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The Skeptical Environmentalist

timothy posted more than 12 years ago | from the get-your-grains-of-salt-ready dept.

Science 688

-cman- writes: "The issue of human impact on the global environment is one -- if not the most --important and divisive issues of our generation. There are two key questions involved; is human activity having a major impact on the climate of the Earth? What, if anything should be done to minimize that impact? It is within the lifetimes of most of Slashdot's readers that we begin to get answers to these questions. We will either begin to make policy and economic changes to protect the environment or we won't. And towards the middle and end of this century we will begin to see real-time data to validate some of the predictions being bandied about by environmental scientists. Amid all the uncertainty that the above two questions generate comes a new book, The Skeptical Environmentalist; Measuring the Real State of the World.." Read on for the rest of -cman-'s review.

The book has caused quite a stir in the circles of environmental activism. Bjorn Lomborg, coming from a green background, has thoroughly reviewed much of the work in the field and raised some concerns about the quality of the consensus analysis and conclusions. Sample chapters and further defense of his work can be found at

Disclosure Statement: I am a small 'g' green. I am a member of the Viridian Design Movement if not of the Green Party USA. I hold as a matter of fact that dependence on hydrocarbons is unsustainable for both the developed world and as a path to long-term growth for the developing world. I strongly believe that it is a moral imperative for humanity to preserve as much of the planet's natural beauty and habitat as possible. My general impression with the state of climate studies is that human activity is probably having an effect on the global climate. To what extent is a matter still open for debate in my opinion. But hey, its OUR PLANET we're talking about, so why take chances? That said, I also consider myself to be just as rabid an empiricist. I detest being led about by phony data or false conclusions, and I will not support any cause that cannot bring itself to tell the truth to the public about its data and agenda. If the current data does not fit my model of how life should be, I know that I shouldn't blame the data or the messenger. So, I am trying to be as objective as possible here, but I am coming from the green end and analyzing this work in that light.

Lomborg is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Aarhaus in Denmark. His specialty, indeed his only other major academic paper, is in the field of game theory. Lomborg -- once upon a time a deep green himself -- set out in 1997 to debunk the claims of economist Julian Simon, a environmental degradation doubter. He found that much of the data had a tendency to support Simon. This lead him to a thorough review of much of the major scientific work in four major areas of "the environmental litany" (Lomborg's words).

  • We are depleting a finite supply of natural resources.
  • The human population continues to grow, threatening our ability to feed the teeming billions.
  • Species are becoming extinct at an alarming rate, deforestation is accelerating and fish stocks are collapsing.
  • The air and water are becoming ever more polluted.

The result was The Skeptical Environmentalist. In each of these areas, Lomborg looks at a broad swath of the scientific work done to date to support these claims and finds them wanting. He gets very specific and points out numerous errors of omission as well as slanting of the data and just plain making up results to fit the hypothesis. Lomborg accuses environmental scientists of behaving more like lobbyists trying to put the best possible spin on an issue by manipulating the facts. He also takes to task a credulous media for swallowing this tripe hook, line, and sinker, as it were. Sadly, in some key areas Lomborg has -- either through ignorance or purposefully -- committed errors of omission and selective data use to make some of the same mistakes in analysis, and this very much reduces his credibility.

The first thing that sets the book apart from almost all nonacademic works in the area is the completeness and openness of the research. The book is copiously footnoted. Because of this it is clear from some of the attacks on Lomborg that his critics have been unable to muster the stomach to give it a thorough read, as many make totally false claims about Lomborg's inclusion or reference to specific studies and specific cases. If for no other reason, this completeness makes The Skeptical Environmentalist a valuable resource for anyone interested in environmental science. It is a very complete bibliography of the current work in the field. There are over 2,900 end notes in this 500 page book.

The thing that makes the environment such a slippery public policy subject is its uncertainty. Although the state of our understanding of climate and ecological complexity grows each year, it is still unable to predict with any certainty future events. The only thing that will prove a particular set of data is the future. At which time, of course, it is impossible to take preventative action.

It is probably quite understandable that environmental scientists would take great umbrage at both Lomborg's cheek and his conclusions; seeing how they pose a threat to a consensus of opinion about the state of the global environment and the degree of risk human activity poses. These are people with years of interest vested in their research and in using that research to try and get through to public and politicians who show a lot of reluctance to take on the problems and potential threats of human impact on the environment.

Lomborg quite correctly points out in his chapter on pollution that the worst pollution effects are the results of the early and middle stages of industrial development. Here he states that things are getting better in the developed world and as technology advances, the environmental impact of human activity will be reduced. He acknowledges that something must be done to help the developing world find a different path of development than that already taken by the developed nations. Lomborg takes the green movement to task here for trying to do everything at once; forcing developing nations to spend on "clean" technologies while spending on health and economic development for the poor nations. After wading through what must have been a mind-numbing torrent of cost-benefit analysis data, Lomborg says that choices must be made, political and financial resources are finite and some levels of protection cost more than they are worth. However, one must deeply fault Lomborg's cost-benefit analysis for not making a good attempt to elucidate the cost of environmental degradation per se but instead focusing on pure human property and health costs. What price does one put on the stability of the Gulf Stream currents? What is the actual opportunity cost of one barrel of oil considering it comes from finite supply for which the actual amount is unknown and the burning of which causes environmental costs we can only approximate? These questions have vexed economists for decades, but the answers are surely not zero.

Lomborg's big picture of the general shape of the global climate and of biodiversity is one that debunks most of the more extreme forecasts. In this he has produced valuable analysis. But by his own admission he has skipped over local trends and impacts that have profound social and economic implications. For example, while stating that the actual rate of species extinction over the next 50 years is more likely to be 0.7% rather than the 20-50% numbers bandied about by the World Wildlife Fund et. al., he misses the threat of local species crashes such as that of Atlantic Cod that nearly ruined the fishing industry Eastern North America and Northern Europe in the 1980s and the resulting threat to previously unfished stocks as industrial fishing operations switched to roughy and so on.

The big picture and long-term focus also misses the boat on another key issue. Recent analysis of deep-ice core samples at the poles and in Greenland have shown that in the past, the climate has changed very sharply and very rapidly; on the order of several degrees of average temperature in a decade or less. These changes are probably due to snap changes in the ocean currents caused by salinity levels and minute temperature deviations that, when they go over a certain level "trigger" such events as the mini-Ice Age of the 1500s to mid-1800s. Lomborg completely bypasses addressing the fact that even the minimal human environmental impact he says the data supports could be enough to tip the balance in these areas. And should such evens occur, even Lomborg would admit they would be economically and politically devastating. Perhaps it is his rigid attention to what is measurable that prevented him from addressing this issue. There is too much uncertainty involved to begin to assess whether or not we even can prevent such "trigger" events and thus begin to make cost-benefit analysis of preventative measures.

The most shocking thing about The Skeptical Environmentalist is not its heretical views (in the eyes of greens) however, but the reception it has received among the environmental movement. Instead of praising its depth and using its own errors to show the way forward the community has -- in the grand tradition of the left eating its young -- gone after Dr. Lomborg with a furious anger. Recently, when Dr. Lomborg showed up at Oxford university, the author of an environmental study with a competing view shoved a pie in his face. In its January 2002 issue, Scientific American devoted 11 pages (electronic copies are US$5.00) to attacking the book, its author and his conclusions.

