Bjørn Lomborg

bjorn-lomborg

Bjørn Lomborg

 Credentials

  • Ph.D., Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen (1994).
  • M.A., political science (1991).

Source: [1]

 Background

According to his website, Bjørn Lomborg is an adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School. He received his Ph. D. in Political Science at the University of Copenhagen in 1994. 

He is best known as the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and Cool It, two books on global warming. Notably, Lomborg does not have a background in climate science and has published no peer-reviewed articles in the area.

Lomborg's errors in his discussion of climate change have been well-documented by many sources. For example, here's a notable website dedicated to documenting his errors (the site also maintains a timeline documenting the events leading to Lomborg's fame, and how he is regarded among his fellow Danes).

Lomborg has recently been pioneering the controversial idea of geo-engineering to solve the issue of climate change. In one instance, Lomborg envisioned a fleet of 1900 robotic ships that will patrol the ocean while releasing spouts of ocean water to reflect the sun's rays in an attempt to reduce global warming. [2]

Geoengineering research proponent Ken Caldeira has said “the vision of Lomborg’s Climate Consensus is 'a dystopic world out of a science fiction story … Geoengineering is not an alternative to carbon emissions reductions … If emissions keep going up and up, and you use geoengineering as a way to deal with it, it's pretty clear the endgame of that process is pretty ugly'.” [3]

Stance on Climate Change

In a 2010 report in The Guardian, Lomborg acknowledged that global warming is “a challenge that humanity must confront.” Lomborg goes as far as calling for a carbon tax and a $100 billion investment in clean technologies. [4]

But Lomborg's “new” view on climate change, presented prominently in his new book Smart Solutions to Climate Change, isn't exactly new. He still argues that it would be too expensive to implement any major carbon reduction policy, and that “drastic carbon cuts would be the poorest way to respond to global warming.” [5]

At this point, Lomborg appears to be directly contradicting himself.

On December 6, 2013, three days after Lomborg wrote an op-ed for The New York Times Opinions page, The Guardian released an article entitled, “Is Bjorn Lomborg right to say fossil fuels are what poor countries need?” where Lomborg's latest solution to climate change is again to give the globe more access to cheap fossil fuels. This has developed into a term which he coined 'energy poverty.'

Lomborg, now known for his distaste for solar panel's due to their inefficiencies, which he states is “why you have to subsidize them,” simultaneously shuns renewables while ignoring the fact that fossil fuels receive tremendous subsidies. Contradicting himself, again it appears, Lomborg advocates for investments in green energy technologies, “…At the same time, wealthy Western nations must step up investments into research and development in green energy technologies to ensure that cleaner energy enentually becomes so cheap that everyone will want it.” [26] , [27]

Key Quotes

“We have to ask ourselves: what do we want to do first? Do we want to focus on cutting CO2, at fairly high costs and doing fairly little good a hundred years from now? Or would we rather want to fix some of the many obvious problems in the world, where we could do a lot more good and do it now?” [6]

February, 2014

“A new paper by Todd Moss and Ben Leo from the nonprofit think tank, Center for Global Development, puts it very clearly. If Obama spends the next $10 billion on gas electrification, he can help lift 90 million people out of poverty. If he only uses renewables, the same $10 billion can help just 20 million-27 million people. Using renewables, we will deliberately choose to leave more than 60 million people in darkness and poverty…Our development aid should be used to help 60 million more people out of poverty, not as a tool to make us feel virtuous about facile, green choices.” [25]

December, 2013

“There’s no question that burning fossil fuels is leading to a warmer climate and that addressing this problem is important. But doing so is a question of timing and priority. For many parts of the world, fossil fuels are still vital and will be for the next few decades, because they are the only means to lift people out of the smoke and darkness of energy poverty.” [27]

November 12, 2013

Lomborg hosts a TED Blog video titled, “What do global problems cost us?” as a follow up to his previous TED Talk in 2005:

9:30-10:20 “If you look at the time period from 1900 to 2050, surprisingly, for a lot of people, the net impact of most global warming was actually positive. That's because CO2 is actually fertilizer, that means it increases our agricultural production. Of course, in the long run increasing temperatures is also going to reduce agricultural production. We will also see more people die from heat, but many more people will avoid to die from cold, again with moderate global warming. We are also seeing the lower costs of heating outweigh the extra costs of cooling. So, actually, if you look at what the cost is [of global warming] it turns out to be a slight negative around 1900 at about 0.5% and across the most of the century, mostly a negative.” [28]

Key Deeds

February 8, 2014

Lomborg published an article in USA Today's Columnists' Opinions section entitled, “Lomborg: Obama energy policy hurts African poor,” where he suggests that investing in renewable energy, instead of gas, would let “millions of poor go unserved,” again referencing the recurring theme of 'energy poverty.' [25]

December 3, 2013

Lomborg publishes an op-ed in The New York Times titled, “The Poor Need Cheap Fossil Fuels,” where he advocates maintaining the status quo of “reliable, low-cost fossil fuels, at least until we can make a global transition to a greener energy future.” [27]

November 12, 2010

Lomborg appeared in the documentary film Cool It which focused on his views regarding climate policy where he suggests “that there's a well-financed effort underfoot to spin the failure of climate action into a new political strategy for high-tech mega-investments.”

Lomborg said that “independent investors” financed the film. [7]

April, 2008

David Sassoon wrote a series of postings at Solve Climate on Lomborg’s media tours to the US. They are available here:

2007

In 2007 Lomborg published his second major book skeptical about climate change titled Cool It. His book tour in Canada was sponsored by the Fraser Institute, an organization which has received $120,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998.

