You have probably heard a lot of hype around this Earth Hour idea. It started in Sydney Australia by the World Wildlife Fund. Unfortunately it is a lot of hype around an issue that we can do very little about. Now before you go all eco-crazy on me let me explain.
The idea is to turn off all the lights for one hour and reduce the pressure we place on the world’s resources. While a noble cause however it has a very serious flaw, it simply has no effect. In their own press statement they write,
If the greenhouse reduction achieved in the Sydney CBD during Earth Hour was sustained for a year, it would be equivalent to taking 48,616 cars off the road for a year.
Stop and think about that.
1 year = 48,616 cars
1 hour = ??? (almost nothing)
So you might be thinking, “Okay smart guy what should we do?” The answer, I will take from the Danish Political scientist Bjorn Lomborg which is, focus on an issue we can solve.
In 2004 there was a group of economists, the Copenhagen Consensus, who asked, if we had 50 billion to spend on the world’s problems which ones should we do first. The idea is that if you want to know about diseases you talk to a pathologist, if you want to know about the climate, you ask a climatologist, but if you want to know which one will give you a better return for your dollar you speak to an economist.
THIS DOES NOT MEAN GLOBAL WARMING IS NOT IMPORTANT. Damn straight it is. But the reality is we would spend a lot of money to do a little bit of good. So what can we spend our money on where we get a good return. here they are in rank.
Very Good Projects
- Diseases – Control of HIV and AIDS
- Malnutrition – providing micro nutrients
- Trade Barriers and Subsidies – Trade liberalization
- Diseases – Control of Malaria
- Malnutrition – development of new agricultural technologies
- Water and Sanitation – small scale water technologies for livelihoods
- Water and Sanitation – community managed water supply and sanitation
- Water and Sanitation – research on water productivity in food production
- Governance and Corruption – lowering the cost of starting new business
- Migration – Lowering barriers to migration for skilled workers
- Malnutrition – Improving infant and child nutrition
- Malnutrition – Reducing the prevalence of a low birth rate
- Diseases – Scaled up basic health services
- Migration – Guest-worker programs for the unskilled
- Climate – Optimal carbon tax
- Climate – The Kyoto protocol
- Climate – Value-at-risk carbon tax
There is a good TED talk where Bjorn explains how they came up with these and why we should prioritize our efforts. So you can feel good that you turned off your lights for an hour and pat yourself on the back while doing very, very little towards solving the problem or you can think about what issue can make an impact on.