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Key Fact

Bjorn Lomborg on the Key to Overcoming the Effects of Climate Change

“If we make green energy cheaper than fossil fuels, we’ve solved the problem. Everybody will switch. The real issue here is, it’s an innovation problem.

“If you think back to the 1860s—that’s silly to say, because nobody here can think back to the 1860s— but if you’ve heard about it, in the 1860s we hunted whales almost to extinction. Why? Because they have this oil that burns really, really brightly. So, it lit up all of western Europe and most of the US because it was really bright and it was really nice and it didn’t have soot and all this stuff. You know, it was really inconvenient to go out in the middle of the ocean and hunt whales and, oh yeah, all the whales died. . . .

“How do we solve that? It was not through the standard “I’m sorry, could you please turn down your light so the whales can survive?” That wouldn’t have worked. What did work was in Pennsylvania we found [crude] oil. And you realize, “Oh that’s even better than whale oil, and you don’t have to go out in the middle of the ocean to kill these big beasts. You can just drill it out of the ground.” And so, essentially, the commercial interest in whaling dropped off the charts, and that’s probably what saved most whales. It was not because we tried to do good, it was because we had innovation that made for a better product somewhere else.”

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