The summer of 2022 saw record temperatures recorded all over the world. Bjorn Lomborg acknowledges that climate change is here, it’s real, and humans are largely responsible for it. He also says that it is survivable and manageable. In other words, climate change is not the extinction-level event it is often characterized as. Lomborg also discusses practical ways to lower our carbon footprint and emissions, pointing out why “carbon free by 2050” probably isn’t achievable and why we should make no massive changes to our economies or lifestyles to achieve it.
To view the full transcript of this episode, read below:
Peter Robinson: This summer Europe and much of the United States have experienced unusual heat in places as far flung as England and Utah, the highest temperatures ever recorded. And the heat wave has in turn prompted new calls to do something about global warming. Our guest today says we should cool it. Bjorn Lomborg on Uncommon Knowledge now. Welcome to Uncommon Knowledge, I'm Peter Robinson. President of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, Dr. Bjorn Lomborg is the author of a number of books, including the 2001 best seller "The Skeptical Environmentalist", and most recently his 2020 volume "False Alarm "How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor "and Fails to Fix the Planet." Bjorn Lomborg is also a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution here at Stanford University. Bjorn, welcome.
Bjorn Lomborg: Thank you, it's great to be here.
Peter Robinson: Question one, the dog days of summer. We're speaking in the middle of August. So far this summer, the United Kingdom has experienced a temperature of more than 104 degrees. I'm giving everything in Fahrenheit here.
Bjorn Lomborg: Yeah, of course.
Peter Robinson: 104 degrees. That's the highest Britain has ever recorded. In the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, and Germany some 4,600 have died of heat related causes. Here in the United States, Newark, New Jersey has for the first time in history recorded temperatures of more than 100 degrees on five consecutive days. Utah, again for the first time in history, has recorded temperatures of more than 100 degrees for 16 consecutive days. And by the way, we we're talking on August. What is today? The 16th, we're talking as the second half of August begins. And I noticed this morning a report on unusually high temperatures in central China, 110 degrees in Chungquing. British scientist, Stephen Belcher. "Without climate change, temperatures such "as those we've been experiencing this summer "would be quote, virtually impossible, close quote." So question one is simply this, is he right? Are we experiencing temperatures as a result of global warming or are they at the far end of any kind of normal distribution? They still fit within some normal notion of weather pattern variability?
Bjorn Lomborg: Look, I'm a social scientist, but I would imagine that he's right. What we are seeing, absolutely. And this is also what we'd expect. As temperatures rise you're going to see more heat waves and that will be a problem. My contention with this issue has never been is climate change real? Absolutely, it's real, it's manmade. It is something that we should be concerned about. I want us to get a sense of proportion. That is of all the issues that we are facing, how big of a problem is climate change? And then of course, the second part is, are we making good policy to actually address this? And I think the heat waves are a great way to start this conversation. So look, many places have had unusually high heat waves, and that's what we would expect from global warming. But we need to get the information, not just when they fit with climate change, but also when they don't fit with the narrative. So most people don't know that almost everywhere on the planet many more people die from cold than from heat. So you just mentioned China.
Peter Robinson: Yes.
Bjorn Lomborg: And China every year. This is from a 2022 article on the Lancet. That's the first article with lots and lots of scientists trying to estimate how many people actually die from heat and cold. They estimate that in Eastern Asia, so mostly China, about 80,000 people die every year from heat waves. We should definitely know about that. From heat, all kinds of heat. That's definitely terrible. We should definitely be talking about that. But every year, 1.15 million people die from cold. We're not well -
Peter Robinson: 12 times as many roughly.
Bjorn Lomborg: So it's 14 times as many, yeah. So I just did that on the calculator.
Peter Robinson: You're the scientist. You're the scientist.
Bjorn Lomborg: No, it's not like I could do that in my head. But so the fundamental point here is to say, we're not well informed. If we only hear one argument, "Oh my God, there are more heat waves." We're going to be, you know, we're all gonna die. We need to do something about this. And, if you'll just allow me briefly, because it also matters in how you then tackle this. Remember it's actually, it turns out to be fairly easy to tackle more heat. We know how to do that. It's air conditioning. If you look at the U.S., despite the fact that temperatures have risen over the last century, heat deaths have dropped dramatically in the U.S. They used to be huge. They're fairly minor now in the U.S. because we have air conditioning. It's very simple to do. You can do that. You just need to go indoors or go to the mall that's air conditioned in those one or two or three days when this is, you know, the heat really peaks. On the other hand, coldest is much harder to deal with because that requires you to have heating on for the whole winter time. That's often costly and something that pensioners and poor people can't really afford. And one of the things have happened because we have made climate policies is that energy has become more expensive. And that means that people can't afford to keep their homes as well heated. So what's actually happened in the U.S. and probably also many other places, but we don't have as good data is that heat deaths have gone down despite global warming, but cold deaths keep going up. Probably partly because we can't afford our energy anymore.
Peter Robinson: I see, all right. So listen, let's stick with the heat waves of the current summer, of this summer and just listen. I've got three quotations. This is kind of longish to set it up, but what I'd like you to listen to is the tone. I'd like you to listen to the attitude or the way that the people I'm about to quote are talking about the heat that we're experiencing this summer. Michael Mann, Environmentalist at Penn State University speaking in July. Quote, "Now the warming has reached the point "where we're seeing the consequences play out "in real time in devastating events. "We've got to bring carbon emissions down by 50% "within the next 10 years to prevent the planet "from warming beyond a truly catastrophic amount," close quote. President Biden again in July. Quote, "Right now a hundred million Americans are under heat "alert, 100 million Americans. "It's astounding the damage that's being done," close quote. Last quotation here, John Kerry, who now has the unwieldy title of Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. This is John Kerry last April. Quote, "You all saw the most recent IPCC report." IPCC of course stands for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a UN body. "You all saw the recent IPCC report." "In one scientists words, 'our house is already on fire'. "Too many around the world are pursuing the path "of least resistance. "All evidence shows that this is the path of greatest destruction," close quote. Devastating, catastrophic, astounding, destruction. Okay, so again, tone, attitude. Is that apt, is it proportionate to the threat or challenge or whatever word you'd like to use? How do you respond to that question?
Bjorn Lomborg: Well, I think you've pretty much laid out the basic problem of the climate challenge. That it is a real problem, but then it's being sensationalized beyond all belief. And very often we then try to push really poor policies that actually, as we just talked about, end up increasing some of the other problems that we also need, for instance, to tackle. For instance, cold death. So take a look at this. Economists have spent a long time trying to estimate what are all the damages that'll come from global warming. So eventually we certainly expect that there will be more heat deaths. We expect that there will be more flooding because sea levels will rise. Or in reality, we'll have to spend more in protection of close to the sea and so on. There'll be a lot of damages. There'll be a lot of problems. There'll also be some benefits, but overall there'll be damages. That's why it's a problem. They've tried to add this up and we have lots of economists doing that. The only economist to get the Nobel Prize in Climate Economics, William Nordhause in 2018, his estimate is roughly in the middle of what people will be saying suggests that the total damage of global warming by the end of the century will probably be in the order of 4% of GDP. Now that's.
Peter Robinson: 4% Of today's GDP or?
Bjorn Lomborg: No of the GDP-
Peter Robinson: Of the GDP 98 years.
Bjorn Lomborg: Of the GDP in the -
Peter Robinson: 78 years from now.
Bjorn Lomborg: In 2100. So that's not a trivial amount. And clearly that is something that we should be focusing on. On the other hand, we also need to get a sense of perspective. So the average person, this is the standard UN middle of the road estimate. The average person in the world will be about 450% as rich as he or she is today in 2100. We'll be much, much richer, but because of global warming, it will now feel like we're not 450% as rich, but only 434% as rich. That's definitely a problem. It is not.
Peter Robinson: Oh , listen. It isn't even a problem.
Bjorn Lomborg: Well, look, when you do this in the.
Peter Robinson: We get rich so much, we'll get rich so slightly more slowly that nobody will have any sense of it.
Bjorn Lomborg: But that.
Peter Robinson: Unless you live right on a barrier on. Unless you live on an island off South Carolina where the sea level rises a foot and a half.
Bjorn Lomborg: And again, sea levels, we know how to deal with. You know, Holland is a great example. 40% of Holland is below sea level. And most people don't feel that. You know, you fly into Holland, the Schiphol airport, the 14th largest airport in the world. It's the only major airport that's ever been a former site for a Naval battle. But you know, you don't.
Peter Robinson: That's entirely reclaimed?
Bjorn Lomborg: Yes.
Peter Robinson: From the sea?
Bjorn Lomborg: Oh, absolutely. They point that proudly on their website. But the main point here is again to say, we need to get a sense of proportion. All things that make us less well off are real problems, but it's not the end of the world. It's not this catastrophe. And there is something wrong about this using just so more people die from heat. You mentioned England. You know, there was just a new study out last month that estimate how many people die from heat and cold in England? The answer is about 750 people die from heat on typical years. It is likely that because of this very, very high heat wave, more than 1500, maybe even 1600 people died in England from this heat wave. How many people die from cold every year? 60,000 people. We just have no, you know, it's this level versus this level. And we don't have a conversation about it. The other part of this is how do you tackle this? So you also mentioned.
Peter Robinson: I wanna come to how we tackle that in a moment.
Bjorn Lomborg: Okay, true.
Peter Robinson: I promise, I'll give you lots and lots of time.
Bjorn Lomborg: Yes, brilliant.
Peter Robinson: I will probe you on that, but I have one, the heat waves that have been experienced in Europe and in this country and now apparently in China, that's one of two big climate events that have taken place this summer. Here's the second one. The second one concerns Australia's Great Barrier Reef, which environmentalists have been warning for many years now is under threat from warmer seas. So let me give you a set of headlines and then a quotation. And here's the set of headlines every one of which comes from the New York Times. March, 2017, Large Sections of Australia's Great Barrier Reef Are Now Dead. April, 2020, Great Barrier Reef is Bleaching Again. Bleaching is said to occur when plants that live on the reef die and deprive the underlying coral of food. June, 2021, Australia's Record Heat Means Another Blow to Great Barrier Reef. Also June, 2021. Great Barrier Reef Has Lost Half Its Corals, close quote. Now here's the quotation, which comes from the Australian Spectator of this year. Quote, "The latest survey of the Great Barrier Reef "by the Australian Institute of Marine Science, "which was undertaken in May." We're talking about a survey of this past spring. "Reveals that coral cover has not only recovered "across two thirds of the reef. "It is now at its highest level "in 36 years of observations," close quote. Now, why did I have to go searching to the Australian Spectator, an Australian magazine, to find that fact? Because there didn't seem to be a corresponding headline, good news headline, in a major American newspaper. Okay, so what is going on? First of all, I know you've tweeted about the Great Barrier Reef. So if you can explain how on earth it could have suddenly recovered even, the seas haven't cooled as far as I know, but the deeper point here is why do we seem to have such a bias toward bad climate news? Let me refine it based on what you just said. Why do we have a bias about warming? Bad news about warming and such a willingness, not only to ignore good news, but evidently to ignore bad news about cooling? Where does this strange bias come from?
Bjorn Lomborg: Yeah, so it is great questions. Actually, I just want to, you know, in fairness, both the Guardian and New York Times, and several -
Peter Robinson: So the Times did cover this?
Bjorn Lomborg: They did do one story on this.
Peter Robinson: Oh, sorry, sorry, I stand corrected. And that's important.
Bjorn Lomborg: And the main point of course, is that when it comes out and this was the official notice, this is actually so good, it's really hard to ignore. And so their main story was okay, it looks like it's actually really good now, but it'll probably get worse later on.
Peter Robinson: Right.
Bjorn Lomborg: And it tells you this general story that we know in so many ways, bad stories is just much more fun. It's this thing that sells newspapers, that gets clicks. Whereas good news is just sort of not all that interesting. So I think there's a wide bias in this, and this is not just in climate, but it's also in all other areas.
Peter Robinson: So that's just a normal journalistic bias toward man bits dog is the news.
Bjorn Lomborg: But obviously it makes us really, really badly able to tackle issues. Because we get this overwhelming feeling. So when you ask people, is this gonna endanger your life? So for instance, a new OECD survey show that 60% of all people in the OECD believe that it's likely that global warming will lead to the end of humankind. So mankind's extinction. And if you read the UN Climate Panel, as you just mentioned before, it says no such thing. It's just simply, and most researchers would also say, that's just simply ridiculous. This is not what we're talking about. 4% reduction by the end of the century is not the end of mankind. It's a problem, not the end of the world. The other part that you mentioned, namely, why can't we only hear about the problems that fit the narrative?
Peter Robinson: Yes, yes, yes.
Bjorn Lomborg: I think is in some way, much more damaging. But I think we also hear that from many other areas. You know, there are sort of politically correct stories that fit the narrative that we're trying to construct and the policies that we're trying to make. So you hear about all these heat waves because they fit, "Oh, we need to cut our carbon emissions." Whereas we don't hear about the cold deaths partly because they happen much more hidden and slowly. You know, they're not something that happens in one day, but it's something that happens over a month. It's something that'll typically not be spectacular, but more sort of an ongoing attrition kind of thing. But it's also something that doesn't fit the narrative. And so a lot of newspapers and a lot of journalists will not really want to engage with us. And I think in the same way, whenever there's bad news from the Great Barrier Reef, it's a great story because it fits right into, we need to do something about climate change.
Peter Robinson: Let me tease this out because you're saying two different things. And one is not news. And the other is actually very important and alarming in itself, in my opinion. What you're saying is that bad news is news. And we've known this about journalism from the beginning of journalism. Man bites dog is a headline. I beg your pardon, yes. Dog bites man is just the way life is. Car crashes make news. That we've achieved some kind of new efficiency in producing cars is "All right, fine." That's just journalism rooted in human behavior. What sells is the sensational, the neg- Okay, fine, that's one thing. But what you're saying about policy and the construction of a narrative to support certain policy, and I'm going to take it a step farther and see if you'll go with this additional step. At this stage of the game, policy has already begotten quite specific economic interests. There are lots and lots of investments in so-called sustainable energy. And the people who have made those investments couldn't be happier to see the federal government spending billions of dollars, and we'll come to this in a moment, in this new piece of legislation President Biden signed. And so that's quite different. And that's pernicious.
Bjorn Lomborg: Yes.
Peter Robinson: That is interests specific quite often, economic interests, manipulating the news, manipulating the facts, manipulating their fellow citizens is what it comes to. But the instrument for that particular manipulation is to manipulate science, journalism, and so forth. You're arguing that that is what's going on.
Bjorn Lomborg: Yes, but unfortunately it probably also happens in a lot of other fields.
Peter Robinson: Oh for sure.
Bjorn Lomborg: For instance, in healthcare. Some of my colleagues found that we were actually becoming much, much more effective when we were treating people in hospitals. So you didn't need as many more nurses and doctors. The outrage from that, because obviously we are incredibly stressed and we need more of, you know, doctors and nurses. Same thing in education. There's this ongoing point that in education, the best thing you can do is to get more quality teachers and more teachers for every kid. It turns out that that has, yes, it is a little bit better, but it's a very, very expensive way to help in education. Turns out that it's much more about getting structured teacher plans. It's about teaching kids at the level that they are, and that's about organizing the school differently. So they're much, much smarter ways, but you never hear that because it doesn't fit.
Peter Robinson: And the teacher's unions scream right?
Bjorn Lomborg: It doesn't fit the interest and it doesn't fit the negotiations around it. But the point that you're making still holds. This is true also for climate. And it matters a lot because this is where we spend hundreds, hundreds of billions of dollars and are promising to spend many trillions of dollars. That's why we need to know. And again, I'm trusting that you'll let me get back to talking about the policies, because that's exactly how we should be thinking about, for instance, heat waves.
Peter Robinson: Okay, policy. Bjorn versus Kerry. Countries in Europe have already invested billions, hundreds of billions in reducing their carbon emissions. In Britain, the conservative party. I say the conservative party. What I mean to say is even the conservative party has committed itself to net zero by 2030, I think it is. It's 2030, 2050?
Bjorn Lomborg: 50 probably.
Peter Robinson: I beg your pardon, 2050. And the BBC not long ago asked John Kerry, the Special Presidential Envoy on Climate, say that three times fast, the BBC asked John Kerry whether it might make sense to relax that target, net zero emissions by 2050. And John Kerry replied quote, "I will say very pointedly and adamantly we're behind. "We do not have the luxury of rejiggering the date "of 2050 right now, because we are already headed "to a warming of the planet of between 2.5 "and 3.5 degrees centigrade," close quote. Okay, let's call this the Kerry position. And that position is that to save the planet, we do whatever we need to do, and we pay whatever it costs to reduce fossil fuel emissions as quickly and drastically as we can. That's the John Kerry position. Now I want the Lomborg position and I'm going to set it up by quoting your recent piece in the Wall Street Journal. "It's true that as temperatures rise the world will "experience more heat waves, "but humans adapt to such things," close quote. Okay, John Kerry. We're turning the planet into a cinder. We must stop fossil fuel emissions as fast and as hard and as drastically as we can, no matter what it costs. And Bjorn Lomborg says, "Well, now we need to worry "about ordinary citizens, ordinary workers, and adapt." So tease out, we can come to specific policy implications in a moment, but this is a fundamental difference in outlook or attitude, correct?
Bjorn Lomborg: So, yes and fundamentally the point that I make, and this is really just climate economics again. The Nobel Laureate William Nordhause, and many of the climate economists look, there are cost to climate, but there are also cost to climate policy.
Peter Robinson: Right.
Bjorn Lomborg: You can't just ignore one and say, "Oh, I'm only caring about the cost of climate, "but ignoring the cost of climate policy." You simply have to pay both. The standard argument from climate economics is we have to minimize the sum of those two costs. That's a very different conversation. Now Kerry is using, and I think a lot of people are using, the words that you mentioned early on. Namely, this is a catastrophe. This is the end of the world.
Peter Robinson: Devastation.
Bjorn Lomborg: Essentially, there's telling you, this is meteor hurtling towards earth.
Peter Robinson: Yes, yes.
Bjorn Lomborg: And we're all gonna be doomed in 12 years or however many years it is.
Peter Robinson: Right.
Bjorn Lomborg: If that's true, then of course, he's right. We shouldn't care about anything else. What he's basically saying is the cost of climate is so great that nothing we could do on the cost of climate policy could possibly make a difference. It is about our survival. We should just throw everything in the kitchen sink at it and forget everything else. That's true, if it were a meteor that was basically gonna eradicate humankind. Unfortunately, or fortunately, sorry, it isn't. It's a, it's a -
Peter Robinson: It's a problem.
Bjorn Lomborg: It's a problem. It's the 4%, by the end of the century. It is like a lot of other problems, something we would like to fix, but we need to be careful that we don't actually fix it in a way that ends up costing us more. So the real point here is just simply to say, if this is the end of the world, he's right. It is not. And that's of course, why you constantly hear this end of the world drum beat. That's why it's so important that the OECD has now convinced 60% of all people to something that is manifestly untrue, that this is the end of the world. That humankind could be eradicated. This is a problem, not the end of the world. And that changes the
Peter Robinson: So Bjorn.
Bjorn Lomborg: Way to think.
Peter Robinson: Again, we're creeping up on specific policy matters.
Bjorn Lomborg: Please.
Peter Robinson: But you keep saying interesting things. So it's your own darn fault. But you just said, this is a bit of a flyer of a question because we haven't discussed this and I haven't seen you write about it. So I don't know what you're about to say here. But you just said that the Kerry approach fails to engage in policy 101 calculations of weighing benefits against costs. All we're going to do is focus on slamming down fossil fuel emissions, and we won't worry about the other costs. That's all that matters, okay. We, and I'll say we Americans and many of us in the west, but not those of you who live in Sweden, which took a different approach. We've just been through a two year experiment in ignoring costs, in failing to weigh costs against benefits. And what I'm referring to is COVID. Where they say, "Well, we have so and so many people "who are likely to die." It seems as though many of those estimates, at least very early in the crisis were over estimates of the fatalities that would likely to result. But what we're going to do now is close all the schools. Well, we will shut down the entire American economy. We will throw something like a third or 40% of Americans out of work, because we will shut down their places of work. And there were voices that said, "Wait a minute, "wait a minute, wait a minute. "We know something about what happens "when unemployment goes up. "We know about alcohol abuse. "We know about depression. "We know about suicides. "We know about domestic abuse. "We know something about what happens "when you throw kids out of school. "We know how harmful that is in terms "of their development. "A six year old can't recapture a sixth year "of learning reading." It's different when you tried it. All right, we knew, and those voices got kicked off Twitter and shut down on Facebook. So is there some kind of, I'm offering this to you as a column for the Wall Street Journal for free Bjorn because we've known each other a long time. Is there and these costs are now. Now that the urgency of the COVID moment seems to have passed, we're getting a clearer and clearer understanding of the enormous costs. And the director of the CDC just announced, I guess, as we speak now, 48 days ago, 48 hours ago that the CDC failed catastrophically in managing COVID. She's engaging in a reorganization and stuff, okay. We've just been through an experiment in focusing mono manically on one possible set of the benefits and ignoring the costs. And it doesn't seem to have worked all that well. Is there something for us to learn about climate.
