FAREED ZAKARIA GPS
Aired June 15, 2008 – 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, GPS: I’m Fareed Zakaria. Welcome to the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Let’s get started.
ANNOUNCER: On GPS this week, the war over the war in Iraq. Two controversial analysts just back from the front lines — Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack. Last year, their report on Iraq triggered a critical storm. Did they paint too bright a picture? And how does it look now?
They face off with award-winning journalists who have been in the fire fight — Dexter Filkins of the “New York Times” and CNN’s own Michael Ware.
And then, Bjorn Lomborg, a global warming skeptic unlike any you’ve heard before. Is a hotter planet as big a problem as you think it is?
ZAKARIA: Today we start with an exclusive report on the war in Iraq. With me here, just back from the front lines, two of the best-known analysts of what’s going on in Iraq.
Kenneth Pollack is director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. And Michael O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at Brookings.
You two triggered a great deal of controversy. Last year you went to Iraq. You came back and you said that things on the ground were a lot better than the media was portraying.
We’ll get to that controversy, but first, this time around, what did you see?
MICHAEL O’HANLON, SENIOR FELLOW, THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Well, I think that we definitely saw continued progress in some important areas. But I think if there was any one big headline for the trip for both of us, it was really the improvement in the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces.
You know, there was a period of time when we were all wringing our hands about whether they would ever be up to the challenge. What we saw in Iraq is that they are now much bigger than they have ever been before, over 500,000 strong. Many of their units are really taking on the capabilities to be able to do what we need them to do.
ZAKARIA: So, like, when you look at this, and you’re — you know, really, your background is military analysis — does it strike you that this has the makings of a national army, or is it still militias in uniforms?
O’HANLON: It’s a great question, Fareed. I think, to fill in some of the detail and answer your question, I think you can look at the brigade-by-brigade performance in Basra.
The 52nd Brigade did miserably. It was recruited from Basra. It had just finished training. And the Brits who trained it, once it was done, said, “OK. Good luck boys. Hope you do well in the battlefield.”
On the other hand, they then sent in brigades from two of the Al Anbar divisions — largely, but not entirely, Sunni. Those came in and performed very well.
They had American advisers still with them — not just trainers, but American combat advisers at every level of command. And that seems to be a model that works.
Now, one question is: Can much of the Iraqi army now mimic this excellent performance of these two brigades from Al Anbar province? And to some extent, it’s an open question.
But we are hearing — and we spoke to several other Americans who are embedded with these Iraq formations, and we saw a number of Iraqi leaders themselves. It does look like it’s a model that we can try to repeat. But it’s still an open question how fast that will occur.
ZAKARIA: You point out that the ones that — the army unit that performed, again, are Sunni units going in to Shia areas…
O’HANLON: Largely Sunni.
ZAKARIA: … but more importantly, had American advisers.
ZAKARIA: So, the crucial question I think Americans are wondering about is: When can they do this without both the American advisers and the huge American logistical tail and the potential for American planes to come in as cover?
O’HANLON: Well, on the logistics piece, we were impressed with what they did on their own. And as you know, they basically pulled Petraeus aside one day and said, “We’re going to have this war, that we were planning for later in the summer, tomorrow. Hope you can help us.”
That was basically…
ZAKARIA: That was the one in Basra.
O’HANLON: Yes, exactly.
And so, the logistics part, the transport part, they took care of more or less on their own.
However, I don’t think I can see a short-term or even medium-term way for us to get out of this entirely. I think we’re going to have to keep doing the battlefield advising, the air power, et cetera.
But this does point towards a way by which the American presence over the next, let’s say, three years might go down to 40,000 to 50,000, or maybe even a little less.
ZAKARIA: What has changed that allows you to be confident that you can now get American troops down, when you couldn’t a year ago?
KENNETH POLLACK, DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH, SABAN CENTER FOR MIDDLE EAST POLICY, THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Well, you’ve seen a considerable weakening of both groups like Al Qaeda in Iraq and the other Sunni insurgent groups, as well as a similar weakening of some of the worst of the Shia groups — Jaish al-Mahdi, in particular.
ZAKARIA: That’s Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia.
And those are the ones who suffered the worst defeats down in Basra and Sadr City.
And again, what’s important about what happened there is not just that the Iraqi army went in and beat them in the field and cleared those cities, took back those strongholds.
It’s also important that the Iraqi people in both places seem to have turned against the militias. That’s one of the reasons why Jaish al-
Mahdi wasn’t able to hold onto those areas, because the people had turned against them.
