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Earth Day – April 22, 2009, marks the 39th anniversary of this environmental movement. Founded by Wisconsin U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson and spearheaded by Denis Hayes in 1970, Earth Day has been credited with the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of earth-protecting legislation such as the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.

I have to admit, I usually don’t do anything special for Earth Day. I’m usually working. But I believe that my work, keeping drinking water systems and wastewater treatment plants running, is just as important to the environment as staging a rally. After all, every life form needs water–clean water.

And despite all the doom and gloom talk of bad carbon footprints, pharmaceuticals in the water, and water wars, I think we’re doing a pretty good job overall of keeping the planet safe for future generations.

Could we do more? Sure. But the point is, we have to use our brains and common sense–not emotion–to figure out what works best for sustainability.

Really, every day is Earth Day, isn’t it?

On May 30, 2008, some of the world’s top economists ( including five Nobel laureates) will finalize a prioritized list of some of the best and worst solutions for the world’s most pressing problems. 

The Copenhagen Consensus panel will look at the costs vs. benefits of almost 50 solutions to worldwide issues.  Bjorn Lomborg, organizer of the Copenhagen Consensus and author of Cool It:  The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming compares a dollar spent on heart disease in a developing nation that does $25 worth of good with the 90 cents worth of good for each dollar spent on carbon mitigation as an example.

Stay tuned as this group determines the best cost/benefit answers to problems ranging from air pollution to public health to trade barriers.  Economists might seem cold when they put a dollar figure on an emotional topic–but finding the best investments to help the planet is their goal.  And if those dollars aren’t spent well, we all lose.

Unless you live in a cave, you’ve either read about the impacts of global warming, watched a special on television or seen An Inconvenient Truth.

Debate still rages over whether climate change is a reality or not, and its ultimate impact on the environment and on our lives.

Anyone interested in this topic needs to read Bjorn Lomborg‘s Cool It  The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming. 

Lomborg is an economist who started the Copenhagen Consensus in 2004. The Copenhagen Consensus Center brings 55 international economists, including 5 Nobel Laureates, together to prioritize the world’s greatest challenges–and find cost-effective solutions.  Global warming is just one of those priorities.

Bjorn makes simple but powerful arguments in Cool It.  First of all, Bjorn agrees that global warming is real, that human activity contributes to it, and that it will have a serious impact on our lives and the environment by the end of the century. 

However, he disagrees with the wildly exaggerated statements related to global warming’s consequences.  The apocalyptic descriptions of climate change that we see regularly in the media “make any sensible policy dialogue about our global choices impossible.”  Instead, it polarizes people with differing opinions and stifles progress.

Bjorn promotes finding simple, intelligent and efficient solutions.  The Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997, committed developed countries that ratified it to reduce overall carbon dioxide emissions by about 20 percent below what they would have been in the period from 2008 to 2012.  But looking at it from an economist’s point of view, the cost is much greater than the benefit gained.

Another important point in Cool It–there are more important issues than global warming.  Hunger.  Poverty.  Lack of clean water. Disease.  Solving some of these problems can help more people at a lower cost.

And his final argument–“We need to remind ourselves that our ultimate goal is not to reduce greenhouse gases or global warming per se but to improve the quality of life and the environment.”

Being down to earth about helping the earth–I think this book should be required reading for anyone who wants to have a fully rounded opinion on the global warming issue. 

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