Reviled by greenies, beloved by The Wall Street Journal (which has given him an op-ed spot for the past six weeks): when Crikey spotted Bjørn Lomborg at the COP15 media centre cafe there was no chance this cantankerous Danish statistician would be let off without a grilling.

Previously named by Time as one of its most 100 influential thinkers, Lomborg is the thinking man’s climate sceptic. That’s because he doesn´t reject the science of anthropogenic climate change — although the emphasis he often places on the potentially positive impacts of a warmer world, such as increased agricultural production and less winter deaths, drive environmentalists gaga.

His scepticism is reserved for the economics of climate change: his view is that carbon reduction agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol are an expensive and inefficient way to try to control global temperatures.

Hand-wringing about the size of different countries’ emissions pledges, Lomborg argues, is pointless as most countries will simply ignore them. At the end of Copenhagen “we will have a beautifully crafted document and everybody will be drinking champagne and throwing confetti and saying, ‘We did it’!” Lomborg says. “The real problem, I think, is the aim of the negotiation, which is to make targets we won’t meet.”

He also wants politicians to put off mitigation efforts and devote 0.2% of GDP to renewable energy research instead. “As long as it’s really costly to cut carbon emissions dramatically it’s not going to happen. What we need is smarter technology.”

Lomborg also weighs into the debate Australia never had: whether an emissions trading scheme or carbon tax is the best way to bring down emissions. A carbon tax would be most efficient, Lomborg argues, because it is simpler and more transparent. Emissions trading schemes, on the other hand, are open to abuse by powerful industry groups who lobby for free permits to allow them to keep polluting.

On the controversial issue of “clean coal”, Lomborg is more equivocal: we should investigate all alternative energy possibilities, but carbon sequestration looks unlikely to be economically viable in the near future.

Watch the full interview below:


Peter Fray

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