Bjorn Lomborg: There definitely is. I'm gonna.
Peter Robinson: You may wanna slap me down on all kinds of things. But go ahead.
Bjorn Lomborg: Let me make a couple comments. So I'm engaged in trying to get people to think smarter about climate.
Peter Robinson: That's right.
Bjorn Lomborg: Really, really hard because a lot of people already hold very entrenched positions.
Peter Robinson: Yes.
Bjorn Lomborg: I think in some way, we're not gonna help that conversation by comparing it to COVID, which if I'm not mistaken is one of the places where people hold possibly even more entrenched understanding.
Peter Robinson: Fair point.
Bjorn Lomborg: And it in some way, this just goes off on a tangent where everybody just gets really, really angry. I thought this would be a great way to compare the conversation. I found that all it does is-
Peter Robinson: Makes people angry.
Bjorn Lomborg: On both sides. It's almost impossible to have, just like on climate, a sensible conversation on this. Let me show you one thing that where I think. So fairly early on, we did some of the first cost benefit analysis for poor countries on basically making radical shutdowns and what we found -
Peter Robinson: And you did at Copenhagen Consensus Center?
Bjorn Lomborg: Did it together with some of the best economists in the field. Trying to look at what's the cost and what's the benefit. Remember shutting down your economy in a rich country because you wanna save mostly old people can make sense because you're a rich country. But if you're a poor country, the cost are much, much higher. You have a much different age profile. So you actually have fairly few people who are in the threat zone. And it turns out that the costs were so great. The economist wrote about this. Many others as well. That we found that it was a terrible decision to shut down. Just simply would be enormously costly and save fairly few people. And this of course is the kicker. For these countries, they have many other things that people die from. HIV, malaria, TB, so on. And it turned out that for the cost that you would save a couple of hundred people possibly from COVID using those probably exaggerated models as you mentioned early on. You could save hundreds of thousands of people for the same amount of money. So when you have lots of people dying.
Peter Robinson: Can you name a couple of the countries you studied? Just so to get a clear idea.
Bjorn Lomborg: This was for Uganda and Malawi and later on for India.
Peter Robinson: Okay, gotcha.
Bjorn Lomborg: So what we found was in countries that have little resources that have an age profile that is not conducive to lots of COVID, and that also have lots and lots of other problems. You know, people dying from all kinds of other things that are very cheap to do. You should certainly be focusing on avoiding them dying from those things first, because you will do much, much better. Another sort of equivalent thing is, and I think the whole world is waking up to this. There's a lot of arguments that you can have about, you know, to what extent should we shut down in rich countries. But one thing I think almost everyone agrees on now is that we shouldn't have shut down schools as much as we did.
Peter Robinson: Yes, yes.
Bjorn Lomborg: The World Bank has now estimated that about a billion kids are on average nine months behind their life.
Peter Robinson: Right.
Bjorn Lomborg: And that will cost the world. It will cost them mostly, but eventually, because they're gonna be the world in 2040, it's gonna cost 1.2 trillion dollars in lost GDP every year. So the, so yes, we should.
Peter Robinson: Hold on one sec, because my point is that there were people who knew it at the time.
Bjorn Lomborg: Yes.
Peter Robinson: There were people who were saying at the time that shutting down schools was going to cause all kinds of trouble and that these costs were not being taken into account. And they were told to shut up.
Bjorn Lomborg: Yes.
Peter Robinson: That's the point.
Bjorn Lomborg: Well, well,
Peter Robinson: And that there's some of and to what extent that's taking place in the climate space as well.
Bjorn Lomborg: I get that point, but I think it's much, much better to get everybody on board and saying, "All right, so maybe we didn't do it quite right on education."
Peter Robinson: You're a very forgiving man, Bjorn.
Bjorn Lomborg: Well, because honestly, I don't think this is about putting blame. It's about making sure we don't make these faults again. And, honestly, because these are both very, very controversial and very entrenched conversations, I think it's much better to simply say, "Look, we did something, you know, in Uganda. "And we worked with the President and we're really tried to do this. He's one of the countries, he forced Uganda to basically shut down school for two years. It's a terrible outcome. Now, finally, they're back to school, but as you point out, this is gonna be phenomenally costly for those kids and it's gonna be phenomenally costly for Uganda and it will be phenomenally costly for everyone else. So yes, there is a lesson to be learned here. Let's not do stuff if we can actually see that'll have huge cost and not all that much benefit. If we could do it smarter. And that's really what I wanna take away from.
Peter Robinson: So now we come to, what would Bjorn do? I'm gonna quote again, from a piece in the Wall Street Journal. "It's entirely possible to help the climate "and working families at the same time. "The policies to do so are innovation-focused." Innovation, innovation, innovation. That comes up in your work again and again and again. Explain.
Bjorn Lomborg: Yes, so I'm actually gonna answer a different part of your question because you promised I could get back.
Peter Robinson: Oh, all right then.
Bjorn Lomborg: Then we'll get back to innovation. So we talked about heat ways before. And obviously one of the ways that you can do this so is just simply making sure that many more people can afford air conditioning.
Peter Robinson: Right.
Bjorn Lomborg: But the funny thing is because we're so focused on CO2 emissions, a lot of people feel a little uncomfortable about air conditioning because that will certainly in the next couple decades, mean more CO2 emissions. Now, obviously, if you actually care about saving, especially old people, I think, you know, it's incontrovertible. You just need to say everyone should have more air conditioning. Remember also most of the poor countries in the world, so for instance, India, they have very, very little air conditioning. And most of these people want to have air conditioning. Not because it's getting warmer, but because it's already darn hot. And if they could get richer, they would want to get air conditioning. But something we never talk about is a much better cheaper, more efficient and simpler solution to heat deaths is simply to make urban areas cooler. Remember, most urban areas where most people eventually will live. More than half the world's population already live in urban areas. But by the end of the century, almost everyone will be living in urban areas. They're much hotter than their surrounding countrysides because they have much more black surfaces like black roofing or asphalt. And they have very little water features. They have very little greenery. They have very little of the stuff that actually keeps you cool.
Peter Robinson: Cool right.
