“Global warming was blamed for 35,000 deaths in Europe’s August 2003 heat wave,” reports George Will in Newsweek today. Never mind that cold causes seven times as many deaths in Europe each year. We must take up the eco-friendly, non-carbon-emitting torch, and fight to end global warming at any cost.
Or should we? Reviewing Bjorn Lomborg’s new book, Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming , Will asks: “How cool do we want the world to be? As cool as it was when the Arctic ice pack extended so far south that Eskimos in kayaks landed in Scotland?” Global warming may be problematic for the polar bears, but what about the anticipated species increase due to warmer climates? What about the human lives that will be saved, compared to those lost, due to moderate warming”a 9-to-1 ratio in China and India”? If climate change is moderate, as Lomborg attests, our reaction should certainly be moderate too.
But there’s something so intriguing about dramatic self- (and societal) sacrifice. “What do we want? Carbon taxes! When do we want them? Now!,” chanted a group of London demonstrators. A serious plea, and Will has a serious answer:
Well, you want dramatic effects now? We can eliminate what the World Health Organization says will be, by 2020, second only to heart disease as the world’s leading cause of death.
The cause is traffic accidents. The surefire cure is speed limits of 5mph. In 2008 alone, that would save 1.2 million lives and $500 billion in damages, disproportionately in the Third World, which will be hardest hit by increasing traffic carnage. But a world moving at 5mph would be, over the years, uncountable trillions of dollars poorer, which would cost some huge multiple of 1.2 million lives through forgone nutrition, education, infrastructuree.g., clean watermedicine, research, etc.
The costs of such global slowing would be the medievalization of the world, so the world accepts the costs of velocity . . . .
Sums that are small relative to the cost of trying to fine-tune the planet’s climate could prevent scores of millions of deaths from AIDS, unsafe drinking water and other clear and present dangers. If nations concert to impose antiwarming measures commensurate with the hyperbole about the danger, the damage to global economic growth could cause in this century more preventable death and suffering than was caused in the last century by Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot combined. Nobel Peace Prize, indeed.