This afternoon at the International/Canadian District Energy Associations’ annual conference in Toronto there was an interesting — if not overly structured — debate between “skeptical environmentalist” Bjorn Lomborg, waste-heat recycling evangelist Tom Casten, and Toronto’s own Tom Rand, author of Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit and a cleantech advisor at the MaRS Discovery District.
I think both Toms did a superb job, particularly in their opening arguments, but Lomborg continues to just talk in circles about how climate change, while a problem, is overhyped and that instead of spending money on action today we should invest instead in R&D and wait for that magic day when somebody walks out of a lab and says, “Eureka! The world’s problems are solved.” He completely ignores points about how all past industries and major innovations required a degree of government support and that, at the beginning, they too came with higher costs. He also ignores that silver bullet solutions aren’t just hatched from eggs only to land directly in the market with chicken legs running. R&D is arguably the shortest step in a long path toward commercialization, even if the innovation in question is considered disruptive or a breakthrough. I’d be curious to know exactly what kind of breakthrough innovation he believes R&D might deliver us.
Anyway, my comments here do no justice to Tom Rands debating skills. I’d rather point you to an excellent post-debate TV debate between Lomborg and Rand that ran this afternoon on Canada’s Business News Network. You can watch the segment here.