Bjorn Lomborg: Climate Change Is Real, But We Have Time
The shrieks of the doomsday mob have driven us to squander vast sums on near-useless policies.
The IPCC report will tell us global warming is real and mostly caused by man. But it will have none of the scary scenarios bandied about by activists. Claims of a 5C rise or more by the end of the century have no place in its evaluation. It anticipates increases of between 1C and 3.7C.
Alarmist predictions that the sea will rise by a metre or more are common in sensationalist media. The IPCC will estimate the rise by the end of the century at 40cm-62cm.
Moreover, the past 15-20 years of little or no temperature rises reinforce this moderate climate change message. Since 1980 the models have overestimated actual temperature rises by 71%-159%. This does not mean there is no global warming. It just makes the alarmist scenarios ever more implausible.
Yet our climate conversation has been dominated by end-of-the-world thinking that bears no relation to the measured language of the IPCC. While panic is a great way to raise awareness and win votes, it is a terrible starting point for making smart policies.
The best known scare story is Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth, which was all the rage seven years ago. Remember where he showed us how a sea-level rise of almost seven metres would inundate Holland, Bangladesh and Florida? Yes, it was terrifying. Yes, it had a huge impact. No, it had no basis in reality.
A rise of 40cm-62cm poses a more manageable challenge. Sea levels have already risen by about 30cm over the past 150 years. Our much poorer forefathers handled it deftly. There was no catastrophe. It is unlikely to be mentioned in a list of the 20th century’s major problems.
Many cherished notions about climate change have little basis in fact. Take Bangladesh. It is not slowly disappearing under the waves, as some claim. A study from its Centre for Environmental and Geographic Information Services showed in 2008 that it is gaining about eight square miles a year. This comes from 600m tons of sediment deposited on the coast by 200 rivers.
More generally, we need to confront the idea that all global warming is bad. In the long run there is more bad than good. But moderate warming is a net global benefit. Many more people die from cold than heat. In the UK we expect global warming by the mid-century to increase heat deaths by 2,000 but to decrease cold deaths by 20,000.