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Bjorn Lomborg joins Lateline -

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TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Well as you've just seen, arguments about the science of climate change just
won't go away. The self-described sceptical environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg is one of the more
controversial voices in the climate change debate. His latest book 'Cool It' argues that the
current approach to climate change is overstated and overly pessimistic.

In 2004 Lomborg was named by 'Time' magazine as among the 100 most influential people in the world.
Earlier in year Britain's Guardian newspaper named him as one of the 50 people who could save the
planet. In May Bjorn Lomborg convened the 2008 Copenhagen consensus. It was the culmination of a
two year project in which 50 international economists worked to find solutions to 10 of the world's
biggest challenges. At the end of the process a panel of eight, including five Nobel laureates, had
to answer the question, "If you had an extra $75 billion to do good in the world, where would you
spend it?"

He joined us just a short time ago from his home city of Copenhagen.

Bjorn Lomborg, thanks for joining us.


TONY JONES: Are you at all sceptical these days about the science of global warming?

BJORN LOMBERG: Well, Tony, first of all, I'm a social scientist so I simply say, "Listen, we have
thousands of natural scientists telling us global warming is happening, it's man made, it's real,
it is a problem," and I think we should listen to those people. But I think we should also, first
of all, listen to what they're actually saying not just listen to the do-mongering that we very
often hear, but also of course listen to what the economics, what the social science is telling us,
what if we actually care about all those problems that are going to be caused by global warming,
how do we best deal with them. And my slightly controversial point is to say, "Well pretty much all
evidence shows that we are not picking the right solutions."

TONY JONES: Alright, let's deal first of all if we can with this question of global warming
scepticism, because it certainly hasn't died away and the most recent claims by some sceptics are
the world has not actually warmed in the past 10 year, in fact it has cooled in the past few years
which is not what the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) scientists and their
consensus predicted. What do you make of this?

BJORN LOMBORG: Well I think it does indicate that there's much more variability and uncertainty
than what we thought and it's curious to look at what the IPCC is now telling us. They're saying,
"Well it's natural variation". I have no doubt it probably is, and we will probably see in the long
term an increase in the temperature. But to neglect the fact that there are also very huge natural
variabilities of course has been one of the things that we haven't dealt with very well beforehand.
So yes, we will probably see an increase in temperature. There's a pretty simple correlation
between saying, if you increase CO2 it's going to increase the insulation of the planet which will,
all other things equal, increase temperature. But we've got to be very careful and realise this is
a very tiny part of the huge and complex issue that is climate science.

TONY JONES: Alright, the other debate running on one side of Australian politics and in many other
places is whether to commit to creating an emissions trading scheme, a cap and trade scheme with
targets and a price on carbon before China and India, before the big emitters agree to do the same
thing. You've seen this argument before, what do you say to the argument?

BJORN LOMBORG: Well, first of all, Tony, we've tried this in Europe and we've actually tried this
for quite a few years and the problem is it's not a very effective way to deal with climate change.
Of course you can do it. I mean, you can cut carbon emissions if that's what you want, but you have
to remember it's going to be pretty costly and it's actually going to have very, very little

Now, the European Union has decided it's going to cut its emission by about 20 per cent by 2020 and
continue that cut all the way through the century. What will the effect of that be? Well nobody
actually tells you because it's not very sexy to tell you that, but it will postpone global warming
by about two years at the end of the century. So the temperature that we would have hit in 2100
we'll now hit in 2102. Yet the cost of that is going to be a phenomenal, at least Ç60 billion a
year which is about AUD$100 billion. Probably much more. We're probably talking two or four times
more that amount.

So we're paying an enormous amount of money to do virtually no good and that's the main query I
have with these kinds of policies. It's not that you can't do it. Of course you can do it, you can
do pretty much anything you decide, but the question is, is it a smart thing to do? And the obvious
answer is no, it's actually a very costly way to obtain very, very little. We know from economic
studies that the damage cost of an extra tonne of CO2 in the atmosphere, if you look at all the
studies out there, it's been made a Meta study, a peer view published Meta study showing what's the
median or typical cost of one extra tonne of CO2 and the answer is it's about US$2 per tonne.
That's the damage cost. But most people talk about putting taxes on that's the equivalent of 40, 50
or maybe even $100 on a tonne of carbon dioxide. That's a lot of money to pay for avoiding very,
very little damage. It's actually a very bad deal. That's the main problem.

