Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How Do You Rank World Misery? ; at Copenhagen Consensus, Economists Devise a Top 10 List of Which Global Problems Should Be Addressed First

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How Do You Rank World Misery? ; at Copenhagen Consensus, Economists Devise a Top 10 List of Which Global Problems Should Be Addressed First

Article excerpt

Is world hunger worse than disease? How do both compare to civil war or government corruption? And what about global warming and water contamination?

The ultimate "world's worst" match is under way this week in the Danish capital, nothing less than a lofty effort to determine which of 10 scourges the world ought to address first.

The twist: An esteemed jury of eight top economists, including three Nobel Prize laureates from the US, are to ignore politics and emotion and instead focus on how to get the biggest bang for the world-aid buck.

By the time the weeklong Copenhagen Consensus wraps up Saturday, the panelists are expected to release a list ranking the problems in order of which yields the highest benefit for the cost.

"We hate to admit this, but we don't have the money to deal with everything, so we must prioritize," said statistician Bjorn Lomborg, event organizer and director of its main sponsoring group, the Danish think-tank Environmental Assessment Institute. "We need cold- hearted economics to make a warm-hearted contribution to the world."

To that end, for each topic Mr. Lomborg recruited one expert to write a paper for the economists arguing why his or her issue would make the best investment and suggesting possible solutions. Two other scholars then wrote opposition papers in response.

The 30 writers also are appearing in public to debate and defend their positions before 80 college students from 25 countries brought to Copenhagen to conduct a parallel debate and ranking.

Lomborg says his sole goal is a novel exchange of ideas, but critics have charged that the Copenhagen Consensus is a simplistic approach to divining solutions for complex questions. A two-day counter conference, the Global Conscience Forum, sprang up to protest the event's methodology. There, the United Nations Environment Program executive director Klaus Toepfer said the world's problems "must not be diminished to an economic machinery."

Critics are also suspicious that the conference is merely a setup by Lomborg, a one-time Greenpeace activist who is seen today by environmentalists as a defector. His 1998 best-selling book, "The Skeptical Environmentalist," blasted the notion that global warming is a threat and questioned whether efforts to reverse it are worthwhile. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.