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Skewed Environmental Priorities

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Later this month the U.N. Climate Change Conference will be held in Paris. You can tell how skewed the environmental priorities of the participants are by looking at one picture that accompanies the op-ed by Bjorn Lomborg. The title of his piece is: This child doesn’t need a solar panel. The picture is of an impoverished half-clothed boy in Mozambique crossing a trash-strewn mud hole. No, this boy and his family need food, clean water, clothing, and much more. But they don’t need a solar panel.

Bjorn Lomborg is the author of such books as The Skeptical Environmentalist. He believes that we need to address environmental issues, but let’s get first things first. Spending billion of dollars on climate-related aid in these poor countries takes valuable resources away from treating malaria, malnutrition, and tuberculosis.

Over the last few months various countries and international groups pledged money to the U.N. Climate Fund. Lomborg is concerned because “aid is being diverted to climate-related matters at the expense of improved public health, education and economic development.”

This doesn’t make any sense. We live in a world where 1.2 million people still live in extreme poverty. Also, 2.6 million lack clean drinking water and sanitation. An online U.N. survey of more than eight million people from around the globe asked the world’s poorest countries to rank what mattered most to them. At the top of the list were: “good education” and “better health care” and “affordable, nutritious food.” At the bottom was “action taken on climate change.”

According to the World Health Organization, three billion people suffer from the effects of indoor air pollution because they burn wood, coal, or dung to cook. They need affordable, reliable electricity. They don’t need a solar panel.

Viewpoints by Kerby Anderson

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