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


Published December 16, 2020

In the 1800s, oil from whales led to demand that drove its population almost to extinction. Commercial interest in whaling only declined when oil was found in Pennsylvania. History shows us that innovation, not good intentions, will be the key to overcoming climate change.

This video’s audio is excerpted from Bjorn Lomborg’s lecture “Smarter Climate Change Policy” from the Hoover Institution Summer Policy Boot Camp.

Additional Resources:

  • Watch “Smarter Climate Change Policy with Bjorn Lomborg,” on PolicyEd. Available here.
  • Listen to “Bjorn Lomborg on the Costs and Benefits of Attacking Climate Change” via Econ Talk. Available here.
  • Watch “Bjorn Lomborg Declares ‘False Alarm’ on Climate Hysteria,” via Uncommon Knowledge. Available here.
View Transcript


If you think back to, you know the 1860’s we hunted whales almost to extinction. 

Because they have this oil that burns really really brightly. 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 say “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 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. 

And so I think this is really the answer: if we make green energy cheaper than fossil fuels, we’ve solved the problem. Everybody will switch.