An op-ed from Matt Ridley, the author of The Rational Optimist, on Born Lomborg's Copenhagen Consensus (WSJ):
The Copenhagen Consensus Center process has won world-wide respect for its scrupulously fair methods and startling conclusions. Its 2012 report, published in book form as "How to Spend $75 Billion to Make the World a Better Place," came to the conclusion that the top five priorities should be nutritional supplements to combat malnutrition, expanded immunization for children, and redoubled efforts against malaria, intestinal worms and tuberculosis.
Their point wasn't that these are the world's biggest problems, but that these are the problems for which each dollar spent on aid generates the most benefit. Enabling a sick child to regain her health and contribute to the world economy is in the child's interest—and the world's.
The numbers produced by this exercise are eye-catching. Every dollar spent to alleviate malnutrition can do $59 of good; on malaria, $35; on HIV, $11. As for fashionable goals such as programs intended to limit global warming to less than two degrees Celsius in the foreseeable future: just 2 cents of benefit for each dollar spent.
Figuring out the best way to help the world's poor isn't like solving a math problem. There are not right and wrong answers. But there are better and worse answers, and the only way to assign those priorities is to set aside our sentimental commitments and do the hard work of assessing costs and benefits.