What that suggests is a change in the overall political structure in Iraq, where the Iraqi people are clearly very tired of militia rule and of the civil war that comes with it, and are hopeful — and we want to stress hopeful — that this government is actually evolving into something more than just a facade for typical Iraqi militia politics.
ZAKARIA: But why has it been that the Sunnis have still not rejoined the government?
In other words, you have a national government that was meant to be a coalition of the Shia, the Kurds and the Sunnis. But the Sunnis have stayed (ph) up (ph), and they’ve made some — there have been some noises that they would come back in. But they still aren’t in, and they still don’t the regard the Shia as having really accommodated to their interests.
POLLACK: The Sunnis, by and large, boycotted the 2005 elections. As a result, they’re not in control of their own provinces. And the people who were sent to Baghdad really don’t have a great deal of legitimacy with the Sunni heartland. The hope is that, in the next round of elections — provincial elections this year and national elections next year — you will get much more legitimate, representative Sunnis occupying both of those power bases.
ZAKARIA: It sounds like we have here a strange dwindling down of the differences between the two candidates, you know, for the presidency, because, if you are saying that you can imagine troops going down to 30,000 or 40,000 over the next two or three years, what is the big difference between McCain and Obama? And, you know, how should we think about the choice in the election?
O’HANLON: Well, to me the most intriguing question here, Fareed, is what Obama will say about 2009. I think that is far too soon, still, to do the drawdown that he has proposed, the one to two brigades per month that he wants to begin almost upon becoming president.
If he is elected, I think he’s going to have to rethink what he does that year. That’s a year when we need to create a little bit of stability for a few reasons. The Iraqis are going to have some big elections that year. We’ve got to let them consolidate this…
ZAKARIA: But it’s not much…
O’HANLON: … democratic process.
ZAKARIA: But it’s not much faster than you’re advocating.
ZAKARIA: I mean, is it…
O’HANLON: … but it’s a big year, a year-and-a-half of difference. And then I also think he has to come off the idea that we’re going down to virtually zero major combat formations. I think he’s…
ZAKARIA: That’s the big issue, which is…
ZAKARIA: … some continued presence. It seems to me, the speed of the drawdown is not as important as what you’re saying, there’s going to have to be 30,000 to 40,000 troops in Iraq for a while.
O’HANLON: Although even here, as you know, Obama has said he wants — or he’s willing to have some residual presence. I think the numbers he sketched out — or at least the concept he’s sketched out — is too minimalist.
But there is room for him to evolve his position from what it’s been without having to do a 180-degree turn.
So, if he slows down the plan, and then he sort of plateaus at 30,000 or 40,000, as opposed to 10,000, I think there is the making of a closing of the gap here, and a sort of bipartisan — not a complete agreement — but at least a bipartisan dialogue that’s meaningful on this subject.
ZAKARIA: When you guys came back last year, there were a lot of people who said, wait a minute. These guys are portraying themselves as critics of the war, who have been convinced by the evidence. But in fact, they were supporters of the war, and they said nice things about various people involved in the war. This is really just one more attempt to justify the war.
How do you react to that?
POLLACK: Well, unfortunately, the war has become an enormously polarizing issue, as you’re well aware. And there aren’t too many people who can approach it without a great deal of emotion.
Mike and I have been on both sides of this question. We have been supportive of some of the things that the administration has done; we’ve been very critical of what the administration has done.
And typically, whenever we’ve been critical of one group or another, the other side has attacked us pretty harshly.
And I think that that’s kind of what happened last time around. I don’t think that people were aware of what was really happening on the ground in Iraq. A lot of what we did was simply report on trends that were happening over there. And I think there was really…
ZAKARIA: And Democrats didn’t want to hear that.
POLLACK: I do think that there was a sense among the Democratic Party that the war, and the failure of the war, was going to be a major election issue for them that they could use against the Republicans.
And so, when you had two Democrats coming back and saying, “Look, there actually is progress there. This thing is not completely lost, and we ought to give it some more time” — which is effectively all we were saying — I think that this was a bombshell, because it wasn’t what people had heard before.
ZAKARIA: But are you politically, therefore, in no man’s land?
POLLACK: Unfortunately, I think that’s where we wind up, because the Republicans don’t much care for us. Certainly, I don’t get a whole lot of love letters from them, because of the criticism that I leveled against the Bush administration between 2003 and 2006, which was quite harsh.
