Friday, May 23, 2008
The Real Bibi
1. How to Think About the World's Problems
By BJORN LOMBORG
May 22, 2008; Page A15
The pain caused by the global food crisis has led many people to belatedly
realize that we have prioritized growing crops to feed cars instead of
people. That is only a small part of the real problem.
This crisis demonstrates what happens when we focus doggedly on one
specific . and inefficient . solution to one particular global challenge.
A reduction in carbon emissions has become an end in itself. The fortune
spent on this exercise could achieve an astounding amount of good in areas
that we hear a lot less about.
Research for the Copenhagen Consensus, in which Nobel laureate economists
analyze new research about the costs and benefits of different solutions
to world problems, shows that just $60 million spent on providing Vitamin
A capsules and therapeutic Zinc supplements for under-2-year-olds would
reach 80% of the infants in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, with annual
economic benefits (from lower mortality and improved health) of more than
$1 billion. That means doing $17 worth of good for each dollar spent.
Spending $1 billion on tuberculosis would avert an astonishing one million
deaths, with annual benefits adding up to $30 billion. This gives $30 back
on the dollar.
Heart disease represents more than a quarter of the death toll in poor
countries. Developed nations treat acute heart attacks with inexpensive
drugs. Spending $200 million getting these cheap drugs to poor countries
would avert 300,000 deaths in a year.
A dollar spent on heart disease in a developing nation will achieve $25
worth of good. Contrast that to Operation Enduring Freedom, which
Copenhagen Consensus research found in the two years after 2001 returned 9
cents for each dollar spent. Or with the 90 cents Copenhagen Consensus
research shows is returned for every $1 spent on carbon mitigation
Focusing first on costs and benefits means that we can reconsider the
merits of policies that have gone out of fashion.
The unpopular war in Iraq has undermined rich nations' belief in the
success of military intervention as a way of reducing conflict. But
Copenhagen Consensus research reveals that a peacekeeping force is even
more effective than aid in reducing the likelihood that a conflict-prone
nation will relapse into violence.
Four new civil wars are expected to break out in the next decade in
low-income nations. Compared with no deployment, spending $850 million on
a peacekeeping initiative reduces the 10-year risk of conflict re-emerging
to 7% from around 38%, according to Copenhagen Consensus research by
Oxford University's Paul Collier.
Because of war's horrendous and lasting costs, each percentage point of
risk reduction is worth around $2.5 billion to the world. Thus, spending
$850 million each year to reduce the risk of conflict by a massive 30
percentage points means a 10-year gain of $75 billion compared to the
overall cost of $8.5 billion, or $9 back on the dollar.
In other areas, too, sound economic analysis suggests solutions that we
may at first find unpalatable.
Poor water or sanitation affects more than two billion people and will
claim millions of lives this year. One targeted solution would be to build
large, multipurpose dams in Africa.
Building new dams may not be politically correct, but there are massive
differences between the U.S. and Europe . where there are sound
environmental arguments to halt the construction of large dams and even to
decommission some . and countries like Ethiopia which have no water
storage facilities, great variability in rainfall, and where dams could be
built with relatively few environmental side effects. A single reservoir
located in the scarcely inhabited Blue Nile gorge in Ethiopia would cost a
breathtaking $3.3 billion. But it would produce large amounts of
desperately needed power for Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, combat the
regional water shortage in times of drought, and expand irrigation. All
these benefits would be at least two-and-a-half times as high as the
In each of these areas . and in the areas of air pollution, education and
trade barriers . the world's scarce resources could be used to achieve
massive amounts of benefits.
Next week, some of the world's top economists, including five Nobel
laureates, will consider new research outlining the costs and benefits of
nearly 50 solutions to world problems . from building dams in Africa to
providing micronutrient supplements to combating climate change. On May
30, the Copenhagen Consensus panel will produce a prioritized list showing
the best and worst investments the world could make to tackle major
The research and the list will encourage greater transparency and a more
Acknowledging that some investments shouldn't be our top priority isn't
the same as saying that the challenges don't exist. It simply means
working out how to do the most good with our limited resources. It will
send a signal, too, to research communities about areas that need more
The global food crisis has sadly underlined the danger of continuing on
our current path of fixating on poor solutions to high-profile problems
instead of focusing on the best investments we could make to help the
Mr. Lomborg, organizer of Copenhagen Consensus, is the author of "Cool It:
The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming" (Knopf, 2007).
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on
And add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum2.
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2. A New "New Historian"?
3. Appeasing Appeasers
By R. EMMETT TYRRELL Jr.
May 22, 2008 NEW YORK SUN
4. See a really superb article on Israeli judicial tyranny at this web
site of Americans for Safe Israel, starting on page 3:
5. More Oslo Success:
6. The REAL Bibi
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