Our Responsibility to Adapt

Bjørn Lomborg is adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School. He is the founder of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, which brings together some of the world's top economists, including 5 Nobel laureates, to set priorities for the world. In 2008 he was named "one of the 50 people who could save the planet" by the UK Guardian; "one of the top 100 public intellectuals" by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazine; and "one of the world's 75 most influential people of the 21st century" by Esquire.
  • Transcript


Question: How can we adapt to global warming? 

Even if we cut dramatically in our carbon emissions now, we wouldn’t really be able to see the impact by 2050, and we’d only see a smaller impact towards the end of the century. So most of global warming is simply going to happen and we have to face up to that. We have to say, "We should also talk about adaptation."

Now, this shouldn’t mean that we shouldn’t also fix climate change, but we need to look at adaptation. How should we tackle this? Well, we again, would love to believe that this is something that individuals and companies could do something about, but fundamentally, this is much more about "What should societies do?" The simple, and very broad-brushed answer is, societies that are rich, that are well-structured, that have good infrastructure are much better able to deal with all the problems the world throws at it including global warming. For instance, if you look at hurricanes; if a hurricane hits Florida, it costs a lot of money, but still only a couple of percent in terms of GDP of Florida, and it kills very few people. If it hits Honduras, it will cost easily, one-third, two-thirds of Honduras's GDP and it will eradicate tens of thousands of people. 

So, fundamentally, its about having better planning, it’s about having better infrastructure, it’s about having better ability to withstand problems that the future will throw at us. This has the advantage of not just being able to protect us against global warming, but also all the other problems that we probably haven’t even started thinking about yet.

Recorded May 5th, 2010