different from the existing ones.  What about, for example, if governments started to tax companies for not operating efficiently?  In a service economy like ours there is little need for people to commute to their offices daily.  If everyone stopped doing so (telecommuting instead) one day a week at least, CO2 savings could be huge.  The choice of similar options is limited only by our own imagination.  But  instead we want to go ahead doing pretty much the same things as now, thinking that by applying a little bit of green paint the problem will just go away.

That’s why I like Lomborg.  I may disagree with some of his assertions and options (fracking in particular), but at least he can see through our own hypocrisy and tell us things as they are.

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