The Live Earth concert, just held, was meant to raise our awareness of global warming. It seems many people already are aware of it. Indeed, Sir Bob Geldof, famous for his own Live Aid concert, was a bit forthright, to say the least, when he recently said about the topic and the concert: “We are all f**king conscious of global warming, It’s just an enormous pop concert or the umpteenth time that, say, Madonna or Coldplay get on stage.”
While many in the West may well have had their consciousness raised about global warming, that does not mean they have all the facts on the issue. Indeed, often what the man on the street knows about global warming is quite one-sided at best.
That is because we have allowed the eco-warriors and a compliant media to feed us a pretty slanted picture of the issue, with a number of important bits of information conveniently left out of the discussion. Many experts are still questioning, for example, whether global warming is in fact our most pressing issue. Questions still remain about how much warming is in fact occurring, how much of it is due to human activity, and what might be the best solutions to it.
Danish academic Bjørn Lomborg is one such thinker who believes we are not getting the whole picture on global warming. His best-selling 2001 book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, won him both friends and enemies. Because he has dared to question the reigning orthodoxy about our supposed imminent eco-disaster, he is ignored and/or vilified by many. But those of more sober minds find his research to be a breath of fresh air.
His concerns about the hype over Live Earth and climate change are worth reproducing, in part. Says Lomborg,
“If you ask the 15 million people who are going to die from easily curable infectious diseases next year, the idea that climate change is our top priority seems to be massively overblown. What’s even more important is that you ask: ‘Where can we actually do some good?’ The answer is overwhelmingly: we can do very little good if we focus on climate change policies, whereas we can do immense amounts of good if we focus on some of the many other problems in the world. For example: deadly diseases such as HIV-AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis; malnutrition, especially lack of micronutrients but also lack of calories; and lack of market access. Those are some of the most obvious places where we can put in place very cheap and advantageous policy measures and help huge swathes of humanity. And we’ll be helping them in such a way that their societies become stronger, so that their descendents will get much better off and thereby become much less vulnerable to whatever the future holds – including climate change.”
However, Lomborg clearly does not deny that global warming is a problem, or that it needs to be addressed. “I think Al Gore has done a service to the world by putting climate change clearly at the forefront of people’s minds, as one of our major problems. Climate change is not just natural variation, it is a problem. However, I think Gore has done a great disservice by focusing exclusively on the negative side and on often grossly exaggerated policy consequences, thereby making us unable to make good policy choices. The best policy comes from carefully weighing the costs and benefits, the down-sides and up-sides, to all the different policy issues. If someone is just screaming at the top of their lungs that one problem is more important than all the others, it is unlikely that we will get a good democratic and public debate. Unfortunately I think that, in essence, that is what Gore has done. I understand that he is a single-issue campaigner, and I understand how that works – but it’s very unhelpful in making good judgements.”
Consider just one example of how this skewed perspective works: “Gore points out that with global warming we’re going to see more heat deaths. That is true; we will see 2,000 more heat deaths in Britain by 2080. But at the same time we will also see 20,000 fewer cold deaths from climate change in 2080. It seems to me that only drawing attention to the 2,000 heat deaths and neglecting to tell us about the 20,000 cold deaths is not a good way to inform the democratic debate.”
He concludes, “Ultimately, Live Earth will help to make people more concerned about and more focused on climate change, and thereby less concerned about all the other challenges that face us. And that is unfortunate because, at the end of the day, we’ll end up worrying about the thing which we can do little about, and forgetting all the other problems we can solve right now.”
For those wanting more on this issue from the perspective of Lomborg, his next book, Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming, will be released in September.