Lomborg & self-contradiction

Neither Ken Parish nor the Man Without Qualities is convinced by my claim that Bjorn Lomborg is contradicting himself on the crucial issue of possible responses to global warming. To <a href="http://www.uq.edu.au/economics/johnquiggin/news/Lomborg0204.html&quot;repeat myself

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change cites a range of model estimates of the costs of implementing Kyoto using market mechanisms. They show that, with a global system of emission rights trading, the cost of implementing Kyoto would range from 0.1 per cent to 0.2 per cent of GDP.

This is a trivial sum – for Australia it would amount to around $1 billion per year, a fraction of the benefits yielded by environments like the Great Barrier Reef that are threatened by global warming. So how do we get the claim that Kyoto would be too expensive? As I observe:

Lomborg dismisses global emissions trading as politically infeasible because it would involve the redistribution of billions of dollars to developing countries (page 305). But then he turns around and attacks alternative ways of implementing Kyoto by suggesting that the billions required could be better spent – by redistributing them to developing countries.

I can’t think of a way to paraphrase this that would make the inherent contradiction more obvious, so I’ll venture on to the dangerous ground of analogy.

Suppose that, during the 2000 US election, someone calling themselves a ‘skeptical Democrat’ wrote a book arguing that
(a) liberals shouldn’t vote for Nader because he has no chance of winning
(b) liberals shouldn’t vote for Gore because Nader has better policies
(c) Therefore liberals should stay home.
Would you be convinced be this? Would you be surprised to find the author accepting speaking invitations from the Republican National Council?

To come back to the main issue, a system of tradable emissions permits would enable the West to meet Kyoto emissions targets at low cost and generate large payments to poorer countries, which could be used to finance clean drinking water etc. Lomborg says Western countries are too mean to do this, and would prefer more expensive solutions involving reductions in domestic emissions, and he may well be right. But if so, we should compare the cost of Kyoto to alternative things that Western countries might spend the money on at home, not to foreign aid projects that have already been ruled out by hypothesis.

I get really steamed about this, because, as Ken Parish points out, I am a leftist who thinks that we should give more aid to poor countries. I don’t believe Lomborg could have argued the way he did if he was serious about helping poor countries. For him, this is an example of ‘opportunity cost’, to be wheeled in where necessary, then forgotten.

I could easily be proved wrong on this. There are plenty of areas of expenditure in rich countries less deserving than either Kyoto or aid to poor countries. Lomborg’s point is equally applicable here. Can anyone point to an instance where he suggests cutting some area of non-environmental expenditure and giving the money saved to poor countries?