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The Lomborg bonanza (Or, how could Australia better spend $4 million?)

April 17th, 2015 · No Comments

The Australian government has given The Smiling Dane, Bjorn Lomborg, a major reason to smile.  It seems that Bjorn won’t have to headquarter out of a post office box any more.  While imposing draconian cuts on higher education, the climate-change denial dominated Australian government has given Lomborg $4 million (Australian $) to set up a variation on the ‘lies, damned lies, and statistics’ Copenhagen Consensus Center.

What does the Center say its about?

research that analyzes the optimal ways to combat the biggest problems facing the world.

We promote the use of sound economic science – especially the principle of prioritization – to make sure that with limited resources, we achieve the most ‘good’ for people and the planet.

In series of deceptive piece after piece after piece after piece after …, Lomborg on climate pauseLomborg and proponents have leveraged effectively half-truths to support misleading conclusions and dangerous recommendations. This has enabled them to assert that climate-related investments simply don’t pass the muster of their “sound economic science“.  Yet, as highlighted at Climate Progress years ago, what did the very economists involved in Copenhagen Consensus research conclude back in 2008?

[I]f the net benefit (total benefit – total cost) were compared for each policy proposal, the climate policy packages would most likely be ranked higher than most if not all options considered.” (Yohe et al.,The inappropriate treatment of climate change in Copenhagen Consensus 2008, submitted, emphasis added)

For some reason, I suspect that advocacy of “prioritization of climate policy packages” isn’t what motivated the Australian government to give Bjorn four million reasons to smile.

In any event, perhaps it would make sense to leverage some “sound economic science … to make sure that with limited resources, [the Australian Government] achieve[s} the most ‘good’ for people and the planet.”

Within the Australian higher education, for example, Lomborg’s “host” university could provide 100% free ride scholarships to almost 600 Australian students (average annual tuition of $6829).  In a country with zero sun resources (sarcasm), that $4 million could pay for 4 megawatts of solar installation which, based on Australia’s range of solar pv productivity, would mean somewhere between 5,110 to 7,300 megwatts a year of production.  At 29 cents per kWh (Australia’s average 2013 retail price), that would translate to between $1,481,900 to $2,117,000 in value per year.  Hmmm, not bad on a $4 million upfront investment.

Lets take that “sound economic science” from The Copenhagen Consensus‘ (deceptive) cost-benefit analysis:

Australia could invest $4 million in malaria nets for $144 million in benefits.

For malaria, the recommendation is to reduce resistance to artemisinin – the primary drug treatment for malaria – by using combination therapies, while providing bed-nets to reduce infection. Each dollar invested returns $36 in benefits.

Australia could invest $4 million in treating TB for $172 million in benefits.

For TB, treatment since 1995 has saved 37 million people. We can do even more. The author suggests intensifying efforts to identify TB carriers, particularly among those co-infected with HIV, while scaling up treatment to both regular and drug-resistant strains of TB. Each dollar invested returns $43 in benefits.

Australia could invest $4 million in circumcision of HIV-negative men for $112 million of benefits.

For HIV/AIDS, to get the best bang-for-buck the authors suggest focusing on hyper-endemic (15%+ of adult population infected) regions in Africa. By circumcising 90% of HIV-negative men we can get $28 back on the dollar/blockquote>

Or, instead, the Australian government could squander $4 million on The Smiling Dane for negative return on investment “for people and the planet”.

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Tags: Energy