TONY JONES: That $2 figure that you're referring to is a very controversial one. It's not agreed to
by many people. In fact some say this $2 figure is what would apply in China but not in the rest of
the world.

BJORN LOMBORG: Well, the problem is this is not, I mean this is not something you can debate. This
is the Meta study of all the peer viewed published studies in the world of what's the damage cost,
what they show. Obviously there's a variation. What they showed was some of them actually say
there's a negative impact, that there's a net positive from climate change. But most say it's a
negative. The typical cost of $2, the 90 percentile, that is, 90 per cent of all peer viewed
published studies show less than $14.

So any reasonable policy would say it should be $2, it should certainly not be more than $14, and
the reason why we're having this conversation of course is that wouldn't really matter. So most
people want us to move far beyond that but there's no good economic argument for that and that of
course brings us to why it is that we are focusing on picking probably the worst way to deal with
climate change, namely cutting carbon emissions now, when it will cost a lot and do very little
good. My simple point, and the point that's backed up by some of the world's top economists
including five Nobel laureates is to say we should start focusing on making smarter technologies
available instead of cutting now, which is costly and does very little good, we should invest in
research and development to get much better technologies for the long term future. This is not
about cutting a little bit to make yourselves feel good. This is about making sure that we have
long term technologies that will power everyone, especially China and India, very, very cheaply.

TONY JONES: OK, I've heard what you said about those five Nobel laureates. Now, your central
argument has always been why spend so much money fixing up global warming when there are much more
pressing problems in the world, but your own group of scientists, those scientists who gathered
this year to examine global warming for the Copenhagen Consensus Project, they say that the worst
effects of climate change will be felt in those regions where the poorest people live, especially
in Africa and Asia. You haven't addressed that in what you said there?

BJORN LOMBORG: Absolutely. A lot of those things that we want to deal with climate change is
because we actually care about the impacts it will have in the Third World. It will have impacts,
for instance, on malaria in the third word. It will probably mean we'll see increasing levels of
malaria. The central estimate is about three per cent more malaria by the end of this century. But
what I try to point out is, well if you really care about malaria, why is it we don't care about
the 100 per cent malaria that's there right now, that we could do so much more to do something
about very, very much cheaper. To give you a sense of proportion, if we did the Kyoto protocol, we
could probably avoid about 1,000 people dying from malaria every year throughout this century. I
think that's good, at a cost of about US$180 billion. But isn't it curious that we just spent US$3
billion we could avoid about 850,000 people dying from malaria every year. Or to put it differently
and a bit more starkly, every time you can save one person from malaria through climate change
policies, if you had spent the same amount of money on actual malaria policies you could have saved
36,000 people. That's the main point I'm simply making.

TONY JONES: I'll come to that argument in a minute, but you quoted those Nobel laureates. So your
scientific group says in Africa and Asia average temperature will rise between two and five degrees
Celsius if nothing's done about climate change and global warming. While a rise of just, this is
what they say, a rise of 0.6 of a degree will put millions at increasing risk of hunger, exacerbate
water supply problems for more than a billion people, and put millions at risk of coastal flooding.
Now, the cost of letting those thing happen at that very low level are already incalculable, so
what do you say to your own scientists when they tell you this is happening and it could rise far
beyond that so the costs on these poorest people in the world could be incalculable?

BJORN LOMBORG: Tony, the point again here is to realise how much can we do with climate change
policies? A lot of people are giving you the impression, and I would also assume that's also true
in Australia, but certainly in Europe, politicians are acting as if we do something, if we cut our
emissions a little bit, it will have a huge impact. It will have no such thing. We will not be able
to measure the 20 per cent cut from Europe, even in 100 years. It will have no difference.

So when we are talking about saying we want to help people in Africa, we are helping them nothing
at all if we cut our emissions. However, we could be helping them literally very, very much if we
dealt with those problems. You talking about malnutrition, yes, there will be several more million
people starving by the end of this century if we don't do something about global warming, but we
could help literally hundreds of millions of people, probably about 800 million, probably almost
all of the people who are starving if we actually did something about WTO (World Trade
Organisation), but also of course if we did something about high yield varieties, better heat and
dust and drought resistant species. If we invested in things that would actually help people right
now. So the real point I'm trying to make is to say it's not that there's not going to be problems,
there will be lots of problems in the future, but it's do we pick solutions that will do a little
good or the ones that will do a lot.

