It’s dire reading, the recently released National Climate Assessment (NCA) addressed to the president and Congress. At great length, the report analyzed the impact of climate change on the United States, stating in its foreboding summary:
“Climate change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in communities across the United States, presenting growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth.”
That sounds dark and ominous, but is it a faithful representation of the truth? Not according to Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and founder and president of the think tank the Copenhagen Consensus Center. In a letter to the New York Post, he stated that “activists tend to exaggerate the impacts of climate change while underestimating the costs of tackling it.”
He noted that the main body of the report strives to be scientific, but that “sadly, accurate science doesn’t make for good television; predicting the end of times does.” To illustrate such fake news sensationalism, he cited CNN’s headline that “climate change will shrink [U.S.] economy” by 10% by the end of the century.
Sounds gloomy, but CNN failed to mention that the United Nations predicts the U.S. GDP to triple in the same period, so over time that leaves the country clearly in the black. That should be stellar news, but the legacy media managed to report it as disastrous.
The number one risk factor associated with being poor is poverty!
The report’s worst-case scenario, in contrast, indicates only a 5% hit to the economy, and, shockingly, two-thirds of that damage is due to easily preventable heat deaths.
What About the Poor?
The most troubling aspect of the NCA report, however, is not that it is sensationalistic, but flat out wrong when it states that climate change is the worst thing that can happen to the least resourceful in society. No matter whether the doomsday or more moderate scenarios are correct, climate change is just one of many risk factors experienced by poor people. The number one risk factor associated with being poor is poverty!
Most other risk factors flow from that lack of prosperity. Extreme weather events hurt or kill almost no rich people, but they do affect the poor negatively, especially in tropical countries. Since most extreme weather events are natural and not man-made, it follows that it is far more effective to the health and welfare of the poor to combat poverty than climate change. The affluent can afford to build sturdy houses that protect against storms, fund sewage and water treatments that cleanse drinking water of harmful chemicals and disease-bearing bacteria, and buy air conditioners to ease the effects of extreme heat, and they are rich enough to afford healthful diets.
Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Center gathered a panel of world experts from various fields and asked them to answer a simple question: Given a large sum of money, say $75 billion, where should it be spent to achieve the most amount of good for the maximum amount of people?
Would it surprise you to learn that it concluded combating climate change is one of the least efficient ways to do good in the world? Wasting your money on climate change is a good recipe for missing the most effective ways to save and improve the lives of billions around the world.
The Recipe for Good
Their findings identified 16 areas in which money would be well-spent to help the poor:
- Bundling micronutrient interventions to fight hunger and improve education.
- Expanding the subsidy for malaria combination treatment.
- Expanding childhood immunization coverage.
- Deworming schoolchildren to improve educational and health outcomes.
- Expanding tuberculosis treatment.
- Researching to increase yield enhancements, decrease hunger, fight biodiversity destruction, and lessen the effects of climate change.
- Investing in effective early warning systems to protect populations against natural disaster.
- Strengthening surgical capacity.
- Increasing Hepatitis B immunization.
- Using low‐cost drugs in the case of acute heart attacks in poorer nations (these are already available in developed countries).
- Reducing salt consumption, a contributor to heart disease and strokes.
- Geo‐engineering solar radiation techniques to help cool the earth.
- Instituting conditional cash transfers for school attendance.
- Accelerating HIV vaccine R&D.
- Extending information campaigns on the benefits of schooling.
- Increasing borehole and public hand pump intervention.
Every dollar spent on reducing CO2 emissions is one dollar less for one of these worthy projects.
Therefore, the most effective and efficient overarching way to combat the problems caused by poverty is to ensure a foundation for economic growth, which means capitalism, the rule of law, low taxes, low corruption, security of property, and the freedom to associate and do business. As thoroughly documented by the Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom, those countries that embark on a journey of capitalism end up eliminating the ails of poverty.
The leftists love to use climate change to virtue-signal that they care about the poor, but if they truly cared, they would not be promoting socialism and draconian emissions reduction regulations. They would be pushing capitalism.