|MAINZ, Germany - One of the world\'s leading environmentalists and a rising star of environmental skepticism squared off yesterday in their first public debate on the merits of fighting global warming.|
Bjorn Lomborg, author of the controversial 1998 book \"The Skeptical Environmentalist\" and darling of the right wing, threw down the gauntlet to his German host, Klaus Toepfer, head of the U.N. environment program and veteran environmental campaigner.
\"Global warming is something that we can do very little about at very high cost a long time from now,\" said Lomborg.
He said the hundreds of billions of dollars that the U.N.\'s Kyoto pact aimed at curbing global warming would cost, would be better spent on fighting AIDS, hunger or illiteracy.
\"For the cost of Kyoto in one year in 2010 we could probably give the entire developing world clean water forever,\" said the 39-year-old Danish statistician.
He said implementing the accord would buy just six years of delay to climate change by the year 2100.
\"I see daily the disastrous consequences of this climate change,\" said Toepfer, who spent almost eight years as Germany\'s environment minister and spear-headed the country\'s \"green dot\" recycling system.
\"I think it is absolutely clear that if you go to Africa today and asked them what is their priority, it will not be global warming - they are hungry. But I must take seriously my responsibilities for the world that is to come,\" Toepfer said.
But Lomborg cited increased average global calorie consumption and reduced pollution in cities such as London to say \"things are getting better, not worse.\"
\"Now we can stop panicking about global warming and get on with having the discussion of what we should best spend our money on. Those are hard choices and we need to have that discussion,\" Lomborg said.
Toepfer disagreed, saying: \"Things are not better in the last hundred years, they are worse.\"
Story by Georgina Prodhan
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE