I forgot to mention: the one "newsworthy" event at today’s conference was the fact that Al Gore was directly confronted by Bjorn Lomborg and refused to debate him.

Lomborg, as you know, has a shtick: we have to prioritize our social spending, and we should prioritize by what gets the most social benefit per dollar. Spending on climate change, Lomborg and his Copenhagen Consensus pals claim, ranks toward the bottom of the list by that metric. Not enough bang for the buck!

This is an intuitively plausible and seemingly hard-headed way of thinking about things — I’ve seen it seduce more than one business type at conferences like this. But scratch the surface and you’ll find that it’s absurd, for any number of reasons that have been well-documented (see here and here for starters).

Lomborg, with the assistance of the right, has been hassling Gore to debate for ages, and Gore has stiffed him (see, e.g., here). Finally, Thursday night, he got to confront Gore directly: "I don’t mean to corner you — well, maybe I do mean to corner you — but would you be willing to debate me on this?"

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Gore paused and chose his words carefully, "I want to be polite to you … [pregnant pause in which the implied "you silly little man" went unsaid] … but the scientific community has been through this chapter and verse. We are long past the point, as a society and in the U.S. where we afford to treat this as an on-the-one-hand on-the-other issue."

Now, I think Gore played it the right way. Debating Lomborg just elevates Lomborg’s nonsense to higher visibility and degrades the larger conversation. But of course the ‘wingers are going to be all over this. The post on the WSJ blog already has over 100 comments of frothy haterade. And so the larger issues of the conference — and the fact that the CEOs in attendance are pointed in the same direction as Gore — will be lost. Sigh.

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