Danish academic Dr. Bjørn Lomborg is known for his cool-headed and objective approach to environmental issues. In a recent opinion article in USA Today, he methodically shows how the media consistently report possible bad outcomes of climate change while omitting benefits.
Copenhagen Consensus Centre
Lomborg is the president of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre, which is dedicated to soliciting the input and analyses of the foremost world experts in fields relating to human flourishing. The purpose is to rank and calculate human and environmental problems according to how much benefit can be achieved for every dollar invested in their alleviation.
Perhaps no surprise to the informed reader, they conclude that politicians divert money away from the most effective areas to some of the least, such as stopping climate change. With functional media, such waste would have been widely reported and criticized. Instead, Lomborg finds that they do the opposite. They exacerbate the problem through biased reporting. For instance, whenever there is a heatwave somewhere, it is usually reported in conjunction with concerns about global warming. Cold spells do not receive the same attention.
Heat v Cold
Lomborg cites a recent widely reported study in Nature Climate Change that claims to demonstrate that the rise in global temperature now causes 100,000 extra heat deaths per year. However, the same author also documents that in industrialized countries with good access to air-conditioning, the number of heat deaths has been steadily falling. Thus, the cheap solution that saves lives – air-conditioning – is ignored in favor of spending hundreds of trillions of dollars on stopping climate change.
But the increased number of hot days is only half the story. There are far more deaths from cold spells than from hot days – not just in northern countries like Canada but also in Spain, the United States, and even India. If the media were honest conveyers of truth, they would give at least the same amount of coverage to the life-saving aspects of rising temperatures. Every year, 1.7 million people die from cold weather. Global warming could save many of them.
The Story Repeats
In area after area, the story is the same: Some aspect of global warming or environmental damage causes a problem. It turns out that it can be quickly and cheaply alleviated with technology and economic growth. Instead, the media obediently reports it as a call to centralize control in the hands of a few unelected bureaucrats who implement a bankrupting solution that does nothing except sediment their power.
Let’s take a few examples. Rising sea levels? Do like the Netherlands and build dams. Hotter cities? Do like Singapore and make sure that 40% of the area is a green canopy. Forest fires? Do like Finland and clear the underbrush with annual controlled burns. Tropical storms? Build better flood protection and more resilient houses. Mudslides? Build better sewage and water management systems. Too much fossil fuels? Invest in nuclear power. In all these cases, the solutions are costly and require technology and economic strength – but they are far cheaper than the Quixotic task of fighting climate change with windmills.
Read more from Caroline Adana.