Tuesday, July 11, 2006

How To Save the World: Bolton v Gore

Two years after Bjorn Lomborg came up with his Copenhagen Consensus and but just one month after I wrote about it (coincidence? I think not), the US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton (not to be confused with Michael Bolton or Wilford Brimley and no, that's not a "Got Milk" photo), decided to do a similar exercise.

Too often at the UN, said Mr Bolton, “everything is a priority”. The secretary-general is charged with carrying out 9,000 mandates, he said, and when you have 9,000 priorities you have none.

So, over the weekend, Mr Bolton sat down with UN diplomats from seven other countries, including China and India but no Europeans, to rank 40 ways of tackling ten global crises. The problems addressed were climate change, communicable diseases, war, education, financial instability, governance, malnutrition, migration, clean water and trade barriers.

Given a notional $50 billion, how would the ambassadors spend it to make the world a better place? Their conclusions were strikingly similar to the Copenhagen Consensus. After hearing presentations from experts on each problem, they drew up a list of priorities. The top four were basic health care, better water and sanitation, more schools and better nutrition for children. Averting climate change came last.
I agree that prioritization is important, and this was a good exercise to go through. I think it is a little misleading to say climate change isn't important just because it isn't a priority for the UN as the changes that would need to occur to go after global warming: gasoline tax, carbon tax/cap and trade system, research funding for alternative energy and carbon sequestering, are not really in the jurisdiction of the UN. On the other hand, I would agree that right now the places you can get the most bang for your buck helping the world are health and education.

via The Economist

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