Bjorn Lomborg's "Feel-good solutions won't solve climate change" (Opinion Exchange, Sept. 22), suggests a major shift from his past positions regarding the dangers and costs of climate disruption. He admits, "The next president needs the courage to discard our current feel-good but ineffective solutions" to combat climate disruption. He is in favor of $100 billion in tech research spending. Thank you, Mr. Lomborg. It is a welcome acknowledgment.
That said, Lomborg still cannot resist pressing humanity's challenge of poverty and disease, arguing: "Poverty … kills 18 million each year." Therefore, he believes, "In facing climate change, [the next president] needs the courage to forgo subsidizing politically popular solar and wind …"
There appears to be a contradiction in this reasoning. The next president needs courage to protect the climate — but also to protect the poor at the expense of the climate. Lomborg claims every $4 million in subsidy dollars spent on wind and solar "saves one life across the century," while spending $4 million "on vaccinations could save 4,000 lives."
This is fiction at best and fabrication at worst.
These contradictions are due to Lomborg's distrust of solar and wind. In his mind, wind and solar are "not competitive." Once this was true. Today, it is proven false worldwide by massive investments in both wind and solar energy. Lomborg fortifies his position by stating "solar and wind … supply just 0.5 percent of the world's energy"(he quotes Energy Information Administration estimates). Secondly, they need subsidies and such governmental subsidies "are not sustainable." Both are false — and quickly becoming laughable in the business world.
First of all, the EIA's most recent OUTLOOK 2016 (http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/ieo/world.cfm) estimates that "renewable sources will account for 29 percent of world electricity by 2040." This is over 10 times the number used by Lomborg (2.4 percent). Or consider Lomborg's homeland, Denmark — it produced 42 percent of all electrical capacity with just wind power — last year. By 2035, it expects to be at 84 percent. For Denmark, energy is considered a national security issue. Our Pentagon's analysis already confirms that climate disruption is a top threat to the U.S.
Furthermore, I disagree that subsidies are needed to make these numbers jump dramatically. Our own Xcel Energy estimates that it will supply 33 percent solar/wind electrical power by 2030, 10 years ahead of EIA estimates. Also true in California, Texas and many other states. Why? The prices of wind and solar have dropped 50 percent in five years. As with all new technologies, they will drop another 50 percent in the coming years.
A fair question Lomborg raises is the plight of the world's poor. Currently, there are about 70 million refugees dislodged by war, drought, excessive crop-damaging heat and water shortages. Many of these events are caused by climate disruption — which he does accept as true. Recent temperatures of 129 degrees Fahrenheit in Iraq, Kuwait, Iran and Oman (July 2016) are the highest temperatures in recorded history. In "heat index" values, including humidity, temperatures reached 165. Can any reader imagine such heat without air conditioning?
Most recent estimates by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research in Germany and the Tyndall Center for Climate Research in England estimate that a rise of 4 to 5 degrees Celsius could reduce Earth's carrying capacity from 8 billion souls — to 1 billion souls. Heat alone will kill crops worldwide. They do not survive above 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
Closer to home, carbon pollution already emitted has condemned 40 U.S. cities to rising oceans by 2100. A number of East Coast cities already suffer from "sunshine-flooding" — oceans creeping into neighborhoods on sunny days. Those 40 cities are expected to produce 20 million American climate refugees.
My point is this: If we truly care for those locked in poverty and disease, we need to stop carbon dioxide emissions quickly. If every politician, political party or nonprofit was blessed with every wish on their list — but we put off action on carbon pollution — all is lost.
If our ship is sinking, perhaps the wisest use of time and resources would be to repair the ship's hull. Lomborg's "let's wait and see" option is tantamount to scuttling the ship of Earth.
Carbon pollution choices today will forever shape our grandchildren's future. "Let's wait and see" will cost our children — especially Earth's poor — dearly.
Jim Davidson, of St. Paul, is a retired business owner.