Not surprisingly, the free-market loving Economist has taken up the defense of Dr. Lomborg with both a lead opinion piece and a feature in the February 6th issue. In addition, the magazine had Lomborg pen a "by invitation" piece in August, 2001, a rare honor. The New York Times has also come to his defense with a "Scientist At Work" puff piece in November, 2001.

But by attacking the book and the author so shrilly, the environmental community risks its own hard-won credibility. It acts just as Lomborg accuses it, like lobbyists with an axe to grind, not cold-eyed, empirically-minded scientists. Lomborg's study has its flaws, as does any environmental study. But those flaws should be attacked on their merits alone. At its worst, The Skeptical Environmentalist merely muddies the waters of scientific and public consensus on global human environmental impact. At its best it provides a crucial reality check for those who seek profound social and economic changes in the name of preserving environmental sustainability.

You can purchase The Skeptical Environmentalist from Fatbrain. Want to see your own review here? Just read the book review guidelines, then use Slashdot's handy submission form.

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fp sissies (-1)

real_b0fh (557599) | more than 12 years ago | (#3051898)


MOZILLA (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3051992)

MOZILLA! [data]


real_b0fh (557599) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052042)

nah, use this one:

MOZILLA! [data]

Re:MOZILLA (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3052083)

that's what i meant to post!

Re:fp sissies (-1)

dadaist (544022) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052296)

It appears that most of the methodological work in modern linguistics appears to correlate rather closely with problems of phonemic and morphological analysis. With this clarification, this analysis of a formative as a pair of sets of features can be defined in such a way as to impose the ultimate standard that determines the accuracy of any proposed grammar. It may be, then, that the natural general principle that will subsume this case raises serious doubts about the extended c-command discussed in connection with (34).

I'd like to take this opportunity... (0, Offtopic)

InfoSec (208475) | more than 12 years ago | (#3051901) say "Join the Church Of Euthanasia!!! Save the planet, Kill yourself!!"

Re:I'd like to take this opportunity... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3052038)

Christ, I am getting tired of these lame would-be gags at the top of nearly every new topic.

We've already failed. (0)

sfled (231432) | more than 12 years ago | (#3051906)

Don't drink the water, don't breathe the air, don't eat the food.

Sad News - guy DEAD (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3051910)

I just heard the sad news on BBC radio. Web entreprenuer/pioneer guy was found dead in his home this morning. Even if you never admired his work [] , you can appreciate what he did for the 'last frontier' of the internet.

Reports are that he died from complications resulting from \"Book Reviews: The Skeptical Environmentalist\". Truly a internet icon. He will be missed :(

This troll was reposted from the Troll Library without permission of the original author. If you object to this post, or if you wish to add your troll to the Troll Library, please reply to this message.

Pop That Pussy - 2 Live Crew (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3052195)

I'd like to dedicate this song to Mr. Gaping Anus.

FKI = Fresh Kid Ice
BM = Brother Marquis

"Go-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-od-DAMN!! Shee-yee-YIT!! Look at the ass
on that bitch! Look at the titties!"

(Mixx scratches "Aw hit me!" and "Hold your legs up on easy.")

Verse 1
[FKI] There's only one place where we can go
To see freaky hoes doin' shows
Doin' tricks to make us holler
On a giving night, all for a dollar
Silicone breasts, all on their chests
Nothin' like others, but above the rest
They'll do anything to turn us on
Them hoes got it goin' on!!
[BM] I like big booty and big ol' titties
Bitch, you know you've been fucked by many
So come and be my private dancer
I got some money if that's the answer
I really wanna be with you;
I get hard after seeing you
How hard? Hard like a rock,
When you make that pussy pop!

Chorus(2x): Luke
Pop that pussy! Heyyy! Pop that pussy, baby!
Pop that pussy! Pop, pop that pussy, baby!

Verse 2
[FKI] Freaky bitches with plenty of ass
Rollin' to the music and shakin' real fast
Bend over backwards, make me shout
And work that pussy, in and out
Movin' their body with plenty of action
Bringin' to the men more satisfaction
Doin' what they feel to turn us out
Just work that pussy all the way out!
[BM] Shake it! Don't break it!
It took your momma nine months to make it
Bend over and spread 'em, girl
Show-w-w me those pussy pearls
Rub that ass and play with that clit
You know I like that freaky shit
Girl, you know you look so cute
Throwin' that pussy the way you do!


Verse 3
[FKI] Poppin' that pussy's a dance for the ladies
Straight from the South, into the 90's
Freaky bitches are the ones I like
In G-strings in the middle of the night
Smoke-filled stages, bitches in cages
Guards at the door, armed with gauges
As they dance and I get hot,
Keep throwin' that pussy! Don't stop!
[BM] I like the way you lick the champagne glass
It makes me wanna stick my dick in your ass
So come on, baby, and pop it quick
I fall in love when you suck my dick
Bitch, you don't know? You ain't heard?
Fuckin' with me, you're gonna get served
See, none of my bitches, they never complain
So come on, baby, and pop that thang!


Janet J, pop, that pus-sy!
Bu-bles, pop, that pus-sy!
Sandra P, pop, that pus-sy!
Ma-donna, pop that stinky smelly pussy, baby!

(Mixx scratches "Work this motherfucker!" "Shit, this good!" "Woo hoo!")



Scientific American review shredded it. (0, Redundant)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 12 years ago | (#3051912)

There was a review of this book in Scientific American a couple of issues back, and they trashed it pretty hard.

Re:Scientific American review shredded it. (0, Offtopic)

FatRatBastard (7583) | more than 12 years ago | (#3051960)

"I posted first, therefor I didn't even read the review."

Thanks for pointing out what was already in his review.

Re:Scientific American review shredded it. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3052005)

No, thank YOU for replying to this dumbass while posting at 2, so people trying to seperate the wheat from the chaff will still see it, even though he's already been (correctly) moderated down as redundant. Next time, let moderation do it's work.

Re:Scientific American review shredded it. (0, Offtopic)

Glytch (4881) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052260)

Seeing people replying at score 2 pisses you off? Damn. I'll be sure to keep that in mind.

Re:Scientific American review shredded it. (2)

Skraig (168565) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052008)

Too bad they did. Evironmental science is really dificult stuff and it sounds like this author made a strong attempt at it. With subjects as complex as climate change, econmoics, and population planning, making a decent book with a valid conclusion is a dificult problem.

"Limits to Growth" was a pretty important book on this subject and it got almost everything wrong. A very dry but funny read if you dig it up. The basic ideas from it are still ratling around even when they are clearly oversimplifications.

Re:Scientific American review shredded it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3052148)

Well, of course they did. They're advocates of a particular position, with which Mr. Lomborg dared to disagree.

C'mon (1)

zephc (225327) | more than 12 years ago | (#3051913)

Even if we AREN'T damaging things as badly as some say, it cant HURT us to be more eco-friendly. Do YOU pocket-mulch*? =]

*simpson's reference

Re:C'mon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3052023)

But what if what you are doing to try to be more eco-friendly actually turns out to be much more damaging because of factors we don't know about yet?

