Bjørn Lomborg: Wind Power – The Rich Man’s Curse on the Poor


When it comes to assessing the costs, risks and benefits of environmental policy Bjørn Lomborg has always tried to provide balanced, detailed analysis supported by facts and evidence. The economic choices we make – about allocating scarce resources to unlimited wants – should – as Lomborg consistently points out – be made taking into account all of the costs weighed against properly measured benefits (see our post here).

Bjørn Lomborg has become one of the most high profile critics of insanely expensive and utterly pointless renewable energy policies across the globe (see our posts here and here).

Bjørn’s back –  in this piece published by The Australian – in which he hammers the insane cost and utter pointlessness of tying our energy futures to unreliable and intermittent renewables, like wind power.

Poverty Must Be the World’s Top Priority
The Australian
Bjørn Lomborg
1 October 2014

Ban Ki-Moon overstates the case while renewables kill millions in poor countries 

LAST week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gathered the heads of government from more than 120 countries for a climate summit “to make climate change a top priority for all leaders”. Of the world’s many ills, he unequivocally finds that “top of the priority list is climate change”.

Yes, global warming is a real problem, but it makes no sense to claim it is the world’s first priority.

And the UN knows it. Its outreach program, The World We Want, asked more than five million people from every nation to name their top priorities: better education and healthcare, less corruption, more jobs and affordable food. And they placed global warming as priority No 17.

This is no surprise when you consider the poorest half of our world. If your kids are at risk of dying from malaria or malnutrition, those are your first priorities. Even Europe, with the world’s strongest climate policies, ranks global warming 10th.

Yet politicians use catastrophic alarmism to bolster the claim that climate is our “generational mission”. Britain’s winter floods predictably were held up as a “wake-up call for climate change”, although study after study has shown that so far more flooding is due entirely to more houses being built on more flood plains. In the long run, climate also likely will make a smaller contribution, but blaming global warming simply takes away attention from political failure to focus on the real game changers: building better levies and setting aside some flood plains for floods.

An analysis of climate communication by the University College London found that appeals to fear are ineffective and often lead to a suspicion that “they are trying to manipulate me”. Remember when Al Gore told us in his Nobel speech in 2007 that the north polar ice cap is “falling off a cliff” and it could be gone in “as little as seven years. Seven years from now”.

That is now. Arctic ice definitely shows a long-term decline, but from the low point in 2012 it has actually increased 47 per cent.

Ban declared that climate posed “sweeping risks” while we’re heading towards a “cataclysm”. Yet the UN climate panel finds the total cost of climate change by the 2070s is less than 2 per cent of gross domestic product. This is a problem, but not the end of the world. Weigh the 2 per cent loss against the fact the UN expects the world to be 800 per cent richer in 2070.

Compare it to the very real challenges the world faces right now. There are still 1.2 billion people living in abject poverty, and they need economic growth. In the past 30 years China has lifted 680 million people out of poverty, the greatest poverty reduction ever, and it did it with lots of cheap, if polluting, coal.

Yet well-meaning Western leaders (including Barack Obama, Francois Hollande and David Cameron, but not Tony Abbott) descended on New York to reiterate the solution to global warming that has failed for more than two decades: we must switch to renewables. But look how that is going. The EU’s climate policies cost an unaffordable €209 billion ($303bn) a year, yet at the end of the century, after costing more than €18 trillion, they will have reduced temperature rises by 0.05C.

Moreover, pushing renewables is hypocritical: according to the International Energy Agency, Europe gets just 12 per cent of its energy from renewables and just 1.5 per cent from solar and wind. Africa gets almost 50 per cent from renewables — because it is poor — and the renewable source is mostly wood, which kills more than half a million a year as a result of indoor air pollution and contributes to deforestation.

Not surprisingly, when African leaders went to Washington last month, they said they wanted to use more coal. Even the climate-worried World Bank president accepted that “there’s never been a country that has developed with intermittent power”.

