We Need Free and Honest Debate on Climate Change Policy

  • Date: 28/07/20
  • Bjorn Lomborg, Los Angeles Daily News

For a proper discourse on society’s challenges, we have always needed public forums, from the Pnyx in ancient Athens to the Independent Journal publishing the Federalist Papers. For better or worse, the New York Times has long been one of these important forums. Unfortunately, in recent years, the viewpoints allowed in the paper have rapidly declined, as highlighted by the recent resignations of James Bennet and Bari Weiss.

free and honest debate on climate change
Cows graze in the pastures under cloudy skies above Oak Glen Road in Yucaipa on Thursday, March 26, 2020. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

To promote its groupthink, the Times apparently does not shy away from publishing wildly incorrect hit pieces, exemplified in its review of my new book.

My new book, “False Alarm,” confirms that climate change is a real problem we need to tackle smartly. But it also dares to challenge the false alarm that comes from hyperventilating media. One good example is last year’s claim that 187 million people will be flooded by the end of the century because of climate change. It is correct that sea levels will rise, but only in a world where we do nothing for the next eighty years, will it affect 187 million people. With realistic adaptation such as increased dikes, the real number is 600 times lower.

Similarly, the book has the courage to question the current, expensive climate policies. In times of economic hardship, we need a sensible public discussion on climate policy more than ever. Globally we are already spending more than $400 billion every year on climate and with the Paris Agreement, this cost will surge into trillions of dollars per year.

Joe Biden is proposing to spend $2 trillion just from the U.S. budget over the next four years — the equivalent of $3,500 per taxpayer annually. With the Democrats and Biden suggesting a net-zero target for 2050, these costs could escalate to $5 trillion per year.

Such price tags are easier to swallow if everyone is scared. So, the New York Times asked for a hit piece by reliably liberal commentator Joe Stiglitz, a Nobel Laureate in economics for his work on price signaling in markets like the selling and buying of used cars.

Without a whiff of fact-checking, New York Times allows Stiglitz to make 12 — twelve — separate and substantial claims on my book that are all demonstrably false. All falsehoods are documented on my LinkedIn, but take a few examples.

Stiglitz is so worried about global warming, he believes “Wall Street could be underwater by 2100.” This is absurdly wrong. Global warming will cause rising sea levels, but that will only flood valuable land if one ignores adaptation, as any good economist knows. Indeed, repeated studies show — and Holland demonstrates — that with realistic adaptation, Wall Street will not be underwater.

The New York Times allows Stiglitz to claim that climate change leads to more costly extreme weather, although the leading peer-reviewed researcher on that very topic immediately told him on Twitter that he is “just wrong.” Stiglitz correctly says extreme weather cost the U.S. 1.5 percent of GDP in 2017. But it is cherry-picked, because all other years around it are much lower and over the last 30 years, U.S. relative weather costs have actually declined.

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