Here's another Simpson's reference (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3052034)

Episode 4F11 []
John: Homer, what have you got against gays?
Homer: You know! It's not... usual. If there was a law, it'd be
against it!
Marge: Oh Homer, please! You're embarrassing yourself.
Homer: No I'm not, Marge! They're embarrasing me. They're embarrassing
America. They turned the Navy into a floating joke. They ruined
all our best names like Bruce, and Lance, and Julian. Those were
the toughest names we had! Now they're just, uh...
John: Queer?
Homer: Yeah, and that's another thing! I resent _you_ people using that
word. That's _our_ word for making fun of you! We need it!! Well
I'm taking back our word, and I'm taking back my son!

The following is an AC commentary: I would also include such names as Hemos, Cmdr Taco, Cowboy Neal , Timothy, and Jon Katz.

Re:C'mon (0, Troll)

maxharris (110387) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052035)

Environmentalism is hurting us:

Remember Taxol and the Yew tree [] ?

What about the Klamath Water War [] ?

How about the Firefighters killed by the Forest Service [] ?

Environmentalism is wrong because it holds nature, not man, as the standard of value.

Re:C'mon (0, Flamebait)

chewy_fruit_loop (320844) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052126)

Environmentalism is wrong because it holds nature, not man, as the standard of value.

The problem is, what the smeg do we do when there's arn't any more tree's producing oxygen for us, and everyone living under 10 meters above sea level neads a scuba gear to get into their house?

If we realy want to screw the planet, won't we just endup being the borg?

Re:C'mon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3052202)

A CO2 rich atmosphere encourages plant growth, so if we were to cut down all the trees, some other plant would take up the slack. As for what do do when the sea level rises... How about moving? If Canada and northern Asia gradually become fertile fields due to global warming, and Florida gets washed under the sea, I would call that a net gain. Come to think of it, there isn't really even a downside.

Re:C'mon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3052243)

I'm aware of the Klamath thing, my dad lives close to that area. There are probably half a dozen solutions that would please both sides (none that I can think of at the moment... too sleepy) but beaurocrats are infinitely famous for not thinking well, and frankly, most hard-core environmentalists can't see past the end of their own nose with understanding about a balance between helping the environment and human reality (We "are a disease, a virus...").

The misguided attempts of the US Forestry Service to stamp out all forest fire has of course led to a buildup of dead plant matter. Controlled burns, while on the right track, seem to be poorly managed.

Legislating about the environment seems to be counterproductive regardless of what side you're on.

Let me save you the suspense (0, Flamebait)

pixelated77 (472348) | more than 12 years ago | (#3051929)

I hate to sound nihilistic, but in the end, we're just another species on this planet that will eventually go extinct. This is regardless of whether a global catastrophe will be directly caused by human activity, or whether it's caused by something completely out of our hands. We won't live forever, all we can do is make the best out of the time we are given in this pebble. Compulsive worrying about environmentalism is counterproductive, and environmentalism is only good as long as it enhances our quality of life without constrictively depriving us of our whatever creature comforts we deem to be necessary. So let me save you the suspsense, pack your shit folks, we're all going away.

Re:Let me save you the suspense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3051972)

screw you! I plan to upload [] and leave this rock for somewhere prettier [] in a few decades!

Re:Let me save you the suspense (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 12 years ago | (#3051982)

If you applied that thinking to an individual, you'd essentially be saying that there's not much point in fighting cancer if the treatments are uncomfortable, since you're gonna die anyway, and someday the universe will end.

Re:Let me save you the suspense (2, Funny)

pixelated77 (472348) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052001)

You make a good point, but all I'm saying is that it's going to be pretty funny for all the earthy-crunchy types when they lead expensive and prohibitive lifestyles trying to make the world a better place, and suddenly we get hit by an asteroid, a plague, or China gets frisky with nuclear weapons...

Well... (1)

tiltowait (306189) | more than 12 years ago | (#3051997)

it's too late to worry about whether you left the gas on now.

Re:Let me save you the suspense (3, Insightful)

Wire Tap (61370) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052026)

I hate to sound nihilistic, but in the end, we're just another species on this planet that will eventually go extinct.


I fail to understand why any sentient being would take that perspective on life... are you complacent with the statement you made? Do you WANT to fade away? Do you wish that on your race? Your species? I certainly do not. Personally, I want to see us soar into space, settle on as many planets, planetoids, moons, asteroids, space stations, comets and suns as possible. While there are many who are skeptical about humans eventually migrating from the homeworld, I'm not one of them. I think we can do it. I believe we WILL do it. Wheter we conquer our problems on Earth first, is, of course, another story. Perhaps Earth will be damaged beyond repair, and it will be essential for all but a few humans to eventaully leave the planet, lest they be ravaged by disease, hunger, or any of a multitude other plights which may face our descendants.

We won't live forever.

While some transhumanists may disagree with you there - I see your point, but, you are wrong. We will continue to grow, change, adapt, evolve to the situations which the cold universe presents to us, but, I have strong reservations about the human race dying out. In thousands of years from now we will, to be sure, be an entirely different and perhaps unrecognizable species - or maybe even more than one species - but, we will still exist, in one form or the other. Even if it is simply the human spirit living inside a wholly different organism. We will live on.

So let me save you the suspsense, pack your shit folks, we're all going away.

No, I don't think so. Why don't you do us a favor and go away yourself, so you won't get in the way of those of us who truly aspire to peace and progress for humankind.

Re:Let me save you the suspense (1, Insightful)

TrollBridge (550878) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052046)

An excellent post sir.

The problem with radical environmentalists is that they often have a financial agenda. These groups don't protest, bully, and lobby the government for the sake of reform that most likely wouldn't affect their lives.

The fact is that there is alot of money to be harvested from government programs. Money that we really have no way of knowing is being spent on actual environmental improvement, let alone spent wisely. When the government proposes less environmental programs (subsidies), that means less money for these interest groups.

Don't be fooled, most of these groups aren't about positive environmental change. They are about lining their own pockets by wresting government subsidies away from corporations into their own coffers.

Re:Let me save you the suspense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3052049)

sorry pal but we're not just any other species on the planet. unlike every other organism on earth we have the ability to comprehend time and history. Do you really think we're just going to lay down and take it when our number's up? We'll be ready for it... possibly days in advance.

Re:Let me save you the suspense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3052065)

That's all fine and dandy as long as we are the last generation of humans, or if you feel that you have no moral obligation to future generations to leave them something better than a trash dump.

As a parent and a compassionate human, I don't think that I'll piss away the future with selfish, useless, filthy living.

With that said, however, I'd like to reiterate an important point. Environmentalism is not a trade off between ecosystem or refrigeration. We can clean up our technologies or use alternatives and still live virtually the same life. I often wonder why people who just 'know' that missle defence will work and that technology will continue developing at outstanding velocities don't think that we can get away from trashing our world without returning from the stone age. Hmmm, I wonder who fed them that idea?

Re:Let me save you the suspense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3052072)

Do you really hate to sound nihilistic? Because it seems like you are really enjoying it.