But my own party doesn’t much like the position that I’ve taken and the analysis that I’ve drawn from what I’ve been seeing in Iraq over the last year-and-a-half.
ZAKARIA: We’ll be back in a moment, and we’ll be joined by two longtime Iraq war correspondents who have their own views of what’s happening right now — CNN’s Michael Ware, who will join us from Baghdad, and Dexter Filkins of the “New York Times,” in studio.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAKARIA: Joining me again, Kenneth Pollack and Michael O’Hanlon from the Brookings Institution, just back from Iraq.
And we also welcome two prominent journalists, the “New York Times'” foreign correspondent, Dexter Filkins. He covered many of the most dangerous moments in Iraq. And live from Baghdad, CNN’s Michael Ware.
Michael, let me start with you.
You’re probably aware of the basic analysis that Pollack and O’Hanlon gave, which is that things are going better. The Iraqi army is more competent, also more seen as a national army. Iraq is on the mend.
What do you think?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, BAGHDAD: Well, on the surface level, there’s a paper-thin veneer where that is actually true. There are improvements in the Iraqi security forces.
It is, however, the case — no matter how much you want to dress it up, and no matter what an American adviser tells you — these are militia factions in uniform. And there’s (ph) a couple of Anbar brigades perform very well in Basra, that’s true and cannot be challenged.
The real question is, though, when you have 30,000 or 40,000 American troops here, unable to leave their bases or project any real combat power, what do you think those two Anbar brigades are going to be doing, with the weapons and training that they’ve received? Do you think they’re still going to be answering to this Iraqi government?
The real truth of the success or failure, you cannot, even for a moment, question that attacks are down. Deaths among the civilian population and among U.S. and Iraqi security forces are down. Al Qaeda is under pressure like it’s never been before.
But what are the second and third tier effects? What are the prices America has to pay for this?
Apart from segregating the Iraqi society, apart from turning this war into a competition of influence with Iran, apart from alienating its Arab allies, apart from building U.S.-backed militia blocks, you have to look at the long-term interests. And we’re going to see them come into sharp focus.
So, really, the true success or failure of the U.S. mission has been far from revealed.
O’HANLON: Michael’s right, that we don’t know where this is going to be in three or five years. We don’t know where this will be, once the U.S. downsized. That’s one of the reasons I favor a gradual downsizing.
You get to the issue of Obama versus McCain, you might have a situation where Obama, if he wants to get out faster, is going to have to accept more risk. And he’s essentially going to be either challenging Michael Ware’s analysis, or saying, “I’ll live with the consequences, because I’m uncertain enough about the prognosis anyway, that it’s not worth trying to babysit this thing for five or 10 years.”
DEXTER FILKINS, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, “NEW YORK TIMES”: You know, we’ve had this very discussion before, you know, 2005, 2006. We’re going to draw down brigades. There’s been pauses before, and they’ve never helped.
I mean, one of the things that concerns me — for example, we talk about the Iraqi army going into Basra, as they did, they went into Mosul, they went into Sadr City — they didn’t really have to fight their way into those neighborhoods, and they didn’t have to fight their way in. They haven’t done a lot of fighting.
In Basra, they basically took over after the Iraqi government sent a delegation to Iran, and talked to Muqtada al Sadr, and he basically told his guys to stand down.
The real test is going to be when they have to fight. And they haven’t had to fight yet. And I’m concerned about what’s going to happen when they do.
ZAKARIA: Michael Ware, you brought up another point about the division of the population, and things like that. I mean, I look at Baghdad, which I haven’t been to in a while, but the number of walls has apparently quadrupled or quintupled since I was there, so that you have great security in Baghdad, but it’s because it almost looks like one of these medieval cities with lots of walls.
Can you get around? What are the effects of the walls? Does it make commerce very difficult?
What does normal life in Iraq look like?
WARE: Well, that’s a great question, Fareed.
I mean, it’s true. Sectarian murders within Baghdad alone have plummeted by 90-something percent. But how we achieved this is the real question. And what will be costs and consequences going forward?
By and large, the drop in violence has been achieved by segregating the Iraqi community. The sectarian cleansing that began during the civil war phase, or the active civil war, was institutionalized by the U.S. forces.
They essentially separated the communities, and with mile after mile after mile of blast barrier, literally gated these communities. And in those communities that did not have Iranian-backed militias protecting their populations, America created American-backed militias and put them on the U.S. government payroll to protect those communities.
So, essentially, neither side can get at each other.
