In The Skeptical Environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg challenges widely held beliefs that the global environment is progressively getting worse. Using statistical. So the world isn’t doomed after all? Chris Lavers is himself sceptical about Bjørn Lomborg’s The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the. Bjorn Lomborg is a Danish author and political scientist, and President of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre. He’s best known for his
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Measuring the Real State of the World Danish: Verdens sande tilstandliteral translation: It was first published in Danish inwhile the English edition was published as a work in environmental economics by Cambridge University Press in Due to the scope of the project, comprising the range of topics addressed, the diversity of data and sources employed, and the many types of conclusions and comments advanced, The Skeptical Environmentalist does not fit easily into a particular scientific discipline or methodology.
Although published by the social sciences division of Cambridge University Press, the findings and conclusions were widely challenged on the basis of natural science. This interpretation of The Skeptical Environmentalist as a work of environmental science generated much of the controversy and debate that surrounded the book.
Some critics [ 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. 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.
The Skeptical Environmentalist by Bjørn Lomborg
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 Wiredbut 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. 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.
Much of Lomborg’s examination of his Litany is based on statistical data analysis, therefore his work may be considered a work of that nature.
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.
In arriving at the final work, Lomborg has used a similar approach in each of his work’s main areas and subtopics. 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.
The Skeptical Environmentalist’ s subtitle refers to the State of the World report, published annually since by the Worldwatch Institute. 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. Envirlnmentalist establishing its arguments, The Skeptical Environmentalist examined a wide range of issues in the general area of environmental studies, including environmental economics and lomboorg, and came to an equally broad set of conclusions and recommendations.
Lomborg’s work directly challenged popular examples of green concerns by interpreting data from some 3, assembled sources. The author suggested that environmentalists diverted potentially beneficial resources to less deserving environmental issues in ways that were economically damaging.
Much of the book’s methodology and integrity have been subject to criticism which argue that Lomborg distorted the fields of research he covers. Support for the book was staunch as well. He cites accepted environmenralist sources, like the United States government, United Nations agencies and others, preferring lomvorg long-term data over regional and short-term statistics. Lomborg’s main argument is that the vast majority of environmental problems—such as pollution, water shortages, deforestation, and species loss, as well as population growth, hunger, and AIDS—are area-specific and highly skepticql with poverty.
Therefore, challenges environmentalidt 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 skepticxl fossil fuels and global warming, Lomborg argues that these issues are often overstated and that recommended policies are often inappropriate if assessed against alternatives.
Lomborg analyzes three major themes: He dismisses Thomas Malthus ‘ theory that increases in skeeptical world’s population lead to widespread hunger. On the contrary, Lomborg claims that food is widespread, and humanity’s daily intake of calories is increasing, and will continue to rise until hunger’s eradication, thanks to technological improvements in agriculture. However, Lomborg notes that Africa in particular still produces too little sustenance, an environmetalist he attributes to the continent’s dismal economic and political systems.
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. In this section, Lomborg looks soeptical the world’s natural resources and draws a conclusion that contrasts starkly to that of the well known report The Limits to Growth.
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.
As a partial solution, Lomborg presents fish farms, which s,eptical a less disruptive impact on the world’s oceans. Next, Lomborg looks at forests. Lomborg points out that in developing countriesdeforestation 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 skfptical 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. 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 envuronmentalist would provide the greatest health benefits and save the largest number of lives per amount of money spentcontinuing an already decades-long improvement in air quality in most developed countries.
Concerning water pollutionLomborg 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. In this last section, Lomborg puts forward his main assertion: As an example, Lomborg cites worries about pesticides and their link to environmentlaist.
He argues that such concerns are vastly exaggerated in the public perception, as alcohol envirknmentalist coffee are the foods that create by far the greatest risk of cancer, as opposed to vegetables that have been sprayed with pesticides. Furthermore, envkronmentalist 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 biodiversityproposing that 0.
While Lomborg admits that extinctions are ths problem, he asserts that they are not the catastrophe claimed by some, and have little effect on human prosperity. Lomborg’s most contentious assertion, however, involves global warming. From the outset, Gjorn “accepts the reality of lombrg global warming” though he refers bjoorn 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 environmentalost 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 taxare the least cost-efficient of its proposals. 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. 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. 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 magazine then refused Lomborg’s request to print a lengthy point-by-point rebuttal in his own defence, on the grounds that the 32 pages would have taken a disproportionate share of the month’s installment. Scientific American allowed Lomborg a one-page defense in the May edition,  and then attempted to remove Lomborg’s publication of his complete response online, citing a copyright violation.
The “separately written expert reviews” further detail the various expert opinions. Peter Gleick ‘s assessment, for example, states: Jerry Mahlman ‘s appraisal of the chapter he was asked to evaluate, states:. David Pimentelwho was repeatedly criticized in the book, also wrote a critical review. One critical article, “The Skeptical Environmentalist: A Case Study in the Manufacture of News”,  attributes this media success to its initial, influential supporters:.
You’ve never had it so good
The media was criticized for the biased selection of reviewers and not informing readers of reviewers’ background. Bell, writing for Worldwatch noted that the Wall Street Journal, “instead of seeking scientists with a critical perspective,” like many publications “put out reviews by people who were closely associated with Lomborg”, with the Journal soliciting a review from the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Ronald Bailey, someone “who had earlier written a book called The True State of the World, from which much of Lomborg’s claims were taken.
It was hardly surprising that Dutton anointed Lomborg’s book as ‘the most significant work on the environment since the appearance of its polar opposite, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, in It’s a magnificent achievement. Some critics of The Skeptical Environmentalist took issue not with the statistical investigation of Lomborg’s Litany, but with the suggestions and conclusions for which they were the foundation.
This line of criticism considered the book as a contribution to the policy debate over environment rather than the work of natural science.
Skepticism toward The Skeptical Environmentalist – Scientific American
Kirby’s first concern was not with the extensive research and statistical analysis, but the conclusions drawn from them:. On September 5,at a Lomborg book reading in England, British environmentalist author Mark Lynas threw a cream pie in Lomborg’s face. The December 12, issue of Grist devoted an issue to The Skeptical Environmentalist with a series of essays from various scientists challenging individual sections.
A separate article examining the book’s overall approach took issue with the framing of Lomborg’s conclusions:.