On the other hand... What have future generations done for me lately? They may inherit a dirty, smelly, swelteringly hot planet from us, but if the euphoreans at Wired are even half-right, they will also inherit disease-free lives that last 200 years while everybody has nanobots building free houses for them, and they each own their own spiffy jet car. On balance, it seems that they will make out okay. I mean, if plans to terraform Mars are just a moment away, geologically speaking, then how hard could it be to terraform Terra itself and undo all that pollution?

Re:Let me save you the suspense (2)

don_carnage (145494) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052283)

We're outta here as soon as the Vogons show up. ;^)

The Economist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3051948)

I enjoyed the Lomborg-inspired article in the Economist. If you check this month's issue (Japan's sadness), most of the letters are sent by leading environmental authorities de-bunking Mr Lomborg.

Regardless of Lomborg's credentials or whether he is sincere in his beliefs, writing an 'anti-Environmental' book will generate a massive amount of controversy. Hence, huge sales.

Lombord has been thoroughly rebuttaled (2, Redundant)

LetterRip (30937) | more than 12 years ago | (#3051959)

Here is a link that has a thorough rebuttal of the work. mborg12 1201.asp

Also see this article in the January 2002 edition of

Scientific American

Misleading Math about the Earth

The book The Skeptical Environmentalist uses statistics to dismiss warnings about peril for the planet. But the science suggests that it's the author who is out of touch with the facts.


Re:Lombord has been thoroughly rebuttaled (3, Interesting)

LetterRip (30937) | more than 12 years ago | (#3051990)

This is interesting... apparently The Skeptical Environmentalist was published in Danish four years ago, and had already been shredded. MQiTS9HjQC:

Also here are other rebuttals, org.html

I've read rebuttals from four different sources, and rebuttals for the same section focus on different, but equally devastating flaws.


Re:Lombord has been thoroughly rebuttaled (5, Insightful)

Phanatic1a (413374) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052261)

The rebuttals posted at that site aren't really very good. The ones I read before I gave up in disgust were mostly arguments by assertion, with little concrete evidence given to support them, no footnotes or references to studies or data that I could see, and laced with a strong flavor of ad hominem, as in Devra Davis's "rebuttal," which she leads off by saying:

"You know what they say about people who become statisticians? They lacked the personality to become accountants."

That's not the dispassionate and unbiased practitioner of science speaking; that's someone with an axe to grind.

I'm not defending Lomborg's research; indeed, I haven't read the book. But what's utterly disgusting is the means by which the established viewpoints have chosen to attack it. Scientific American even went so far as to claim it was "defending science" against Lomborg's claim.

That's a repugnant attitude to take. Science is a method, a process of determining what is true, and if Lomborg's arguments are faulty, his analysis shoddy, and his conclusions flawed, than the proper application of science will demonstrate that and we will all be the better off for it.

But if, as Scientific American seems to think, science is something that takes a position of advocacy on complex issues, then science is far less likely to be useful as a process for examining that issue, and everybody loses.

Shame on SA. The Spectator has a nice piece on the controversy at: =old& section=current&issue=2002-02-23&id=1602

Air and water more polluted? (3, Informative)

PowerTroll 5000 (524563) | more than 12 years ago | (#3051989)

I agree with of Lomborg completely.

In the NYC area, the reverse is essentially true.

Cormorant Population Boom []

The 1998 State of the Environment Report [] shows declines in pollution across the board.

NY State spending billions for environment []

Re:Air and water more polluted? (1)

Arsewiper (535175) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052066)

You could also add the drop in population last September. Ouch.

Better safe than sorry... (2, Informative)

Archie Steel (539670) | more than 12 years ago | (#3051993)

I think the Bush administration and other global-warming naysayers should keep that old saying in mind. Yeah, perhaps there isn't sufficient proof that we're screwing up the climate. But the stakes are so high, even if there's only a 1 in 1000 chance that global warming is likely, then it's a risk that should not be taken.

The real point, of course, is that those who oppose the global warming theory usually have economic interests that would be hurt by the development of alternative energy sources. As usual, follow the money!

Re:Better safe than sorry... (1, Insightful)

FatRatBastard (7583) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052056)

Lets use that "better safe than sorry" arguement for EVERYTHING.

There's a billion to one chance that a asteroid will crash into the earth. Let's spend billions and billions of dollars on an asteroid defense system.

There's a 1000 to 1 chance that the SDI/Star Wars defense system will work as advertised. Let's just give all the Gov't contractors all the money that they want anyway.


Better safe than sorry works well when there's little or no cost involved. Its a big waste of cash otherwise.

Re:Better safe than sorry... (1)

Archie Steel (539670) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052297)

Mmm...weak arguments.

First of all, there's a lot more than a one in a billion chance of earth being hit by an asteroid [] (see this [] also)...some kind of defence mechanism will have to be implemented at some time, when it is technically feasible to do so. In any case, part of the NASA budget (as well as other space agencies around the world) is being used for NEO monitoring. The risk is taken seriously, even though we're pretty sure that it is not an immediate risk.

As far as the SDI - or, as it is now know, the NMD - the analogy is even less accurate. First, I'll point out that we were talking about probabilities of a catastrophy occuring, while you talk about the probability of a defense system being effective. Already, this is a completely different argument, so you're way off-mark. But let's assumed you talked about the probability of a missile attack on the United States, against which National Missile Defence would be used. Again, note that the NMD is not designed to prevent against an environmental catastrophy (whether natural or man-made), but against a military threat, so you're talking about apples and oranges. The question is: how effective would the NMD be, and how real is the threat it addresses. Nobody in their right mind believes that North Korea or another so-called "rogue" state would try to attack the U.S. with nuclear arms (they'd be vaporized within the next half-hour, and good ol' Kim isn't that delirious!). At the same time, NMD wouldn't protect against fanatics hijacking commercial airplanes, or from terrorist bombs being planted on U.S. soil. Finally, most military threats are dealt with through diplomacy and foreign policy, things which - unlike asteroids - can be influenced. So your arguments don't hold...sorry.

In other words, I think a asteroid defence mechanism is something we should look in the future, global warming is a risk we shouldn't take now and in the future, despite initial costs (which would appear small if global warming turned out to be as catastrophic as predicted) while NMD is just a colossal waste of money (or rather, a disguised subsidy of several key industries which are close to the current administration).

Re:Better safe than sorry... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3052061)

It would be like throwing money into the dark. If you worry about it soooo much, how about donating your funds to enviromental funds. I know I don't want them using my money for something that probably isn't are fault.

Re:Better safe than sorry... (1, Troll)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052118)

But the stakes are so high, even if there's only a 1 in 1000 chance that global warming is likely, then it's a risk that should not be taken.

And what about the next 1 in a 1000 "catastrophe" that gets predicted? And the next? And the next? And the next? You seem to think there is no impact to these doomsday stories. If you accept every theory that comes down the pike, you run your economies into the ground.

The real point, of course, is that those who oppose the global warming theory usually have economic interests that would be hurt by the development of alternative energy sources. As usual, follow the money!

Indeed. And if you follow the money in this case, guess where it leads? Back to the "scientists and "environmentalists" who make their money by predicting doomsday. Guess what happens if global warming was disproven? They are out of a job. They depend on fear and anxiety to raise grant money for study after study.

That's the biggest reason I keep my doubts firmly in place, along with the fact that they manufacture their own evidence (also known as computer climate studies).

