Shelves: finished , cle-pub-lib Bjorn Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist Cambridge University Press, I have watched the unfolding controversy over The Skeptical Environmentalist with a cynical amusement not at the combatants, but at myself, for still having some shred of belief that reason, logic, and critical analysis has any place in modern reviews, especially those submitted by readers to amazon. More fool you and me, the biggest fool of all. It is blisteringly Bjorn Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist Cambridge University Press, I have watched the unfolding controversy over The Skeptical Environmentalist with a cynical amusement not at the combatants, but at myself, for still having some shred of belief that reason, logic, and critical analysis has any place in modern reviews, especially those submitted by readers to amazon. It is blisteringly obvious that the overwhelming majority of critics and, one is tempted to say, those heaping the book with such lavish praise have never actually read the thing. Or, if they have, their reviews of the book are geared toward its political agenda rather than its readability, the competence of the proofreaders, that sort of thing.
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Some critics[ who? Supporters[ who? His advocates further note that many of the scientists and environmentalists who criticized the book are not themselves environmental policy experts or experienced in cost-benefit research. Origins[ edit ] In numerous interviews, Lomborg ascribed his motivation for writing The Skeptical Environmentalist to his personal convictions, making clear that he was a pro-environmentalist and Greenpeace supporter.
He has stated that he began his research as an attempt to counter what he saw as anti- ecological arguments by Julian Lincoln Simon in an article in Wired , but changed his mind after starting to analyze data. Lomborg describes the views he attributes to environmental campaigners as the " Litany ", which he at one time claims to have affirmed, but purports to correct in his work. Methods[ edit ] The general analytical approach employed by Lomborg is based on cost-benefit analyses as employed in economics, social science, and the formulation and assessment of government policy.
Since it examines the costs and benefits of its many topics, it could be considered a work in economics, as categorized by its publisher. However, The Skeptical Environmentalist is methodologically eclectic and cross-disciplinary, combining interpretation of data with assessments of the media and human behavior, evaluations of scientific theories, and other approaches, to arrive at its various conclusions.
He progresses from the general to the specific, starting with a broad concern, such as pollution or energy, dividing it into subtopics e. From there, Lomborg chooses data that he considers to be the most reliable and reasonable available. He then analyzes that data to prove or disprove his selected proposition. In every case, his calculations find that the claim is not substantiated, and is either an exaggeration, or a completely reversed portrayal of an improving situation, rather than a deteriorating one.
Having established what he calls "the true state of the world", for each topic and subtopic, Lomborg examines a variety of theories, technologies, implementation strategies and costs, and suggests alternative ways to improve not-so-dire situations, or advance in other areas not currently considered as pressing. Lomborg designated the report "one of the best-researched and academically most ambitious environmental policy publications," but criticized it for using short-term trends to predict disastrous consequences, in cases where long-term trends would not support the same conclusions.
In establishing its arguments, The Skeptical Environmentalist examined a wide range of issues in the general area of environmental studies, including environmental economics and science, and came to an equally broad set of conclusions and recommendations.
The author suggested that environmentalists diverted potentially beneficial resources to less deserving environmental issues in ways that were economically damaging. Support for the book was staunch as well. He cites accepted mainstream sources, like the United States government, United Nations agencies and others, preferring global long-term data over regional and short-term statistics.
Therefore, challenges to human prosperity are essentially logistical matters, and can be solved largely through economic and social development. Concerning problems that are more pressing at the global level, such as the depletion of fossil fuels and global warming, Lomborg argues that these issues are often overstated and that recommended policies are often inappropriate if assessed against alternatives.
Human prosperity from an economic and demographic point of view[ edit ] Lomborg analyzes three major themes: life expectancy , food and hunger , and prosperity, finding that life expectancy and health levels have dramatically improved over the past centuries, even though several regions of the world remain threatened, in particular by AIDS. Concerning prosperity, Lomborg argues that wealth, as measured by per capita GDP, should not be the only judging criterion.
He points to improvements in education, safety, leisure, and ever more widespread access to consumer goods as signs that prosperity is increasing in most parts of the world. First, he analyzes food once more, this time from an ecological perspective, and again claims that most food products are not threatened by human growth.
An exception, however, is fish, which continues to be depleted. Next, Lomborg looks at forests. Lomborg points out that in developing countries , deforestation is linked to poverty and poor economic conditions, so he proposes that economic growth is the best means to tackle the loss of forests.
