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Bjørn Yesterday: Climate Skeptic Reverses Course, or Something

The Danish academic Bjørn Lomborg is infamous as a climate change doubter. In 2001, his book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, catapulted him into the public realm as the guy who thinks climate change isn't as serious as all that, and we probably can't do anything cost-effective about it anyway.

In 2004, at an event he organized called the Copenhagen Consensus, a group of economists was asked what global problems should be addressed with a hypothetical budget of $50 billion. They decided that preventing climate change should not be one of the world's top priorities (instead they suggested work on malnutrition, AIDS, and malaria). As the progenitor of the event, and spokesman for its conclusions, Lomborg got even more heat (heh) from environmental activists.


Since then he's been the media's go-to guy for contrarian thinking on climate change, and all-around environmental lightening rod. He's been vigorously criticized by famous scientists and defended by famous media outlets.

But now he's pulling an apparent about-face:

In a new book to be published next month, Lomborg will call for tens of billions of dollars a year to be invested in tackling climate change. "Investing $100bn annually would mean that we could essentially resolve the climate change problem by the end of this century," the book concludes.

Examining eight methods to reduce or stop global warming, Lomborg and his fellow economists recommend pouring money into researching and developing clean energy sources such as wind, wave, solar and nuclear power, and more work on climate engineering ideas such as "cloud whitening" to reflect the sun's heat back into the outer atmosphere.

In a Guardian interview, he said he would finance investment through a tax on carbon emissions that would also raise $50bn to mitigate the effect of climate change, for example by building better sea defences, and $100bn for global healthcare.

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Contrast that with this interview with Fareed Zakaria, in which the old Lomborg talks about spending $150 billion a year on climate change as an inexcusable waste of money.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqZWbLLbAOM

Apparently Lomborg has realized that enforcing Kyoto isn't the only way to address climate change—that we can invest money in clean energy as well. Or maybe he's revised up his estimates of the potential risks.

Or maybe—and this hypothesis is for the cynics—he just realized that a reversal and a new thesis would be the best way to generate interest in a new book.

Dammit. Got me.

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