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Bjorn Lomborg

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

On a dead end path

Q: Is the Copenhagen Accord a real deal? Are there any beneficiaries of this decision? What responsibilities do nations have going forward?

The near-empty treaty that emerged from the Copenhagen climate summit shows that promising to cut carbon emissions is a dead-end strategy. There was really little more in the deal than face-saving by world leaders. Indeed, in my view, going home empty-handed would have been better than signing an empty treaty. The strategy appears to be that we should simply cross our fingers for another decade, after seventeen years of failed attempts to cut carbon emissions.

The $100 billion climate aid fund for 2020, promised by politicians with both private and public money, is hard to take seriously, given the lack of detail. It seems a long-shot bet that in 11 years, future world leaders will live up to the vague promises made today. There will be no bridging the deep divisions that prevented a meaningful climate deal as long as politicians remain committed to the unsuccessful approach of focusing on promises of carbon cuts as the solution to global warming. The evidence could not be clearer that the Rio-Kyoto-Copenhagen road is a dead end.

Trying to force drastic carbon emissions cuts in the short-term doesn't work economically or politically. We should have the courage to admit that this is the wrong road - and that it's time to adopt a new strategy for dealing with climate change.

The world still depends on fossil fuels for more than 80 percent of its energy. What will developing countries use to power their economies if they can't burn fossil fuels? Alternative energy technologies like solar, wind, and geothermal power all have great promise, but they are nowhere near ready to shoulder that kind of load.

Those who put their hopes in the Copenhagen summit will be bitterly disappointed. But this failure could be a blessing in disguise, if it jolts politicians into recognizing the deep flaws in their current approach, and chart a smarter course. Until now, we have put the cart in front of the horse by promising carbon cuts before alternative energy is affordable.
If governments are serious about wanting to solve global warming, they should massively increase spending on green-energy research and development. They should increase the amount we spend on green energy R&D by a factor of 50, to $100 billion a year -- or 0.2 percent of global GDP. This would be more than enough to bring about the kind of game-changing technological breakthroughs it will take to make green energy cheaper and fuel our carbon-free future.

By Bjorn Lomborg  |  December 23, 2009; 6:50 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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