Bjorn Lomborg Bibliography

Fri, 2008-05-02 11:12Mitchell Anderson
Mitchell Anderson's picture

Bjorn Lomborg Bibliography

Bjorn Lomborg, the “Skeptical Environmentalist ” will go into high media rotation later this month with a sequel to his Copenhagen Consensus 2004 conference.

Hopefully this post will provide a resource for those curious about accuracy of his work, and the legitimacy of his conclusions.

Background
Danish biologist Kare Fog created a comprehensive website critical of Lomborg that is found here:

http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/

He also produced this excellent timeline documenting the events leading to Lomborg’s fame, and how he is regarded among his fellow Danes.

http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/lomborgstory.htm

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:

http://www.ecocouncil.dk/download/sceptical.pdf

Scientific American published a 10-page article by four leading experts that was critical of “The Skeptical Environmentalist”. It is available here:

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=skepticism-toward-the-ske

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:

http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science/ucs-examines-the-skeptical-environmentalist.html

They stated:

“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:

http://www.grist.org/advice/books/2001/12/12/of/

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.

http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/lomborgstory14.htm 

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:

http://www.ase.tufts.edu/gdae/Pubs/rp/Ackerman_CoolIt.pdf

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.”

Copenhagen Consensus
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.

http://www.cphpost.dk/get/73665.html

Ackerman also provides a detailed rebuttal to the methodology of this conference. Again, his peer-reviewed paper is available here:

http://www.ase.tufts.edu/gdae/Pubs/rp/Ackerman_CoolIt.pdf

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:

http://crookedtimber.org/2004/12/13/copenhagen-conned-again

http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2005/01/21/copenhagen-review/#more-2157

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:

http://www.earthinstitute.columbia.edu/sitefiles/File/about/director/documents/nature081204.pdf

Tom Burke wrote a scathing review of the Copenhagen Consensus in the Guardian, available here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2004/oct/23/environment.science

Recent Activities
David Sassoon wrote a series of postings on Lomborg’s recent media tours to the US. They are available here:

Global Warming’s Danish Denialist Coming to America: Part 1

Global Warming’s Danish Denialist Coming to America: Part 2

Global Warming’s Danish Denialist Coming to America: Part 3

Bjorn Lomborg Delivers Nihilist Message at Manhattan Institute Climate Talk

Why Isn’t Anyone Laughing at Bjorn Lomborg?

Finally, I have been writing a series of posts to:

http://www.copenhagenconsensus2008.com

This is a start. More to come in the near future.

Comments

thanks very much for pulling everything together in one place.

You guys have already done the character assassination thingy on Lomborg half a dozen times. How about something new like mocking the clothes he wears?

too easy to mock... and, furthermore, rather beside the point... no?

nevertheless, Paul S., if you would like to provide fashion defense on behalf of Bjorn, please do... it can't possibly be less effective than your commentary elsewhere on this blog...

"... it can't possibly be less effective than your commentary elsewhere on this blog..."

Ocuh! You got me with that zinger TIDAL. ;P

"Lomborg later had this overturned after the Danish Government, who was sympathetic to his message, ordered the body to review this decision."

Mitchell, at least try to describe this incident honestly and not whitewash it in the warmers favor.

The Danish Committee for Scientific Dishonesty got spanked by Denmark's Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. Denmark's Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation found the DCSD's claims to be invalid.

As the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation said:

"the DCSD has not documented where [Dr Lomborg] has allegedly been biased in his choice of data and in his argumentation, and ... the ruling is completely void of argumentation for why the DCSD find that the complainants are right in their criticisms of [his] working methods. It is not sufficient that the criticisms of a researcher's working methods exist; the DCSD must consider the criticisms and take a position on whether or not the criticisms are justified, and why."

The DCSD came out of this incident bruised far more then Lombory did.

What actually happened was that the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty acquitted Lomborg for scientific dishonesty, because it could not be shown that Lomborg had the competence needed to be dishonest about the subject - his work might be the result of sheer incompetence.

