[Econ Talk] Bjorn Lomborg on the Costs and Benefits of Attacking Climate Change

Bjorn Lomborg on the Costs and Benefits of Attacking Climate Change

10/06/2019 by EconTalk: Russ Roberts

Web player: http://podplayer.net/?id=73060164
Episode: http://files.libertyfund.org/econtalk/y2019/Lomborgclimate.mp3

Bjorn Lomborg, President of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, talks about the costs and benefits of attacking climate change with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Lomborg argues that we should always be aware of tradeoffs and effectiveness when assessing policies to reduce global warming. He advocates for realistic solutions that consider the potential to improve human life in other ways. He is skeptical of the potential to move away from fossil fuels and argues that geo-engineering and adaptation may be the most effective ways to cope with climate change.

Listen Date: 2019-08-02


  • I feel that the episode description does Lomborg an injustice, and that he doesn’t argue that geo-engineering is the most effective way to cope. What stayed with me more was more his anguish that instead of directly researching even more efficient carbon-free energy sources, policy so far has been to subsidise existing, inefficient solar and wind; with the spinoff benefit that the manufacturers of such energy generators then invest their profits into R&D.
  • Honestly, from a podcast I can’t say if this is that bad. After all, even if you poured all that money into direct research, there’s no guarantee it would go anywhere – this way there is at least a filtering mechanism. But of course actual numbers might show otherwise.
  • I found myself more emotionally sympathetic to Russ Roberts than Bjorn Lomborg on the possibility of wildlife extinction.
  • And I felt that both Lomborg and Roberts were ignoring the Hirschmanish possibility that people are simply idiots.
  • The note about actual weather related catastrophes and associated deaths falling in absolute terms, not just relative terms, was a woah moment.
  • But the point about how even cutting carbon emissions to zero today would still lead to temperature rise for another eighty years was profoundly depressing. Hysteresis is harsh.
  • Meanwhile, Ramez Naam’s rhetoric is that the R&D which Lomborg wants seems to be already happening. I’d love to see Naam and Lomborg in conversation / debate; or at least to see Naam on EconTalk.
  • Nobody mentioned reforestation? Lomborg’s point about reducing agricultural land use never brought that up as a side benefit, though maybe I’m recalling it wrong.


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