POLLACK: I think that Michael is absolutely right in a couple of the points that he makes in terms of these are baby steps. No one should take away from anything that Michael O’Hanlon and I are saying, that somehow the problems of Iraq are solved and we’re on a glide path to success.
A second point is that, as Michael Ware is pointing out, what we’ve done is effectively suppress the sectarian violence.
Now, on the one hand you can say that’s very fragile. It is. And Michael’s — Michael Ware’s description of the situation is right. The consequences can be catastrophic, if we suddenly walked away and just ripped all this up and allowed the Iraqis to have at it.
You would have these forces go right back at it. You would have that catastrophic civil war with foreign interference in the middle of the Persian Gulf oilfields. That’s why this is so important to the United States.
ZAKARIA: Dexter, you listen to all of this, and what does it make you think in terms of the American political debate? Because it does feel to me like there’s a sort of weird disconnect, particularly on the Democratic side. I mean, they’re fighting a battle — you know, they’re looking at an Iraq of two years ago. And…
FILKINS: That’s right.
ZAKARIA: … what should they be saying?
FILKINS: You know, I think you’re absolutely right. I mean, I think — I think the — depending on who wins, but even before that — the Obama campaign you’re probably going to see do some pretty fast footwork.
And they’re going to have to — they’re going to have to come up with something a little bit different than saying we’re going to be out in 18 months, or we’re going to go one brigade a month. I mean, because the progress has been real.
And if — I think a pretty good argument could be made that, if we, the United States, pulls out too quickly, all that progress is going to go away.
And so, I think you’re going to see probably — and what you’re — is a convergence of the two campaigns, as Ken was saying, that the McCain position and the Obama position are increasingly going to look more similar.
ZAKARIA: Michael Ware, you seem the most skeptical about the idea that there’s been kind of a transformation.
Would you favor, or do you think that a rapid drawdown of American troops could actually force the Iraqis to make some of the political deals they need to?
WARE: Well, in dreamland perhaps, Fareed, but certainly not in reality here on the ground in Iraq.
I mean, what you need to realize is that the great elephant in this room that no one’s talking about is Iran. And, of course, the American Arab allied countries that surround Iraq.
I mean, this war stopped being about al Qaeda a long time ago, if ever it was.
This war is really a contest between Washington and Tehran.
And the fundamental building blocks of this government are all political factions literally founded in Tehran, if not still funded and supported by Tehran, or have long-term, long-established links with Tehran.
And the — General David Petraeus himself said that it’s a reality of life that the president of Iraq is an agent of influence for Iran.
So, sure. You can pull out. But be aware what you’re giving Iran, what kind of effect that will have with America’s Arab allies. And then factor in how you think that will play with reconciliation, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Why is the Democratic Party not rethinking its Iraq policy?
O’HANLON: I think one thing is to back to the history. You and I know that we have to think in terms of where we are going forward in terms of options. But obviously, for a lot of Democrats, this is the symbol of the Bush administration’s failed foreign policy.
They threw away a war plan that had been developed under their predecessors that could have helped stabilize — it may or may not have succeeded — but it could have made a more serious effort to stabilize the place after Saddam was overthrown.
Rumsfeld threw it away. We didn’t listen to our allies in the negotiation process. This became the symbol of Bush administration arrogance and unilateralism.
And then, for four years it went badly.
So, given that backdrop, it’s pretty hard for Democrats to come around to the idea that perhaps, by Bush finally let professionals run this war instead of ideologues, that we have begun to rescue this situation.
I think that’s the simplest interpretation.
POLLACK: As far as whether things are going to work out or not for the Iraqi people, they’ve paid a horrible price for the mistakes that we made — exactly the mistakes that Michael O’Hanlon was talking about.
I don’t know that we as Americans can really say whether or not it was worth it, because at the end of the day, it’s the Iraqis who are paying the highest price. I think they’re the ones who are going to judge.
And all I can say is that, having inflicted this tragedy upon the Iraqi people, my own feeling is that part of what we owe Iraq is the opportunity to pull themselves out of it. If we can do that, if over the course of the next four or five years we can give the Iraqis a shot at stability and a new life for themselves, then perhaps they will decide that it was worth it.
ZAKARIA: And on that note, thank you all for a wonderful discussion. And Michael Ware, an especial thanks to you, because it is very late in Baghdad. Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Korea this week, a massive demonstration that has triggered a government crisis there.
Take a look at this picture. Hundreds of thousands of people marched through downtown Seoul demanding a total ban on U.S. beef.
