December 3, 2009

Scared Silly Over Climate Change


I have been revisiting writers focused on climate change, and thought again of Bjoern Lomborg the “climate skeptic.”.
He’s a Danish statistician and the author of the books The Skeptical Environmentalist and most recently Cool It. Environmentalists tend to hate him, although I read Cool It and he has many valid positions on misspent money and hysterical priorities that  are wobbled far off-balance.

When you read his FAQ, you see some sensible opinions:

Lomborg finds that the smartest way to tackle global warming is to invest heavily in R&D in non-carbon emitting technologies, which will enable everyone to switch over to cheaper-than-fossil-fuel technologies sooner and thus dramatically reduce the 21st century emissions. Specifically, he suggests a ten-fold increase in R&D in non-CO2 -emitting energy technologies like solar, wind, carbon capture, fusion, fission, energy conservation etc…. This is entirely in line with the top recommendation from the Copenhagen Consensus 2008, which includes some of the word’s top economists and five Nobel Laureates.

That said, I looked today at his recent news on his web site, and I DO see a reason to find him dangerous:  his recent writing includes an anecdotal series of portrayals of African and Indian poor whose pressing issues are disease, poverty, hunger. These articles – which have been published in the last 6 months in the Wall Street Journal  de-emphasize the urgency of addressing climate change, and tacitly fuel financiers, policy-makers and the public who tend to agree (ironically) with the impoverished subjects of Lomborg’s reports: that climate change is an abstraction, its harms are so far down the line both in terms of time and in terms of consideration.

But some of his complicating the media perceptions is very productive. Like this essay of his from June 2009 The Guardian, entitled Scared Silly Over Climate Change:

Exaggeration also wears out the public’s willingness to tackle global warming. If the planet is doomed, people wonder, why do anything? A record 54% of American voters now believe the news media make global warming appear worse than it really is. A majority of people now believe – incorrectly – that global warming is not even caused by humans. In the United Kingdom, 40% believe that global warming is exaggerated and 60% doubt that it is man-made.

But the worst cost of exaggeration, I believe, is the unnecessary alarm that it causes – particularly among children. Recently, I discussed climate change with a group of Danish teenagers. One of them worried that global warming would cause the planet to “explode” – and all the others had similar fears.

His detractors are vocal!
Here’s one site, Lomborg’s Errors