Lomborg Still Peddling Confusion

Fri, 2007-08-31 11:34Richard Littlemore
Richard Littlemore's picture

Lomborg Still Peddling Confusion

“Skeptical Environmentalist” Bjorn Lomborg is back with a new book, Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming, another attempt to distract people from the issue by burying it in a confusing and irrelevant economic trap.

Lomborg argues that climate change is happening and that the consequences may ultimately be dire, but says, “It's just not in the nature of the political process to say we're going to do something now to solve a problem later on. So instead of saying, 'Let's do something that feels good right now,' let's try and think of what we could do that will do good now.” He then suggests that we throw a little money to climate change research but spend most of our (zero-sum?) resources at other problems, like AIDS and malaria.

This, as with so much of what Lombog says, sounds reasonable as he says it, but is entirely silly when you sit down and think about it. First of all, it's entirely in the nature of the political process to hire firefighters, even at a time when no homes are burning. There is no reason to abandon long-term risk analysis and planning just because (some) political processes and practitioners are short-sighted.

Second, while it makes perfect sense to address AIDS, malaria AND climate change, it's also worth remembering that two of these three threats can be avoided (by practicing safe sex or lathering up with DEET and staying indoors on hot tropical evenings). Climate change, on the other hand, is lurking in all of our futures with consequences that will be unavoidable and potentially devastating for the entire planet. Lomborg's happy list of potential “benefits” is - like everything else he writes - a distraction based on wishful thinking rather than research.

This Salon.com interview gives Lomborg every opportunity to make his points while at the same time subjecting him to logical scrutiny. The darling of the Climate Change Confusion movement doesn't stand up very well.

Previous Comments

Lomborg has been accused of blithely arguing that there is no problem with climate change. Such arguments are, of course, absurd. Equally absurd are yours, arguing that it is simple to avoid AIDS and malaria. In fact, these comments are more than absurd they are reckless and grossly ignorant. Kindly recall that nearly everyone who dies of those diseases is living in something approaching abject poverty. So, just who the hell is really supposed to be on the receiving end of your disgraceful advice to the average sub-Saharan African (who does NOT read your blog) that they just stay inside their nicely built house on those tropical evenings of theirs so they can enjoy their comfortable, middle class, safe sex?

Get a clue or get out of this part of the debate.

JTK

I apologize for the apparent blitheness of my commentary on AIDS and malaria - what you call my “disgraceful advice to the average sub-Saharan African.” I was speaking, perhaps thoughtlessly, to the people who DO read this blog - and our  traffic from sub-Saharan Africa is as yet undeveloped.

Having nearly died from malaria the last time I was in Africa, I agree - very personally - that we should be doing a great deal more about it. I also support the international effort to tackle AIDS, though the tactics currently in use in Africa are debatable, to say the least. But I also know people who argue that all the money currently being directed to AIDS in Africa is being misspent; they would prefer that the cash go to educating women and providing clean water.

My point, though, is that while we argue over which threat our governments should be addressing, those governments retire to the parlour and get on with doing nothing on a whole host of issues. When Lomborg says that spending money on climate change is a waste, George Bush doesn’t run off and increase the U.S. budget for anti-malarial research, he takes it as rationale to ignore or play down what I believe is the most pressing global environmental concern that humankind currently faces.

Fairly said! And you’re quite right about this not being a zero sum game. At least, it had better not be!

JTK

Also at Salon is this fairly damning review of Cool It -
http://www.salon.com/books/review/2007/08/29/cool_it/index.html
( preview.tinyurl.com/yqopcm )

from the review:
=================
The glaring error in “Cool It,” and the one that disqualifies the book from making a serious contribution, is that Lomborg ignores the main concern driving the debate. Incredibly, he never mentions even the possibility that the world might heat up more than 4.7 degrees. Although he claims IPCC science as gospel, in fact the scientific body gives no single “standard” estimate as its official forecast for this century’s warming. Instead, the IPCC provides a range of up to 10.5 degrees – more than double the number on which Lomborg bases his entire argument.

The global warming “alarmism” that Lomborg finds so distasteful is motivated by a serious, science-driven concern that hidden within our global climate system are powerful positive feedback loops. So that as we inch up from 3 to 4 and then 4 to 5 degrees of warming, we may very well cross some temperature threshold that would trigger a couple of degrees of further warming, causing a catastrophic upward spiral in global temperatures.
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Feedback from this commenter to the blogger: use of loaded words like “pointless”, “lame”, and “silly” detract from the credibility of one’s argument. “Show, don’t tell” is good advice.

Thx.

If “silly” can be applied at all, it would be regarding Lomborg’s arguments.

[x]

No doubt a few eyebrows were raised and possibly some palms smashed against faces earlier this year when the richest person on the planet came out in qualified support of policies to burn massive amounts of coal in the developing world.

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