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Setting Global Priorities


As the 38th annual Earth Day approached on April 22, many who care about both the poor and the environment were listening to calls for radical measures. The fear is that flooding in coastal regions could displace millions, mostly the poor; heat waves could kill many who are elderly or diseased; and decreased crop yields could lead to starvation in developing nations.

So does compassion require the federal government to require immediate and drastic cuts in CO2 emissions? Enter Bjørn Lomborg, a Danish academic, author, and founder of the Copenhagen Consensus, a group devoted to economic analysis of policy proposals to solve the world's toughest problems. Lomborg's congressional testimony last month systematically deconstructed the much-hyped testimony by former vice president Al Gore.

Lomborg argued that the high economic costs of emissions-cutting proposals would deliver meager global benefits compared to what such funds could accomplish elsewhere. He cited his organization's global priority list, a ranking of the world's most cost-effective opportunities to improve the human situation. A panel of top-tier economists, including four Nobel Laureates, constructed the table in 2004 based on their analysis of areas where the most good could result from the least economic harm.

The panel ranked various measures to control the spread of disease and alleviate food and water shortages as top priorities. Climate-change solutions, such as carbon taxes or the Kyoto Protocol, scored at the very bottom, delivering minimal gains relative to their costs.

Click here to read the full report published in last week's issue of WORLD Magazine.

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