Wednesday, September 12, 2007

NYT's Trumpets Bjørn Lomborg


A little background first. Bjørn Lomborg wrote an extremely controversial book called The Skeptical Environmentalist. This book launched a firestorm of controversy with the vast majority of mainstream scientists criticizing Lomborg. An editorial in the prestigious peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature described Lomborgs work as 'employs the strategy of those who argue that... Jews weren't singled out by the Nazis'. And National Academy of Science member Norman Myers said Lomborg had not done "a fraction of the homework that could give him a preliminary understanding of the science in question." Scientific American has a 12 page article titled "Misleading Math about the Earth" dedicated solely to debunking his book. Clearly Bjørn Lomborg is not a mainstream scientist. Recently the New York Times had two pieces on him. How did the NYT's author John Tierney science columnist and blogger describe him?
Dr. Lomborg believes in global warming but isn’t a zealot — he doesn’t refer to scientists who question the climate models as “denialists,” as if there were some revealed dogma about future climate. [snip] The lesson from our expedition is not that global warming is a trivial problem. Although Dr. Lomborg believes its dangers have been hyped...
In both of NYT's pieces on Lomborg a book is mentioned. The title:
Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming
That name has been used before. A quick look at Amazon shows that it's first review is none other than climate change critic and fiction author Michael Crichton. He of course gives the book a glowing review. However, the Washington Post's editorial review is in stark contrast of Crichton:
In one case after another, Lomborg asserts, it's cheaper and better to do nothing immediately to combat climate change, but instead to invest in other things.

The deepest flaw in Cool It is its failure to take into account the full range of future climate possibilities. The computer models project outcomes ranging from mild, which he acknowledges, to truly catastrophic, which he ignores. While the chances of catastrophic climate change may still be small, they are increasing: By comparing real world data with the 2001 IPCC projections, researchers have shown that the sea is rising more swiftly than even the worst case scenarios in the projections.

Lomborg's mantra is the supposedly high costs of dealing with climate change. The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change is a detailed analysis of those costs, commissioned by the UK Treasury and reported to the prime minister. Stern, a senior government economist, argues that it's much cheaper to combat climate change than to live with the consequences.
It would appear that the NYT's needs a new science columnist. If there is one thing that the NYT's columnist is good at is realizing what he his. This is from John Tierney's bio:
John Tierney always wanted to be a scientist but went into journalism because its peer-review process was a great deal easier to sneak through.
That certainly seems to describe this situation rather nicely. In full disclosure this post does not intend to criticize Lomborg's solutions. This post is merely pointing out that the logic and supporting statistics used by Lomborg is clearly in conflict with statements given by numerous leading scientists and institutions. The NYT's columnist did not do an adequate job of informing their readers just how controversial Lomborg is.

Update: In the "Further Reading" box of links one, and only one, article Lomborg is cited. This article is also devoid of harsh statements made by Lomborg.

Update II:
The WSJ editorial board member Kimberly Strassel reviews his book in a similar manner:
On the other side are those who don't think that the Earth is warming; and even if it is, they don't think that man is causing it; and even if man is to blame, it isn't clear that global warming is bad; and even if it is, efforts to fix it will cost too much and may, in the end, do more harm than good. Standing in the practical middle is Bjorn Lomborg, the free-thinking Dane who, in "The Skeptical Environmentalist" (2001), challenged the belief that the environment is going to pieces.
Let it be known that the editorial board of the WSJ has avoided invitations from Scientific American to have a simple sit down with the worlds top scientists and learn the material.

Sources:
NYT's, Findings, ‘Feel Good’ vs. ‘Do Good’ on Climate, JOHN TIERNEY, Published: September 11, 2007
NYT's, Tierney Lab, A Cool Look at Global Warming: Your Turn to Take On Bjorn Lomborg, John Tierney, September 10, 2007
The New York Times, SCIENTIST AT WORK/Bjorn Lomborg; From an Unlikely Quarter, Eco-Optimism, NICHOLAS WADE, August 7, 2001

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