The Problems Of Today Matter Too

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on December 15, 2009

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Bjorn Lomborg–who is not a climate skeptic by any stretch of the imagination–reminds us that there are a whole host of pressing concerns to worry about if we are interested in improving the quality of life for others:

In the run-up to this month’s global climate summit in Copenhagen, the Copenhagen Consensus Center dispatched researchers to the world’s most likely global-warming hot spots. Their assignment: to ask locals to tell us their views about the problems they face. Over the past seven weeks, I recounted in these pages what they told us concerned them the most. In nearly every case, it wasn’t global warming.

Everywhere we went we found people who spoke powerfully of the need to focus more attention on more immediate problems. In the Bauleni slum compound in Lusaka, Zambia, 27-year-old Samson Banda asked, “If I die from malaria tomorrow, why should I care about global warming?” In a camp for stateless Biharis in Bangladesh, 45-year-old Momota Begum said, “When my kids haven’t got enough to eat, I don’t think global warming will be an issue I will be thinking about.” On the southeast slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, 45-year-old widow and HIV/AIDS sufferer Mary Thomas said she had noticed changes in the mountain’s glaciers, but declared: “There is no need for ice on the mountain if there is no people around because of HIV/AIDS.”

There is no question that global warming will have a significant impact on already existing problems such as malaria, malnutrition, and water shortages. But this doesn’t mean the best way to solve them is to cut carbon emissions.

To the extent that people want to cut carbon emissions, I continue to believe that the best way to do that is to institute a carbon tax that is tied either to the three year average change in global tropical temperatures, or the price settled on by a futures market in the temperature indicator. But that doesn’t detract from Lomborg’s excellent point that pressing global problems that have an immediate and substantially deleterious effect on the quality of life worldwide are getting short shrift.

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