Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Copenhagen Consensus 2012

The results of The Copenhagen Consensus 2012 have just been released. Bjørn Lomborg assembled a blue ribbon panel including Nobel Laureate economists. They ranked the top 30 most important humanitarian projects.

The goal of Copenhagen Consensus 2012 was to set priorities among a series of proposals for confronting ten of the world’s most important challenges. These challenges were examined:
Armed Conflict, Biodiversity, Chronic Disease, Climate Change, Education, Hunger and Malnutrition, Infectious Disease, Natural Disasters, Population Growth, Water and Sanitation

A panel of economic experts, comprising five of the world’s most distinguished economists (including four Nobel Laureates), was invited to consider these issues. . . .The panel was asked to address the ten challenge areas and to answer the question:
What are the best ways of advancing global welfare, and particularly the welfare of developing countries, illustrated by supposing that an additional $75 billion of resources were at their disposal over a 4?year initial period?

Challenge – Solution
  1. Hunger & Education – Bundled Interventions to Reduce Undernutrition in Pre-Schoolers
  2. Infectious Disease – Subsidy for Malaria Combination Treatment
  3. Infectious Disease – Expanded Childhood Immunization Coverage
  4. Infectious Disease – Deworming of Schoolchildren
  5. Infectious Disease – Expanding Tuberculosis Treatment
  6. Hunger & Biodiversity & Climate Change – R&D to Increase Yield Enhancements
  7. Natural Disasters – Investing in Effective Early Warning Systems
  8. Infectious Disease – Strengthening Surgical Capacity
  9. Chronic Disease – Hepatitis B Immunization
  10. Chronic Disease – Acute Heart Attack Low Cost Drugs
  11. Chronic Disease -Salt Reduction Campaign
  12. Climate Change – Geo Engineering R&D
  13. Education – Conditional Cash Transfers for School Attendance
  14. Infectious Disease – Accelerated HIV Vaccine R&D
  15. Education – Information Campaign on Benefits From Schooling
  16. Water and Sanitation – Borehole and Public Hand Pump Intervention
  17. Climate Change – Increased Funding for Green Energy R&D
  18. Population Growth – Increase Availability of Family Planning
  19. Chronic Disease – Heart Attack Risk Reduction Generic Pill
  20. Water and Sanitation – Community Led Total Sanitation
  21. Water and Sanitation – Sanitation as a Business
  22. Chronic Disease – Increasing Tobacco Taxation
  23. Natural Disasters – Community Walls Against Floods
  24. Water and Sanitation – The Reinvented Toilet
  25. Biodiversity – Protecting All Forests
  26. Natural Disasters – Retrofitting Schools to Withstand Earthquake Damage
  27. Hunger – Crop Advisory Text Messages
  28. Biodiversity – Extension of Protected Areas
  29. Natural Disasters – Strengthening Structures Against Hurricanes and Storms
  30. Natural Disasters – Elevating Residential Structures to Avoid Flooding”
Copenhagen Consensus Center Director Bjørn Lomborg explained how this applies to one specific priority, that of improving agricultural output:

“Spending two billion dollars annually to make more productive crops would generate global returns of much more than 1600 percent. Not only would it reduce hunger, but through better nutrition, make children smarter, better educated, higher paid and hence break the cycle of poverty. At the same time, higher agricultural productivity means humanity will cut down fewer forests, for the benefit of both biodiversity and earth’s climate.” . . .

The expert panel found that geo-engineering research and development, at low cost, was worthy of some funds, to explore the costs, benefits, and risks of this technology. . . .

Another sound investment is R&D into agricultural improvements. This would lower food prices and reduce hunger. It would also fight climate change by storing more carbon in forests instead of converting them to crops. And it would add to efforts to protect biodiversity.

Lomborg said: “The new volume of research produced for Copenhagen Consensus 2012 adds to our knowledge about the smartest ways of responding to humanity’s challenges. And the Nobel laureates’ list shows us there are many smart investments that could help so much of the planet, for very little cost. These are the places that policy-makers and philanthropists should direct their attention.”

Note that while R&D in geoengineering and energy are listed, global warming mitigation does not even make the list, dropping below the dead last it was not ranked. Richard Tol notes:
Greenhouse gas emission reduction was not ranked. That means that it is ranked neither very low nor very high. It is not ranked. The reason is that mitigation is not comparable to the other projects. The scale is different.
Comparethe Copenhagen Consensus 2008 ranking.

Doing vs Feeling Good

Global warming is real, it is caused by man-made CO2 emissions, and we need to do something about it. But we don’t need action that makes us feel good. We need action that actually does good.

Responses to climate change were addressed in: Fix the Climate

How can we best reduce suffering from global warming? Experts in climate economics examine the best ways to reduce suffering from global warming.

See the Expert Panel’s Findings and the Outcome Paper. They interviewed people in the developing world. See: Stories from Global Warming Hotspots

As part of the Copenhagen Consensus on Climate, the Copenhagen Consensus Center set out to ask people in global-warming hot spots about their fears and hopes. . . .

The most efficient, global carbon cuts – designed to keep temperature increases under two degrees Celsius – would cost $40 trillion a year by 2100, according to research by Richard Tol for the Copenhagen Consensus Center. In the best-case scenario, this expenditure would reduce the at-risk population by only 3%.
In comparison, spending $3 billion annually on mosquito nets, environmentally safe indoor DDT sprays, and subsidies for effective new combination therapies could halve the total number of those infected within one decade. For the money it takes to save one life with carbon cuts, smarter policies could save 78,000 lives.

Four Challenge Papers were written on Climate Change:

Adaptation will reduce the climate change-related losses from five percent of GDP to slightly less than 3 percent – but this is still a significant impact. The real challenge of global warming, therefore, lies in tackling its impact on developing nations.
“Isabel Galiana and Christopher Green propose a technology-led climate policy, centered on increased research and development, testing and demonstration (RDT&D) of scalable, reliable, and cost effective low carbon emitting energy technologies funded by a low but gradually rising carbon tax. They argue that the size of the energy technology challenge to “stabilizing climate” is huge, and there is a current lack of technological readiness and scalability in low-carbon energy sources. . . .
Galiana and Green conclude that increased funding for low-carbon research and development would have benefits ranging from 3 to 11 times higher than cost, depending on rate of success and time horizon.”

Tol finds that a low tax of about $1.80 on each tonne of carbon would generate benefits worth between $1.5 and $52. However, a much higher tax set at $250 would cost more than it would gain, with only benefits of 2-67 cents. . . .
Other resources:
  1. Watch Richard Tol’s phone presentation of his research at YouTube
  2. Perspective Paper CLIMATE CHANGE, Samuel Fankhauser
  3. Perspective Paper: Climate Change, Anil Markandya

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