The results of the Copenhagen Consensus are out, and as predicted, that is, with climate change at the bottom of the list. I’ll give a more detailed response later on, but I thought I’d respond to this point in the Economist
The bottom of the list, however, aroused more in the way of hostile comment. Rated “bad”, meaning that costs were thought to exceed benefits, were all three of the schemes put before the panel for mitigating climate change, including the Kyoto protocol on greenhouse-gas emissions. (The panel rated only one other policy bad: guest-worker programmes to promote immigration, which were frowned upon because they make it harder for migrants to assimilate.) This gave rise to suspicion in some quarters that the whole exercise had been rigged. Mr Lomborg is well-known, and widely reviled, for his opposition to Kyoto.
These suspicions are in fact unfounded, as your correspondent (who sat in on the otherwise private discussions) can confirm. A less biddable group would be difficult to imagine.
On the contrary, as I suggested at the outset, a panel that included, say, Joe Stiglitz and Amartya Sen would have been considerably less biddable, as well as being better qualified to look at the issues in question.
The panel did avoid some of the criticisms made here and elsewhere by excluding from the ranking issues like financial stability, civil conflicts and (with one trivial exception) governance. They compensated by subdividing the three health-related issues (diseases, malnutrition and sanitation) in the list into ten. (The other items ranked were trade liberalisation which, not surprisingly, they all liked, and migration which got mixed grades).
But the result, in a sense, only makes the process more transparent. The great majority of the approved items are now health initiatives. So, the outcome may be summarised as saying that health care in developing countries is more important than addressing climate change, which is, of course, the strongly stated view of the organiser, The panel also agreed with Lomborg that the costs of doing anything about climate change exceed the benefits. I’ll respond to the substantive findings in a later post, and when I’ve had time to look at any publication arising from the process.
However, the exercise could still be worthwhile. If Lomborg and the other panel members take the results to mean that they should personally campaign for action on the high-priority issues they mention, they could certainly do a lot of good. I’ll wait with interest to see if this happens.