Bjørn Lomborg—one of the most controversial figures on the climate change scene—previewed his new film, “Cool It,” at the Heritage Foundation on Tuesday, October 5, in Washington, D.C.  Directed by Ondi Timoner, “Cool It” is a documentary that begins by chronicling Lomborg’s early life and career in Denmark and ends by outlining his plan to mitigate the impacts of climate change. This may seem like a reversal of course for a self-proclaimed “skeptical environmentalist,” but Lomborg maintains he has always thought that climate change is a real and important issue. He said in my conversation with him after the screening that he felt climate change needed to be addressed, and that the film is a vehicle to articulate his solutions.

Bjørn Lomborg

Bjørn Lomborg - Wikimedia Creative Commons / Simon Wedege

Lomborg proposes a plan that relies on investment in research and development. The plan has a budget of $250 billion per year, set to equal an estimate of what the EU will spend to reach its two key climate policy goals: 1) reducing greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and 2) simultaneously achieving a 20 percent renewable share in its overall energy supply. In this assessment of the EU 20/20/20 policy for the Copenhagen Consensus Center (a think-tank that Lomborg founded and now directs), the policy would yield only three cents of benefit for every Euro invested and decrease global temperature by just 0.05 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Rather, Lomborg argues, this money, equivalent to 1.3 percent of the EU’s GDP, should be invested in research and development.  He suggests that such an R&D fund be financed by a global carbon tax of $7 per metric ton. [For more on the economics of climate change, read the recent ReVolt post, “Climate Change and Its Cost – What Is at Stake?”]

In “Cool It,” Lomborg explains his plan to invest $100 billion a year on R&D of green energy technologies and $1 billion a year on R&D for geo-engineering. While the film spends most of its 89 minutes discussing new green energy technologies, it does highlight some geo-engineering proposals that plan to temporarily manipulate Earth’s climate to offset the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions. [Geo-engineering will be the topic of a forthcoming ReVolt post.] After the R&D, there is $149 billion a year left in his budget, which Lomborg intends to spend on adaptive technologies (retroactive climate change management) and other pressing global issues, such as poverty, malnutrition, and clean drinking water.

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Bjørn Lomborg, Climate Change, Cool It, EU 20/20/20 policy, Green Technology, Heritage Foundation, low-carbon roadmap, Ondi Timoner, renewable energy investment, renewable energy R&D, research and development, Skeptical Environmentalist

IRENA logoStarting yesterday, a new international organization dedicated to the “rapid development and deployment of renewable energy worldwide” officially powered up. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) will function much like the International Energy Agency (IEA): collecting and analyzing statistics, providing policy suggestions, facilitating partnerships and financing across countries, promoting research and development, and creating technical codes and standards—but only for renewable energy. Still, significant challenges await the fledgling agency if it hopes to promote renewable energy worldwide. An earlier attempt at an international hydrogen fuel agency provides a cautionary example.

One question is what counts as renewable. The agency’s website is filled with descriptions and pictures of wind turbines, solar panels, and even waste-to-biogas plants in China. While no universal definition of “renewable energy” exists, IRENA has made clear what it won’t address—nuclear is out, but so is energy efficiency.

As Frauke Theis reported earlier in this blog, the IEA sees a big place for technologies like nuclear power and carbon capture and storage (CCS) in reducing greenhouse gas pollution. Not so IRENA. Before the Copenhagen climate negotiations, IRENA issued a statement condemning the IEA’s support for nuclear and CCS in carbon markets. Energy efficiency receives much better treatment, at least gaining mention in the agency’s 2010 Work Programme where nuclear does not, but it is clear that the focus will be on promoting electricity production from renewable energy, and not on energy savings.

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