In his video, John Stossel asked people on the street, “If you could spend $30 billion trying to solve the world’s problems, how would you spend it?” As you might imagine, the most common answer was to “fight climate change.”
Bjorn Lomborg (Copenhagen Consensus Center) has much better answers. In the past, we have talked about his several books on the environment and climate change. He says he was not surprised at the answers since we live in a rich world. But when he has put together experts from the UN, NGOs, and the university to address the world’s biggest problems, they give very different answers.
In his new book, Best Things First, Lomborg says that spending $35 billion in the poorest part of the earth could save 4.2 million lives every year. That would include screening for tuberculosis and getting medicine to people who need it. Hundreds of thousands die from malaria. Buying bed nets with insecticides that kill mosquitos would also save lives.
In a speech he gave at the Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar, he showed a graph of deaths from climate. These climate-related deaths (from floods, drought, storms, wildfires, and extreme temperatures) dropped from 500,000 a year in the 1920s to 11,000 today. A major reason for the decline is the fact that we have become wealthier. We have better technology and better predictive capabilities.
His latest writing and speeches are a reminder that we should be thinking smarter about how to spend our scarce economic resources. Thinking smartly also requires a recognition that the earth is not teetering on the edge of an environmental apocalypse. We need to focus on the best things first to make this planet an even better place to live.