Bjorn Lomborg Says Ignore Climate Emergency Bluster, Switch To Effective Policies To Fight Global Warming: Book Review
“Climate change is a problem, but the projections of Earth’s imminent demise are based on bad science and even worse economics”
Bjorn Lomborg, bane of global warming activists, says fear of a climate emergency has been whipped up by an irresponsible media, grandstanding politicians and radical extremists and this threatens an effective fight to solve the problems posed by global warming.
Job one should be a global carbon-tax, Lomborg says.
Lomborg’s attacks on accepted climate change policy have made him a controversial figure, and his new book sparked scathing reaction. Lomborg has made clear he believes the planet is warming because of human activity, so extremists can’t label him a “denier”. Instead they have used the oldest trick in the book by suggesting there are “mistakes” in his data. He has always shot down these accusations, but often the original criticism sticks, from those who fear the shaky policy conventional wisdom will whither away if light is shone on it.
For almost 20 years, Lomborg has irritated more impatient environmentalists with his contention that there are plusses as well as minuses to a warming planet. Agricultural yields in currently cold areas would outweigh losses in hotter areas. More lives will be saved from rising temperatures because cold is a bigger global killer. Damage from severe weather is more because of building in vulnerable areas, than any increase in bad weather. Rising sea levels can be thwarted by intelligent investment, citing progress in places like Bangladesh. He has also made enemies by insisting that man-made global warming can be beaten by long term investments in technology, rather than more urgent, disruptive action to eliminate carbon dioxide (CO2).
He says the accepted approach, following the Paris Accord of 2015, will waste huge amounts of money and change the climate only in a barely perceptible way.
Economist Lomborg’s new book “False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor and Fails to Fix the Planet,” (Hachette Book Group Inc $30), says a smart carbon tax should be the first priority in defeating the impact of man-made climate change. Long term investment in new technology is required to gradually wean the world away from fossil fuels. Intelligent adaption to new circumstances by people is required, while geo-engineering might be a useful emergency measure if the warming accelerates. Any precipitate ending of fossil fuel use will destroy living standards and jeopardize great strides made in health and education, while condemning third word citizens to endless poverty.
Lomborg is president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
Lomborg says many of the global warming problems cited as existential threats are nothing of the kind. Data shows landfalling hurricanes in the U.S. are not more frequent than in the past. Droughts in the U.S. have become less frequent. Seventeen times more people die from cold than heat. And they would benefit from moderate warming.
“In fact, global climate-related deaths are at an all-time low,” he said.
Lomborg is scathing about the exaggerated role given to renewable energy, which he describes as a fantasy.
The author of the controversial books “Skeptical Environmentalist”, first published in 2001, and “Cool it”, has brought his theories up to date with “False Alarm”. The books point out what he considers wasteful and counter-productive policies to curb the impact of climate change, but also poses some counter-intuitive theories. For instance, global warming has led to what he calls “global greening”, and quotes a 2016 satellite study, which says over the last 30 years upwards of half the world’s vegetated area were getting greener, whereas only 4% is browning.
“The overwhelming cause of global greening is carbon dioxide fertilization. That’s right: carbon dioxide, which causes global warming, also helps plants grow – more carbon dioxide makes them grow more,” Lomborg said.
Lomborg said long-term solutions to climate change could be achieved by the carbon tax, which would boost efficiency and use market forces to drive out fossil fuel use in favor of new, clean technology. Governments should champion innovation with massive investment. If climate change does accelerate, “geo-engineering” might be an effective answer. This seeks to use cloud-seeding techniques to mimic great natural disasters like the Mount Pinatubo volcanic eruption in the Philippines in 1991, which quickly cut the world’s temperature for a couple of years.
Such a challenge to accepted policy inevitably spurs harsh reactions.
Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, in a recent New York Times book review, (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/16/books/review/bjorn-lomborg-false-alarm-joseph-stiglitz.html ) said Lomborg’s False Alarm was simple and simplistic and pointed out a reliance on work down by Yale University’s William Nordhaus. He said this underestimates the risk of damage likely from climate change if it turns out worse than feared. Stiglitz said Lomborg’s analysis took too little account of this risk, and listed various errors.
“Of its 12 central critical claims, 12 are false. Deplorable fact checking. The New York Times and Stiglitz don’t want to see their alarmism debunked,” Lomborg said in a LinkedIn response.
Lomborg has been accused of falsifying data, including in his homeland Denmark. Lomborg’s critics accused him of scientific dishonesty, but the Danish authorities, in 2003, exonerated him. Books and articles have been written seeking to discredit Lomborg, but he retains a faithful following. His three books spanning nearly 20 years of work are solid testimony to the quality of his research, and often cries of “mistake” from global warming partisans and extremists are nothing more than the failure to dot an “i” or cross a “t”.
Lomborg’s colleague at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University Niall Ferguson, reckons Lomborg is on the right track.
“Bjorn Lomborg is that rare thing: a clear-sighted realist about climate change. In False Alarm, he argues that it would be foolish to do nothing to prepare for a warmer planet, but it would be more foolish to pretend that we are doing things that will significantly reduce carbon dioxide when we are not,” Ferguson said in a quote appearing on the dust cover of the book.
Attention seeking headlines
Lomborg is scathing about what he calls the irresponsible media, devoted more to attention seeking headlines about imminent catastrophe rather than spelling out the truth. He singles out The New York Times for “across the globe the climate change is happening faster than scientists predicted”, Time magazine’s “Be worried. Be very worried”, and the Guardian newspaper, which he says has changed its style guide to make its reporters always talk about “climate emergency”, “climate crisis”, or “climate breakdown. This has spread fear across populations, with women now declaring they won’t bring children into the world.
“If adults are worried silly, children are terrified,” Lomborg said, quoting a 2019 Washington Post survey saying of American children between 13 to 17, 57% feel afraid about climate change, 52% feel angry, and 42% feel guilty.
“The science shows us that fears of a climate apocalypse are unfounded. Global warming is real, but it is not the end of the world. It is a manageable problem. Yet we now live in a world where almost half the population believes climate change will extinguish humanity. This has profoundly altered the political reality. It makes us double down on poor climate policies. It makes us increasingly ignore all other challenges, from pandemics and food shortages to political strike and conflicts, or subsume them under the banner of climate change,” Lomborg said.
“Climate change is a problem, but the projections of Earth’s imminent demise are based on bad science and even worse economics. In panic, world leaders have committed to wildly expensive but largely ineffective policies that hamper growth and crowd out other pressing investments in a better world, from immunization to education. We can do better, both on climate and for the world,” Lomborg said.