Demonstrators say they fear mad cow disease from U.S. cattle.
But at the heart of the matter, they’re angry at what they see as their own government knuckling under to American power.
South Korea banned the import of U.S. beef back in 2003, after a brief mad cow scare here in the U.S.
President Lee Myung-bak, elected only last December, has been eager to improve relations with the U.S. But since he announced that the beef ban would be lifted, chaos.
This week’s protests stretched for miles and over days. And now the entire cabinet has offered to resign.
South Korea used to be one of the biggest customers for American beef, the number three importer.
Just one more example, that being seen as pro-American remains a political problem in many parts of the world.
ZAKARIA: My next guest is Bjorn Lomborg, one of the world’s best known global warming skeptics.
“Oh,” you say, “one of those kooks.”
Not so fast. Lomborg is extremely smart, and you will want to hear what he has to say on this important subject.
Bjorn Lomborg is not a scientist. He is an economist. He is one of the founders of the Copenhagen Consensus, a group of economists that seeks to prioritize the world’s concerns.
Global warming was at the bottom of their list.
BJORN LOMBORG, GLOBAL WARMING SKEPTIC, DIRECTOR AND CO-FOUNDER, COPENHAGEN CONSENSUS, COPENHAGEN BUSINESS SCHOOL: Thank you, Fareed (ph).
ZAKARIA: In your book, “Cool It,” you have this story. You tell the tale of the polar bears.
Now, the polar bears is one of the great concerns of people worried about global warming. Al Gore talks about how they seem to be declining as a population. The World Wildlife Fund said they might even be going extinct. TIME magazine worries about the same thing.
You have a different take on the problem of polar bears.
LOMBORG: Well, first of all, polar bears will probably have a problem, as global warming will cause diminishing and eventually disappearing some Arctic ice.
But let’s just remember two things. First, polar bear populations have probably increased threefold (ph) over the last 50 years. So, they’re not immediately threatened.
But the second part — and the most important part is, what can we actually do? Well, if everybody did the Kyoto Protocol, including the U.S., and everybody lived up to this for the next 100 years, what would that actually mean to polar bears?
Well, if you do the models, it will probably save about one polar bear every year. Now, the cost would be about a couple hundred billion dollars. That’s a lot of money to save one polar bear.
And all I simply try to point out is, isn’t that curious that we don’t have a conversation about the fact that we shoot somewhere between 300 and 500 polar bears every year?
So, shouldn’t we stop shooting 300 polar bears first? Wouldn’t that be smarter, cheaper, and ultimately much better for polar bears?
ZAKARIA: But of course, the polar bear issue is a metaphor for the fear that you’re going to have substantial melting ice caps, and things like that.
Your basic take on global warming is what?
LOMBORG: Well, it’s two things, which makes it double as hard as most other people who are worrying about global warming.
First of all, it’s to say, yes, global warming is real. But we need to find a smart way to tackle it.
But the other one is to say, almost all of the fears that people talk about are fears that we could much better deal with through other and simpler and proven technologies.
Take, for instance, sea level rise. Yes, it will be a problem. But to try to help, for instance, Bangladesh, by cutting carbon emissions is probably the least efficient way of helping, because it’s going to lower sea level rise slightly by the end of the century. But of course, what really matters is that Bangladesh gets rich, so that they will defend themselves against sea level rise — and also, all the other problems that they are going to be facing.
So, it’s about saying, if you really want to help people, why is it we don’t talk about how you could do so in the smartest possible way?
ZAKARIA: So, what you’re really talking about is adaptation to global warming, rather than sort of preventing it from happening or slowing it down. Because what you’re saying is, help the Bangladeshis build walls to stop the sea from coming in.
A lot of people would say the problem is, it’s going to happen in all kinds of places — hundreds and hundreds of cities, hundreds and hundreds of regions. And you can’t possibly build walls everywhere. You can’t adjust to every climate change. Far better to attack the root of the problem…
LOMBORG: Yes, yes.
ZAKARIA: … which is the climate change itself.
LOMBORG: And it plays very much to our understanding. Yes, we ought to attack the root. But the honest answer is, no, we’ve done the models, and it turns out that it’s much, much easier to actually, yes, prevent all these different places.
Let’s just remember, the U.N. climate pal (ph), the IPCC, estimate that sea levels over the next century is going to rise somewhere between 18 and 59 centimeters. The most likely rise is about 30 centimeters, or about a foot of sea level rise.
