It looks like Ken doesn’t have to resort to blog bile posts, porno photos et al. to start a lively debate in the comments section, he simply throws together a piece about his old favourite global warming and the commentaries flock in, (not that I would for one moment suggest anything ovine about the comments) up to 90 now and counting.
What would be the best ways to spend additional resources on helping the developing countries? The organising idea was that resources are scarce and difficult choices among good ideas therefore have to be made. How should a limited amount of new money for development initiatives, say an extra $50 billion, be spent? Would it be possible to reach agreement on what should be done first?
At an earlier stage, the panel had narrowed a much larger number of development challenges, drawn from assessments of the United Nations and its agencies, down to just ten:
Hunger and malnutrition;
Trade reform; and
Water and sanitation
Proposals for spending more on water and sanitation were approved, and ranked high, in places six to eight inclusive, with little to choose among them. No education projects were ranked. Nor was Barry Eichengreen’s intriguing proposal (see our Economics focus of April 17th) for the fostering of new bond markets. Nor were any proposals for better governance, except for the proposal to lower state-imposed costs on new businesses, which got the nod because the costs are low, the institutional requirements modest, and the possible benefits very great. In all these cases, the panel reckoned there was too little research to go on.
What I find most fascinating is the fact that if disease, malnutrition, water and sanitation are grouped together they occupy 10 of the top 13 places with trade liberalisation and most interesting of all, lowering the cost of starting a new business, well before the seemingly crucial (according to the comments box anyway) Kyoto protocols.
At the foot of the list stand the three proposals on global warming. All require sharp reductions in carbon emissions starting soon, reflecting the view of the challenge-paper author, William Cline, that bold action on the problem is warranted, and quickly. The panel, all in agreement, simply refused to buy it. The issue is real, they said, but not so urgent that such massive abatement costs need to be incurred right now.
The drive behind this venture was supplied by Bjorn Lomborg, author of that modern classic of green demythology, “The Skeptical Environmentalist”. Mr Lomborg is a figure of controversy around the world and especially in his native Denmark, where he is currently head of the Environmental Assessment Institute. The meeting was hosted by the institute, with the support of the Danish government.
Mr Lomborg’s role, and the somewhat hubristic character of the undertaking (who do these economists think they are, and when have economists ever agreed about anything?), helped to draw attention to the event.
I suppose it could be said that global warming was overlooked, downplayed or didn’t fit with the program. But, as the article says;
This gave rise to suspicion in some quarters that the whole exercise had been rigged. Mr Lomborg is well-known, and widely reviled, for his opposition to Kyoto.
These suspicions are in fact unfounded, as your correspondent (who sat in on the otherwise private discussions) can confirm. A less biddable group would be difficult to imagine. The challenge-paper on climate change was written by William Cline of the Centre for Global Development; Mr Cline is pro-Kyoto, and in fact favours even stronger measures to abate carbon emissions than the protocol requires. But the panel insisted on making their own minds up on the issue. Right or wrong, there was no dissent among any of the eight.
IMO this report shows that, in the big picture, disease, malnutrition and water are much bigger problems deserving of world attention than global warming.