TONY JONES: The Australian scientist Tim Flannery asked the simple question about that proposition
that you're putting. If you want to divert dollars to help the poor, why take it from the fight
against climate change? Why not focus, for example, on military spending? Why are you focusing so
carefully on this one area of public policy?

BJORN LOMBORG: Well, I'm simply engaged in something thinking about how we do the most good for the
world. I doubt that most people are spending money on trying to do good by investing in military.
We spend about $1 trillion on military. I would be wonderfully happy if Tim Flannery and others
could get part of that amount of dollars, divert it away from military. I doubt them coming in and
saying "We could do a lot of great things" would stop people spending money on the military.

But let's imagine that Tim was able to get $100 billion off from the military budget. Wouldn't we
want to spend that in the best possible way? That's the question that my group of scientists, the
Copenhagen Consensus, tries to tell us where we can spend it best. And that still applies. You can
do an immense amount of good if you spend it on clean drinking water, if you spend it on
malnutrition, if you spend it on education, if you spend it on a lot of these other issues that
would do huge amounts of good. Or you can spend it on climate change where that same amount of
money will do virtually no good. So as long as Tim only has $100 billion or even $500 billion.

TONY JONES: But that isn't the argument of your scientists, your Copenhagen Consensus scientists,
who dealt with the global warming issue, that's not their argument at all and in fact what they say
is the best results you would get would be with a combination of accelerated new technologies,
which you've already pointed to, and effective mitigation of global warming, effective mitigation
meaning some way of reining in the emissions, the carbon emissions. Now they don't speak out at all
against the idea of a carbon trading scheme, that's you doing that.

BJORN LOMBORG: No, of course not. Listen, the set up of the Copenhagen Consensus is that we have a
lot of different arguments from people talking for malaria and people talking from climate change,
people talking from education. They all come and say these are great proposals. Now it's important
to say if you do smart things in climate that will also do a little good. What they propose will
actually, for every dollar you spend, do $2 worth of good. Now that's fair. But some of the other
proposals in the world would do 20 or $40 worth of good, that's why we don't listen to the
individual specialist. You shouldn't be surprised when climate change scientists tell you spend
money on climate just like malaria experts will say spend money on malaria.

TONY JONES: But these are your climate change scientists. These are the ones you employed to look
at this problem. And these are the conclusions they've come to. I've read their conclusions.

BJORN LOMBORG: Yes, yes, yes. Of course, but Tony, you've got to listen, of course the climate
change scientists tell us we should spend money on climate, as the malaria experts say we should
spend money on malaria, but we then have an esteemed group, including five Nobel laureates, that
listen to all these arguments and say, "Well, if we were going to spend extra money, should we
spend it where it will do $40 worth of good first or should we spend it where it will do $2 worth
of good first?"

And I would say, and I think most people would say, we should spend it where it where it will do
$20 or $40 worth of good and that's not climate. So yes, in a world where we can fix all problems
we should also fix climate. But if we want to do the most good we should certainly try to fix most
of the other problems first if we actually care about people, if we actually care about making sure
we make a better future.

TONY JONES: A final question, many people would say why not make the argument very strongly to do
both things simultaneously? As the Americans would say, why not walk and chew gum?

BJORN LOMBORG: We definitely should do all good things. Now, it's not just about saying we should
do climate change and malaria. We should also do clean drinking water, we should do malnutrition,
we should do education, we should do a lot of other diseases. There's a whole number of things, so
we should not just walk and chew gum, we should do all these things. The point is though, we don't.
We haven't over the last 50 years dealt very well with either of these problems and so my point is
simply to say, right now, pretty much everyone talks about dealing with climate change, everybody
is willing to spend money on climate change and we're quite honestly forgetting most of the other
things. Look at Glen Eagles, the last G8 in 2005, where the rich leaders decided they were both
going to spend on Africa and on climate change. Well we're still talking a lot about climate change
but we've almost forgotten Africa. If you look at the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, Malaria and
Tuberculosis, they're publicly saying and a lot of organisations are privately saying, that the
fact that people worry so much about climate change means that we tend to forget all the others and
they're also seeing diminishing funds going into their organisations. So I think there is a trade
off and I think we need to be honest about at least saying, let's do the things that will do the
most good first, simply because that's the way we leave a better world

TONY JONES: Well Bjorn Lomborg, once again, giving us a lot to think about. We thank you very much
for taking the time to join us tonight from Copenhagen.

BJORN LOMBORG: Thank you, Tony.