Bjorn Lomborg's Apples and Oranges Argument

Thu, 2008-05-01 12:14Mitchell Anderson
Mitchell Anderson's picture

Bjorn Lomborg's Apples and Oranges Argument

Bjorn Lomborg often points out that AIDS and malaria are devastating parts of the developing world, and that we could easily and relatively cheaply invest in effective solutions that would save millions. This is entirely true. The question we should ask is: what does this have to do with climate change?

The world has long-known about such ruinous diseases and has done shockingly little to fight these largely preventable killers. Does this mean that we should also do nothing to try and curb the emerging catastrophe of climate change?

Lets put is this way, Lomborg’s well-worn argument cooked up through the Copenhagen Consensus is as nonsensical as suggesting that if you are diagnosed with cancer, you shouldn’t bother doing anything about it because it is more cost effective to brush your teeth.

Yet Lomborg continues to pit climate change against global poverty in an ivory tower cost-benefit exercise that ignores the devastating impact climate change is already having on the developing world.

The UN estimated last week that by 2020, unchecked global warming will devastate 250 million Africans through increased drought and water stress. Crop yields are expected to drop by as much as 50%.

Fourteen countries in Africa already endure devastating water shortages. This number is expected to increase to twenty-five by 2030. Recent research shows that global warming will reduce overall rainfall in southern Africa 25%.

Small-scale farming produces most of the food in Africa. It also provides employment for 70% of the working people. Global climate change will dangerously undermine the ability of Africans to feed and support themselves by making these droughts far more likely.

“In our models, the Indian Ocean shows very clear and dramatic warming into the future, which means more and more drought for southern Africa,” said Dr. James W. Hurrell, author of a recent study by the US-based National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Dr. Richard Washington, of Oxford University is somewhat more blunt: “When the rains fail, people die.” The last major drought in southern Africa in 2002 left over 14 million people in need of direct food aid.

African coastal areas are also at risk from extreme weather and rising sea levels. We can expect more frequent disasters like Mozambique’s devastating floods of February 2000, which affected the livelihoods of 1.5 million people and cost $550 million in reconstruction and emergency relief.

Such grim scenarios are already unfolding in the developing world. It is sadly ironic that the people affected most climate change will have contributed the least to the problem. It is worse still when a first-world academic like Lomborg makes a career out of trying to convince the public that we should ignore this unfolding catastrophe - projected to hit the world’s poorest the hardest.

Previous Comments

ARGHHHH!!!!!

I am constantly on the verge of apoplexy about this assumption that it is an either/or, neither/nor situation. Humankind has the ability, the knowledge, & the resources to eradicate disease, solve climate change, eliminate poverty, and effectively prevent war IF ONLY WE COULD CO-OPERATE. We don’t have to play one cause off against another. We’re smarter than that.

But in post after post after post that appears here and all over the blogosphere, it is clear that a huge number of people in the developed world (read: the USA) believe that ANY attempt at global co-operation on issues of global concern is a Big Step Closer to World Domination by the UN. And ANY attempt to relieve global poverty is Creeping Communism.

It is all very tiresome. Lately I haven’t been posting here much because I have been having my own problems, and I just can’t work up the energy to respond to all of the blatant crap that the trolls post. But really, guys, what is it you want? A world in which you are free to do whatever the F___ you want? Or a world where there is some stability because we have figured out a way to co-exist? There isn’t much room left. As of just a moment ago there are 6.8 billion of us, and there’s a limited amount of land and food to go around. Can’t you live with eating beef or pork maybe once a week and integrating more fish, chicken, vegetables and other forms of protein more often with your diet so that the rest of the world can live? Can’t we come to an agreement about promoting birth control? Can’t we be good stewards? Are fast food hamburgers essential to human well-being?

Sorry. Like I said, I have some things to deal with right now. Rob, Paul, Troll, Harold, Wilbert, Zog – all of you guys, will you please just THINK about what you want it to be like for your grandchildren?

And what is wrong with developing a transit system that is efficient, safe, economical and environmentally sound? Who loses?

I just realized how naive this post is. Or tragic. Fern

“I just realized how naive this post is. Or tragic.”

Actually, the word you’re looking for is, “maudlin”.

the word I am looking for is “Moron”

Fern Mackenzie

You just realised your post looks “moron”? Okay.

Go, Fern!!

Clearly you don’t.

Paid for spreading his disinformation?

You’re right there.

Sorry you’re feeling beleagered, Fern. Ignore those pesky little bugs buzzing around here.

…especially since it is mainly one guy with time on his hands, and a couple of sock puppets.

