Bjorn Lomborg turns out not to be a global-warming denialist. He wants to spend $100 billion a year on what he calls “green energy research and development.”
This might be a good idea: subsidizing non-greenhouse-intensive energy has some of the same effects as taxing greenhouse-intensive energy, and public R&D is one form such a subsidy could take. Of course the two policies are to some extent complementary; the higher the cost of electricity made from coal, the more competitive solar power will be.
Still, one might subject Lomborg’s idea to some of the same scrutiny he wants to apply to efforts to cap GHG emissions:
1. How should the $100B cost be divided among countries?
2. How does it get allocated to projects?
3. Who provides management and oversight?
4. Does anyone know of $100B per year of R&D worth doing?
I’d love to see the share of the economy devoted to R&D climb steadily. But if we had an extra $100B to spend on R&D, would we spend all of it on energy technology? Note that $100B is 3x the NIH budget, 5x the NASA budget, and 20x the NSF budget. I’m sure we’re currently over-invested in biomedical R&D compared to the rest of the research budget, though we’re probably still under-invested in bi9medical R&D compared to health-care expenditure.
I’m waiting to hear all the Republicans and libertarians who love to cite Lomborg as a guru when he’s attacking Ky0to and its progeny endorse his proposal, and the new taxes required to pay for it. But I’m not going to hold my breath.