Re:Better safe than sorry... (2, Interesting)

gowen (141411) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052242)

Back to the "scientists and "environmentalists" who make their money by predicting doomsday.
Thats an interesting " before "scientist". I wonder where it was supposed to be closed.
Guess what happens if global warming was disproven?
We'd be very pleased. We'd know the world wasn't endangered and we could go and do other, equally challenging, equally well paid, research into short and medium range weather forecasting.

Re:Better safe than sorry... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3052135)

Okay, then WHY ARE YOU using a computer? You are doing INCREDABLE damage to the eco-system by your use of power, and processes goods! If you TRUELY mean what you're saying, sell your computer, your car, EVERYTHING that uses electricity or fossil fuels.

That includes processed food, clothing etc.

Otherwise just shut up and stop being such a hypocrite. The truth is things are getting a LOT better. I grew up in the 60's in NYC, and trust me the improvements all over this country are gigantic. I'm all for cutting down pollution, but remember, the environmentalist movement wants your computer and your job.

Re:Better safe than sorry... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3052139)

I think the Bush administration and other global-warming naysayers...

If you are in the habit of criticizing Bush without thinking, I can see how you would make this mistake, but the Bush administration's only report to date on the issue of global warming shows that they are in the believer camp. Do your homework next time.

Re:Better safe than sorry... (1)

coldtone (98189) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052231)

Yeah, perhaps there isn't sufficient proof that we're screwing up the climate. But the stakes are so high, even if there's only a 1 in 1000 chance that global warming is likely, then it's a risk that should not be taken

Your comment reminds me of the stuff I heard back when I was forced to go to a very militant born again christian church. The end argument given for devoting your life to this religion was, 'Sure no one can really prove that what we say is right. But do you want to risk it and spend an eternity in hell?'

This is nothing more then a shakedown. A scare tactic to gain power.

The end of the world has been a day away since the beginning of history.

the truth about global warming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3051994)

Re:the truth about global warming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3052249)

Is he still on the tour?

What 'hard won' credibility? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3052013)

The problem with environmentalism today is that most of the people in the movement know nothing about the environment or the science invovled in it. They're mostly ludities and communists just looking for another reason to attack capitalism and democracy.

If you can show me hard data that something is bad (like water pollution, PCB's that stuff) then I'm all for regulating it. But when you start telling us how bad CO2 is, pulease! You're just trying to destroy business and society and don't give a damn about the enviroment. Look at ELF and ALF, these people have done far more harm then good.

Why have I never seen anyone say... (1)

gartogg (317481) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052016)

we don't have enough information to make an accurate assesment. When you listen to the weatherman on tv, he says 'there is a 50% chance of rain next monday.' When you hear an environmental theorist (pro or anti green) they say 'we are all going to die because the average temperature will definitely rise exactly 2.639 degrees centigrade over the next 10 years unless we switch to all solar power and stop using water for showers by a week from this thursday.'

Does no-one else see this as much too political to try to view it through an objective scientific lens?

I just want one person to say 'I have this new data, and it could mean 1 of these 5 things..."

Do you really care? (1)

F34nor (321515) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052017)

Many things come to mind. One being that the ozone layer is being detroyed at a higher rate by space launches then any other activity. Are we going to stop space launches? No.

we ARE destroying the ecosystem (1)

Jonny Balls (543700) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052022)

there's no question about us polluting the environment, we put a nice huge hole in the o-zone layer. now, we just need to use it to our advantage... we melt the polar ice caps, and like stated in an earlier article, days will seem longer... its all part of my master plan to put another hour in every day to get all the things done that i need done.

Re:we ARE destroying the ecosystem (1)

tubs (143128) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052138)

I wonder, if the earth slowed down enough to make the day 25 hrs long what that hour would be used for?

Do you think employers would try to claim it as a working hour? Me, I want it for my leisure time!

Point, Counterpoint (5, Informative)

skatedork (139277) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052040)

As a non-fan of Mr. Lomborg, I'd like to offer up a few links:

Anti-Lomborg [] - Responses to Bjorn's environmental writing

Debunking Pseudo-Scholarship: Things a journalist should know about The Skeptical Environmentalist []

Union of Concerned Scientists examine The Skeptical Environmentalist by Bjørn Lomborg []

Re:Point, Counterpoint (4, Interesting)

Alomex (148003) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052213)

Most of the resources you point to are hatchet jobs much like the pie-in-the-face that proudly adorns one of them.

I have not yet Lomborg's book, but have followed the debate in science journals (as well as the Economist). While some scientists have engaged him on intellectual terms, the majority of the opinions have been nothing of the sort, stoopoing down to the questioning of his credentials (which nobody would question if he had just published a pro-global warming article).

wasting time at work (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3052070)

Is anyone else wasting as much time as me at work?

The sky is falling! The sky is falling! (4, Insightful)

PHAEDRU5 (213667) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052074)

I subscribe to Mother Jones *and* the American Spectator, basically to see what the extremists at both ends are saying.

Since I became a subscriber I know, based on my junk mail, that my name has been sold to donor solicitation lists of the left and the right.

So, every month I get mail from Jerry Falwell, etc., about how the Homosexual/Abortion/Socialist lobbies are destroying the U.S. These compete with mail from NARAL, NOW, PFAW, etc., about how the Heterosexual/Anti-Abortion/Capitalist lobbies are destroying the U.S.

(Aside: now that I think about it, I do get a lot more mail from the left than from the right. More religious fervour, I guess.)

My point is that the only way these people can raise money is by scaring the bejesus out of those who can be scared.

The environmental lobby is no different: it scares to raise money.

What's great about this book is how it demonstrates the lies in the propaganda.

Of course, he'll never be forgiven for that. And my guess is, from a survey of my junk mail, that there will be a lot more people out to trash him than to support him. Poor sod.

Re:The sky is falling! The sky is falling! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3052124)

"The environmental lobby is no different: it scares to raise money." ... except if they'r right (and they are), you (and everyone else) is dead.

"What's great about this book is how it demonstrates the lies in the propaganda." this book *is* propaganda... by pretending right-wing opinion (bought and paid for by polluting corporations) trumps scientific evidence (of which there is plenty), you and your ilk show what a bunch of idiots you are. get bent!

Re:The sky is falling! The sky is falling! (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052145)

> (Aside: now that I think about it, I do get a lot more mail from the left than from the right. More religious fervour, I guess.)

Maybe just less respect for trees.

Re:The sky is falling! The sky is falling! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3052259)

The left hates trees! You heard it from Black Parrot first!

And he would know, damn pinko that he is.

even one died out species is too much (1, Insightful)

raistlinthegreat (556858) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052098)

even if only one species would have been diet out because of human stupidity it would be too much. but we extinguish every day!!! dozens of animals ans plants. maybe things are not as bood as some may claim. but the animals also have a rigth to exist on this planed. every sperm whale, every golden eagle and everything else has the same right to exist. why do we thing we have the right to change this??? mankind is the first species which will extinguish itself. and their leader is George W. Bush.

Cheek, etc. (4, Insightful)

gowen (141411) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052103)

It is probably quite understandable that environmental scientists would take great umbrage at both Lomborg's cheek and his conclusions
Scientist don't take umbrage at his cheek or (directly) his conclusions. They take umbrage at his science. Basically, he isn't very good at it. His research is full of errors, (sometimes very basic ones. At one point he quotes an absolute figure as a percentage because he is unfamiliar with the different conventions for decimal places between the US and Europe). He selectively quotes (and misquotes) source material to support his claims. Frankly, he's a self publicist, and if his pseudoscience reduces the amount of research into the very real possibility of irreversible, catastrophic, climate change, a very dangerous one.

As an aside, lets just apply Occam's Razor. Here are the two possible alternatives:
  1. Lomborg is wrong
  2. There is a massive (indeed, worldwide) conspiracy of scientists, suppressing their real knowledge, intent only on scare mongering to preserve their funding

(Full Disclosure: I am a Geophysical Fluid Dynamicist, so I could be part of the conspiracy [TINC] myself)

Re:Cheek, etc. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3052266)

His research is full of errors, (sometimes very basic ones. At one point he quotes an absolute figure as a percentage because he is unfamiliar with the different conventions for decimal places between the US and Europe).

Please give a page reference, I have a copy of his book handy, and I'd like to see that.

Re:Cheek, etc. (4, Insightful)

Alomex (148003) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052298)

His research is full of errors,

This is an overstatement of the facts. Many rebuttals take shortcuts in what would otherwise be hard work: debating each of Lomborg points. Those rebuttals overemphasize minor gaffes that are bound to appear in a research piece encompasing such a large subject. (By that count The Evolution of the Species by Darwin has more errors per page than Lomborg).

Reality is the majority of the basic facts are right, it is the interpretation of those basic indicators that needs to be discussed.

Your average environmentalist assumes a priori that the environment is deteriorating. Lomborg accurately points out that prima facie the data is not there.

Btw. this would not be the first time that environmentalists were wrong in something that they took for granted, as they were when they predicted humanity would run out of oil by the mid 90s.

The interpretation of the facts requires further debate though.

are you doing your part? (2)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052104)

I am on the middle ground in this issue, however I do a few things to ensure that I am at least trying to make a small difference: (basic stuff of course)

1) I try to car pool as often as I can. Living in Atlanta, our traffic here is so bad that the HOV (High Occupancy Vehicles) lane is a smart choice so I don't have to leave at 5AM to get to work at 7:30.

2) I don't litter. I avoid throwing anything on the ground, and pick stuff up I see when I can.

3) I try to recycle as much as I can reasonably do.

The problem with #3 is that from what I have seen, the apartment complex I live in does a great job with the different containers for recycling, but when the garbage company comes along, they throw EVERYTHING in the back of the garbage truck and take off. So, all our local efforts aren't doing a damned thing. Anyone else seeing this problem?

Re:are you doing your part? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052177)

> 3) I try to recycle as much as I can reasonably do.

> The problem with #3 is that from what I have seen, the apartment complex I live in does a great job with the different containers for recycling, but when the garbage company comes along, they throw EVERYTHING in the back of the garbage truck and take off. So, all our local efforts aren't doing a damned thing. Anyone else seeing this problem?

Yep. Working geekish hours at a large institution, I have often seen the night janitorial staff come around and empty the paper recyc and the ordinary trash all into the same hopper.

Scientific American review & thoughts (3, Interesting)

OxideBoy (322403) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052117)

I disagree wholeheartedly with the insinuation that the Scientific American critique of this book was an "attack." Readers, please do not be swayed by this horribly biased statement. Several environmental scientists dissected Skeptical Environmentalist's methodology, statistics, and conclusions, and the reviewers found many, many weak points not only in the author's facts but also his logic. The tone varied from reviewer to reviewer, but all the reviewers seemed to take the book pretty seriously.

The truth of the matter is, climatology, geology, etc. do not have the luxury that physics, molecular biology, and other "benchtop" sciences have in that, in the latter fields, it is mostly possible to construct the systems in question in the lab and probe them. However, testing most major hypotheses in climatology is simply not possible as they would require altering the climate in a deliberate manner which is neither possible nor desireable.

Personally, I am of the opinion that we need to enforce much stricter emission, land development, and recycling standards not because I believe that these activities are damaging the environment, but because they indisputably might be damaging the environment.

Re:Scientific American review & thoughts (1)

FatRatBastard (7583) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052272)

but because they indisputably might be damaging the environment.

Wonderful logic there. I could just as easily say "I am of the opinion that we do not need to enforce much stricter emission, land development, and recycling standards not because I believe that these activities are not damaging the environment, but because they indisputably might not be damaging the environment."

"Doctor, am I pregnant?"

"Its an idisputable fact that you might be."

Empiricist? (1)

ticktickbonk (533050) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052120)

I'm not sure what the poster is getting at with this. The agenda of environmentalists is to protect the environment. I don't see how this is selfish, nor could be hiding behind it a darker motive.

Many of the cornerstones of the environmental movement (composting, high fuel economy, energy efficiency, solar energy) are in fact better and cheaper alternatives to classical living. I suggest that due to this, demonization comes from many who believe that this makes for bad consumers. It does, and energy and other suppliers are fighting back. Example: Power companies now charge large distribution and 'grid-access' fees to compensate for energy-efficiency profit loss.

And to those who don't know, Ken Lay had his own desk at the White House.

The beauty of green living (2, Interesting)

rhakka (224319) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052127)

is that in most cases, there are benefits beyond "saving the planet" to living a more Green lifestyle. Most Green design not only provides environmental benefit but also benefits such as self-sufficiency, health benefits, or even just creature comfort (a good natural-lighting design in a building can immesurable enhance the space, for example).

Even beyond Global warming, there are a slew of inarguable truths that indicate a stance that is green-er (not Green, but greener) is necessary. Ever taken a trip to a solid waste facility? All those guys can talk about is how they are running out of space because of all the unnecessary trash we generate. In areas such as that, greener developements (less packaging, for example) saves everyone money! yes, money! believe it or not, green lifestyle can actually be economically feasible.

The only question on my mind is, when the oil starts getting low OR we no longer have a decent source (presumably because the oil producing nations have a "shortage"), is America going to retain its status against now-developing countries that are doing it right from the beginning? Are we larger enough to convert when necessary?

If not, we need to start planning, because we have an achilles heel, and its name is oil, no matter how you slice it.

Call me a realist but.... (1, Troll)

fzlgk (453801) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052131)


But hey, its OUR PLANET we're talking about, so why take chances?



1. Scientific American slams the book because it doesn't want to upset it's left leaning advertisers/readers?

2. The Economost approves of the book because it doesn't want to upset it's right leaning advertisers/readers?

Not only this... but people tend to forget that money and *Enviromental REGULATION* are directly opposed, but money and *CARE for the environment* don't have to be.

I truly believe there is a greater chance of our nation regulating itself into oblivion rather than our nation using all of the world's resources. *grin*

food for thought.

think globaly, act locally.

don't regulate things to death.

less government is better.

Re:Call me a realist but.... (1)

humanasset (206242) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052193)

Suck it Trebek!

contradiction (1)

drink85cent (558029) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052153)

I wouldn't have problem if they made rational decision on hard data.

Global Warming:
30 years ago scientific evidence showed evidence of another ice age. New "scientific" evidence shows we are going to cook.

