Some business leaders are cozying up with politicians and scientists to demand swift, drastic action on global warming. This is a new twist on a very old practice: companies using public policy to line their own pockets.
The tight relationship between
the groups echoes the relationship among weapons makers, researchers and the
This is certainly true of climate change. We are told that very expensive carbon regulations are the only way to respond to global warming, despite ample evidence that this approach does not pass a basic cost-benefit test. We must ask whether a "climate-industrial complex" is emerging, pressing taxpayers to fork over money to please those who stand to gain.
This phenomenon will be on display at the World Business Summit on Climate
The opening keynote address is to be delivered by Al Gore, who actually represents all three groups: He is a politician, a campaigner and the chair of a green private-equity firm invested in products that a climate-scared world would buy.
Naturally, many CEOs are genuinely concerned about global warming. But many of the most vocal stand to profit from carbon regulations. The term used by economists for their behavior is "rent-seeking."
The world's largest wind-turbine manufacturer, Copenhagen Climate Council
member Vestas, urges governments to invest heavily in
the wind market. It sponsors CNN's "Climate in Peril" segment,
increasing support for policies that would increase Vestas's
earnings. A fellow council member, Mr. Gore's green investment firm Generation
Investment Management, warns of a significant risk to the
Even companies that are not heavily engaged in green business stand to gain. European energy companies made tens of billions of euros in the first years of the European Trading System when they received free carbon emission allocations.
American electricity utility Duke Energy, a member of the Copenhagen
Climate Council, has long promoted a
The massive transfer of wealth that many businesses seek is not necessarily
good for the rest of the economy.
The cozy corporate-climate relationship was pioneered by Enron, which bought up renewable energy companies and credit-trading outfits while boasting of its relationship with green interest groups. When the Kyoto Protocol was signed, an internal memo was sent within Enron that stated, "If implemented, [the Kyoto Protocol] will do more to promote Enron's business than almost any other regulatory business."
The World Business Summit will hear from "science and public policy leaders" seemingly selected for their scary views of global warming. They include James Lovelock, who believes that much of Europe will be Saharan and London will be underwater within 30 years; Sir Crispin Tickell, who believes that the United Kingdom's population needs to be cut by two-thirds so the country can cope with global warming; and Timothy Flannery, who warns of sea level rises as high as "an eight-story building."
Free speech is important. But these visions of catastrophe are a long way outside of mainstream scientific opinion, and they go much further than the careful findings of the United Nations panel of climate change scientists. When it comes to sea-level rise, for example, the United Nations expects a rise of between seven and 23 inches by 2100 -- considerably less than a one-story building.
There would be an outcry -- and rightfully so -- if big oil organized a climate change conference and invited only climate-change deniers.
The partnership among self-interested businesses, grandstanding politicians and alarmist campaigners truly is an unholy alliance. The climate-industrial complex does not promote discussion on how to overcome this challenge in a way that will be best for everybody. We should not be surprised or impressed that those who stand to make a profit are among the loudest calling for politicians to act. Spending a fortune on global carbon regulations will benefit a few, but dearly cost everybody else.
Mr. Lomborg is director of the Copenhagen Consensus, a think tank, and author of "Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming" (Knopf, 2007).