The economics of optimism
The debate heats up about what goals the world should set itself for 2030
The Economist has featured the work of the Post-2015 Consensus project. The article gives an overview of some of the most bang-for-the-buck targets established by our 60 teams of economist and gives reason why narrowing the current list of the proposed 17 sustainable development goals is vital to the success of the post-2015 development agenda.
Some of the results are surprising. For instance, a recent paper by Bjorn Larsen looked at ways to reduce deaths from air pollution, which currently kills around 7m people a year. It found that shifting 1.4 billion people from traditional cooking methods to stoves with outdoor vents could save half a million lives a year and generate an economic benefit to the world of $10 for every $1 spent. Using higher-tech smoke-free stoves would bring an even bigger reduction in deaths. Yet the cost would be much higher, so the benefit would be only $2 per dollar spent.
Perhaps more surprising, the most beneficial measure Mr Lomborg’s teams evaluated was lowering barriers to trade, which achieves far more per dollar spent than any other option (see chart). Completing the treaty currently under negotiation at the World Trade Organisation, for example, would bring developing countries $3,426 for every dollar spent. A free-trade deal encompassing China, Japan, South Korea and the ASEAN countries would be worth $3,438 per dollar spent."