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Bjorn Lomborg
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Bjorn Lomborg

Bjorn Lomborg, author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist," is an adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School and the organizer of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, which brings together some of the world's top economists, to set priorities for the world. ALL POSTS

Each approach has its own challenges

In theory, it makes sense for policymakers to consider letting industries offset their emissions through means like conserving tropical forests, or capturing methane. 

Methane is the second-biggest culprit in terms of greenhouse gases, and because it is a much shorter-lived gas than carbon dioxide, through its mitigation we could prevent some of the worst of short-term warming. And deforestation accounts for 17 percent of emissions, so we should treat seriously efforts to engage in reforestation and forest conservation.

But we should also acknowledge that these approaches have their own challenges. Methane has a variety of small-scale, widely dispersed sources. It's obviously immensely challenging - and perhaps even unhelpful - to regulate the number of rice paddies or cattle in developing countries. 

When it comes to reforestation, we have the problem of leakage: it's really hard to create a conservation regime that doesn't just mean that the tropical forests down the road (or in the country next-door) get cut down instead of the ones that we spend a fortune trying to save.

We should focus first on the areas where we can make the biggest impact for the lowest cost. After all, it's been clearly shown that cutting carbon drastically in the short-term is incredibly expensive. 

A groundbreaking research paper by renowned climate economist Professor Richard Tol, who showed that a high, global CO2 tax starting at $68 (designed to limit temperature rises to less than two degrees Celsius) could reduce world GDP by a staggering 12.9% in 2100--the equivalent of $40 trillion a year - costing many times the expected damage of global warming.

It is far from clear that the most logical short-term move is to introduce a cap-and-trade scheme or a carbon tax as the primary response to global warming. 

By Bjorn Lomborg  |  October 26, 2009; 8:06 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg     Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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