16 November 2009

Bjorn Lomborg: 'Focusing On Global Warming At The Expense Of Food Aid Is Immoral'

As my econ-savvy friends always tell me, in a world with limited resources, there are always going to be trade-offs.

With a chimeric threat like "global warming" on the policy agenda, everything loses to the productivity, quality of life, liberty-reducing measures proposed by people whose real goal is to remake civilization and society in an image they see fit.

Poor families in Ethiopia struggle to survive, and global warming will make it tougher for them. In some of the poorest areas on earth, global warming is expected to increase hunger in the future. Mr. Mekonen has heard talk of global warming but, he said, "it does not affect our lives."

What does affect his life is high food prices. His family can afford to eat meat just once a month. Global food aid is at a 20-year low. Prices soared in 2008, partly because rich countries' biofuel mandates—designed to fight global warming—have meant that land once used to grow crops to feed people is now being used to grow crops to feed cars.

Investing in malnutrition assistance helps countries like Ethiopia because it reduces the burden that malnourished people place on health systems. Spending money on HIV prevention and treatment is a highly effective use of aid money. In economic terms, these investments have benefits that far outstrip their costs.

Malnutrition should not be neglected as developed countries concentrate on global warming. Oxfam has warned that at least 4.5 million children could die and 8.6 million fewer people could have access to HIV/AIDS treatment if rich countries divert aid to help poor countries tackle climate change instead of malnutrition as part of an agreement to be negotiated in Copenhagen next month.

Oxfam argued that developed countries should both increase aid and spend more to pay off countries that will suffer the worst of global warming. But the harsh truth is that resources are limited. Money spent on global-warming policies is likely to reduce the funds available for food aid.

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