As the world's leaders -- including seven from Sonoma County -- prepare to descend on Copenhagen for a climate change summit next month, they should keep in mind that spending trillions on emissions-reducing schemes is likely to be very bad for the planet's poorest and most vulnerable people.

At its most basic, that is the argument of Bjorn Lomborg and the aptly named Copenhagen Consensus Center think-tank in Denmark he helped found.

The center's mission is simple: how to best utilize finite financial and other resources to benefit the most people. And for those suffering from preventable hunger and fast-spreading AIDS and malaria, global warming -- while an important issue -- is academic to them.

"Getting basic sanitation and safe drinking water to three billion people around the world that do not have it now would cost nearly $4 billion a year," Mr. Lomborg wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal. "By contrast, cuts in global carbon emissions that aim to limit global temperature increases to less than two degrees Celsius over the next century would cost $40 trillion a year by 2100." Such spending would dramatically impact global economic growth and further constrain the developed world's ability to help poor nations.

Committing those enormous financial resources to reducing global temperatures "would do nothing to increase the number of people with access to clean drinking water and sanitation," Mr. Lomborg writes in his series of articles leading up to the Copenhagen summit.

In another article, Mr. Lomborg notes that global food aid is at a 20-year low. Why? "Prices soared in 2008, partly because rich countries' biofuel mandates -- designed to fight global warming -- have meant land once used to grow crops to feed people is now being used to grow crops to feed cars."

Mr. Lomborg and the Copenhagen Consensus Center are not arguing that nothing should be done to combat global warming. Its researchers have put forward several technological and other practical approaches to combating warming and its impacts.

But Lomborg believes that before the world commits to costly and questionable climate strategies, it should know how much they will actually help the billions of people most in need.


Last word: It's hard to believe any city today at a time of 10 percent unemployment would put roadblocks in the path of a project that would create more than 700 jobs and generate desperately needed municipal tax revenue.

Petaluma has seemed poised to do just that with a new retail center proposed for the abandoned Kenilworth site. But as of Tuesday, one of the opposition's central cries -- that the center would be made up of national chain big boxes – was demolished.

Just hours before a Planning Commission meeting on the project, local retail stalwart Friedman's Home Improvement announced it had signed a letter of intent to put a store in the center.

For Friedman's, one of the North Bay's most community-minded locally owned businesses and one that has skillfully battled competition from national chains, going into the center would be returning home to where the company started in 1946.

Petaluma should welcome back Friedman's -- and the entire project along with it -- with open arms.


Brad Bollinger is Business Journal editor in chief and associate publisher. He can be reached at 707-521-4251 or bollinger@busjrnl.com.