Hopefully this post will provide a resource for those curious about accuracy of his work, and the legitimacy of his conclusions.
Danish biologist Kare Fog created a comprehensive website critical of Lomborg that is found here:
He also produced this excellent timeline documenting the events leading to Lomborg’s fame, and how he is regarded among his fellow Danes.
Response the “The Skeptical Environmentalist”
In 2001, Lomborg published his first major book, The Skeptical Environmentalist”. In response, The Danish Ecological Council published an entire 225 page book documenting the many errors and omissions in Lomborg’s work. Their rebuttal entitled “Skeptical Questions and Sustainable Answers” is available here:
Scientific American published a 10-page article by four leading experts that was critical of “The Skeptical Environmentalist”. It is available here:
For his part, Lomborg sent a plea to his supporters asking for help in forming a rebuttal. It read:
“Naturally, I plan to write a rebuttal to be put on my web-site. However, I would also love your input to the issues — maybe you can contest some of the arguments in the Scientific American, alone or together with other academics. Perhaps you have good ideas to counter a specific argument. Perhaps you know of someone else that might be ideal to talk to or get to write a counter-piece.”
John P. Holdren, one of the Scientific American authors noted:
“It is instructive that [Lomborg] apparently did not feel he could manage an adequate response by himself. (In this, at least, he was correct. But he could not manage it with help, either.)”
The Union of Concerned Scientists also authored a highly critical analysis of Lomborg’s first book. The entire text is available here:
“Lomborg’s book is seriously flawed and fails to meet basic standards of credible scientific analysis. The authors note how Lomborg consistently misuses, misrepresents or misinterprets data to greatly underestimate rates of species extinction, ignore evidence that billions of people lack access to clean water and sanitation, and minimize the extent and impacts of global warming due to the burning of fossil fuels and other human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases. Time and again, these experts find that Lomborg’s assertions and analyses are marred by flawed logic, inappropriate use of statistics and hidden value judgments. He uncritically and selectively cites literature—often not peer-reviewed—that supports his assertions, while ignoring or misinterpreting scientific evidence that does not. His consistently flawed use of scientific data is, in Peter Gleick’s words “unexpected and disturbing in a statistician”.
Grist magazine asked eight leading experts to critique the book based on their particular areas of knowledge. This critical analysis is available here:
The Danish Committee for Scientific Dishonesty also received numerous complaints regarding the accuracy of Lomborg’s first book. After investigating, they concluded:
“The publication is deemed clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice…there has been such perversion of the scientific message in the form of systematically biased representation that the objective criteria for upholding scientific dishonesty … have been met”.
Lomborg later had this overturned after appealing to the Danish Government, who was sympathetic to his message, ordered the body to review this decision.
Response to “Cool It”
Lomborg published his second major book “Cool It” in 2007, focusing on climate change. His book tour in Canada was sponsored by the right-leaning Fraser Institute.
Alanna Mitchell, the Science Reporter for the Globe and Mail wrote a review that stated:
“It would be possible to go point by point through the many similar flaws in each of Lomborg’s arguments, but frankly, the book is too pitiful to merit it. It’s not that his analysis is controversial - that would be fun - but that it is deeply dissatisfying, ignorant and shallow. I remember wondering, after I interviewed Lomborg, whether he was intellectually dishonest or just not very bright. Cool It has convinced me that it doesn’t matter. Lomborg has now proved beyond a doubt that he is incapable of contributing anything of merit to scientific discourse.”
The entire review is available here.
More recently, Dr. Frank Ackerman of Tufts University wrote a detailed and critical analysis for the peer-reviewed journal Climatic Change, outlining the many errors and biases in this book. This paper is not yet published but is available here:
In this paper, Ackerman states:
“…the book is riddled with small inaccuracies, and because it displays a pervasive bias in its coverage and evaluations of climate issues. To begin with, Lomborg has a weak grasp of some of the essential details and commits elementary mistakes, with little or no citation of sources that would explain his results.”
In 2004, Lomborg hosted the Copenhagen Consensus conference, partially funded by the Danish government. Eight economists selected by Lomborg were asked to prioritize ten global problems based on a hypothetical budget of $50 billion and a timeline of five years. Based on those constraints, the panel concluded that climate change was the least cost-effective area to invest public money.
The conference was hosted through the Danish Environmental Assessment Institute, of which Lomborg was the director. When the conference was announced, five of the seven board members resigned en mass in a dispute over the event.
Ackerman also provides a detailed rebuttal to the methodology of this conference. Again, his peer-reviewed paper is available here:
Professor John Quiggin is a Senior Research Fellow of the Australian Research Council, based at the Australian National University and Queensland University of Technology. He wrote a series of articles critical of the process, participants and perceived bias of the conference. A small sample of these are available here:
He concludes: “the Copenhagen Consensus project was created as a political stunt. It was designed, in every detail, to produce a predetermined outcome. Having got the desired outcome, the organizer has shown little or no interest in pursuing any of the other issues raised by the project.”
Jeffery Sachs was also critical of the Copenhagen Consensus conference. He wrote an analysis in the prestigious journal Nature that is available here:
Tom Burke wrote a scathing review of the Copenhagen Consensus in the Guardian, available here:
David Sassoon wrote a series of postings on Lomborg’s recent media tours to the US. They are available here:
Finally, I have been writing a series of posts to: