Selecting Mitigation Strategies

Bjørn Lomborg, the bête noire of climate change activists, has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in which he suggests that mitigation strategies other than those being proposed by activists as better suited to the situation we face:

Adaptation doesn’t make the cost of global warming go away entirely, but it does reduce it dramatically. Higher temperatures will shrink harvests if farmers keep growing the same crops, but they’re likely to adapt by growing other varieties or different plants altogether. Corn production in North America has shifted away from the Southeast toward the Upper Midwest, where farmers take advantage of longer growing seasons and less-frequent extreme heat. When sea levels rise, governments build defenses—like the levees, flood walls and drainage systems that protected New Orleans from much of Hurricane Ida’s ferocity this year.

Nonetheless, many in the media push unrealistic projections of climate catastrophes, while ignoring adaptation. A new study documents how the biggest bias in studies on the rise of sea levels is their tendency to ignore human adaptation, exaggerating flood risks in 2100 by as much as 1,300 times. It is also evident in the breathless tone of most reporting: The Washington Post frets that sea level rise could “make 187 million people homeless,” CNN fears an “underwater future,” and USA Today agonizes over tens of trillions of dollars in projected annual flood damage. All three rely on studies that implausibly assume no society across the world will make any adaptation whatever for the rest of the century. This isn’t reporting but scaremongering.

You can see how far from reality these sorts of projections are in one heavily cited study, depicted in the graph nearby If you assume no society will adapt to any sea-level rise between now and 2100, you’ll find that vast areas of the world will be routinely flooded, causing $55 trillion in damage annually in 2100 (expressed in 2005 dollars), or about 5% of global gross domestic product. But as the study emphasizes, “in reality, societies are likely to adapt.”

By raising the height of dikes, the study shows that humanity can negate almost all that terrible projected damage by 2100. Only 15,000 people would be flooded every year, which is a remarkable improvement compared with the 3.4 million people flooded in 2000. The total cost of damage, investments in new dikes, and maintenance costs of existing dikes will fall sixfold between now and 2100 to 0.008% of world GDP.

The prevailing narrative in the media is between “denialists” on the one hand and “warmists” on the other, yin and yang, evil vs. good. Although he’s sometimes characterized as a “denialist”, I think his view is a bit more nuanced than that. He doesn’t question anthropogenic global warming as such but rather the time and degree projections and the mitigation strategies being proposed.

My own view is that I think that diverse sources of power are a good idea with nuclear providing a lot more baseline power than is presently the case and that carbon capture and sequestration is probably a better strategy than austerity. Easier to sell, too. I also remain skeptical that the production of electric vehicles can be scaled up to the level and at the rate necessary but that’s another subject.

1 comment… add one
  • Grey Shambler Link

    Mr. Lomborg just lost his invite to the next climate summit.
    Histrionics are a feature of the plan to enact carbon taxes and austerity.
    You see, there are too many people on earth and the teeming masses are starting to get a taste for full bellies and air conditioning.
    Our present class of elites have no faith in human ingenuity, their faith is in Gaia.

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