Now, how big of a problem is that? Well, we know, because over the last century-and-a-half, sea levels rose about a foot. So, I would doubt —
nobody noticed. Why? Because it was something you dealt with. It’s a logistical problem that’s fairly simple to deal with.
The total cost is going to be much, much less than 0.1 percent of GDP. So, of course we will deal with it.
The only question is, how well will we deal with it?
It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t tackle global warming in the long run, but it means we should be much smarter about how we think about global warming.
ZAKARIA: You don’t really mean much smarter. You mean we should spend a lot less money, because it’s not as dire a threat as people think.
LOMBORG: Let me give you a…
ZAKARIA: What would you spend it on?
LOMBORG: … yes, what that would be.
I would spend it on research and development on low-carbon emitting energy technologies.
Right now, for instance, solar panels, they cost about 10 times as much as fossil fuels, which means that fuel-rich Westerners will have them on their rooftops, mainly to show how good people they are. But they’re not actually going to do very much.
Germany is one of the nations that have put an enormous amount of effort into solar panels. They’re going to spend over the next 35 years about 120 billion euros, about $160 billion, on installing solar panels, the net effect of which will be to postpone global warming by one hour at the end of the century. So, they’re essentially spending a huge amount of money to do nothing, even 100 years from now.
The point, of course, is, what we should do is invest that money, instead of making better solar panels, make them much cheaper. Imagine if we, by investing in research and development, could make solar panels as cheap as fossil fuels by, say, mid-century, or even cheaper than fossil fuels by 2060?
Not only rich Westerners, but also the Chinese and the Indians and everybody else would buy those solar panels. That would fix climate change, and it would fix it much, much cheaper.
ZAKARIA: Now, the big problem with the argument, if you talk to environmentalists or serious activists on this issue, is they say, look. This is a linear model that assumes that we can have — we will end up having this kind of moderate global warming, that you will have, you know, two to three percent temperature rise, nothing more than that, that sea levels again will rise in the mid-range.
But that, in point of fact, these mechanisms can sometimes be self-
feeding, that once, say, the Amazon dries up, you could imagine the forests burning, and that that will then get you to a much higher temperature rise, which would actually have huge and catastrophic effects.
You’re not taking into account the smaller probabilities of very bad stuff happening.
So, shouldn’t we be buying some insurance to prevent those very, very dangerous things from happening?
ZAKARIA: If you’re wrong, there’s a good chance the planet — life on the planet Earth, as we know it, will end.
LOMBORG: Well, it will certainly be a lot worse life. Let’s just remember, it’s probably not at hand, but, yes, it’s certainly something we want to avoid.
But let’s again analyze that metaphor, because everyone will use the argument of saying we should buy insurance. But what they’re actually do is that they’re saying, let’s do some very expensive public policy works right now, which will postpone global warming a few years by next century, and a little longer by the end of the century — not very much.
What they’re essentially doing — if this was your house, they’re not saying, let’s buy fire insurance, because obviously, there’s nobody there to pay you back if the house really catches on fire, and the planet catches on fire.
What they are essentially saying is, they are postponing the risk of fire, a severe fire happening, by two, three or four years.
I’m instead saying, well, if we actually care about that risk, shouldn’t we fire-proof the house? Shouldn’t we make much more certain that bad things will not happen, or not nearly on the same scale?
ZAKARIA: So, you’re saying, we’re not getting enough bang for the buck in terms of the investments that are being proposed to mitigate global warming.
LOMBORG: Yes, again, unfortunately, I’m sorry, I’m saying two things. I’m both saying that there is better chance of actually doing good if we fire-proof the house than just postponing the fire for a few years.
But also, if you actually look at the argument, a lot of people will be promising, oh, we should cut carbon emission 50 — no, 60, no, 70 — percent by mid-century.
But it is one thing to promise. Another thing, of course, is to deliver. And I think it’s been very instructive, both to see the Warner-Lieberman bill — you know, suddenly when gas hits $4 per gallon, nobody wants to make it more expensive.
But this is not just true in the U.S. Also in Europe — in Britain, in Germany, in France — politicians are running away from their global warming promises, because now it’s suddenly going to cost money.
So, then, it’s about being smart.
ZAKARIA: All right, then. We will be back with Bjorn Lomborg to find out what is at the top of his list of global concerns.
ZAKARIA: We’re back with Bjorn Lomborg, who is probably tired of being described as one of the world’s leading global warming skeptics.
