|THE LOMBORG STORY
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The international conference, "The Copenhagen Consensus", was held in Copenhagen on 24th-28th May 2004. It was co-sponsored by The Economist. Here a series of "leading economists" discussed the 10 greatest problems facing humanity today. The set-up was as follows: First, before the conference was held, 10 economists (all but two from USA) made introductory papers on the 10 issues. Next, 20 other scientists participating in the conference contributed to a discussion of the 10 issues. Finally, a panel of 8 leading economists, including three Nobel Prize winners, discussed the costs and benefits of measures that could remedy these problems. They were "given" the fictive amount of 50 billion dollars and were asked to invest this money in such a way that a maximum benefit was obtained. 50 billion dollars is approximately the total yearly official aid to the developing countries from the industrialised nations. The 10 issues were:
- climate change
- infectious diseases, especially AIDS
- conflicts and weapons proliferation
- financial instability, including currency speculation
- poor education
- poor sanitation
- poor government leadership and corruption
- population growth
- subsidies and trade barriers
- hunger and malnutrition
During the conference, the scientists resigned from dealing with three issues, viz. conflicts, financial instability, and poor education, because no relevant measures to alleviate these problems could be proposed. Instead, it was recommended that these issues were studied more carefully to allow economic evaluations in the future. For the remaining seven issues, a catalogue of 38 possible measures was made. Of these, 17 were given a close examination.
The panel of 8 economists agreed upon the following list of priorities: Of the 50 billion dollars, the first 27 would be given to prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. This would prevent 27 million disease cases up to 2010, and the money invested in this way would be returned by a factor of nearly 50. Next, 12 billion dollars would be invested in alleviating micronutrient deficiencies. As the third priority, the experts would recommend a total liberalisation of world trade, which would cost very little and, in their opinion, lead to enormous benefits. As the fourth priority, 13 billion dollars would be invested in fighting malaria. Thereby, all 50 billion dollars would have been used up.
The 17 proposed measures were classified, on an economical basis, as either very good, good, fair or bad. The four "bad" measures were one dealing with migration, and three dealing with climate change, among them the Kyoto protocol, and two proposals for tax on CO2.
The introductory presentation on the climate issue had been presented by the economist William Cline. Cline proposed that the effects during the next 300 years should be considered. This could be done by using a relatively low rate of discount in the calculations (Cline proposed 1.5 %). However, the panel of 8 economists chose not to consider the distant future, and chose a much higher rate of discount in their calculations, viz. around 5 %. Thereby, they deliberately chose to give problems here-and-now higher priority than problems which will only appear in a distant future. It is not surprising, therefore, that the top priority became the avoidance of 27 millions of AIDS deaths before 2010. In other words, the premises were that short term problems should be given the highest weight, and the result of the calculations became, therefore, that short term solutions were the best investments.
The results of the conference were published by Cambridge University Press in November 2004 in a book titled "Global crises - Global solutions".
The conference was repeated in 2008 (see below).
Please notice that the conclusions of the Copenhagen Consensus conferences are criticised elsewhere on lomborg-errors ("What is wrong about Copenhagen Consensus").
In parallel with this conference, Lomborg arranged yet another conference, viz. the Copenhagen Consensus Youth Forum. Here, 80 students from 25 countries, mostly from The Third World, were brought together to discuss the same 10 issues as in the main conference. Their list of priority differed only moderately from that of the main conference. Fighting hunger and malnutrition was their first priority, whereas an effort against climate change became priority 9 out of 10. Many other issues, e.g. drugs, population growth etc., were not on the list of problems to be discussed.
As an opposition to the conferences arranged by Lomborg, a series of Danish NGO organisations arranged a conference on May 23rd and 24th, called "Copenhagen Conscience". The most prominent participants were the EU commissioner for the environment, Swedish Margot Wallström, and Klaus Töpfer, director of the UN environmental programme. The conference stressed the importance of reaching the UN millennium goal for 2015, complying with the Kyoto protocol, and complying with the ambition of using 0.7 % of the GNP of the rich countries for aid to the developing countries. The conference criticised the premises of "Copenhagen Consensus", viz. that there are only limited amounts of money available for solving the great problems. Each year, the World´s nations use 900-1,000 billion dollars on military and 350 billion dollars on farm subsidies. In this perspective, Lomborg´s figure of 50 billion dollars for the ten largest problems in the World is ridiculously small. It is also stressed that by now, the net transfer of money is from the poor countries to the rich countries - in 2002 for example, this money transfer was 343 billion dollars to the rich countries.