Concerning energy, Lomborg asserts that oil is not being depleted as fast as is claimed, and that improvements of technology will provide people with fossil fuels for years to come. The author further asserts that many alternatives already exist, and that with time they will replace fossil fuels as an energy source. Concerning other resources, such as metals, Lomborg suggests that based on their price history they are not in short supply.
Examining the challenge of collecting sufficient amounts of water, Lomborg says that wars will probably not erupt over water because fighting such wars is not cost-effective one week of war with the Palestinians, for instance, would cost Israel more than five desalination plants, according to an Israeli officer.
Lomborg emphasizes the need for better water management, as water is distributed unequally around the world. Pollution as a threat to human prosperity[ edit ] Lomborg considers pollution from different angles. He notes that air pollution in wealthy nations has steadily decreased in recent decades. He finds that air pollution levels are highly linked to economic development, with moderately developed countries polluting most.
Again, Lomborg argues that faster growth in emerging countries would help them reduce their air pollution levels. Lomborg suggests that devoting resources to reduce the levels of specific air pollutants would provide the greatest health benefits and save the largest number of lives per amount of money spent , continuing an already decades-long improvement in air quality in most developed countries.
Concerning water pollution , Lomborg notes again that it is connected with economic progress. He also notes that water pollution in major Western rivers decreased rapidly after the use of sewage systems became widespread.
Future threats to human prosperity[ edit ] In this last section, Lomborg puts forward his main assertion: based on a cost-benefit analysis, the environmental threats to human prosperity are overstated and much of policy response is misguided. As an example, Lomborg cites worries about pesticides and their link to cancer. He argues that such concerns are vastly exaggerated in the public perception, as alcohol and coffee are the foods that create by far the greatest risk of cancer, as opposed to vegetables that have been sprayed with pesticides.
Furthermore, if pesticides were not used on fruit and vegetables, their cost would rise, and consequently their consumption would go down, which would cause cancer rates to increase. He goes on to criticize the fear of a vertiginous decline in biodiversity , proposing that 0.
While Lomborg admits that extinctions are a problem, he asserts that they are not the catastrophe claimed by some, and have little effect on human prosperity. From the outset, Lomborg "accepts the reality of man-made global warming" though he refers to a number of uncertainties in the computer simulations of climate change and some aspects of data collection.
His main contention involves not the science of global warming but the politics and the policy response to scientific findings. Lomborg points out that, given the amount of greenhouse gas reduction required to combat global warming, the current Kyoto protocol is grossly insufficient. He argues that the economic costs of legislative restrictions that aim to slow or reverse global warming are far higher than the alternative of international coordination.
Moreover, he asserts that the cost of combating global warming would be disproportionately shouldered by developing countries. Lomborg proposes that since the Kyoto agreement limits economic activities, developing countries that suffer from pollution and poverty most, will be perpetually handicapped economically.
Lomborg proposes that the importance of global warming in terms of policy priority is low compared to other policy issues such as fighting poverty, disease and aiding poor countries, which has direct and more immediate impact both in terms of welfare and the environment. He therefore suggests that a global cost-benefit analysis be undertaken before deciding on future measures. The Copenhagen Consensus that Lomborg later organized concluded that combating global warming does have a benefit but its priority compared to other issues is "poor" ranked 13th and three projects addressing climate change optimal carbon tax, the Kyoto protocol and value-at-risk carbon tax , are the least cost-efficient of its proposals.
Conclusions[ edit ] Lomborg concludes his book by once again reviewing the Litany, and noting that the real state of the world is much better than the Litany claims. According to Lomborg, this discrepancy poses a problem, as it focuses public attention on relatively unimportant issues, while ignoring those that are paramount. In the worst case, The Skeptical Environmentalist argues, the global community is pressured to adopt inappropriate policies which have adverse effects on humanity, wasting resources that could be put to better use in aiding poor countries or fighting diseases such as AIDS.
Lomborg thus urges us to look at what he calls the true problems of the world, since solving those will also solve the Litany. Reaction[ edit ] The Skeptical Environmentalist was controversial even before its English-language release, with anti-publication efforts launched against Cambridge University Press.
Once in the public arena, the book elicited strong reactions in scientific circles and in the mainstream media. Opinion was largely polarized. Environmental groups were generally critical. Criticism of the material and methods[ edit ] The January issue of Scientific American contained, under the heading "Misleading Math about the Earth", a set of essays by several scientists, which maintain that Lomborg and The Skeptical Environmentalist misrepresent both scientific evidence and scientific opinion.
The "separately written expert reviews" further detail the various expert opinions. Many of his criticisms have appeared in What is new, perhaps, is the scope and variety of the errors he makes. In principle, such characterizations could provide a foundation for more meaningful policy planning on this difficult problem. David Pimentel , who was repeatedly criticized in the book, also wrote a critical review.
As is typically the case, other media outlets followed the reporting of the elite newspaper. Richard C. This line of criticism considered the book as a contribution to the policy debate over environment rather than the work of natural science. But I am worried that on virtually every topic he touches, he reaches conclusions radically different from almost everybody else. Most I know are honest, intelligent and competent.
So it beggars belief to suppose that Professor Lomborg is the only one in step, every single time. But the real world is messier, more unpredictable - and more impatient.
In a September 9, , article, "Why I pied Lomborg", Lynas stated: "Lomborg specialises in presenting the reader with false choices - such as the assertion that money not spent on preventing climate change could be spent on bringing clean water to the developing world, thereby saving more lives per dollar of expenditure. Of course, in the real world, these are not the kind of choices we are faced with. Because in a world where political choices are not made democratically at a global level, but by a small number of rich countries and corporations, the poor and the environment are never going to be a priority.
If information is skewed to paint a bleaker environmental picture than is justified by reality, as he claims, then we will in turn skew our limited resources in favor of the environment and away from other important causes. Then Lomborg proceeds to weigh the causes championed by the environmental movement against a deliberately circumscribed universe of other possible "good causes. The worse they can make this state appear, the easier it is for them to convince us we need to spend more money on the environment rather on hospitals, kindergartens, etc.
But who is really failing to consider how our money is spent? As Lomborg notes, "We will never have enough money," and therefore, "Prioritization is absolutely essential. In a busy and under funded world, few people have the time or background knowledge to plow though 3, footnotes checking his sources.
It is impressively interdisciplinary. It stated that "This is one of the most valuable books on public policy—not merely environmental policy— to have been written for the intelligent general reader in the past ten years The Skeptical Environmentalist is a triumph.
His richly informative, lucid book is now the place from which environmental policy decisions must be argued. The authors take the perspective of a court faced with an argument against hearing an expert witness in order to evaluate whether Lomborg was credible as an expert, and whether his testimony is valid to his expertise. They classify the types of criticisms leveled at Lomborg and his arguments, and proceed to evaluate each of the reasons given for disqualifying Lomborg.
They conclude that a court should accept Lomborg as a credible expert in the field of statistics, and that his testimony was appropriately restricted to his area of expertise. Of course, Professor Shoenbrod and Wilson note, Mr. The Union of Concerned Scientists and the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty raised concern about the responses of certain sections of the scientific community to a peer reviewed book published under the category of environmental economics.
The groups worried that the receptions to Lomborg were a politicization of science by scientists. This unease was reflected in the involvement of the Union of Concerned Scientists and Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty in "When scientists politicize science: making sense of controversy over The Skeptical Environmentalist",  where Roger A. Pielke argued: The use of science by scientists as a means of negotiating for desired political outcomes — the politicization of science by scientists — threatens the development of effective policies in contested issues.
By tying themselves to politics, rather than policy, scientists necessarily restrict their value and the value of their science. The book is essentially a response to such popular environmentalist tracts as the State of the World report and the reams of misinformation disseminated by Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the Union of Concerned Scientists, The Ecologist, the Turning Point Project, Grist, Wild Earth, and the rest of the sprawling eco-media propaganda complex.
The Skeptical Environmentalist
Career[ edit ] Lomborg lectured in statistics in the Department of Political Science at the University of Aarhus as an assistant professor — and associate professor — In , Lomborg published four essays about the state of the environment in the leading Danish newspaper Politiken , which according to him "resulted in a firestorm debate spanning over articles in major metropolitan newspapers. He later edited Global Crises, Global Solutions, which presented the first conclusions of the Copenhagen Consensus, published in by the Cambridge University Press. On 22 June , Lomborg announced his decision to resign from this post to go back to the University of Aarhus,  saying his work at the Institute was done and that he could better serve the public debate from the academic sector. Lomborg right with DeAnne Julius center and Stephen Sackur left , at WTTC Global Summit Lomborg and the Environmental Assessment Institute founded the Copenhagen Consensus in , which seeks to establish priorities for advancing global welfare using methodologies based on the theory of welfare economics. A panel of prominent economists was assembled to evaluate and rank a series of problems every four years. The project was funded largely by the Danish government and was co-sponsored by The Economist.