Skip to content

“Global Warming May Be A Good Thing” – Bjorn Lomborg

May 6, 2016

By Paul Homewood




Bjorn Lomborg tries to inject a bit of sanity into climate reporting.

From the Telegraph:


Last week, a study in the prestigious journal Nature revealed just how much CO₂ increases have greened the Earth over the past three decades. Because CO₂ acts as a fertilizer, as much as half of all vegetated land is persistently greener today. This ought to be a cause for great joy.

Instead, the BBC focused on warning that the paper shouldn’t make us stop worrying about global warming, with threats like melting glaciers and more severe tropical storms. Many other major news outlets did not even report on the study.

Our climate conversation is lopsided. There is ample room to suggest that climate change has caused this problem or that negative outcome, but any mention of positives is frowned upon. We have known for decades that increasing CO₂ and precipitation from global warming will make the world much greener – by the end of the century, it is likely that global biomass will have increased by forty percent.


A pensioner turning down the temperature control on his central heating thermostat 

The cold kills far more than the heat


Similarly, we know that many more people die from cold than from heat. The biggest study on heat and cold deaths, published last year in Lancet, examined more than 74 million deaths from 384 locations in 13 countries from cold Sweden to hot Thailand. The researchers found that heat causes almost one-half of one percent of all deaths, while more than 7 percent are caused by cold.

As global warming pushes temperatures up, more people will die in heat waves; a point emphasized by campaigners like UN climate chief, Christiana Figueres. What we don’t hear from her is that fewer people will die from cold. One study for England and Wales shows that heat kills 1,500 annually and cold kills 32,000. By the 2080s, increased heat-waves will kill nearly 5,000 in a comparable population. But ‘cold deaths’ will have dropped by 10,000, meaning 6,500 fewer die altogether.

Only mentioning the negatives distorts and degrades the political conversation. Any reasonable person can recognize both positives and negatives among the policy proposals of both Tories and Labour. It is an extreme partisan that insists either side offers only negatives.

Yet, this is the position enforced by the climate alarmists – last seen in a letter to The Times from Lord Krebs and company, essentially telling the newspaper to stop reporting less-than-negative climate stories. While it is true any individual news story rarely represents the whole truth, it is revealing that such campaigners don’t send out similar letters to correct the daily deluge of alarmist stories.

The idea that climate is bad for all good things and good for all bad things belongs in a morality play. In the real world, we should look at all the available information. When the BBC warns of more severe tropical storms, it has some validity. The UN’s climate panel expects to see fewer but stronger hurricanes. But it is an incomplete picture.


Despite severe storms in Florida, few people die 

Despite severe storms in Florida, few people die


As the world develops, it has become much less vulnerable: a hurricane hitting Florida kills few people while a similar event in Guatemala kills tens of thousands. Indeed, climate-related deaths have dropped from half a million per year in the 1920s to less than 25,000 per year in the 2010s. A recent Nature study expecting more severe hurricanes from global warming still found that damages would halve from 0.04 per cent to 0.02 per cent of global GDP, because the increased ferocity would be more than made up by increased prosperity and resilience.

When the BBC warns of melting glaciers it is reminiscent of Al Gore’s concern that 40 per cent of the world get drinking water from the Himalayas, and melting glaciers mean “those 40 per cent of the people on Earth are going to face a very serious shortage.” Yet, a new study of 60 climate models and scenarios shows this warning fails to take into account the fact that global warming will mean precipitation increases. Indeed, water flow will actually increase over this century, which is likely beneficial in increasing “water availability in the Indus Basin irrigation scheme during the spring growing seasons.”

If our climate conversation managed to include the good along with the bad, we would have a much better understanding of our options. Climate economics does just that, taking all the negatives (like rising sea levels and more heat deaths) and all the positives (a greener planet, fewer cold deaths). A climate economics approach finds that today – contrary to the alarmists’ massive insistence on negatives-only stories – global warming causes about as much damage as benefits. Over time, climate becomes a net problem: by the 2070s, the UN Climate Panel finds that global warming will likely cause damage equivalent to 0.2 per cent to 2 per cent of global GDP. This is certainly not a trivial cost, but nor is it the end of the world. It is perhaps half the social cost of alcohol today.

This suggests that a policy which could eradicate global warming for 1 per cent of global GDP would probably be a good deal. Unfortunately, we do not have such a deal on the table. The Paris climate treaty will cost around 2 per cent of global GDP and fix much less than a tenth of the problem. Less effective but more ambitious climate policies cost at least 6 per cent of global GDP per year and likely much more. Wind and solar, which covers less than half of one percent of global energy, costs dozens of times more than their climate benefits. Electric cars provide perhaps a thousandth in climate benefit of their substantial public subsidies. Biofuels are just hugely costly while increasing emissions.