Rising Oceans:
Many predict oceans will rise several feet due to thawing glacier. But now new evidence shows antartic ice cap thickning.

Ozone hole:
20 years of data, indicates existent hole found is getting larger. We know the hole fluctuates between seasons, we also know it existed since we started taking data. 20 years 5 billion

If there is conclusive evidence then yes id go along with extreme measures people want to do. If a real scientist wants to prove a real theory in the concrete sciences, it would take alot more than these loose "facts".

What I keep in mind (0, Insightful)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052156)

There are two reasons why I remain firmly skeptical until I see some real evidence:

1) Scientists and environmentalists make their money by predicting doomsday. No global warming == no grant money to fund study after study.

2) Most of the evidence is manufactured by people with an interest in the outcome. This IMO worthless evidence is known as "computer climate studies". Trying to understand climates with our level of technology is like a caveman trying to understand nuclear physics.

Why is it so much hotter in the cities then (1)

Commienst (102745) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052164)

For the most part, whenever you move from a rural area to a city during the summer, it feels alot hotter in the ciy because of increased humidity and a small increase in temperature.

mixing food (1)

davejenkins (99111) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052165)

I was one of those children who hated it when my mashed potatoes got mixed in with my veggies or my meatloaf when Mom made dinner.

I am one of those readers who hate it when political/environmental/sociological stories get mixed in with my technical reads.

If an issue doesn't have something to do with the standard topics at Slashdot, please keep them off this site.

A more immediate question (2)

pmz (462998) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052174)

What is our impact on our own homes and neighborhoods?

Loud music (human mating calls), exhaust from neglected cars (human laziness), and poor city infrastructure (human political greed) all take their toll on our ability to live in comfort and thrive as human beings. No matter what the Earth does in reaction to our behavior, I definitely know that we are actively spoiling our environments.

There are good reasons to be skeptical (2, Interesting)

Greg151 (132824) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052182)

As far as global warming/climate change, we really have no idea what "normal" is. Is it what we have had in the last 1000 years? Well, we have had "mini-ice ages" during this period. Some climatologists believe that we are still in an ice age epoch, but merely between specific events. Also, what is normal solar output? We know that this varies considerably, and appears to have periodic changes that can be predicted (sun spot cycle). If solar output varies even slightly, that would have more effect on our climate than any amount of coal burning.

In other words, it is pure folly to speculate on small measures of time, and say, "This is NORMAL climate." We don't know what normal is.

Spiked (1)

GSV NegotiableEthics (560121) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052194)

I attended a talk on this subject given by Lomborg at the Royal Institution, hosted by a website called Spiked. [] . There is a debate on the Kyoto Protocol [] between Lomborg and Mike Hume on their website.

If you can't predict, you shouldn't prescribe (1)

rlglende (70123) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052196)

These are chaotic systems: the future can't be predicted, not even probablistically.

Therefore, there is no way for a policy to move the system from point A in the state space to point B.

Therefore, we must stop all these organizations from making policy and thereby wasting our $.

This does not prevent us from working to 'save the environment', whether that be species, water sources, ...

But we have to be a lot smarter than environmentalists have been. E.g., if you want to save the the California Condor, show that it is amazingly good to eat, then make it part of our diet. Chickens and turkeys won't ever go extinct, not even wild versions.

Saving species is best done by widening human diet: lots of new plant species for vegetarians, condor Thanksgiving dinners, ...

Lew Glendenning

Re:If you can't predict, you shouldn't prescribe (2)

uncadonna (85026) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052300)

These are chaotic systems: Granted. the future can't be predicted, not even probablilistically

I predict Christmas will be at least 5 degrees colder than the Fourth of July this year in Madison, Wisconsin. Since you allege that I can make no predictions whatsover, you will take me up when I give you odds. Five will get you twenty.

Weather prediction and climate prediction are different things. I made a climate prediction there, not a weather prediction.

Take my bet or admit that your argument is nonsense.

first, do no harm... (5, Insightful)

supernova87a (532540) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052204)

OK, fine. As a scientist and reasonable person, I must admit the possibility that our activities are having absolutely no effect on the environment, and the measurements of climate change are just part of the small natural oscillations in our system. I must admit this possibility, because we don't have enough evidence yet, and to dogmatically cling to a belief without evidence does us no credit, and is the mark of a different ideology.

But on the other hand, look at the problem from a practical perspective. Suppose that global warming is "false" (ie. we're not causing it). Then our actions now have no effect and by reducing emissions, curbing pollution, we do nothing (except improve our own cities, etc. a little bit). But if the phenomenon is real, and our actions now make it better or worse, then by continuing on our present course, we are making the problem worse.

Given these choices, in the absence of information, isn't it more logical to bet on the second? Isn't it safer to assume the worst case scenario? I.e. let's stop doing the things that people suggest may be harming the environment, because if they actually do, we'll be screwed in 50 years? And if they're not harming the environment, we did no harm anyway?

Do some people not understand this logic??

Just my 2 cents... (2)

gordguide (307383) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052207)

I would consider myself an envornmental skeptic... not that I don't believe pollution, etc is a problem. It clearly is.

My skepticism lies with this: I see a lot of "solutions" that only make the problem worse, and I see these being endorsed by those who should know better. (I haven't read the book, but I probably will; I want to hear what he says).

Recycle, Reuse and Reduce.

By far the most important of these are Reuse and Reduce. Recycling is a band aid to fix things when people don't, or won't, do the other two.

It begs a lot of questions: is it better to use a 20-year old vehicle sparingly, or should I buy a new, high-milage vehicle and feel good about my "contribution" to the envornment?

Certainly Industry wants me to buy a new product when a perfectly good one already exists. But is this a good solution? The question is hardly ever asked (and I'm not saying I know the answer; I am saying why is the default answer always seem to be: make more stuff, because it's "better" than the old stuff?).

Recycle aluminum cans? Why is this the "green" solution, when it costs as much in energy (electicity, at least some of which is coal-fired) to make aluminum as it does to recycle it? Why not use less aluminum?

I hope he asks and attempts to answer some of these questions; I would be interested in his conclusions.

Thanks for reading my post; now I have to go back to surfing with my own [personal heavy-metal laden, coal-burning, disposable] enviormental nightmare (a computer)...

Proposed environmental monetization (1)

symplegades (310676) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052211)

one must deeply fault Lomborg's cost-benefit analysis for not making a good attempt to elucidate the cost of environmental degradation per se but instead focusing on pure human property and health costs.

Instability of the Gulf Stream: $10,000.

10 million gallons of water melting from the North Pole Ice Shelf: $500,000

60 deg. F February average temperature in Boston: priceless.

This isn't the right book (5, Informative)

uncadonna (85026) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052222)

It would be a good idea if someone were to write a book on the excesses and gullibility of the environmental "movement" but this isn't it. Rather this book actually tends to attack legitimate environmental science.

In the area where I have the most background, climate change, it takes the usual corporate apologists' position, that the outcome will be at the (IPCC = Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) consensus level or more benign, and then piles up evidence on the more benign side.

Well, the thing about the consensus opinion is that it is based on the entire pile of evidence, not just half of it. By the definition of best estimate, for each piece of evidence showing a more benign outcome there is a less benign outcome.

