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Global Crises, Global Solutions

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Global Crises, Global Solutions

Cambridge UP,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Can risk-benefit analysis change the world and help fight climate change, disease, war, corruption and hunger?

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Editorial Rating



  • Controversial
  • Comprehensive
  • Innovative


This report is an excellent, controversial and refreshing approach to global problems. Daily, the news media and politicians declare that another crisis is urgent. Often, loud, public resolutions accompany these pronouncements. Political blocs form to push through agendas based on those resolutions. The only thing missing from the process is a dispassionate analysis of whether the solutions make economic sense and, if so, which ones make the most economic sense. This book of compiled essays from the Copenhagen Consensus - as documented in The Economist - provides that missing element. The conference drew from United Nations documents to assemble a list of the most urgent problems facing the world and identified those that presented opportunities for solutions. Then it set the task of identifying solutions that would provide the biggest benefit for the cost, examining 38 proposals for spending $50 billion over four years. Surprisingly, some of the most economically rational projects never make headlines and never turn up in public exhortations. When was the last time you saw someone climbing onto a platform to demand mosquito nets to prevent malaria in Africa? That may not come up nearly as often as adherence to the Kyoto Protocol, which provides a far weaker cost vs. benefit scenario. According to the analysts from Copenhagen, the former seems to be a very sound use of the world’s problem-solving resources, but the latter costs a lot and seems to deliver relatively few benefits. highly recommends this intriguing, sweeping conversation.


The Copenhagen Consensus

In a world with unlimited needs but clearly limited resources, the Copenhagen Consensus aims to establish priorities for addressing global crises. It may seem offensive to decide which items on a list including AIDS, hunger, emigration and national financial instability ought to be addressed first (and which should be postponed or ignored), but societies make such trade-offs all the time. Usually, however, the trade-offs are implicit and the logic behind them is not clear. The Copenhagen Consensus aimed to make the trade-offs explicit. By analyzing each crisis and conducting a cost-benefit analysis on the proposed solutions, the Copenhagen Consensus provided a first-of-its-kind ranking of what those who would heal the world should do first and what they should not bother to do at all.

Why prioritize? Although all world crises are urgent and demand solutions, the world can only tackle problems by investing scarce resources in solutions. Funding is not available, apparently, to address all of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. Given that fact, mankind must determine how to get the most problem-solving bang for each available buck. This requires...

About the Author

Bjørn Lomborg is Associate Professor of Statistics at the University of Aarhus, and former Director of the Environmental Assessment Institute, Copenhagen. Listed as one of the world’s most influential people by TIME magazine, he is author of The Skeptical Environmentalist.

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