Roger Pielke Jr has a post about Bjorn Lomborg’s apparent turnaround on the climate issue.
Specifically, his proposal for a low (starting and rising) carbon tax to fund innovation comes directly from the work of Isabel Galiana and Chris Green (in the video above) of McGill University, written up for Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus exercise on climate change last year, and available here in PDF. (I have collaborated with both, most recently on The Hartwell Paper, and I also was a participant in Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus.)
Innovation and ways to fund it are worthy topics of discussion. The idea of a minimal carbon-tax to raise funds for low-carbon R&D seem like a good idea, costing little in terms of opportunity and $, and far more straightforward than carbon trading or offsetting, for tangible results. The video of Isabel Galiana and Chris Green (watch it at Roger’s blog) makes some good points about technology led policy versus policy-led innovation — i.e. top-down vs bottom up, that Roger has made elsewhere. I interviewed Roger about his criticism of the UK’s target-driven policy and its prospects last year.
However, I think this idea is a mistake, for two reasons.
First, I don’t think that the policy comes after an understanding of what has driven the search for ‘climate-friendly’ energy policies. It comes after accepting the premises of climate-alarmism, and environmentalism.
Second, innovation of energy technology should be a worthwhile end in itself. It does not need climate change to justify it. If we can’t see the value of cheaper, and more abundant energy to increasing the possibilities for development, or any form of human progress, then we’ve already lost the moral argument. Why should we make it a condition that any form of energy production in the future must be ‘clean’?
This isn’t to say that climate change is not a problem, but to say that it is possible that the fact of people living without sufficient access to energy might be a bigger problem. Indeed, it’s far easier to quantify than the problems of climate change — which is what Lomborg was quite good at. Indeed, we could even say that a lack of access to energy makes climate change — if it is a problem — a bigger problem than it might be, were energy more abundant.