The Jordan Peterson - Bjorn Lomborg Interview

Click image for video (87 minutes):

Positions Taken By Both Peterson and Lomborg:

  • Neither Peterson nor Lomborg disagree with any of the science in the IPCC reports.
  • Both of them believe that the IPCC reports are not predicting human extinction or the collapse of civilization due to climate change in any timeframe, which to the best of my knowledge, is true. Lomborg makes it out that either of these things are remote possibilities, but not significantly more likely than the possibility of the planet being destroyed by an asteroid. I would disagree with this -- we have a very good idea of how frequently large asteroids hit this planet, and what the likelihood of its occuring in a century, and it is very remote, whereas the possibility of catastrophic sea level rise, crop failures, mass refugees, political destabilization, and warfare, possibly nuclear, due to climate change is much higher than that.

Bjorn Lomborg, of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, an American think tank, has done a lot of research on how $75 billion could best be spent to do the most benefit for the most people. It turns out that a lot of people in the third world are so poor and unable to afford their most basic needs, that spending money on their health and nutrition would be spectacularly beneficial, per dollar spent, compared to money spent any other way.

Curbing carbon emissions, on the other hand, is extremely expensive, and the anticipated harm done by global warming is not great enough to justify such spending in comparison with third world health and nutrition spending.

There are a couple of flaws in this logic:

  • This sort of logic can be used to argue against doing nearly anything for any purpose. For example, one thing Lomborg's think tank decided is that building sewage systems in third-world cities that don't have them yet just isn't really worth it in comparison to their favored spending items, because sewer systems are expensive and in practice don't really save all that many lives. So if a new suburb is built in Kansas, should a sewer system be built for it, or should the money be spent on health and nutrition in the third world? According to Lomborg's analysis, no new sewer systems should be built anywhere.
  • The question the Copenhagen Consensus Center asked was "What would be the best way to spend $75 billion?". Which is about $10 per human being on the planet. It's not much money. The GDP of the human race in 2014 was $78 trillion, or over 1,000 times as much. We have enough money to pay for the sort of thing Lomborg advocates (and we should direct more money to such laudible goals), but we can and do afford much more.

Other Thoughts About Lomborg:

Lomborg's views have evolved over the years, from outright denying global warming, to minimizing it, to advocating strategies like geoengineering and adaptation, always against a major effort to do anything to reduce carbon emissions at the current time.

Lomborg currently says he is very strongly in favor of research into low / no carbon energy technologies, he's just not a big fan of spending money on the wind and solar technologies we have now. It makes a lot of sense to fund research, but sometimes the way to develop cheaper ways to do something is to start doing it, and incremenatally improve the technology as you go along. And if Lomborg really feels this way, why does he do so many videos where this importance of research is either not stressed or not even mentioned?

Lomborg is mildly in favor of a carbon tax of some sort in developed countries, but he is pretty much against imposing one on poor countries at this time.