Bjorn Lomborg: So the simple point is why don't we make asphalt less black? Why don't we make rooftops less black? Why don't we put in more water features and greenery into cities? Not only would that make cities more pretty and beautiful, it would also dramatically lower, especially peak heat wave temperatures. Again, this is a simple, incredibly cheap option.
Peter Robinson: Now, when you, gimme some idea when you say dramatically lower. In first of all, is there a city that has done?
Bjorn Lomborg: So there's some.
Peter Robinson: Is there a model city? Singapore maybe?
Bjorn Lomborg: No, there's no model cities, but both New York and Los Angeles and London, many others have tried a little bit, but they're not anywhere near this because that's not the main focus. But modeling for instance, for London, estimate that if you have more water features, if you have more greenery, if you have less black surfaces, you could reduce heat wave temperatures by about 18 degrees Fahrenheit.
Peter Robinson: So that 104 degrees would've been down in the eighties.
Bjorn Lomborg: Yes, again, this is modeling.
Peter Robinson: Which is perfectly livable except for English people.
Bjorn Lomborg: Yes, and again, this is modeling and you're not gonna achieve all of it I'm pretty sure. You know, but it shows you the difference from what we're trying to talk about with most policy proposals, which are small, small fractions of one degree Fahrenheit compared to this amazingly simple and cheap thing that most people would support because it actually makes your neighborhood more beautiful as well. Plus it's very cheap and it'll work next year. Remember most climate policies will only work in a hundred years.
Peter Robinson: Right.
Bjorn Lomborg: So I'm so -
Peter Robinson: Net zero by 2050. The one thing you know for sure is that Boris Johnson will no longer be Prime Minister.
Bjorn Lomborg: Yes, but also net zero by 2050 will have virtually no impact by 2050. It'll have some impact by the end of the century. Remember, if the U.S. went net zero today, which you know, would be mind bogglingly difficult and expensive.
Peter Robinson: Yes, yes, yes.
Bjorn Lomborg: And terrible in so many ways, it would reduce temperatures nothing now and would reduce temperatures by 0.3 degrees by the end of the century. This is, if you run in it in the UN Climate Panel model. We have no sense of how little.
Peter Robinson: Say that again, say that again.
Bjorn Lomborg: If the U.S. went.
Peter Robinson: That needs to be underlined.
Bjorn Lomborg: If the U.S. went net zero today.
Peter Robinson: If John Kerry got exactly what he wanted today.
Bjorn Lomborg: Today, not in, you know, in 30 years.
Peter Robinson: 2040.
Bjorn Lomborg: Sorry, 20 years. No, 30 years.
Peter Robinson: 28 years seems like a lot.
Bjorn Lomborg: 28 years, yes. If he got it today and every year from then on, and remember that means we couldn't drive right now. We couldn't heat our homes. We couldn't cool our homes. Mostly we wouldn't be able to eat anything because you know, half or more of our food is with fertilizer made from fossil fuels. And so, but of course we would eventually adjust to some of this, but this would be a phenomenally different world. If we managed to do that. And we did it all the way through the century, the UN model shows us that would reduce temperatures by 0.3 degree Fahrenheit by the end of the century. We have no sense of the size of the problem. Why is this so little? Because most of the emissions that we worry about that are gonna warm the planet are not from the U.S. or from Europe or from Japan or Canada or New Zealand or Australia. They're from all the other countries that want to be rich. So they're from China, from India, from the rest of Asia. From Africa, remember Africa will be about 2 billion people by mid century and South America. But these are the countries that want to be richer and will emit by far the majority. So about 75% of all emissions. And those are the ones that you really have to convince. So, sorry, I wanna get back because you asked me, so what is it that I actually would've?
Peter Robinson: Hold on, let me set it up again.
Bjorn Lomborg: Yeah.
Peter Robinson: The Wall Street Journal. Your piece in the Wall Street Journal, once again. "It's entirely possible to help climate "and working families at the same time. "The policies to do so are innovation-focused." That's the word that public. Catastrophe, devastation. Those are John Kerry words. Bjorn Lomborg's word is innovation.
Bjorn Lomborg: Yes, so the fundamental issue here is a lot of people will tell you, "Oh, we already have all the technologies. "It's incredibly cheap. "Solar and wind is cheaper than fossil fuels. "We're good to go." But of course, if we were, the whole world would already have switched.
Peter Robinson: Yeah, we would've noticed, yes.
Bjorn Lomborg: And the reason why you need this new legislation that Biden has just signed that is gonna give about $369 billion for climate is exactly because if you don't do that, if you don't bribe people in a lot of different ways, they're still not gonna be willing to spend most of their money on solar and wind. Now, solar and wind is great when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing, but it's very, very bad when it's not. And that's why you really don't want to use most solar and wind, unless you have massive amounts and batteries. And we don't have that yet. So that's why I'm arguing. We need to get to a point not where you have to subsidize people to do all the things that you would like to see in the future, but a place where this energy technology will be so cheap that everybody will just want to buy it.
Peter Robinson: So the markets will solve the problem.
Bjorn Lomborg: Well, no, no, no. It's not the market will just solve the problem, but that the innovation will have made the technology so cheap that-
Peter Robinson: That the markets will solve the problem.
Bjorn Lomborg: Yes, but the point is -
Peter Robinson: Prices that, the prices, the prices will, the market will solve it.
Bjorn Lomborg: So the reason why the market will probably not solve the problem is because right now, fossil fuels are fairly cheap. Green energy is not. And if you make the innovation that will eventually make us this technology much, much cheaper, you will probably not have your patent back by the time,
Peter Robinson: I see, okay, sorry, sorry.
Bjorn Lomborg: Your breakthrough comes through. This is the standard argument for why you need government spending on innovation.
Peter Robinson: The transition has to be handled by public funding.
Bjorn Lomborg: Yes, and this is no different from medical issues. So the reason why we spend lots of money on, you know, blue sky medical researches, because you can't expect Pfizer to do all of that. What you can do is you come up with all these great ideas. They eventually percolate through to something that's very specific. Then Pfizer will come and make it into a marketable product that we all wanna buy because we'll live longer. That's the way to go. We need the same sort of breakthrough for energy technology. One way to do that would be fourth generation nuclear. Nuclear.
Peter Robinson: You say, when you say one way to do it, but that's really what it comes down to, isn't it? Nuclear is all roads, all innovation roads lead to nuclear.
Bjorn Lomborg: Well, so some people would like that to be true. And I'll give you an explanation of why that's possibly not true.
Peter Robinson: Okay.
Bjorn Lomborg: So, partly we're not gonna be able to power everything with electricity and nuclear only provides electricity. Remember we only get about one fifth of our energy from electricity right now. We could probably make that much bigger, but it's still not gonna drive everything we like about society. You know, what's gonna drive your car, especially your trucks? What's gonna heat your homes? What's gonna produce all the, for instance, steel and fertilizer and so on? A lot of these things are very, very hard to electrify. But the fundamental point here is third generation nuclear, which is what we have right now is fairly expensive. It turns out that if you build new nuclear power plants, they're way more expensive than even, you know, much solar and wind. That's why we're not really doing well on this.