When the ministry remitted the decision for re-examination, the committees didn't re-open the case, since they had acquitted Lomborg in the first place.

And contrary to what you seem to believe, the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty are quite respected in Denmark, with a number of companies (including the pharmaceutical sector) putting themselves under their jurisdiction voluntarily.

And when will your (cough-cough) committee investigate the IPCC?

If the IPCC operated under the jurisdiction of the committees (note the plural), then it might be relevant, except that someone would have to make a plausible claim of scientific dishonesty that they could investigate. Given the fact that the IPCC report presents the scientific consensus of the relevant scientific fields, that's hardly the case.

Kristjan Wager,
You say "the fact that the IPCC report presents the scientific consensus of the relevant scientific fields, that's hardly the case". What "consensus" would that be precisely?
Al Gore claims about the IPCC as some happy bunch of 2,500 scientists which is bloody dishonest. Only 54 signed the 2007 Report on attribution of climate change due to man! Many IPCC scientists have publicly stated the Report authors are making dishonest claims not substantiated by their science and are politically influenced.
You say "someone would have to make a plausible claim of scientific dishonesty that they could investigate". Here's a quick list for starters;
1. The Mann Hockey Stick
2. Sea level rise is due to temperature change
3. All IPCC temperature/CO2 models 1998 to 2004 are rubbish
4. CO2 drives temperature
Even the IPCC's vice chairman claims the IPCC "have made many mistakes". Bless them!

That is a warped interpretation of reality, Kristjan.

Lomborg was acquitted because the DCSD's conclusions were annulled and because the charges were invalid.

You have scrubbed the story clean of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation's powerful criticisms of the the DCSD, which by the way, is subservient to the MSTI.

Kristjan misrepresentation of the facts deserves a further comment.

"What actually happened was that the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty acquitted Lomborg for scientific dishonesty . . ."

Wrong, wrong, wrong and I believe you know that. The DCSD's decisions was annulled by the MST with the MSTI being more authoratative then the DCSD. That means the DCSD's charges never happened.

"When the ministry remitted the decision for re-examination, the committees didn't re-open the case, since they had acquitted Lomborg in the first place."

The original charges were annulled. That means in legal terms, there never were any charges. There was no case to re-open, the DCSD had to start from scratch.The DCSD didn't acquit Lomborg, it was the MSTI which found the DCSD's charges to be invalid and annulled them.

At this point, the chastened DCSD decided to drop the matter like a hot potato out of fear of further humiliation.

"And contrary to what you seem to believe, the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty are quite respected in Denmark . . ."

And drunk drivers are often solid members of their community. What's your point? Your comment is completely irrelevant to the issue at hand.

You have provided no citation and no evidence. And since we already know you are a liar, Paul S...

"What actually happened was that the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty acquitted Lomborg for scientific dishonesty, because it could not be shown that Lomborg had the competence needed to be dishonest about the subject - his work might be the result of sheer incompetence."

What utter mealy-mouthed crap.

Even if true, which it isn't, don't you find it slightly odd that the committee, in all its wisdom, concluded Lomborg was "incompetent" only after they had been rebuked? Now how incompetent is that?!

No, clearly what actually happened was that your committee's attempt at an inquisitorial smear campaign backfired right in their faces, and they got called out on it. Then, preposterously, they tried to cover their own asses with the totally lame excuse you referred to.

They most certainly didn't attempt to censor Lomborg for "dishonesty" -- as they gave not one single example (they relied almost completely on the Scientific American editorial campaign against Lomborg). No, they tried to censor Lomborg because he argued against your orthodoxy, and nothing more.

"When the ministry remitted the decision for re-examination, the committees didn't re-open the case, since they had acquitted Lomborg in the first place."

Yes, a nice procedural trick to get out of apologising.

