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Is It Hot in Here?

(John Mcconnico - Associated Press)

While the chances of catastrophic climate change may still be small, they are increasing: By comparing real world data with the 2001 IPCC projections, researchers have shown that the sea is rising more swiftly than even the worst case scenarios in the projections.

Lomborg's mantra is the supposedly high costs of dealing with climate change. The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change is a detailed analysis of those costs, commissioned by the UK Treasury and reported to the prime minister. Stern, a senior government economist, argues that it's much cheaper to combat climate change than to live with the consequences. Because Stern and Lomborg cover the same ground but strongly disagree, I had hoped for a detailed critique of the report, but Lomborg devotes a scant three and a half pages to it (about the same space he devotes to an analysis of the far less relevant social activist George Monbiot).

Lomborg asserts that "a raft of academic papers have now come out all strongly criticizing Stern, characterizing his report as a 'political document' and liberally using words such as 'substandard,' 'preposterous,' 'incompetent,' 'deeply flawed,' and 'neither balanced nor credible.' " Such broad accusations are impossible to assess. He further asserts that the Stern report was not peer reviewed (making one wonder whether Cool It or the Internet postings he cites criticizing Stern were), and that it's slanted toward "scary" scenarios. This latter assertion is simply not true. Stern gives a straight reading of the range of possible climate outcomes.

Despite all the supposed benefits global warming will bring, Lomborg acknowledges that some people want to act to reduce it. His solution is to abandon the Kyoto process and devote more dollars to research on technologies to prevent it. Yet we already have the necessary clean technologies: What we need is market penetration for them, and this will only come by getting the polluter to pay, which means adopting a carbon tax much higher than the $14 per ton of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere that Lomborg is willing to allow.

What, ultimately, is Cool It all about? On the surface, it's a cry from a compassionate conservative not to waste money on combating climate change when that money could be better spent helping the poor. But why climate change rather than military spending? By empathizing with those who are concerned about climate change and poverty, and trying to persuade them to divert their energies, Cool It is a stealth attack on humanity's future. ?

Tim Flannery, author of "The Weather Makers:

How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means

for Life on Earth," is a professor at Macquarie University in Sydney and chairman of the Copenhagen Climate Council.


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