Is climate change the biggest issue facing mankind? Bigger than HIV-AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, malnutrition? The organisers of Live Earth may believe so and so would the viewers of The Inconvenient Truth. But Bjorn Lomborg, who used the cost-benefit ratio to puncture the claims of greens in The Skeptical Environmentalist, argues that it is ridiculous to believe that cutting carbon emissions is the first and foremost thing we must do.
“My point is that cutting carbon emissions costs a lot and it provides only a small benefit 100 years from now; handing out condoms and information, however, is very cheap and it works for people suffering from HIV-AIDS right now.
“It’s the same with malaria. We need to get mosquito nets, proper treatment for those infected; we need to be spraying homes and public areas to keep mosquito numbers down, and we need to pursue other public eradication policies.
“If you look at malnutrition, there are, again, some very cheap treatments that can tackle things like the lack of iron, which causes deficits of up to 12 to 14 IQ points and affects more than two billion people on this planet. This could be very easily avoided by just giving people an iron pot in which they would cook their meals and thereby get iron.
“Why are we, as a civilisation, focused on trying to solve the most difficult problem—climate change—when there are these other problems which are so much more easily tackled?
“To put it another way: if you invest in Kyoto, you will probably avoid about a thousand malaria deaths per year across the rest of this century; however, for one-sixtieth of the cost of Kyoto we could avoid 850,000 malaria deaths. In other words, for every malaria death avoided through Kyoto, I could, with the same amount of money, avoid 20,000 malaria deaths by tackling the problem directly. I would say that, as a ‘generational mission’, as a moral obligation, it lies with us to save 20,000 people rather than saving one.”
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