What have climate activists learned?

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Policymakers must prioritise investment in green-energy research and development rather than forcing carbon cuts, writes Bjørn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and Cool It, head of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School.

Bjørn Lomborg is the author of 'The Skeptical Environmentalist' and 'Cool It', head of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and adjunct professor at Copenhagen Business School.

"Advocates of drastic cuts in carbon-dioxide emissions now speak a lot less than they once did about climate change. Climate campaigners changed their approach after the collapse of the Copenhagen climate change summit last December and the revelation of mistakes in the United Nations climate panel's work – as well as in response to growing public scepticism and declining interest.

Although some activists still rely on scare tactics – witness the launch of an advertisement depicting the bombing of anybody who is hesitant to embrace carbon cuts – many activists now spend more time highlighting the 'benefits' of their policy prescription. They no longer dwell on impending climate doom, but on the economic windfall that will result from embracing the 'green' economy.

You can find examples all over the world, but one of the best is in my home country, Denmark, where a government-appointed committee of academics recently presented their suggestions for how the country could go it alone and become 'fossil fuel-free' in 40 years. The goal is breathtaking: more than 80% of Denmark's energy supply comes from fossil fuels, which are dramatically cheaper and more reliable than any green energy source.

I attended the committee's launch and was startled that the 'Climate Commission' barely mentioned climate change. This omission is understandable, since one country acting alone cannot do much to stop global warming. If Denmark were indeed to become 100% fossil-free by 2050, and remain so for the rest of the century, the effect, by 2100, would be to delay the rise in average global temperature by just two weeks.

Instead of focusing on climate change, the Climate Commission hyped the benefits that Denmark would experience if it led the shift to green energy. Unfortunately, on inspection these benefits turn out to be illusory.

Being a pioneer is hardly a guarantee of riches. Germany led the world in putting up solar panels, funded by €47 billion in subsidies. The lasting legacy is a massive bill, and lots of inefficient solar technology sitting on rooftops throughout a fairly cloudy country, delivering a trivial 0.1% of its total energy supply."

To read the op-ed in full, please click here.

(Published in partnership with Project Syndicate.)

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