Lomborg: Spend $100B/yr. on “green energy R&D”

Not a silly idea. But who’s going to manage it?

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.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

10 thoughts on “Lomborg: Spend $100B/yr. on “green energy R&D””

  1. Lomborg has always been on the side of Denialism without being an overt denialist. He has always agreed that human caused global warming is real, while denying that it is important, and claiming that putting significant effort into fighting it is wasting resource that would better be put into clean water and poverty fighting and so on. (Ignoring that global warming seriously decreases the supply of clean water and increases poverty ..) At any rate, advocating spending 100 billion dollars worldwide on research, and then once that money is allocated doing nothing further is very much in line with Lomborg's approach. He wants to allocate the research money, then say "All done, you got your 100 billion annually, what more do you want". If that was actually adapted I'm sure Exxon would be thrilled. Even if it was not adapted if that position got enough support behind to be a real distraction from other approaches I'm sure Exxon would also be thrilled.

  2. Hit post before editing. Yes I know Lomborgs proposal is per year, not one time. But my comment stands. If 100 billion per year for research was to be the end result either achieved or even sought Exxon and the Saudis and so forth would be thrilled.

  3. If it were divided by percentage of GDP, that would mean an approximate cost to the US of about $25 billion a year, I think. That's not a significant budgetary item in the age of Obama and his $3+ trillion spending levels. And it's much, much less expensive than the regulatory alternatives. The only disadvantage is that it's on-budget, and so someone is responsible, but that's a political disadvantage not a real one.

  4. Important to remember that anything stated by Lomborg without a proper link or citation is not to be trusted. Nothing in that WSJ piece came with a proper link or citation.

    I think it likely (not certain) that L didn't make up any deliberate lies in his stats, but statements like $40T cost of climate mitigation in 2100 or $200B cost of Kyoto likely come from outlandish estimates that exclude mitigations.

    The two key flaws of L's "ignore the cause, address the symptoms" approach are the unwillingness to use carbon taxes/auctions to finance the treatment, and the general disinterest of L and allies to addressing the symptoms as long as we make sure to ignore the cause.

  5. 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.”

    He's what you might call an "Adaptationist". He believes that global warming is real, and problematic, but that efforts to actually cut and hold down emissions will impose massive economic penalties for relatively little gain in terms of preventing climate change. Far better, he says, to instead invest in new technologies to replace the CO2-producing ones, and then deal with climate change's effects as a richer society.

    It's not an irrational position. Someone can reasonably point out that the Collective Action Problem surrounding climate change is probably insolvable until it is too late, so better that nations spend the time getting ready to deal with the consequences rather than blowing money trying to hold back the inevitable.

    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?

    To be fair to Lomborg, he really doesn't have the space to go into too much detail over this. That said, it is definitely a good idea to raise questions about how the money would be spent.

    I think it likely (not certain) that L didn’t make up any deliberate lies in his stats, but statements like $40T cost of climate mitigation in 2100 or $200B cost of Kyoto likely come from outlandish estimates that exclude mitigations.

    I don't think he out-and-out lies, but he is almost certainly using the worst-cost-scenario projections for the mitigation efforts in order to support his proposal.

  6. And global warming affirmists don't resort to worst case scenarios to justify their own proposals?

  7. No, as a simple perusal of estimates would tell you. Right now, just going to the high side of the average (long before worst-case) would say that we're f*cked.

  8. I'm a definite skeptic, and I certainly would not reject Lomborg's proposal without mulling it over. I think a lot of skeptics would support it, in fact— even those who would put the probability that carbon dioxide is causing temperature growth at only 20%. It's a matter of cost and benefit. Here are some reasons:

    1. $100 billion per year is small compared to the cost of the carbon-reduction proposals that have been made.

    2. Whether the research is making progress or nor would be much easier to see than whether a carbon-reduction proposal is working.

    3. Some of that money, I hope, would be used for seeing whether global warming is actually occurring. I know this would benefit the climatologists who have been such frauds, but if the money were spent on honest research, that would be very useful.

    4. Research has a good hope of finding a way to solve the problem. Carbon-reduction proposals just slow down the growth of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (well, almost all of the proposals– that Canadian editorial's ruthless "one-child" policy would work). Roughly, instead of the temperature rising X much by 2100, the typical leftwing proposal has it rising X much by 2120.

    5. Research spending can be done unilaterally and succeed. Germany, for example, could decide to go-it-alone and spend the $100 billion, find the solution, and give it away.

  9. >>I’m waiting to hear all the Republicans and libertarians who love to cite Lomborg as a guru when he’s attacking Kyoto and its progeny endorse his proposal, and the new taxes required to pay for it.<<

    Agreeing with Canute that the power of Kings has its limits does not force me to associate myself with any other particular policy of his.

Comments are closed.