"And contrary to what you seem to believe, the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty are quite respected in Denmark"

And the Inquisition was much "respected" among Catholics, back in its day, too. Your committee are nothing but contemptible bufoons. If they actually were respected in Denmark, then I'd have to conclude Denmark has some pretty serious problems.

political advocate, although I can find:
a) no evidence of him being an environmentalist [that he says he gave money to Greenpeace is not strong evidence; serious environmentalists I know actually *do* things and fund things.] If someone has real evidence...

b)and very little that he might actually be a real statistician. Wikipedia comments on this, but I'd say it stronger: *real* statisticians talk about distributions, standard deviations, correlations, error bars, significance, time-series, etc, etc, i.e., a lot more than just selecting data and making graphs.

However, he is a master of misdirection-style political arguments.

(Note: in the following, neither left nor Right nor Libertarian are to be considered pejoratives. I'm just using the normal labels.]

STRAIGHTFORWARD ARGUMENTS
Some people argue directly for what they want (or against what they don't want). If someone spends half their time in Bangladesh working on water issues, and gives a talk with numerous pictures of conditions there, and begs for more funding, I believe they really want more funding to do their work.

When CEI, or AEI, or Cato says they don't want regulation, I believe they mean it. That's a straightforward argument, and reasonable people can have discussions about which regulation and how much.

MISDIRECTION ARGUMENTS (maybe there is a better name)

Of course, quite often a misdirection argument is used where there is a clear goal, but the argument to achieve it masquerades as something else. Often:

- scientific evidence builds up that shows X is harmfuil

Then, someone attacks the science, tries to create controversy, doubt, not with the idea of improving the science, but usually with goals like:

"Regulation of me will cost me money, so cannot be allowed."
(specific economic motivation) OR

"Government regulation is generally bad." (general viewpoint)

Since the first is a hard sell, it often masquerades as the second (to attract broader support) and then further masquerades as a scientific argument.

Ex: The classic case is the cigarette war, but CFCs, acid rain, global warming, and many others fit. Cigarette companies did their best to fend of science, and as that failed, often campaigned as "your right to decide". "We make money from cigarettes so we don't want them regulated" is not particularly popular.
See Allan Brandt's fine history "Cigarette Century".

Ex: Fred Singer's first book claimed there was little or no warming, that satellites were right and groundstations were wrong ...
but the bottom line only appeared as a few words at the end: DO NOT REGULATE CO2.

His second book (with Dennis Avery), a few years later was "Unstoppable Global Warming- Every 1500 years", i.e., it was real, discovering a magical new cycle, but since one could do nothing about it "Do not regulate CO2", i.e., the underlying goal didn't change, even though the rest did.

This kind of argument is designed to:
a) Confuse people who are just learning the science.
b) Give those who support the real goal ammunition and comfort.

Science-confusion arguments eventually get run over by science ...
BUT Lomborg is far more sophisticated:

LOMBORG
Read: http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/lomborgstory2.htm
TSE began with a quote from Julian Simon, among other things a Senior Fellow at the CATO Institute, i.e., straightforwardly libertarian. His book "The Ultimate Resource 2" is a classic "cornucopian" book:
"every trend in material human welfare has been improving - and promises to do so, indefinitely."

TSE covers similar material, with a similar worldview ... which tends *not* to like anything that might imply any government regulation, and also tends not particularly to like international efforts.

In both cases, the *underlying* goal appeals to the right side of the political spectrum in developed countries:

* "No regulations are needed or desirable, and there should be no concern about any resource exhaustion of any sort, so we (rich world) can continue as is."

Both cases often attack the exaggerations of (often) the furthest left, ignoring science or cherry-picking.

CLEVERNESS OF LOMBORG in COOL IT! & COPENHAGEN CONSENSUS

The tactics are quite clever, because:

a) All of the discussion about helping poor countries is designed to conflict people by setting up doubly-false dichotomies. I say doubly-false, because:
- Water versus climate change is obviously a false dichotomy.
- But, it's a double-false, because it tries to create a prioritization, where in fact, developed societies are *not* going to devote all their resources to helping developing countries, but if people are convinced that water is more important than climate, but won't fund water, they certainly won't get to climate. [This is like where you have a priority list, but the clear #1 is something you really don't want to do, and then you keep find excuses to do nothing, because if you did anything, it would be #1, and you don't want to.]