Peter Robinson: Because of the regulatory overhang?
Bjorn Lomborg: There's a lot of reasons and I'm sure that's a significant part.
Peter Robinson: The Chinese build them. How expensive are they?
Bjorn Lomborg: They're still fairly expensive, but they're somewhat less expensive, absolutely. But the advocates for fourth generation nuclear. So that would be Bill Gates and many others are saying, "If we innovate this." So that's basically a small modular process. You'll just build them in a factory. You'll get the regulatory approval in the factory.
Peter Robinson: Smaller, safer, cheaper.
Bjorn Lomborg: And then just make tens of thousands of these. And the point is that they're incredibly safe because they're passively safe. So if you unplug all the electricity, they'll just not do anything. Unlike the current set of generators which will not blow up but kind of blow up. So you could argue that they will be incredibly cheap, incredibly safe, and very easy to do. Now my concern with this is that's what they told us about the other three generations as well, right? So we wanna see if that comes true. If it comes true, if fourth generation nuclear is just incredibly cheap and safe, we fixed climate change because everyone will buy. But I think we'd probably be better off by funding a lot of different technologies, because what if fourth generation nuclear's not gonna be it? There's, I'm just gonna tell you this one wonderful story. And it really is nothing but a story. But Craig Ventner the guy who cracked the human genome back in 2000.
Peter Robinson: That's right, right.
Bjorn Lomborg: He has this idea that he wants to basically make a gene modified algae to put on the ocean surface. And what it'll do there is it will basically pick up sunlight and CO2 and produce oil. Then we harvest all that and we basically have our own Saudi Arabia's out on the ocean surface. We'll just harvest all that. We'll keep our entire fossil fuel economy and we'll feed it with this oil that's now CO2 neutral because it just picked up the CO2 out on the ocean's surface. That way -
Peter Robinson: So in a weird way, it's recycling CO2.
Bjorn Lomborg: We're recycling CO2, and we just do it with solar energy from the ocean surface. Now that's an amazing idea, if it's gonna work. It's not right now. I mean, we can make it work in principle, but it's nowhere near commercially viable. But the point is, if you have a thousand of those ideas, now fourth generation nuclear from Bill Gates is one, Craig Ventner slightly crazy idea about algae on the ocean surface is another, and there are lots and lots of these ideas. Fund all of them because remember researchers are incredibly cheap. But we want just one or a few of these to come through. And those are the ones that'll power, the 21st century. And the real trick of course here is whereas the U.S. and Europe and well meaning rich westerners can afford to say, "No, no, no. "We're gonna be spending hundreds of billions of dollars, "even on very ineffective climate policies." You won't get that to happen in China, in India and the rest of Asia and in Africa. I don't know if you saw, but last year when India promised they might go net zero.
Peter Robinson: 2070, 2070.
Bjorn Lomborg: In 2070. But they went on stage in Glasgow and said, "We promise this." And then afterwards, they sent out a press release five days later and said, "Oh, we forgot to tell you one thing. "We're only gonna do this "if you guys give us a trillion dollars by 2030." So basically, you know, imagine the U.S. and everybody else going around with cup and get a trillion dollars to do that. That's not gonna happen. That's why we can't expect the majority of the world to go net zero unless we get something that's much, much cheaper. And if you'll just allow me to say one more thing. Look, this is no different from how we fixed all of the problems in the world. We've never fixed problems by telling everyone, "I'm sorry, could you just do something "that's incredibly annoying and difficult and costly "and keep doing it and make everyone do that." That's just not gonna do. That's what we're trying to do right now. The way we've solve problems is by telling people, "Here's an innovation, that'll make it your life better, "cheaper, and more effective."
Peter Robinson: So here's what President Biden has done. He's killed the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada. He's rejoined the Paris agreement. And now he has signed this climate bill, which would spend almost $370 billion over about a decade. And the money would go to tax credits for solar panels, wind turbines, heat pumps, and electric vehicles. None of which is new. The money would also provide incentives to businesses to manufacture more renewable technology infrastructure here in the United States, okay. So there are many ways of looking at this. One way of looking at it is that the Democratic Party has chosen to divert $369 billion over a decade to its own interest groups, its own supporters. That's one way. Another way, just as you put it, is that we're gonna be spending this money to nudge, entice, bribe people to use technologies. This would be the most optimistic way of putting it. In the hope that one or another of these technologies will achieve a kind of lift off, okay. But no way of looking at it says this is money spent. There is no climate Manhattan Project here. I now make you President for a day. What do you do? And what does it cost? Give me your top two initiatives and how much you'd spend on and what it would cost.
Bjorn Lomborg: All right, my first concern about that is that if I'm only president for a day, somebody else will revert that after that day, right. But well, I.
Peter Robinson: I can wave my wand to solve that problem as well.
Bjorn Lomborg: Okay good, yes. So we should be focusing a lot more on spending on innovation. So that's the main part, and this is what we don't get about the climate conversation because it's so panicky and alarmist and we're all gonna die right now. It feels like we don't have time to, you know, do all that research and stuff. We just need to do the stuff that we already have. And that's why we end up in these boondoggles. Over and again, we simply spend a lots of money on stuff that we already know most people don't want unless you subsidize it for them. The second thing that we should be investigating is a lot of these smart ways to adapt. So, you know, very clearly we talked about, you know, cool of cities. You should also, if you're worried about Miami and you probably should be, eventually sea levels will rise. And that will be a problem for Miami, but they're very simple and cheap ways to deal with this. Holland, again, has shown that. We know that this would cost much less than 0.1% of GDP. So the whole Dutch experience, just get this, the whole Dutch experience, since the 1950s, they estimate this has cost them. So all the protection that they've had has cost them less than what's the equivalent about $10 billion. Now that's not nothing but over a 40 or 60 years.
Peter Robinson: They've added something like 20% to their land mass there. Some huge, okay.
Bjorn Lomborg: This is nothing. And that's the real point. These are very, very cheap things, but they're not the politically correct things to do. They don't feel like we're solving the climate challenge, but of course we would actually, we would solve it through the innovation. So we would solve the problems through -
Peter Robinson: So you set up, what do you? I'm just trying to think through. Honestly, if we could make you put or to be more realistic, you're drawing up what a President of the United States. You're drawing up an agenda on which to run for office and you offer it to Democrats and Republicans alike. Here's what you could do that would actually do something.
Bjorn Lomborg: Yeah.
Peter Robinson: And what do you, do? You set up a kind of DARPA.
Bjorn Lomborg: Yes, yes and look, there's lots of different ways to do this and obviously you would also need to get answers to.
Peter Robinson: How much does it cost each year?
Bjorn Lomborg: The cost would be in the order of 20 to 30 billion dollars in total. Remember that's much, much less than what -
Peter Robinson: Bjorn, that's a bargain.
