Copenhagen Consensus asked leading economists to draft research papers identifying the costs and benefits of the smartest ways to spend money within their area. You can assess 36 investment proposals to combat 10 major global challenges. Resources are limited, some solutions are smarter, so you need to take a stand:
If you were making the decisions, what would you prioritize?
According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the planet during the last century lost 50 percent of its wetlands, 40 percent of its forests and 35 percent of its mangroves. About 60 percent of global ecosystem services have been degraded in just 50 years.
Solutions for improving biodiversity proposed by the economists are: Creating an increase in agricultural productivity through R&D, because if we could increase agricultural productivity, we would not need to convert more grasslands and forests to feed a growing population. Increasing the amount of protected areas globally to around 20%. Prevent all dense forests from being converted to agriculture, because they are the main homes to biodiversity.
Chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer are problems that we associate with rich countries, while infectious diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS are more commonly seen as the problems afflicting the poor. But 80 percent of global deaths from chronic diseases occur in low-income and middle-income countries.
Investments that can be made to combat chronic disease are: Tobacco taxation, because tobacco use could account for about 10 million deaths per year by 2030, and an increase in price leads to drop in consumption. Low-cost drugs to avert heart attacks. Create a 'generic risk pill' to lower the likelihood of serious vascular diseases.
Efforts to reduce salt consumption, which is a significant cause of heart diseases and strokes. This can be done in food processing or at the cooking or eating stages.
Increasing Hepatitis B vaccine coverage to prevent liver cancer.
Hunger and Malnutrition
The problem of hunger can be solved. The planet creates more than enough food to meet everyone's needs. But there are still about 925 million hungry people in the world, and nearly 180 million preschool-age children do not get vital nutrients.
Proposed investments to combat hunger are: Bundled interventions to reduce undernutrition in pre-schoolers, including micronutrients, improvements in diet quality and better care behaviors. Increasing global food production through agricultural R&D, because lower prices are necessary to make food more affordable. Improving market functioning through better communications, e.g. sending text messages to smallholders with crop advice. Increased competition in fertilizer markets to break up quasi-monopolies in the industry.
Of all of the issues in the Copenhagen Consensus 2012 project, climate change is perhaps the most talked-about and charged. Although efforts to strike an international climate deal have come to naught, more newspaper space and celebrity attention has been devoted to this issue in the past decade than any other.
Solutions to combat negative impact from climate change: Adaptation policies: Wet-lands, tidal barriers and dykes. Geo-engineering R&D, to find ways how to cool the planet by reflecting more of the sun's rays back to space. Low global carbon tax of $1.80/ton of carbon. High global carbon tax of $250.00 to make fossil fuel use uneconomic. Technology-led climate policy through green R&D, to develop the next generations of renewable energy, which would be cheaper and more efficient.
Water and Sanitation.
An astonishing one-third of the world population, 2.5 billion people, lacks access to basic sanitation. More than 1 billion people must defecate out in the open rather than using the toilets that we take for granted in the developed world.
Assessed solutions to improve sanitation: Community Led Total Sanitation to emphasize behavior change in the community's responsibility to share in the creation of open defecation free communities. Sanitation as a Business to generate innovation in sanitation services. The Reinvented Toilet, i.e. efforts to stimulate technical innovation, particularly harnessing advances in physics, chemistry, and engineering, to create a radically reinvented toilet that recycles human waste into reusable products at the household scale.
Improved immunization saves more lives per year than would be saved by global peace. The same is true for smallpox eradication, diarrhea treatment, and malaria treatment.
Nonetheless major problems remain, and a team of economists has explored the ways to step up our battle against the biggest killer diseases, and identified five top priorities: Subsidy for Malaria Combination Treatment to reduce the relative prices that poor countries face for new artemisinin combination therapies. Expanding Tuberculosis Treatment, since tuberculosis kills more adults than any other infectious disease besides HIV/AIDS. Expanded Childhood Immunization Coverage, i.e. expanding case-management of acutely ill children and adding several new antigens to routine vaccinations. Deworming of Schoolchildren, as children who experience worm infection often live in poor communities and need a sustainable treatment plan to remedy loss in education, nutrition, and intellectual development. Accelerated HIV Vaccine R&D to discover is the ultimate preventative tool against HIV/AIDS.
Last year, the world population reached 7 billion. It added the last billion in merely 12 years, similar to the time it took to add the fifth and sixth billion. Despite this rapid growth, the doomsday predictions of previous decades about the potentially disastrous consequences of rapid population growth have not materialized.
Increase availability of family planning, e.g. reducing fertility, increasing education for mothers, improving women's general health and longer-term survival, increasing female labor force participation and earnings, as well as child health.
In the past three decades, there have been reductions in the numerous barriers to international trade in goods, in some services, and in capital flows. Even so, many remain. Such policies hurt the economies imposing them, but are particularly harmful to the world's poorest people.
Addressing this challenge would therefore also reduce poverty and thereby assist in meeting several of the other challenges identified in this project, including malnutrition, disease, poor education and air pollution.
Policies designed to improve the quality of life for the poor and to spur economic growth often fail. A program that succeeds in one country or even in one village may not work in another.
A key reason for cross-country differences in policy efficacy is the quality of government and the ubiquity of corruption and related forms of self-dealing by politicians, civil servants, and the private individuals and business interests with whom they interact. A policy that works quite well in one country may fail in another with lower quality governance.