This seems targeted to conflict political left-of-center folks, and in some cases, attract support from people who actually spend time and/or money supporting assistance for developing countries ... even though the bottom line is not to do anything.

b) The discussions about careful analysis and prioritization are designed to appeal to the large number of people who quite reasonably think those are good things. This is political center more than anything else, and the blizzard of references makes it seem credible, unless one takes a lot of time to check things carefully. Likewise, whacking obvious exaggerations appeals to this group. Hence, it is good to attack "The Day After Tomorrow"...

c) Of course, just as in Singer's case, but better obscured is:
* "No regulations are needed or desirable, and there should be no concern about any resource exhaustion of any sort, so we (rich world) can continue as is ... and don't regulate CO2."

Anyway, regardless of what else goes on, the bottom line is still the same, and the whole idea is to keep it that way, with arguments that clearly appeal to c), but with arguments to conflict a) and paralyze b).

Consider: if developed economies restricted fossil fuels, as Peak Oil& gas happens, developing countries might even be able to afford some, but as it is, that's increasingly unlikely. I have been unable to find any evidence that Lomborg spends much time "out there" or actually *does* anything to actually fund such efforts in any significant way. I've looked, but just don't find any. I'd love to hear of any such.

Anyway, I think Lomborg is very, very clever as a political advocate for a specific ideological/economic viewpoint, but with clever distractions and masquerades for everybody.

"c) Of course, just as in Singer's case, but better obscured is:
* "No regulations are needed or desirable, and there should be no concern about any resource exhaustion of any sort, so we (rich world) can continue as is ... and don't regulate CO2."

This is one of those...he said what ? when ?

John Mashey,
I don't suppose your claim for Lomborg as a "very, very clever political advocate for a specific ideological/economic viewpoint, but with clever distractions and masquerades for everybody" could be applied to the IPCC?
The fact that the IPCC blames CO2 as Earths temperature driver when it doesn't even understand the CO2 Solubility Pump (the major driver of Earths atmospheric CO2 levels) and hasn't included it in any Report, 1998 to 2004, isn't a slightly disturbing omission in understanding the gas cycle?
Have you ever tried to run a car when you don't know how to fuel it?
And the IPCC whilst pretending to be scientific is riddled with political influence which only the most blinkered and biased of alarmists could attempt to deny.
When it comes to politics masquerading as science the IPCC deserves another Nobel from the Clowns Institute.

Doesn't the CO2 solubility pump refer to CO2 in the oceans? What's your reference for it affecting the atmosphere?

johnnyb:

Usually, I'd just say:
IUOUI: Ignore Unsupported Opinions of Unidentifiable Individuals (since such opinions are usually worthless at best), but just this once:

1) CO2 Solubility Pump is one term (of various alternatives) that refer to the same thing; IPCC understands it perfectly well and has for a long time. In my paper copies (but you can look them up on the web):

TAR:
Section 3 "The Carbon Cycle and Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide" is pp 184-237, and at least a third of it is about this topic, in gory detail, but they usually employ more specific technical terminology, which you perhaps were unable to recognize.

AR4: Section 5.4, p 403-408, and section 7.3.4, pp 528-533.
On p.530 in 7.10 is a nice "simplified" chart for beginners, about "Three ocean carbon pumps", including a "solution pump" (or solubility pump), an "organic carbon pump", and a "CaCO3 Counter Pump".

2) You might want to look up Dunning-Kruger Effect, as I believe you have a serious case of it. Fortunately, it is easily curable if you so wish. For suggestions, you might want to go read #84 in:

http://tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03/06/global-warming-payola/#comments

Which I won't repeat here, except to quote one piece:
"Just because someone is a Nobel physicist, or President of Stanford, or ex-Chairman of Shell … doesn’t make them always right, but only someone truly brilliant … or arrogantly stupid … ignores what they say." and my post points at what *they* say.