On Sunday, here’s a secular sermon of particular relevance to energy-poor Port au Prince, distilled from the writings of Bjørn Lomborg. He’s the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and has fairly unusual views on the hype and hysteria over climate change.
Mr Lomborg says that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is inaccurate in insisting that “Climate change harms the poor first and worst.” This, because solar and wind power was subsidized by $60 billion in 2012, an extra cost that “harms the world’s poor much more (because) all of that money could have been used to improve health care, hire more teachers, build better roads, or lower taxes.”
Pricing energy out of reach of the poor, says Mr Lomborg, is well-meaning but misguided. For example in the UK, where “environmentalists boast that households …have reduced their electricity consumption by almost 10% since 2005.” But this, points out Mr Lomborg, is mainly because electricity prices have doubled. And the poor have simply been forced to consume less, while the better off continue as before.
Mr Lomborg is particularly scathing about the renewables drumbeat that discourages new coal-fired power plants in, say Pakistan and South Africa, condemning large numbers of people to burn wood and dung and add to air pollution.
It’s easy to see the logic of the argument. Rich developed countries can afford to focus on renewable energy sources; the global south cannot. But might it not be more logical to argue for free and easy technology transfer of, say, solar power, from a country like Germany to Haiti? A mix of energy sources would go a long way towards piercing the gloom.