Lots of guessing and worrying about climate change policy since Trump’s election. As usual, Bjorn Lomborg sees through the fog of confusion, and points to the way forward. His recent article is entitled Trump’s climate plan might not be so bad after all in the Washington Post (here). Synopsis:
What really matters is not rhetoric but policy. So far, we know that President Trump will drop the Paris climate change treaty. This is far from the world-ending event that some suggest and offers an opportunity for a smarter approach.
Even ardent supporters acknowledge that the Paris treaty by itself will do little to rein in global warming. The United Nations estimates that if every country were to make every single promised carbon cut between 2016 and 2030 to the fullest extent and there was no cheating, carbon dioxide emissions would still only be cut by one-hundredth of what is needed to keep temperature rises below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius).
The Paris treaty’s 2016-2030 pledges would reduce temperature rises around 0.09 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. If maintained throughout the rest of the century, temperature rises would be cut by 0.31 degrees Fahrenheit.
At the same time, these promises will be costly. Trying to cut carbon dioxide, even with an efficient tax, makes cheap energy more expensive — and this slows economic growth. My calculations using the best peer-reviewed economic models show the cost of the Paris promises – through slower gross domestic product growth from higher energy costs — would reach $1 trillion to $2 trillion every year from 2030.
So Trump’s promise to dump Paris will matter very little to temperature rises, and it will stop the pursuit of an expensive dead end.
Statements by Trump’s campaign also indicate that the next administration will create a global development and aid policy that recognizes that climate is one problem among many.
Asked about global warming, the campaign responded, “Perhaps the best use of our limited financial resources should be in dealing with making sure that every person in the world has clean water. Perhaps we should focus on eliminating lingering diseases around the world like malaria. Perhaps we should focus on efforts to increase food production to keep pace with an ever-growing world population.”
This would be a big change. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development analyzed almost all aid from the United States and other rich nations and found that about one-fourth is climate-related aid.
This is immoral when 2 billion people suffer from malnutrition, 700 million live in extreme poverty and 2.4 billion are without clean drinking water and sanitation. These problems can be tackled effectively today, helping many more people more dramatically than “climate aid” could.
But, surprisingly, there is now an opportunity. To seize it, the Trump administration needs to go beyond just dumping the ineffective Paris agreement, to an innovation-based green energy approach that will harness U.S. ingenuity. Far from being a disaster, such a policy could mean a real solution to climate change and help the world’s worst-off more effectively.
Bjorn Lomborg is president and founder of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and a visiting professor at Copenhagen Business School.