Hi Fern, I think a good word to describe your post is “sincere”, and that’s much better than one can say about a lot of the comments made by our trolls. It’s important to keep things in perspective, though, and even if you could convince the trolls that AGW was a problem to take seriously, the world would not be much better for it. Most of the good in the world will not be accomplished by comments and arguments printed here – it will be done via real, direct, sincere actions and connections. Best wishes with your private matters. Take care.

But in post after post after post that appears here and all over the blogosphere, it is clear that a huge number of people in the developed world (read: the USA) believe that ANY attempt at global co-operation on issues of global concern is a Big Step Closer to World Domination by the UN.

Why blame the US? Were not doing anything so instead of acknowledging that we blame the US. Canadians just aren’t ready to reduce CO2 emissions. That’s our choice (or fault), not anyone elses.

And ANY attempt to relieve global poverty is Creeping Communism.

Why no acknowledgement of the huge role capitalism has played in lifting huge numbers of Chinese out of poverty? Socialism never accomplished anything that impressive.

Hope you’re feeling better soon Fern.

“Why no acknowledgement of the huge role capitalism has played in lifting huge numbers of Chinese out of poverty? Socialism never accomplished anything that impressive.”

You’re absolutely right about capitalism and the wealth it has created in the first and third world, it is a moot point! It can continue, just in new directions, just as in the 80’s when the US transformed from a manufacturing state into a service economy with higher paying jobs. You need to innovate, and recognizing our impact on the environment and creating new ways to maintain and improve quality of life should be all that matters, even if it requires small sacrifices by us in the west. It’s been done before, Lead out of gas, Aerosols out of consumer products, cleaning of the great lakes. It’s easy actually, it requires dinosaurs with obvious conflicts of interest to get out of the way is all.

And as for socialism never accomplishing anything, all G8 (the wealthiest states on the planet) are socialized! Even in the US, the government is still the largest landowner(the people) and largest provider of goods and services. It balances things creating equal opportunities at wealth creation. A little regulation goes a long way, it has been proven over and over and over again.

Quit confusing Socialism with Communism!!

CC

I appreciate your reference to Earth’s 6.8 billion population and the growing shortage of food and land. I recall a major famine in Africa in 1970 that prompted the UN to launch a program aimed at eliminating famine in Africa in a decade. To my recollection that effort raised food production by one per cent a year over the next 10 years.

Unfortunately, Africa’s population grew by three per cent annually over the same period, leaving the continent worse off despite increased food production. And there are many other examples, not all of them in Africa. Yet the world’s soaring population, which is at the root of all environmental crises, is rarely mentioned. Thank you for doing so.

Bill Miller

is vociferously repeated by various organisations, particularly the International Policy Network (which now receives Exxon funding).

The IPN sets up and funds, probably on behalf of its chemical industry funders, what purport to be “civil society” developing country organisations, such as the lovely “Africa Fighting Malaria.

Africa Fighting Malaria is fighting to get DDT accepted again.

And of course runs the same arguments as the IPN and Lomborg on global warming/malaria/AIDS sigh

Unbelievable how naïve some of you are.

While the AGW industry is busy focusing everyone’s attention on the Non Issue of GloBull Climate stagnation, nothing will be done to resolve real problems.

There is hope however, now that people are beginning to realize that AGW was a manufactured crisis to induce social change, they will soon be able to refocus on reality.

Gavin Schmidt of the infamous RC propaganda blog was once asked what it would take for him to admit it was all just a natural cycle. He replied that 10 yeas of no warming would be sufficient.
Hmmmm Just about there…….

But he never said from what year he would start the count down…
Fern… yes it should be call sincere. The question could be the other way around.
What do you want?
It does not seem to matter what is being done,said,improved or invented the Glass is always half empty!
It’s crisis after crisis after crisis and nothing ever happens because it is base on a Nothing..It’s just like the Movie a never ending story.
Take a look at this site! It is run by? Business people with their investments in “Alternative energy.” Nothing wrong with that business is business.
Don’t you think this alone should not bring some doubts regarding the purpose behind some of the arguments we read here?
Every time some scientist comes up with a contradicting research this Site goes on the attack to find some big dark affiliation to discredit the research and the researcher or group.
Would it not be easier if one has the science to simply discredit this new data with the science?
Instead of trolls, deniers and all them wonderful names attributed to someone who dare ask a questions. Would a simple answer with courtesy to a question that hard to give? If yes? then why?
When I was reading a book by Stephen Schneider in the 70s call …”something with Genesis in it” I believed 100% in what I was reading we Humans we were affecting our climate. One day I happen to be watching the news and this same Stephen Schneider was talking about? Global warming!? The complete opposite from what he had convince me after reading his book and he went as far as denying G cooling was ever a problem. That was the day I began asking questions . I am only a tax payer who got his Head “with a pop” out of the sand Contrary to what this site thinks.:-)

Have you heard of El Nino?