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Greta Thunberg, Student Protesters Should Demand Better Solutions to Climate Change

Kids around the country are skipping school to draw attention to climate change, but why don’t these kids demand real solutions to a problem they find so severe they must skip school? Minnesota has it’s own coalition of astroturf youth climate groups, iMatter, Climate Generation etc, but maybe these kids should read the article below rather than storming the capitol to support inefficient and unreliable wind and solar power. If these students are so concerned about climate change, why aren’t they advocating for the legalization of new nuclear power plants in Minnesota?

The following article was written by Bjorn Lomborg, and originally appeared in USA Today:

Around the world, thousands of children are striking for climate action. Spurred on by young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, they want to convince adults to “panic.”

The campaign is supported by adults who feel the same way: Thunberg has been welcomed to the World Economic Forum in Davos, has delivered a TedTalk, and has been lauded in Rolling Stone and The Guardian.

Thunberg’s undeniable passion is directed at perhaps the only challenge in the world where a call for everyone to panic would be received with so little critical thought.

But this global groundswell of energy ought to be redirected to achieve more for humanity and the planet.

Today’s political solutions to climate change, which Thunberg wants more money and attention lavished on, are incredibly ineffective and expensive.

The Paris Agreement on climate change will deliver little. Even if all pledges are fulfilled, the world will breach its 1.5°C promise before 2030Recent analysis shows that of almost 200 signatories, only 17 — including Algeria and Samoa — are meeting their commitments, mostly because they promised so little.

Yet this paltry achievement will be the most expensive policy in all of history, costing $1-2 trillion in lost growth each year by 2030.

Climate school strikes would make more sense if we had solved every other challenge. But this year will see 5.4 million children die before the age of five; a quarter billion kids out of school; almost a billion people starving, and more than two billion lacking water and sanitation.

Despite enthusiasm for Thunberg’s campaign among liberal newspaper editors in Europe and the USA, climate change comes dead last among priorities for the world’s poorest. The UN asked nearly 10 million people what mattered most. They said health, education, jobs and nutrition, and placed climate 16th of 16 priorities.

What could kids do that would make a real difference? They could help reveal when grown-up politicians make things up.

‘End of the world’ talk is just to scare people

The politicians who deny climate change’s existence are not telling the truth. Those who say “the end of the world” is starting a decade or so from now are not either. They’re just scaring people.

According to UN scientists, if we do absolutely nothing to stop climate change, its impact will be equivalent to a reduction in our incomes of between 0.2 and two percent in the 2070s, five decades from now. Keep in mind that by the 2070s, personal incomes will have risen by 300-500 percent. Far from the “end of the world,” what we should expect is the same as the impact of a single economic recession over the next half-century.

The children should also challenge alarmist headlines and insist information comes from the more relevant UN climate panel.

At every turn we’re told that climate change is causing more extreme weather like hurricanes. But UN climate scientists find “no significant observed trends” in global hurricane frequency over the past century. In the USA, the trend of all land-falling hurricanes has been declining since 1900, as has that of the most damaging hurricanes. A major study in Nature shows global hurricane damage costs about 0.04% of the world’s GDP. Even assuming that warming makes hurricanes much more damaging in 2100, increased prosperity and resilience means the cost will halve to 0.02% of GDP. Since 1990, the global costs of all weather-related disasters compared to GDP have decreased.

School kids should call out silly adults

The school strikers should call on decision-makers to make fewer empty promises like Paris, and insist on effective policies like investing far more in research and development to ensure the price of green energy drops below fossil fuels. The young protesters might be surprised to know such policies are backed by both Bill Gates and former President Obama.

We’re often told that solar and wind energy are already cheaper than fossil fuels, and that only political willpower is needed to transition. Yet, today the world spends $129 billion to subsidize inefficient solar and wind, which only deliver about 1 percent of global energy. The International Energy Agency estimates that even by 2040, after $4.3 trillion more of subsidies, they will cover just over 4 percent of global energy. Adjusting for intermittency, the IEA finds existing coal power remains cheaper than additional solar and wind in all major markets.

The children correctly point out they will live in the world left behind by today’s adults. That’s why school strikers should call out the grown-ups using silly rhetoric to promote fantastically costly and ineffective solutions and instead insist on smarter ones. And they should double down on their studies to be part of the generation that will find vaccines for malaria, tackle hunger, fight cancer, while also innovating green energy to make it so cheap it eventually undercuts fossil fuels and fixes climate change for good.

Bjorn Lomborg is president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and visiting professor at Copenhagen Business School. Follow him on Twitter: @BjornLomborg

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to letters@usatoday.com.

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