All right. You have a Copenhagen Consensus. A bunch of economists get together. You try to prioritize.
If you had $50 billion, or $75 billion, what would you do, if you were trying to improve the state of the world, if you were trying to save lives?
The first time you did it, global warming came at the bottom of the list, because the argument was made that, for the money, you would save many, many more lives by curing or ameliorating problems of AIDS or child nutrition, things like that.
What is it now? You have a new consensus out.
LOMBORG: Yes. Basically, we asked some of the world’s top economists. We have five Nobel laureates. Look at all the great solutions and say, wouldn’t it be great if we could all solutions? Yes. But we don’t have the money.
So, of all the great solutions to the world’s big problems, which ones are the best? Where do you get the most bang for the buck?
And what they found was not just that global warming is at the bottom like last time, but global warming guys have smartened up. And so, they actually also came and said, well, we could do something with research and development. We could actually make better investments in research and development.
But at the top of the list, they found that it was micro nutrient malnutrition — very, very unheard of. And…
ZAKARIA: Say that in English.
LOMBORG: Yes. Basically, that a lot of people — about half the world’s population — lack one or more micro nutrients like iron or zinc or iodine or vitamin A. So, essentially, the lack of vitamin pill.
ZAKARIA: Which essentially kills them.
LOMBORG: Yes. But, well, it kills about 600,000 every year. But let’s just remember, it affects about two to three billion people.
For instance, iron deficiencies. Yes, it does kill some people, but mostly it simply means that they get less well developed, both cognitively and physically. We know it cuts off 14 I.Q. points, and it cuts off 17 percent of your strength.
So, we essentially have a large part of the developing world that is less smart and less physically strong than it could have been. And…
ZAKARIA: And for a small amount of money you can fix this.
LOMBORG: It’s incredibly cheap. It’s adding iron, for instance, to the flour or the oil, or giving people an iron pot, so that every time they cook their meals, it will give off a little iron, and basically eradicate that need.
ZAKARIA: How much does this cost?
LOMBORG: About $300 million a year. So, a trivial number compared to many of the other world big problems that we think about.
Number two on the list was Doha — free trade, essentially. Re-
establish the idea of getting on track of the WTO negotiations of ensuring better trade, both for goods, services, but especially, of course, for agricultural products.
The cost is that you have to pay off, for instance, French farmers, and others, to…
ZAKARIA: American farmers…
LOMBORG: … American farmers, I’m sure, too.
But the benefits would be huge. What we are essentially…
ZAKARIA: (inaudible) explain them (inaudible).
LOMBORG: Well, the benefits, of course, are that you can have much better specialization.
One of the reasons why we’re such rich societies, is because you and I don’t do all stuff ourselves. We have a lot of different people doing what they do best.
And if you could spread that even more — that is, you would have Chinese specialists do some of your work, an Indian specialist do some other of your work — everybody ends up being richer.
There’s a few people who will lose out, but virtually all nations will win.
The actual outcome is, if you try to amortize it into every year what would that be the equivalent of, the net benefit of the world of a successful Doha round would be $2,500 billion every year — five- sixths of which would accrue to the developing world. So, this would be a huge benefit.
And let’s just remember, it’s actually three or four times more on the positive side than the global warming impact would be on the negative side. So, when we fret a lot about global warming — and I think rightly so — we seem to be forgetting that there’s a huge opportunity lying on the table, and we’re just simply ignoring it.
ZAKARIA: But the two are related in the sense that people say, look. If the Chinese have as many cars as we have per capita, and the Indians have as many cars as we have, and they consume as much petroleum, we’re really going to have a problem, that almost all the global warming models, whatever you may say, are going to be — things are going to get much, much worse if developing countries actually achieve First World levels of prosperity.
Now, that’s a very awkward place to be. What we’re saying, almost, we don’t want these countries to develop. And yet, if they do develop, there is an unmistakable effect it’s going to have on the climate.
ZAKARIA: How do you react to that?
LOMBORG: Well, let’s first remember, it is actually factored into the models. We are expecting the Chinese and the Indians to do this, and quite rightly so. I think there is no way they are going to not do it.
What we can choose, however, is to have a world where everyone will be richer. And we know one of the things that means be richer also means that you’re much more willing to be green.
That’s not the same thing as saying that you’d be willing to spend anything, as we just saw with the Warner-Lieberman, but also many other things. But at least it gives a much better chance of also getting Indians and Chinese on board for both investing in research and development and also being willing to adopt low-carbon technologies sooner.
