13 May 2010

Bjorn Lomborg on The Hartwell Paper

Bjorn Lomborg has experimented with many stances on climate change over the past decade, from cherry-picking skeptic to adaptation advocate to supporter of geoengineering , and now, to support of an innovation-led approach to decarbonization. In an op-ed published today, Bjorn Lomborg endorses the approach to climate policy recommended in The Hartwell Paper. He writes
The Hartwell group correctly notes that in order to be successful, our approach to climate policy should offer obvious advantages (“rapid and demonstrable pay-back”), appeal to a wide variety of people, and produce measurable results. The Kyoto approach, of course, does none of these things.

Instead of single-mindedly trying to force people to do without carbon-emitting fuels, the Hartwell group suggests that we pursue a number of other worthy goals – for example, adaptation, reforestation, encouraging biodiversity, and improving air quality – each of which is important, and all of which may also reduce carbon emissions. As the report notes, “the all-inclusive ‘Kyoto’ type of climate policy…needs to be broken up into separate issues again, each addressed on its merits and each in its own ways.”

At the same time, the group adds, we must recognize that we won’t make any real progress in cutting CO2 emissions until we can provide developing economies with affordable alternatives to the fossil fuels on which they currently depend. “In short,” the report notes, “we need to ignite…an energy technology revolution.”

The Hartwell group argues that mass improvements are needed across many technologies, requiring the determined participation of governments. They suggest partially funding the required research and development with a “slowly rising but initially low carbon tax” that would avoid undermining economic growth.

Proving the old adage that good ideas have many parents, Lomborg explains that:
If any – or all – of this sounds familiar, it may be because I have been arguing much the same points for some time. If my experience is any guide, the members of the Hartwell group should expect to be attacked as heretics for questioning the Kyoto orthodoxy. But that is a small price to pay. As the saying goes, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” With respect to global warming, it’s time we came to our senses.
Jesse Ausubel, Vaclav Smil and Chris Green may have gotten there first, before any of us, but no matter. Bjorn Lomborg's support for the agenda outlined in The Hartwell Paper is most welcome, and perhaps presages a broader coalition for action which might enhance the chances to move past the gridlock and vitriol that has characterized the climate debate in recent years.

The Hartwell Paper certainly does not have all the answers, but it does outline an alternative vision, aspects of which will be taken up soon with the release of The Climate Fix.