Lomborg was recently--and fatuously--accused by the Guardian
of doing a U-turn on this subject. His position all the way through has
been that climate change is happening and that it is largely man-made.
He has also argued, to the consternation of many greens, that
Kyoto-like policies are both expensive and (even if diligently pursued,
which they won't be) ineffective. He is right on both points, in my
view, and this is still his position.
The film restates this critique but quickly moves on to look at more
productive post-Copenhagen approaches: pursuing new technologies to
make low-carbon energy cheap (before we force ourselves off
fossil fuels), geoengineering (for an emergency response if
low-probability worst-case scenarios start to come true at speed), and
adaptation (which we are good at, and which is relatively cheap).
Instead of spending hundreds of billions of dollars on policies that
won't work, Lomborg argues for smaller (though still substantial) sums
to be spent on R&D directed at new energy technologies, leaving a
surplus for relieving malnutrition and disease in developing
countries--the issues which have consistently been at the top of his
list of global policy priorities.
This sounds like a heavy agenda for an evening at the movies, but
it's artfully done. Interviews with the likes of Nathan Myhrvold and
Freeman Dyson are nicely mixed in; the animations and graphics are as
good as in Gore's movie (which is high praise); there are jokes. The
whole thing moves along really well.
After the Heritage screening, Lomborg took some questions. The AEI's
Lee Lane, who speaks in the movie about geoengineering, asked a good
one. He said that Lomborg is persuasive on the waste inherent in
Kyoto-like methods, partly due to the inefficiency of government; but
why does he think that the huge subsidies he recommends for clean
energy R&D and other projects will be any better spent? I'm not
sure Lomborg had a very good answer to this. He said he preferred an
X-prize approach over grand industrial strategies, and that support for
R&D was less prone to rent-seeking than (for instance) cap and
trade. Also, even with a lot of waste, he said, this approach would
likely achieve far more than simply raising the price of carbon. Maybe.
Another questioner asked, why did he choose a conservative
think-tank like Heritage to show the movie in DC? His answer: because
they were willing to do it. He said he regretted the missing centre in
the debate. People interested in the subject tended to see climate
change either as a hoax or as an immediate existential threat to
civilization. "The constituency we have to grow is the intelligent
middle," he said--people interested in level-headed, cost-effective
That is the tone of the movie: calm, intelligent, and engaging.
Lomborg bemusedly said that at the Toronto Film Festival, one of the
movie critics who came along to the screening asked him afterwards, "Is
quiet the new loud?" If only.