10 January 2008
"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
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
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
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
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
Seems actions speak louder than words?
Dr. Bjorn Lomborg http://www.lomborg.com/
Bjorn Lomborg : video talk on ‘Our priorities for saving the
Copenhagen Consensus Centre
IPCC - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Eric The Red http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erik_the_Red
Guardian Newspaper http://www.guardian.co.uk
Al Gore http://www.algore.com/