Bjorn Lomborg: I know, I know and that's, what's so amazing about this. And we're spending literally.
Peter Robinson: But it doesn't buy votes. It doesn't buy votes.
Bjorn Lomborg: And it doesn't get the media on board because it feels like I've just said, "Oh, we'll fix this in the next 20 to 40 years." And that's true. My solution will not fix global warming right now, but of course neither will John Kerry's or anyone else's. We're simply saying, "Oh, we wanna feel virtuous here "and now with lots and lots of money." So just to give you one sense of this new climate bill. It's also other things, right. But let's just take the climate part of it, which is, as you say, $369 billion. That will probably buy us a reduction in emissions. Instead of about 30%, it'll be 37%. So that's nice by, by 2030. That's nice. I just took those numbers, these are the Roadium Group, but they're several other estimates. There are no official estimates, but it's roughly in the same ballpark, all of them. I just then put that into the UN Climate Model. I was actually on vacation, but it's not very hard to do. So I figured, you know, somebody ought to do that. This is the way you spend your vacations?
Peter Robinson: I know, that's terrible, right? And then you run what would the world look like if Biden didn't do this? And what would the world look like if you did do this? The difference, and of course, you also need to make expectations of what will happen after 2030. The pessimistic view is when the money runs out, we don't cut anymore. I think that's a reasonable, but probably slightly too pessimistic estimate. The optimistic version is we'll keep doing the best that we possibly could for the rest of the century, which I think is wildly optimistic. But yeah, so you get these two fairly different viewpoints. Then you run them and you see what would the temperature be like if we didn't do anything? Well, it'd be almost five degree Fahrenheit hotter by the end of the century. But then you plot what would happen if you did Biden? And unfortunately you can't tell the difference. I can't show you here, but you really need a very, very fine pen. It turns out that the optimistic version will reduce temperatures by the end of the century, by less than three 100ths of a degree Fahrenheit. So Biden it'll have no impact even by mid-century, but it'll have a tiny, tiny bit, you know, still not something we could measure. The pessimistic version. The one that when money runs out, we'll do no more. Turns out that you can't even tell. I couldn't tease them apart. I actually need to multiply everything by a thousand to make it work in Excel because it was just the same line. It was less than one thousands of a degree Fahrenheit by the end of the century. And so you have all these politicians that go up there and say, "Now we've saved the world." But the reality is, when you actually run it in the model is, "No, you've spent $369 billion, "and you've made no measurable difference to the world." Was that really what you wanted to be remembered for?
Peter Robinson: Well, the politician is secretly thinking, "Ah, yes, but think of all the votes I bought."
Bjorn Lomborg: And I get that that's a good point for a politician.
Peter Robinson: A few last questions, Bjorn, if I may. We've known each other a long time. You published "The Skeptical Environmentalist." You burst on the scene. Actually you were on the scene beforehand, but you burst on the scene in a big way with "The Skeptical Environmentalist", a big, big bestseller. And you published that book in?
Bjorn Lomborg: 2001.
Peter Robinson: 2001. So we're getting on more than two decades ago. Here's the question. What has changed, in your experience what, in the discourse about climate and the environment has changed since? And I will tell you exactly what I have in mind. I'm just wondering whether you get treated something in the nature of the way people who said in the last 18 months or two years, "Wait, wait, don't close schools." And they were kicked off Twitter and they were demonized. And I'm wondering whether it, when you published "The Skeptical Environmentalist" in 2001. It's a big, best seller and there's something fresh and engaging and of course, because that's the kind of person you are as well, Bjorn. But has the discourse changed? Do you find yourself demonized in some quarters and in some ways, or are people still willing to listen to you?
Bjorn Lomborg: So I think it's more that I've always been demonized and I'm still demonized, but look, I challenge a lot of vested interests. So let me give you another example. If you ask most people what is it that they do most for client, sorry, for the environment. It turns out that the answer is recycling. Almost everyone recycles to help the world or the, you know, save the planet. That kind of thing. When you do most of the studies, some things like recycling copper, recycling aluminum, or aluminum, I can never find out which.
Peter Robinson: Aluminum in this country.
Bjorn Lomborg: And you know, some other things are really smart, but that's not what we mostly recycled. You recycle paper, you recycle glass. Mostly because we were worried about running out resource but we're not gonna run out of trees and sand. So the reality is most recycling is a fairly poor investment. You spend a lot of dollars and you do fairly little good for the environment. Now, if you tell most people that they get annoyed. Why, because if you've just spent the last 20 years of your life recycling, you don't wanna hear that you just wasted the last.
Peter Robinson: This goes in the composting bin, this is.
Bjorn Lomborg: Why would you want to hear that? Why would you not just want to kick off that guy from Twitter? So, it makes sense to say that a lot of people get annoyed because I'm basically challenging people both in is this the end of the world? You know, yes, there are more heat waves. There are more heat death. There are a lot fewer cold deaths and cold deaths are much more important. And why aren't we focusing on that? The second part, what are some of the solutions? Why aren't we building greener cities that are actually be much cooler? Why don't we focus on innovation? That's much cheaper, you know, the $30 billion rather than $300 billion and will actually also lead to solutions that China and India and Africa will do. So I make annoying arguments that I think are so sufficiently reasonable that people get really, really annoyed. That's part of it.
Peter Robinson: Because you can't be written off.
Bjorn Lomborg: Yes, it's sort of, he's not totally dumb. And he's saying something that sounds a little right.
Peter Robinson: He makes sense that bastard.
Bjorn Lomborg: A little bit, yes.
Peter Robinson: Right, all right.
Bjorn Lomborg: So, I think there's that part of it. I think the other part of the conversation is the catastrophizing of climate. So if you look back in 2001, most people were sort of, yeah, that's a problem, but that was about it. Now, 60% of all rich countries believe that the world will end. I mean, what, sometimes it blows my mind. I get why. And it goes back to that point of saying, if you're John Kerry or anyone else, if you're gonna convince me to spend lots of money, not think about how effective it is, you really have to tell me it's because this, you know, meteor that's hurtling towards earth and we just gotta, you know, send Bruce Willis and all the guys up there and fix it before it's too late. That makes sense if it is the end of the world. And that's what this relentless media campaign of just focusing on one bad thing after another, and only telling us those stories that fit the narrative. So, you know, we'll tell you every time the Great Barrier Reef is worse and worse. But we'll just, you know, give you one story and then we'll go back to saying, "Oh, and is probably gonna get bad." when it's -
Peter Robinson: Even the good news is bad.
