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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

China's promise does not withstand scrutiny

Q: As we get closer to the United Nation's conference on climate change in Copenhagen and nations begin setting their agendas, are their goals realistic? Last week, the U.S. and China each announced their emissions target goals. Are they big enough?

China has been lauded from many quarters for its commitment. Yet this is actually a great example of a carbon-cutting promise that sounds impressive, but that simply does not withstand scrutiny.

China is promising to cut its carbon intensity by 40-45 percent by 2020 compared to 2005, but based on the International Energy Agency's numbers, this is essentially no promise at all. We expected without any new policies that China would reduce its carbon intensity by 40 percent.

China has taken what is universally expected to happen and dressed it up as a new and ambitious policy decision. As China's economy develops, it will inevitably move away from carbon-intensive factories and into less carbon intensive industries. Such creative accounting may be clever politicking, but it is far from a meaningful way to respond to global warming.

It is perhaps also worth realizing that by 2020, China will have increased its emissions by 336 percent above 1990 levels.

Over the past several centuries, the world economy has exploded and the human condition has improved immeasurably because of cheap fossil fuels; we're not going to end that connection in just a few decades. That is the fundamental flaw with today's approach to solving warming, and is the reason why the COP15 summit is expected to fail to produce any meaningful outcome.

As I have outlined in previous answers here, the solution is not to make fossil fuels more expensive; the solution is to make alternative energy cheaper. 

By Bjorn Lomborg  |  December 2, 2009; 9:54 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg     Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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