Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sense Amid the Fear-mongering

Every since I heard Bjørn Lomborg interviewed on the radio for his new book, Cool It, I've wanted to check it out. From the review by author Michael Crichton:

Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming will further enhance Lomborg’s reputation for global analysis and thoughtful response. For anyone who wants an overview of the global warming debate from an objective source, this brief text is a perfect place to start. Lomborg is only interested in real problems, and he has no patience with media fear-mongering; he begins by dispatching the myth of the endangered polar bears, showing that this Disneyesque cartoon has no relevance to the real world where polar bear populations are in fact increasing. Lomborg considers the issue in detail, citing sources from Al Gore to the World Wildlife Fund, then demonstrating that polar bear populations have actually increased five fold since the 1960s.

Lomborg then works his way through the concerns we hear so much about: higher temperatures, heat deaths, species extinctions, the cost of cutting carbon, the technology to do it. Lomborg believes firmly in climate change--despite his critics, he's no denier--but his fact-based approach, grounded in economic analyses, leads him again and again to a different view. He reviews published estimates of the cost of climate change, and the cost of addressing it, and concludes that "we actually end up paying more for a partial solution than the cost of the entire problem. That is a bad deal."

In some of the most disturbing chapters, Lomborg recounts what leading climate figures have said about anyone who questions the orthodoxy, thus demonstrating the illiberal, antidemocratic tone of the current debate. Lomborg himself takes the larger view, explaining in detail why the tone of hysteria is inappropriate to addressing the problems we face.

In the interview, which was on Prager's show, he showed himself to be sensible and uninterested in the standard utopianist screeds about who's to blame. Basically he 1) firmly believes that global climate change presents a problem, 2) believes that it is to a great extent caused by human activity and 3) looking at reality, concludes current proposals to address it are wrongheaded. So he separates the facts from the fear-mongering. He gets attacked, of course, for not partaking of the envirofreak koolaid. But he's on Time's influential 100 list, and his detractors are probably out smoking homegrown and griping. This made me laugh:

Lomborg was not the first to say these things, but he hit a nerve. Environmentalists reacted to him in the way that corporate public relations departments had learned not to react to them: by fanning the flames with intemperate attacks. He was vilified in Scientific American magazine. He was found guilty of "scientific dishonesty" by a national committee of Danish scientists (the verdict was later overturned by the academy). With each attack, sales of his book boomed. And try as they might, the critics could not paint this mild-mannered, bicycle-riding, leftish vegetarian as a corporate apologist.

So he's smart, healthy, and these dweebs helped him get rich -- good for him. I'll bet he rides a really nice bike.

As an example of his practical, big-picture view from his radio interview, he agreed that global warming will be a boon to the Anopheles Mosquito, ergo more cases of malaria for those in prone areas. But he points out that in regards to human victims of the disease, poverty will still be a much greater indicator for fatalities than temperature and climate. So resources committed to forcing nations to comply with greenhouse gas emissions standards would be better spent in providing nets and medicines to those potential victims.

But this argument probably only appeals to me because I'm a human who is more interested in helping other, especially poorer, humans than in sticking it to richer humans. If any non-humans, sub-humans, space aliens, human-animal hybrids, envirodorks or anopheles mosquitoes would like to comment, please do so.


  1. Well you must be as thrilled (not) as I am about the Nobel Peace Prize announcement.

    BTW, I LOVE the title of your blog. Thanks to Barb the evil genius, you have a new fan.

  2. I was talking with one of the people who run our parish school's science fair the other day. She mentioned two ways for a child to be sure to do well at the county science fair (the county being Montgomery County, Maryland): do a project on global warming (on the pro-dire side, of course), because that's the topic that's been winning the awards; and use statistics to support your conclusion, because no one does.

    We didn't, at the time, consider whether the two were related.

  3. Cherry-picked evidence and qualitative research has epitomized the enviro-dork global warming narrative. Along with knee-jerk reactions, e.g., attacking Lomborg like he was Limbaugh.