Now here's the sticky part - the consensus is the median estimate of physical changes due to human alterations of the environment. It's not an average and it's certainly not a cost-weighted average. As I used to try to argue endlessly on sci.environment, the right policy is based on the economic risk, which is weighted toward worst-case scenarios. Cost increases nonlinearly with perturbation, and small perturbations may have negligible costs. This means that the sound and economically valid response should be weighted more heavily toward more pessimistic scenarios. It's simple cost/benefit risk analysis.

When I make this argument, "environmentalists" don't buy it because risk analysis often doesn't match their preconceptions. They have come to the point where they distrust basing any decisions on statistical analysis of evidence, which of course is a completely idiotic position. On the other hand the "wisdom of the free market" forces don't buy a risk analysis of climate change because, well, it inconveniently argues to interventionist policies, and they have a preconception (equally idiotic) that no rational analysis can ever point to government intervention in the marketplace, so there has to be something wrong with the rational argument since it reaches the wrong conclusion.

The point here isn't that there is no book to be written about political correctness, sheepish credulity and factual wrongheadedness among environmentalists. There is one, just as there is another to be written about their opponents. Politics is not science, though, and apparently political books sell better than science books that threaten preconceptions on all sides.

The problem is that this book appears to be just one more piece of trash on the vast heap of conclusion-first polemics, not a cure for it.

Mod this up (2, Informative)

Crypthanatopsis (177252) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052226)

Anybody remember this story at K5 [] ? It's a compilation of all the sources saying how wrong Lomborg is.

P.S. K5 reviewed this book [] back in August.

Correction on "greens" comment (1)

greenguy (162630) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052255)

I need to take issue with one of -cman-'s passing comments, and with the Related Links box. The Green Party that is recognized by the vast majority of capital-G Greens, as well the FEC, is the Green Party of the United States [] , and not the GPUSA. The differences between them are off-topic (and flame-bait in the right crowd), but it is important to distinguish between the two organizations.

Population isn't the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3052257)

The human population continues to grow, threatening our ability to feed the teeming billions.

The fact that earth's population is growing is not what's primarily contributing to hunger. It's greed, selfishness, and poor infrastructure. Producers throw away more than enough food to feed starving nations (consumers waste even more food than that). If we used the food that is kept rotting in silos to raise grain prices for feeding starving nations, we'd have no problems.

There is really only one roadblock to solving world hunger: human nature. If we spent less time trying to convince ourselves that God doesn't exist and more time listening to what he has to say, the world would be a far, far better place for everyone.

Primitive Scientists (2)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052265)

Gee, the scientific priesthood had declared that the weather gods are angry and want some sacrifices made to atone for the sins of humanity and set things right again. You can be sure the anti-business enviro's are going to claim the benefit of every doubt. We've already been thru the Freon/Ozone hole thing, which is mainly a 'screw the US' ploy while Mexico and other 3rd world dumps still pump out tons of the stuff. But, whoever they choose to sacrifice, someone's going to make bundles off it, they always do.

Science is what scientist do (1)

sys49152 (100346) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052267)

I belive that argument was made by a U.S. judge when trying to decide whether Creationism was a science. It isn't.

It should be noted that the author is also not a scientist, he's a statistician. And we all know what you can do with statistics. Further, one must remember that 90% of scientist (working without incentive from industry or government) have concluded that human activities are changing Earth's climate and that this climate change will be rapid and destructive. In fact, the only scientists that hold opposing views have been found to be on the payroll of Big Oil or other vested interest groups. Claiming that all of these scientist have reached the wrong conclusion is little different than saying that evolution may be wrong as it's still a 'theory'.

It seems that someone needs to explain not that the Earth is not at risk, but how carbon emissions could possibly have a benign effect on the environment. Or more simply, why, sitting here in Massachusetts in the middle of February, I have the heat off and my window open.

And as an aside it should be pointed out that even as the Economist praises Mr. Lomborg's work it rails against President Bush and his deceptive and ineffectual emissions reduction plan. Which is it?

Damn it, Cloud! (2)

Glowing Fish (155236) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052270)

THE SHIN-RA are poisoning the earth and we got to do something about it!

Hope he's wrong (0)

bubbaD (182583) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052271)

I pray everyday that, no matter how many species we wipe out, that along the way, we extinguish ourselves. The "environment" dies, or thrives: who cares? As long as the planetary cancer we call humanity is wiped out. I was very dissappointed when the Cold War ended, but I think the possibility of nuking ourselves out is still good. c'mon American, let's start by bringing real piece to Tibet, by wiping it off the face of the Earth!
Until then, embrace Slack!

The Planet's Fine, We're At Risk. (4, Insightful)

Genus Marmota (59217) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052285)

Picture humanity as a group of monkeys sitting on a high tree branch, with a hungry lion waiting paitiently below. A small group of monkeys is sawing furiously away at the branch they all sit on. "We need more lumber!" they shout. Another other group is in a state of panic, shouting "Save the tree! Save the tree!" But most of the monkeys are doing what monkeys generally do: scratching, having sex and looking around for food, completely uninterested in the other two groups.


On my office cube I have a graph of the ice core data from Vostok, Antarctica. The graph of mean planetary temperature change looks like a roller coaster. Goddess sure does like to mix it up. What's striking about it is that for the last 12,000 years or so, we've had an anomalously stable and warm trend. Just about the time humans figured out how to grow wheat and live in villages.

Did humans cause global warming? Well, I don't think there were that many campfires back in the paleolithic. How bout the other way round? Maybe the stable, warmer temperatures made possiblee the "stupid human trick" of huge cities based on domesticated crops?

My unscientific take on it is that the climate is a big 'ol complicated chaotic system. If you're betting your civilization on linear trends persisting very long in any direction, then you're lookin to get spanked. And you haven't looked very hard at the data. I'm as green as the next bumper-sticker-sporting, recycling vegetarian. But I think we're just clever monkeys in the end.

No such animal (1)

bsd-mon (515734) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052286)

But global warming doesn't exist...
Big business is good...
1.6 mpg SUV's are an inalienable right...
dubya is great...
It's all a conspiracy from those long-haired tree-huggers to drive down the price of Birkenstocks

Why are people so hostile (1)

bluewater7 (560830) | more than 12 years ago | (#3052287)

People seem to think that environmentalists want to steal all your money and spend it on saving a little bug that nobody has heard about. What they don't seem to realize is that many people just want sound management and planning for the future that will have real positive effects on the environment. There are 6 billion people on earth, 5 billion of those appeared the the last 100-120 years. That is insane. There will most certainly be effects on the environment, many of which we probably cannot stop. We could do things to help like using solar energy though. Have the government front the money to put high efficiency solar panels on everyone's roof, then have people just pay the government back with a monthly fee just like a power bill that will pay for the solar cells. Scientists are working on a new form of black silicon solar cells that will have ~60% efficiency. That is great. It is an easy, cost effective solution. I just wish our political leadership in this country could look more than 4 years in the future to see that this is a good idea. I don't know about you, but I would like to be able to go snorkling with my kids in twenty years and be able to show them all of the cool stuff in the coral reefs of the indo-pacific. Its sad when people put interests of money and power over the fate of not only species but communities that are landmarks of this planet.
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