Bjorn Lomborg: Yes, so we are not well served. We are not actually gonna solve the problem. We're clearly not solving the problem because we've just done another one of those policies that'll cost a lot of money and actually not deliver anything. I think the only way to do this is to get people to realize, "Wait a minute, this doesn't fit my worldview. "And it doesn't fit my real life." That's what's happening with Ukraine. And that's what's happening with these enormously high energy costs, I think, especially in Europe, but also elsewhere. People are starting to realize, "Wait a minute, "I thought you were gonna tell me that all my energy bills "would be lower because we had all this green energy." Of course, the reason why the Ukraine war is a problem is because we need gas to fill in for when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing. And that's why we've now become incredibly expensive for our energy. Look, we could just have had all of it with coal. There's a lot of other problems with coal, but fundamentally we could just have run the whole world with coal and we would've had no problem. We have plenty of coal and we have it from all kinds of friendly nations and you can store it and do all kinds of stuff with it. The reason why we're in this pickle is because we have now for 20 or 30 years been saying, "We just wanna go down the net zero path." Now we are starting to realize this is gonna be phenomenally costly and most of the constituents will not actually buy into it.
Peter Robinson: Anglo Merkel, shut down the coal plants and shut down the nuclear power plants and said, "Okay, we'll take relatively clean natural gas from Russia." And Germany is now facing a very cold winter.
Bjorn Lomborg: Yes, yes.
Peter Robinson: All right. One more, couple more last questions here. I just wanna see what you do with this. Pope Francis, his 2015 Encyclical Ladato C quote. "People may well have a growing ecological sensitivity, "but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits "of consumption, which appear to be growing all the time. "A simple example is the increasing use "and power of air conditioning. "The markets, which immediately benefit "from sales stimulate ever greater demand. "An outsider looking at our world would "be amazed at such behavior," close quote. Air conditioning is not a sensible adaptation, but a harmful display of consumption.
Bjorn Lomborg: Yeah, great.
Peter Robinson: Bjorn?
Bjorn Lomborg: This is something you can only say if you are either. And I think the Pope is very honest. He may actually like to live in a little sweaty apartment and feel, you know, sort of virtuous, but most people don't. And certainly they don't like to see their loved ones die from too much heat. That's why everybody buys air conditioning when they can afford it. Remember India and Africa has very, very low air conditioned consumption. What they're expecting is even if there was no global warming, as they get richer, they're gonna buy a lot more air conditioning because they wanna live like you and me and everybody else. It's not rocket science. There's something really pernicious about those ideas saying there's, there's too much consumption going on. Consumption is something that when you're fairly rich and it's hard to do this with a Pope, because I think he's a good guy. He probably would live without air conditioning. He would live without a car and all this kind of stuff.
Peter Robinson: I mean, those Logias in the Vatican are nice and breezy. I don't know that they suffer from.
Bjorn Lomborg: I actually lived at that place. I had dinner with him as well.
Peter Robinson: Did you?
Bjorn Lomborg: Yeah.
Peter Robinson: Oh, so he didn't go easy on him all.
Bjorn Lomborg: Well, he seems like a nice guy, but the fundamental point here is to say it is so easy for rich people to say, "You know what? "All these other poor people don't need to get all the stuff "that I have." "Well, I'd like you to go first." And most people are not willing to do that. And most people would actually like to have better lives where they're better fed, they're better educated and they have more opportunity for travel and all these other things. So again, even if you -
Peter Robinson: The reason I'm putting the Pope to you.
Bjorn Lomborg: Yes.
Peter Robinson: Is because, of course, what implies there is, it doesn't imply it in his case. It's perfectly straightforward is not only am I wiser. I am morally superior. Air conditioning is immoral.
Bjorn Lomborg: Yep.
Peter Robinson: It's just consumption, run amuck. And you just don't accept, you just.
Bjorn Lomborg: It's ridiculous. I mean, first of all, it leads to better lives. And secondly, good luck convincing, you know, the vast majority of the eight to 9 billion people by mid century to live without things they can afford.
Peter Robinson: Last question. This is a point you've made a couple of times now. According to a 2021 poll, 80% of Italians, 77% of the French, 75% of Germans, 71% of the British and 60% of Americans were either concerned or very concerned that climate change would personally harm them during their lifetimes. Not that climate change was bad in some vague way. Not that it would harm their great-grandchildren, but that it would harm them in their own lifetimes. Final question, Bjorn. What just, what do you have to say to those people who are, there is really no other word for it, scared?
Bjorn Lomborg: Hmm. Well, the argument that I have and the reality that I'm trying to portray makes this a hard discussion, because if the media constantly tells you whatever hurricane happens, whatever heat wave or cold wave that we are gonna ignore, and all these other instances are because of global warming, then obviously you think all of these bad things are because of global warming. Remember there were really a lot of terrible things happening in the past as well. And we were much less adjusted to them. Just if you take this one statistic, which I think is fantastic and both, and also amazing at the same time, most people don't know about this. 100 years ago, on average, people that died from climate related disasters, so that's floods, drought, storms, and wildfires and extreme temperatures. We have reasonable estimates of this, at least for the last hundred years, about half a million people died every year on average from these disasters.
Peter Robinson: A century ago.
Bjorn Lomborg: A century ago. Today, so last year, 2021, the one where, you know, we had the heat dome with 700 plus dying. The floods in Germany that killed more than 200 people. Lots of other things you haven't heard about. Two flash floods in Afghanistan and so on killed in total less than 7,000 people. So we are -
Peter Robinson: Over a century when the global population is what triple at least.
Bjorn Lomborg: Quadruple, actually yes.
Peter Robinson: Quadruple.
Bjorn Lomborg: Yes, so the net effect is we've seen a decline of 99%. If you do it per person, it's much closer to 99.7%. Why, because we're richer and hence much more resilient. So while people say, "Oh, I'm gonna experience one of these things." Absolutely true. You're probably gonna experience a hurricane or a drought or a something. Now, first of all, you would probably also have experienced this in the past, but you will probably experience slightly more of some of these damages. You'll probably see less cold waves. But you know, overall there will probably be some problem here, but it's not actually such that you will be much worse off. The statistic tells you're gonna be much, much less likely to die. That's why I start off my book. I don't know if you saw that, but you know, with this girl, and there's lots of these girl in one of these Fridays For the Future demonstrations has this poster that says, "You will die from old age, "but I will die from climate change." It's a great, you know, it's a great poster, which of course is why so many of them have it, but the truth is "No, you won't." You will die much, much later. You will live much longer and you'll have much better life. Now because of global warming, it'll be slightly less, much, much better. And we should try to do something about that. But we should make sure that we don't actually end up making your life worse off, which is what we tend to do with some of these policies. And we should also remember the 7 billion or 8 billion or whatever it is, the vast majority of humanity that are not part of this conversation of rich people, but actually just wanna get out of poverty, stop their kids from dying from easily curable infectious disease and so on. They should also have the opportunity to live these full lives. And we are trying to tell them, "I'm sorry, you know what? "We got rich with fossil fuels, but you won't." That's not the right way to go. So yes, we should fix climate change, but fix it smartly.
Peter Robinson: Bjorn Lomborg, thank you.
Bjorn Lomborg: Thank you.
Peter Robinson: For Uncommon Knowledge, the Hoover Institution and Fox Nation, I'm Peter Robinson. Thank you for joining us.