Review: Global Crises, Global Solutions

4 Star, Disease & Health, Economics, Environment (Problems), Environment (Solutions), Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

4.0 out of 5 stars NOT for the General Reader, Get Cool It Instead

October 8, 2009
Bjorn Lomborg (Editor)
I was among those who considered Lomborg discredited when he produced The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World, and I now retract two thirds of my rejection in light of The Resilient Earth: Science, Global Warming and the Fate of Humanity and Lomberg’s work in creating the Copenhagen Consensus as reported on in this book–37 serious people considering alternative perspectives and ranking remediation options in relation to real cost-benefit analysis, something Al Gore and other hysterics do not do.

This book is NOT recommended for the general reader–it is way too heavy, too many charts, not enough of a flow, a lot of this stuff has to be taken on faith. Instead, I recommend Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming (Vintage) for the general reader, and probably How to Spend $50 Billion to Make the World a Better Place which I may order in a few minutes.

This book I had to work hard to glean take-ways useful to me–in no way does that disparage this excellent work, but it is of, by, and for economist academics.

The simplified list of its conclusions, money best spent on:
+ Communicable diseases
+ Conflists and arms proliferation
+ Access to education
+ Financial instability (reduction of)
+ Governance and corruption
+ Migration
+ Sanitation and access to clean water
+ Subsidies and trade barriers (ending)

Although Climate Change is listed in the book as being at the top of this list, a thorough reading actually takes it off the list as not cost effective in terms of human and natural benefits.

What impressed me most–and the point is made much more fluidly in Cool It–is the compelling array of so many other better ways to spend money, and the compelling evidence that clime change, while a real problem, is a traffic accident in comparison with malnutrition, disease, education shortfalls and so all, all of which can be dramatically improved at relatively low cost which climate change remediation is not only grotesquely expensive, but yields very little return on investment.

Early on the editor (Lomborg) points out that the Copenhagen Consensus had to overcome obstacles including hard to compare alternatives, institutional regidities (within which I would include over-specialization and the fragemntation of knowledge in a reductionist society), and resentment of the idea that climate change might not be the “silver bullet” Al Gore would have us believe (I suspect at this point the Nobel Committee is flinching inwardly at their ill-considered award–Herman Daly and several others remain vastly more deserving).

The editor points out that the UN Millenium Goals are achievable at a cost of $40-70 billion a year (i.e. less than what the US pays for secret intelligence that produces less than 5% of what the US President needs to know, and nothing for everyone else), but are unlikely to be realized because the financial resources are simply not forthcoming.

I glean a few notes from across the various contributions:

+ Time discounting (future benefits at future costs versus current costs)

+ Risk of catastrophe as a separate category

+ Climate change meriting special status because it is a multi-generational problem

+ Macroeconomic literature is severely lacking (this is huge, what it really means is that no one is doing whole system or system of systems thinking–(see my images at Phi Beta Iota, I no longer load images here as Amazon destroyed over 350 images to get rid of 12 portraits of Obama-Bush sharing the same face).

+ Foreign aid and internal transparency are complementary (seems obvious, but worth noting the tie)

+ Reducing the intensity of a conflict can be easier and cheaper to do than ending the conflict

+ Education by radio WORKS and yet has not been adopted nor really understood–this ties in well with the Earth Intelligence Network of educating the five billion poor “one cell call at a time”

+ Education contributors ASSUME that only 9-18 years of “butts in seats” rote education will do, they have not conceptualized Internet and radio and cell phone based incremental and situation-relevant education

+ Governance and corruption are covered but only as a Third World problem. Although there is a literature on Rule by Secrecy: The Hidden History That Connects the Trilateral Commission, the Freemasons, and the Great Pyramids and The Global Class War: How America’s Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future – and What It Will Take to Win It Back I believe that we must encourage much more research on the costs of the structural corruption resident in the Western countries, and the USA in particular, as this corruption has not only bankrupted the USA, but cascaded across the world with unilateral militarlism, virtual colonialism, and predatory immoral capitalism all done in the name of the good people of America (and at their expense) but actually being a form of global looting of the many by the few.

+ The “cure” for failed states is said to consist of citizen oversight; procurement reform; improved revenue raising; improvement in business environments (end of red tape and delay); and global asset recovery and transparency. For me that boils down to ubiquitous computing and “true cost” visibility everywhere.

+ The section on water is fascinating and one of the best in terms of general reader comprehension. I learn that in the past 100 years the population has tripled while water use has gone up six times. I learn that beef requires 13 times more water than vegetarian foods.

+ There is not as much focus on legitimacy as I was expecting, and I recommend Max Manwaring’s edited work, The Search for Security: A U.S. Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century–everything these authors address in this book is made possible by LEGITIMACY, which must be earned with honesty and transparency and integrity across the board.

I put the book down somewhat disappointed. Although in the aggregate there are connecitons made between water and nutrition and poverty and education and agriculture, the authors are lacking a strategic analytic model such as the Earth Intelligence Network had created, and I believe that a second round of the Copenhagen Consensus would benefit from adopting that model.

Another book with cost numbers that I recommend is The Future of Life. For a sense of how we are our own worst enemy, see The Next Catastrophe: Reducing Our Vulnerabilities to Natural, Industrial, and Terrorist Disasters and Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America

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