Bjorn Lomborg’s Message Meets Reality

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Bjorn Lomborg had an embarrassing encounter with truth this month.

The Skeptical Environmentalist has made a lucrative career of jetting around the world on media tours telling the public that dealing with climate change will endanger the world’s poorest people.

The United Nations doesn’t see it that way. Last week the World Health Organization issued a statement for World Health Day recognizing that climate change will devastate populations in developing countries. Increasing incidence of dengue fever and malaria are the hallmarks of what is in store for the world’s poorest people.

“Malaria-carrying mosquitoes represent the clearest tell tale sign that global warming has begun to impact human health”, said WHO director Shigeru Omi.

Warmer weather means mosquitoes’ breeding cycles are shortening, allowing them to multiply at a much faster rate, posing an even greater threat of disease, he told reporters in Manila.

UN Secretary General BanKi-moon was also unequivocal about the impact of climate change on developing nations:

“The impact will be most severe in poor countries, which have contributed least to this global crisis. By 2020, up to a quarter of a billion Africans will experience increased water stress and crop yields in some African countries are expected to drop by half. Malnutrition and climate-related infectious diseases will take their heaviest toll on the most vulnerable: small children, the elderly and the infirm. Women living in poverty face particular risk when natural disasters and other global-warming-related dangers strike.”

The recent surge in food prices and resulting riots around the globe are, in part, widely attributed to the first hints of global warming.

For his part, Lomborg says that climate change won’t be all that bad.

“It’s not the immediate catastrophe that it’s often sold as… In the UK it’s estimated we will see 2,000 more heat deaths every year in 2050 but we will also see 20,000 fewer cold deaths… Actually it’s going to be better in that particular area….”

I’m not sure that pithy analysis from Lomborg will be a comfort to the legions of people in developing countries devastated by rising temperatures and declining rainfall. Expect to see more such first-world drivel and ivory tower number crunching from the Copenhagen Consensus 2008 conference.

This event is where right wing economists selected by Lomborg hold forth on climate science, and public health, and other weighty matters they know very little about. Their last conference in 2004 concluded that reducing carbon emissions was the least cost-effective way to save the planet.

Bjorn Lomborg has been on the road ever since, delivering his highly irresponsible message that immediate action on reducing emissions can wait, and that any effort spent doing so will endanger the world’s poorest.

If the dismal science of economics had a terrible reputation before, Lomborg is making it even worse.

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