ZAKARIA: But right now, you have to say that the developing world, in India and China, there is really no appetite for clean technologies, for being environmental. They just want to grow. They want economic growth at any price.
LOMBORG: Well, if you look at the Chinese, they want to make sure that they don’t pollute their air and their water.
Their local air pollution, they will actually deal with…
ZAKARIA: But not CO2 emissions.
LOMBORG: … but CO2 — no, absolutely not.
And that’s one of the things we have to get to terms with. We can sit and fret in the Western world. But unless we get the Chinese so rich that they can also afford to worry about global warming rather than their kid dying from usually terrible infectious diseases, we’re not going to get them on board.
ZAKARIA: So, you’re saying, wait until they become First World countries with First World mentalities, like the Danes and the Dutch. That’s going to be a long time.
LOMBORG: Well, it’s probably not going to be that long. But yes, it’ll probably be 50 years. But let’s just remember. I’m not saying “wait.” I’m saying, let’s invest in research and development, so we have all the technologies available.
If we can make solar panels cheaper than fossil fuels, they will buy them, even if they’re poor, or they’re semi-poor. Of course, because it’s cheaper.
So, it’s very much about making sure that we set the standards so that everybody will want to plan (ph), even if you’re not still as rich as we are.
ZAKARIA: But you do have to come back to this question: Is 50 years too long? Could there be a series of events that trigger greater and greater levels of global warming, that create a kind of loop, which becomes unalterable? Then there’s a chain reaction problem here.
ZAKARIA: Why do you discount that? Why do you not worry about the high end of the IPCC projections? That is, the U.N. group of scientists.
You tend to pick the median projection…
LOMBORG: Yes, yes.
ZAKARIA: … which is fine. But there is surely some risk of that extreme happening.
LOMBORG: Yes. And that is certainly something we should be concerned about.
But again, let’s just remember. Even if we get at the very most optimistic level of cutting carbon emissions 50 percent from what they were in 1990 by 2050, which by any standard will be somewhat out of the — you know, very, very optimistic.
Let’s just remember, only one country in the world right now lives up to that, and that’s Somalia.
And it’s not obvious that it’s easy to sell that to everyone. But even if we managed to do so, it will simply not change the temperature by 2050. It will change it in 2100, but we will have an immeasurable change, about two years’ difference in 2050.
So, no matter what we do now, is it going to have an impact in 2050?
ZAKARIA: Bjorn Lomborg, thank you very much.
LOMBORG: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: This week I’m looking back, almost exactly 21 years ago.
President Ronald Reagan thrilled his conservative fans when he stood at the Berlin Wall and challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: A year later, he was being pilloried by the same conservatives. His sin? Reagan went to Moscow for a summit meeting with Gorbachev to discuss arms reductions and conflict resolution.
This full-page ad, taken out in January 1988, from the hugely influential group, the Conservative Caucus, warned that, quote, appeasement is as unwise in 1988 as in 1938, unquote — comparing Reagan’s meetings to those with Hitler before World War II.
When Reagan first proposed meeting with Gorbachev, Newt Gingrich was among those who denounced him, saying it was the most dangerous summit for the West since Adolf Hitler met with Chamberlain.
Of course, those summits marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War, on Western terms, for which Ronald Reagan is now lionized on the right.
Twenty-one years later, the world has changed profoundly, but the same conservatives are saying the same things.
Newt Gingrich, who denounced Reagan, now launches the appeasement missile against new targets — Democrats and anyone who dares suggest that we should talk to Iran, Syria or Cuba.
So, when you hear the word “appeasement” today, remember, that’s what they said about Ronald Reagan.
We’ll be right back.
ZAKARIA: That’s it for this week. But before we go, I want to thank you all for the hundreds of e-mails you’ve sent. Compliments about the substance of GPS warmed our hearts.
But many of you also complained about this background, the one behind me now. You called it distracting and said it made you dizzy, even seasick.
We hear you. And we are getting rid of that background, right now. And the person responsible for this is now at Guantanamo Bay.
Please keep those e-mails coming.
And I know that sometimes when you watch a program like this, you may have a question you want answered, one that I didn’t ask. If you do, e-mail me with it. I can’t answer all of them, of course, but I’ll pick one each week and find an answer for you.
Here’s the e-mail address, and you can also contact me at our Web site, CNN.com/GPS. And you can see highlights of this week’s show and updates about coming shows.
That’s it from the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Have a great week.