Ideas for a better world in 2011

To start the new year off right, the Monitor asked various thinkers around the world for one idea each to make the world a better place in 2011. We talked to poets and political figures, physicists and financiers. The results range from how to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world to ways to revamp Hollywood.

Bjørn Lomborg

BJØRN LOMBORG, author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist" and "Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming"

Idea: Make green energy cheap

Mr. Lomborg writes: What one or two steps could be taken in 2011 to make progress in global climate change?

Accept that the current approach to global warming does not work economically or politically. Using carbon cuts to keep temperature rises under 2 degrees C would cost $40 trillion a year by 2100 and avoid less than 2 cents of climate damage for every dollar spent, according to research by climate economist Richard Tol.

The public has a low acceptance of expensive carbon cuts. Outside Europe, few leaders have managed to pass significant emission-reduction legislation. (The European Union's legislation will cost $250 billion. And what will it achieve? Standard climate models show that, by the end of this century, the EU's approach will reduce temperature rises by approximately 0.05 degrees C – almost too small to measure.)

Green alternatives are not close to being ready to replace oil and other fossil fuels. Change track. We will never succeed in making fossil fuels so expensive that no one wants them. Instead, we should make green energy so cheap that everyone wants it.

This requires much bigger investments in green energy. Research by McGill University's Chris Green for the Copenhagen Consensus Center shows that an investment on the order of 0.2 percent of global gross domestic product – amounting to about $100 billion – would help us create the needed breakthroughs. If we had affordable green energy sources, everyone – including China and India – would buy them, and long-term emissions would drop dramatically.

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