Alanna Mitchell, the Science Reporter for the Globe and Mail wrote a review:

“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.” [8]

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 Lomborg's book:

“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.” [9]

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 masse in a dispute over the event.

Ackerman also provides a detailed rebuttal to the methodology of this conference in his peer-reviewed paper. [9]

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. [10], [11]

He concludes that “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 in his analysis (PDF) for the prestigious journal Nature. [12]

Tom Burke similarly wrote a scathing review of the Copenhagen Consensus, titled “This is neither scepticism nor science - just nonsense” in The Guardian. [13]

2001

In 2001, Lomborg published his first major book, The Skeptical Environmentalist. In response, The Danish Ecological Council published an 225-page book titled Skeptical Questions and Sustainable Answers which documents the many errors and omissions in Lomborg's work

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. [14]

Scientific American later published their own 10-page article, written by four leading experts, that was critical of The Skeptical Environmentalist and which described Lomborg's work as “deeply flawed.” [15]

They further described Lomborg's text as having “misrepresented the actual positions of environmentalists and scientists” with an analysis that was “marred by invalidating errors that include a narrow, biased reading of the literature, an inadequate understanding of the science, and quotations taken out of context.”

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).”

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.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists also authored a highly critical analysis of Lomborg’s first book. They state: [16]

“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 also asked eight leading experts to critique the book based on their particular areas of knowledge. Their critical analysis, titled “A Skeptical Look at the Skeptical Environmentalist,” thoroughly discredits many of Lomborg's claims. [17]

 Affiliations

 Publications

Apart from the Skeptical Environmentalist and Cool It, Lomborg was also the editor of a 2010 book titled Smart Solutions to Climate Change: Comparing Costs and Benefits.

According to a search of Google Scholar, Lomborg has not published any articles in the area of climate science, although he has published numerous articles on economics.

 Resources

  1. Biography,” www.lomborg.com. Accessed January, 2012.

  2. Lomborg says armada could halt global warming,” The Copenhagen Post Online, August 7, 2009. Archived August 11, 2010.

  3. Joe Romm. “Lomborg flip-flop: 'Climate change is undoubtedly one of the chief concerns facing the world today',” Climate Progress, August 31, 2010.

  4. Juliette Jowit. “Bjørn Lomborg: $100bn a year needed to fight climate change,” The Guardian, August 30, 2010.

  5. Howard Friel. “Bjørn Lomborg's missing questions,” The Guardian, August 30, 2010.

  6. “Perspective on Climate Change” (PDF), Testimony prepared by Bjorn Lomborg for the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality joint hearing with the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment of the Committee on Science and Technology on Wednesday March 21, 2007.

  7. Robert Collier. “Bjorn Lomborg film offers new convenient truth,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 7, 2010.

  8. Allanna Mitchell. “The Pollyanna of global warming,” Globe and Mail, September 29, 2007.

  9. Frank Ackerman. “Hot, It's Not: Reflections on Cool It!, by Bjorn Lomborg” (PDF), Tufts University. Accessed January, 2012.

  10. John Quiggin. “Copenhagen: conned again,” Crooked Timber, December 13, 2004.

  11. Copenhagen review,” John Quiggin, January 21, 2005.

  12. Jeffrey D. Sachs. “Seeking a global Solution” (PDF), Nature, Vol. 430 (August 12, 2004). Archived  November 17, 2008.

  13. Tom Burke. “This is neither scepticism nor science - just nonsense,” The Guardian, October 23, 2004.

  14. THE DECISION OF THE DANISH MINISTRY OF RESEARCH ON DEC. 17TH, 2003, concerning A COMPLAINT LODGED BY BJØRN LOMBORG ON FEBRUARY 13TH, 2003,” Republished by lomborg-errors.dk.

  15. Skepticism toward The Skeptical Environmentalist,” Scientific American, April 15, 2002.

  16. The Skeptical Environmentalist,” Union of Concerned Scientists.

  17. Something Is Rotten in the State of Denmark: A skeptical look at The Skeptical Environmentalist,” Grist Magazine, December 12, 2001. Archived December 25, 2001.

  18. Heartland Experts: Mr. Bjorn Lomborg,” The Heartland Institute. Accessed January, 2012.

  19. Bjørn Lomborg: Director,” Copenhagen consensus center. Accessed January, 2012.

  20. Bjorn Lomborg,” SourceWatch Profile.

  21. ExxonSecrets Factsheet: Bjorn Lomborg.

  22. Bjørn Lomborg,” Wikipedia entry.

  23. The Skeptical Environmentalist,” Wikipedia entry.

  24. Stacy Feldman. “Why Isn't Anyone Laughing at Bjorn Lomborg?”, Solve Climate, October 26, 2007. Archived January 5, 2009.

  25. Lomborg: Obama energy policy hurts African poor,” USA Today, February 8, 2014. Archived April 7, 2014.

  26. Graham Readfearn. ”Is Bjorn Lomborg right to say fossil fuels are what poor countries need?“ The Guardian, December 6, 2013.

  27. Bjorn Lomborg. ”The Poor Need Cheap Fossil Fuels,” The New York Times The Opinion Pages, December 3, 2013.

  28. Bjorn Lomborg. “What do global problems cost us?”, TED Blog Videos, November 12, 2013. 

[x]

DIE you maggot,” reads one of the hundreds of emails from climate science deniers that have dropped into philosopher Lawrence Torcello’s inbox in recent days.

“Fortunately, your kind will be marched to the wall with all the other leftist detritus,” says another.

Others accuse Torcello, an assistant professor at Rochester Institute of Technology’s Department of...

read more