On the bright side - Page 3

Bjørn Lomborg tells climate-change worrywarts to chillax in Cool It

It means fewer oil spills, less mountaintop removal, less ground, water, and air pollution for the communities that have the misfortune of being sited in the backyards of industry.

In the book's conclusion, Lomborg pushes for a $25 billion investment in research and design for alternative technologies. Seven times cheaper than adopting the Kyoto Protocol or establishing a rigorous carbon tax to encourage less CO2 emission, R&D investments are, in Lomborg's economic rubric, a better deal.

Of course, there are already operational solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal units, vehicle-to-grid electric cars, and biodiesel recipes that could be more aggressively produced and adopted. But in Lomborg's eyes they're too expensive, bound to be replaced by superior technology, and thus a waste of money, to invest in now — he brushes aside economists who contend that prices will drop as demand increases. And beyond offering no ideas on diminishing the use of fossil fuel, he in fact encourages burning more in the communities that aren't yet — though the sole upside to fossil fuels is economic cost, and the only cap on price is the perception of abundance.

He also fails to acknowledge that we can't have both. We can't have an increase in alternative technologies and an unabated use of fossil fuels. To actually deploy alternative technologies in the market — the hoped-for end result of all that R&D — would require the fossil fuels to step aside. This would, in turn, cut CO2 emissions. One must necessarily replace the other. There isn't room for both. It's like trying to put ice in a glass that's already brimming with cold water.

One could argue that any adoption of alternative technologies would cover increased use, but that ignores what numerous researchers have pointed out: we should be universally deploying simple, effective, already established energy-efficiency measures. For the past 30 years California has done this, and despite projections and escautf8g energy use nationwide, the state's needs have only increased in lockstep with the population — about 1 percent a year. Lomborg doesn't aggressively push for energy efficiency, despite its cost-savings popularity with the same economically driven corporations, governments, and individuals likely to elevate Cool It to biblical status.

Lomborg criticizes as too extreme and costly proposals by Tony Blair and Gore to slash CO2 emissions by 50 or 80 percent respectively. Similarly he writes, "Restricting transportation will make the economy less efficient. Cutting back on hot showers, plane trips, and car use will leave you less well-off. It will also reduce the number of people being saved from cold, it will increase the number of water stressed [people], and it will allow fewer to get rich enough to avoid malaria, starvation, and poverty."

Is it too bold to ask people to foreswear some of the excesses they've enjoyed, to put to bed some creature comforts, to fundamentally change the way they perceive living in the 21st century if they hope for a 22nd century for their children? Lomborg doesn't ask these questions, so Cool It becomes more of a distraction than a contribution at a time when environmentalists should be busy promoting solutions, not debunking the carefully crafted fables of Lomborg's dollar-driven theses. *


By Bjørn Lomborg

Alfred A. Knopf

272 pages