Financial Post gets it right...
A terrific comment on Bjorn Lomborg's new book, Cool It...which I strong recommend to everybody.
Consider the case of a persistent cause of more than 1.2 million deaths, 50 million injuries and a half-trillion dollars in damages worldwide every year. Then ponder that a simple policy change could eliminate nearly all of this harm. The cause: automobile accidents. The remedy: Lower the speed limit to five miles per hour. But of course no nation would ever do this, because it would make us so much poorer. The benefits of auto use outweigh the risks, such that we don't even consider a modest reduction in speed limits, which studies show would significantly reduce auto-accident casualties. Instead, we invest in safer highways, air bags, seat belts and other means to reduce the human cost of driving.
The use of fossil fuels presents the same tradeoff. As Lomborg states, "the benefits from moderately using fossil fuels vastly outweigh the costs." If anything, Lomborg understates this point. The tradeoff for arguably increasing the average global temperature by 0.6 degrees in the 20th century has been nearly a doubling in life expectancy, a huge decline in infant mortality, and the steadily increasing spread of middle-class prosperity across the planet's population. Does anyone outside the tiny ranks of environmental extremists really wish we had not made this progress, which depended vitally on cheap energy? Acknowledging this calculus is environmentally incorrect, but it is the silent ground upon which practical policymakers will build policy. There simply is no near-term, large-scale alternative to fossil fuels. Deal with it.