When we shift the climate conversation to describe positives along with negatives, and focus on costs and benefits of policies – essentially treating this challenge like any other policy agenda – it becomes obvious how many of today’s accepted climate policies are poor.  Little wonder climate campaigners do not want this sort of conversation.


I would take issue with his claim that “a climate economics approach finds that today – contrary to the alarmists’ massive insistence on negatives-only stories – global warming causes about as much damage as benefits”

That certainly was not what the authorities believed when the world was cooling in the 1970s. And these is no doubt at all that a return to 19th climate would be disastrous.

But, as ever, Lomborg is prepared to put his head on the chopping block, for which he must be applauded.

  1. Broadlands permalink
    May 6, 2016 1:54 pm

    “This ought to be a cause for great joy.”

    Indeed, but so should the “pause” or “plateau” in temperatures since 1995. A strange attitude for us to have… “we” complain about the climate but then when it’s good news, “we” complain about that? Weather creates havoc everywhere. What damage has been caused by climate change?

  2. roger permalink
    May 6, 2016 2:05 pm

    Conflating global warming with climate change in the context of increasing CO2 is not very helpful.
    Climate changes as a result of many natural cycles and causes. CO2 has yet to be proven responsible for any fraction of global warming that might have occurred so far with the capability of changing climate in any perceivable way.
    In short, it is bull sh#t.

  3. Graeme No.3 permalink
    May 6, 2016 2:11 pm

    Has Chicken Little a permanent contract at the BBC?

    • May 6, 2016 7:15 pm

      Alongside Henny Penny in their science news department.
      Fortunately they have the Emperor’s magic clothes or foxy loxy would get them all.

  4. Tim Hammond permalink
    May 6, 2016 2:11 pm

    When I read Lomborg or Matt Ridley discussing these issues, I am always reminded of a conversation I had with a senior manager at a large, unionised business a few years ago. He was negotiating with a union and some recent events had provided him with evidence to refute one of the union’s key negotiating claims. I told him he was living in cloud-cuckoo land, that the union wasn’t interested in facts or logic, but simply in getting what it wanted.

    The same is true today. The vast majority of those who side with Alarm on the climate issue have no interest in whether it is true, or whether their remedies will cause fewer or more deaths.

    They want want they want, and climate change is merely the latest tool.

  5. Bitter&twisted permalink
    May 6, 2016 4:25 pm

    Sorry, but you simply don’t get it..
    More plants means more food, which means more people.
    That is the problem (according to the Greens).
    Where is mass starvation when you need it?

  6. BobR permalink
    May 6, 2016 4:50 pm

    Longborg is pointing at an issue I have raised already – we do not know what concentration of CO2, temperature and consequential regeneration of biomass will optimise the conditions for planet earth to sustain human and other life. After millions of research dollars have been spent on the fledgling climate science we still do not know the equilibrium sensitivity of global temperatures to a doubling of CO2 concentrations. What is clear is that the 20th Century like the 10th has been a golden age for human prosperity and development notwithstanding two world wars. Problems we may have but I am not sure I would want to revert to the conditions that prevailed at the start of the industrial era.

  7. BobR permalink
    May 6, 2016 4:51 pm

    Sorry, that should be Lomborg.

  8. May 6, 2016 6:27 pm

    Another positive from warming that I did not see mentioned is that in colder climates warming extends the growing season. Warming also expands northward the areas were crops can be grown. Many of the negatives are greatly exaggerated. Once all the positives and realistic negatives are balanced out, warming may be net beneficial.

  9. May 6, 2016 8:50 pm

    ‘As global warming pushes temperatures up’ – except it has barely managed to do so since the mid-1990s.

    This repeated statement is an assumption. Let’s see what happens in the next 15 years.

    • Broadlands permalink
      May 6, 2016 11:56 pm

      Old brew… that’s almost exactly what Catherine Senior of the Hadley Center said in 1997.

      With 1997 reported as the “Hottest Ever:” and expecting warmer years to become more frequent she didn’t expect people to believe in global warming overnight. and opined: “…after 10 or 15 years ordinary people will look back and say, ‘Yes, it seems to have happened’.”

      The “hiatus” over the next 18 years seems to show that her assumption/prediction was wrong?

      • May 7, 2016 9:13 am

        It’s true that we’re in a warm period compared to long-term records, but such periods have happened before and there is little to no evidence of any ‘man-made’ warming IMO.

        If CO2 has risen 30% or so since the 1990s, where is the corresponding rise in temperatures that is supposed to inevitably follow?

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: