10 January 2008
Bjorn Lomborg

"Nicholas Newman interviews Bjorn Lomborg author of 'The Skeptical Environmentalist' "

By: Nicholas Newman
Dr. Bjorn Lomborg aged 42, heads the Copenhagen Consensus Centre, is adjunct professor at Copenhagen Business School Denmark, and author of the best selling books ‘The Skeptical Environmentalist’ and ‘Cool It’. Bjorn was named one of the "50 people who could save the planet" by the Guardian newspaper in 2008.

Bjorn Lomborg has been described as one of Europe’s leading scientific and political realists, who has brought courage to those that wish to discuss and debate environmental issues in a scientific rational, compassionate and logical manner.

Bjorn’s work has brought a breath of fresh air to the debate for he has challenged many of the almost dogmatic claims about global warming, overpopulation, energy resources, deforestation, species loss and water shortages using scientific methods of evidence, analysis and assessment.

It is not generally realised that Dr. Bjorn Lomborg does not dispute the existence of climate change, but questions the priority given to specific solutions, in particular, co2 emissions, put forward by the likes of the former American Vice President Al Gore. In so doing Lomborg is providing Europe’s politicians, like Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy with the public policy toolkit on which to determine government priorities to tackle the problems Europe faces.

Bjorn Lomborg - the man

Dr. Lomborg is the sceptical environmentalist, and probably the most famous Dane since the Viking Eric the Red? It is a pleasure to listen to this impressive friendly Danish academic. Bjorn looks like a professional tennis player; there is hardly a trace of his Danish heritage in his bubbling Californian accent. Of his friends Bjorn says: ‘they are always happy to share a pizza and play with my X-box.’

Global Warming is not our first priority

‘Gore’s film ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ makes three points; global warming is real, it will be catastrophic and addressing it should be our first priority. Inconveniently for the film’s producers, however, only the first statement is correct.’ Bjorn says.
Not only does Lomborg question the solutions put forward to deal with the problems involved but is also sceptical of the often simplistic correlations made between physical phenomena and the degree of effect of such phenomena.

To take one example the recent flooding in Prague and Dresden are simplistically often attributed to global warming, though other scientific hydrological studies of historical records, tend rather to indicate that these events are well within normal parameters.

Another example is where the doomsday scenario predicts that the sea level rise consequent on climate change will mean that the Netherlands will be submerged under 6.5 metres of water. Such exaggeration, Lomborg points out, is not backed by IPCC (UN Climate Change Committee) research. In fact, they expect a more manageable 38.5cm, which means cities like Amsterdam and London will easily be able to improve their flood defences.

As for Possible Solution?

"Seems actions speak louder than words?"

Turning to possible solutions for dealing with the effects of climate change, Lomborg argues that rather than concentrating almost solely on reductions in CO2 emissions, attention should rather be given to what might be called social/political alternatives. It would be more effective if we spent our scarce resources on human happiness (which, after all, should be the point of environmentalism), such as poverty alleviation, anti-malarial programs, and similar measures.

For example, anticipated costs of €1 trillion to reduce carbon emissions sufficiently to have a global effect, might be more efficiently applied to the prevention and treatment of HIV/Aids, the elimination of malaria and the provision of clean drinking water to the world’s poor?

In other words attention should be given to a cost benefit analysis approach, which would have more certain results in both the short and long term.
What Bjorn Lomborg has achieved is to provide Europe’s decision makers with a set of policies, including increased spending on research and development, in particular nuclear power, on which to base informed rational decisions. Such policies Dr. Lomborg suggests, will not only be more cost effective, but provide greater economic development opportunities than Gore’s policies which are likely to significantly limit future opportunities to deal with future problems.

Perhaps this explains why the Kyoto Protocol has not been fully implemented and adopted by the world’s nations and as Bjorn observed about the recent IPCC conference in Bali in December 2007: ‘that little concrete progress had been accomplished, despite the theatrics. In fact since 1995 little has been achieved.’
Finally, perhaps the greatest irony is that whilst the EU enthuses over the Kyoto Protocol in contrast to the US hostility the reality is, Lomborg observes is that: ‘since 1990 the growth in EU’s emissions have tended to increase ahead of the US.’

Seems actions speak louder than words?

Dr. Bjorn Lomborg http://www.lomborg.com/
Bjorn Lomborg : video talk on ‘Our priorities for saving the world’ http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/62
Copenhagen Consensus Centre http://www.copenhagenconsensus.com/
IPCC - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change http://www.ipcc.ch/
Eric The Red http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erik_the_Red
Guardian Newspaper http://www.guardian.co.uk
Al Gore http://www.algore.com/

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