A new study from Washington-based Centre for Global Development starkly shows the cost of pushing renewables. Spending $US10bn ($11.4bn) on renewables in Africa can lift 20 million out of darkness and poverty. But spending $US10bn on gas would lift 90 million. Insisting on renewables means deliberately leaving 70 million people in darkness.

This does not mean we shouldn’t tackle global warming. But as long as renewables are much more expensive than fossil fuels, rich countries may spend a couple of hundred billion to make themselves feel virtuous, but it won’t make a difference to the climate. Right now, the world pays more than $60bn a year in subsidies to solar and wind, yet they supply less than 0.6 per cent of its energy. Even in its extremely ­optimistic scenario, the IEA estimates solar and wind will supply just 3.5 per cent of our energy by 2035 — and the bill for subsidies will run to about $US100bn a year.

Some campaigners claim that renewables are already competitive. But this is wishful thinking — if they were, they wouldn’t need subsidies. Look at Spain: with lower but still substantial wind subsidies, Spain has this year put up just one wind turbine.

Instead of wasting billions in current subsidies, we should invest much more in green innovation to reduce the cost to future generations of clean energy. When innovation takes the price of green energy below fossil fuels, everyone will switch.

But in a world where four million die each year from burning wood and dung in open fires inside, while poverty, lack of clean water, infectious diseases, poor education and too little food afflict billions, we cannot with a straight face claim that climate should be our top priority.
The Australian

Bjørn doesn’t limit his criticism of the impact of ludicrously expensive intermittent renewables on the poor in the developing world; he makes the same point in relation to poorest in, supposedly, first world economies like Australia (see our post here).

With $50 billion to be transferred from power consumers to wind power outfits over the next 17 under the Large-Scale RET (see our post here) – and that cost added to already spiralling power bills – there will be many more households who will be unable to afford power; adding to the tens of thousands of homes already deprived of what was once a basic necessity of (a decent) life. And thousands more destined to suffer “energy poverty” as they find themselves forced to choose between heating (or cooling) and eating.

If our political betters in Canberra don’t line up to kill the LRET very soon – in less than a decade – Australia will have created an entrenched energy underclass, dividing Australian society into energy “haves” and “have-nots”.

For a taste of an escalating social welfare disaster, here are articles from Queensland (click here); Victoria (click here); South Australia (click here); and New South Wales (click here).

There’s something deeply troubling about thousands of Australian households descending into gloom after dark – unable to afford the power needed for electric lighting; or troubling, at least, for those with a social conscience.

Beyond the LRET’s perverse impact on the poorest and most vulnerable there is, of course, its wealth and job destroying impact on the economy as a whole (see our post here).

For those that claim to be “friends of the poor” there’s no time like the present to prevent a mere disaster from becoming an all-out catastrophe. How about it Clive? It’s time to scrap the LRET and give the poor a truly bright (ie “well-lit”) future.

clive palmer sleeping

Let’s hope he’s dreaming of killing the LRET &
saving the poorest & most vulnerable in Australia.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.


  1. Reblogged this on gottadobetterthanthis and commented:
    Over and over for over 3,000 years, we have abandoned windmills. We will this time too. Save the people. Save the birds and bats. Stop building windmills and clean up the mess.

  2. Poor Clive, he dosen’t have a clue.

  3. Terry Conn says:

    Lets face it, ego maniacal mad psychopaths like Clive couldn’t care less about the poor. Tough as he is Glenn Lazarus, the brick, doesn’t have the wit to see his boss for what he is and tell him to go jump and then do the right thing for those he cares about, the poor! Meanwhile, intellectual elites, such as Minister Hunt, surely must know the truth but are too gutless to take it on. If the coalition doesn’t stop this ‘welfare on steroids’ for wind farms that don’t deliver just one public benefit they won’t lose just the votes of ‘swinging’ voters but all their natural ‘base’ voters as well. Take your time troops but muck it at your peril and the peril of your nation!

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