I attempted over the course of The Skeptical Environmentalist to describe the principal at ronaldweinland.info ———. Climate. The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World is a book by Danish .. A Review of The Skeptical Environmentalist (Bjorn Lomborg)" (PDF ). Union of Concerned Scienists. Archived from the original (PDF) on The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World The book's objective is to prove to the reader that environmentalists such as Paul.
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The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World Paperback – September 10, Bjørn Lomborg, a former member of Greenpeace, challenges widely held beliefs that the world environmental situation is getting worse and worse in his new book, The Skeptical. Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data. Lomborg, Bjørn, –. The skeptical environmentalist: measuring the real state of the world / Bjørn. Cambridge Core - Natural Resource and Environmental Economics - The Skeptical Environmentalist - by Bjørn Lomborg. Access. PDF; Export citation.
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The Copenhagen Consensus that Lomborg later organized concluded that combating global warming does have a benefit but its priority compared to other issues is "poor" ranked 13th and three projects addressing climate change optimal carbon tax, the Kyoto protocol and value-at-risk carbon tax , are the least cost-efficient of its proposals.
Lomborg concludes his book by once again reviewing the Litany, and noting that the real state of the world is much better than the Litany claims. According to Lomborg, this discrepancy poses a problem, as it focuses public attention on relatively unimportant issues, while ignoring those that are paramount.
In the worst case, The Skeptical Environmentalist argues, the global community is pressured to adopt inappropriate policies which have adverse effects on humanity, wasting resources that could be put to better use in aiding poor countries or fighting diseases such as AIDS. Lomborg thus urges us to look at what he calls the true problems of the world, since solving those will also solve the Litany. The Skeptical Environmentalist was controversial even before its English-language release, with anti-publication efforts launched against Cambridge University Press.
Once in the public arena, the book elicited strong reactions in scientific circles and in the mainstream media. Opinion was largely polarized. Environmental groups were generally critical. The January issue of Scientific American contained, under the heading "Misleading Math about the Earth", a set of essays by several scientists, which maintain that Lomborg and The Skeptical Environmentalist misrepresent both scientific evidence and scientific opinion.
The magazine then refused Lomborg's request to print a lengthy point-by-point rebuttal in his own defence, on the grounds that the 32 pages would have taken a disproportionate share of the month's installment. Scientific American allowed Lomborg a one-page defense in the May edition,  and then attempted to remove Lomborg's publication of his complete response online, citing a copyright violation.
The "separately written expert reviews" further detail the various expert opinions. Peter Gleick 's assessment, for example, states: Jerry Mahlman 's appraisal of the chapter he was asked to evaluate, states:. David Pimentel , who was repeatedly criticized in the book, also wrote a critical review. One critical article, "The Skeptical Environmentalist: A Case Study in the Manufacture of News",  attributes this media success to its initial, influential supporters:.
The media was criticized for the biased selection of reviewers and not informing readers of reviewers' background. Richard C. Bell, writing for Worldwatch noted that the Wall Street Journal, "instead of seeking scientists with a critical perspective," like many publications "put out reviews by people who were closely associated with Lomborg", with the Journal soliciting a review from the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Ronald Bailey, someone "who had earlier written a book called The True State of the World, from which much of Lomborg's claims were taken.
Bell noted that:. It was hardly surprising that Dutton anointed Lomborg's book as 'the most significant work on the environment since the appearance of its polar opposite, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, in It's a magnificent achievement.
Some critics of The Skeptical Environmentalist took issue not with the statistical investigation of Lomborg's Litany, but with the suggestions and conclusions for which they were the foundation. This line of criticism considered the book as a contribution to the policy debate over environment rather than the work of natural science.
Kirby's first concern was not with the extensive research and statistical analysis, but the conclusions drawn from them:. On September 5, , at a Lomborg book reading in England, British environmentalist author Mark Lynas threw a cream pie in Lomborg's face.
The December 12, issue of Grist devoted an issue to The Skeptical Environmentalist ,  with a series of essays from various scientists challenging individual sections.
A separate article examining the book's overall approach took issue with the framing of Lomborg's conclusions:. Addressing the apparent difficulty of scientists opposing The Skeptical Environmentalist in criticizing the book strictly on the basis of statistics and challenging the conclusions about areas of environmental sciences that were drawn from them, Lynas contends:.
Influential UK newsweekly The Economist weighed in at the start with heavy support, publishing an advance essay by Lomborg in which he detailed his Litany, and following up with a highly favorable review and supportive coverage. It stated that "This is one of the most valuable books on public policy—not merely environmental policy— to have been written for the intelligent general reader in the past ten years The Skeptical Environmentalist is a triumph.
Among the general media, The New York Times stated that "The primary target of the book, a substantial work of analysis with almost 3, footnotes, are statements made by environmental organizations like the Worldwatch Institute, the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace.
His richly informative, lucid book is now the place from which environmental policy decisions must be argued. In fact, The Skeptical Environmentalist is the most significant work on the environment since the appearance of its polar opposite, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring , in The authors take the perspective of a court faced with an argument against hearing an expert witness in order to evaluate whether Lomborg was credible as an expert, and whether his testimony is valid to his expertise. They classify the types of criticisms leveled at Lomborg and his arguments, and proceed to evaluate each of the reasons given for disqualifying Lomborg.
They conclude that a court should accept Lomborg as a credible expert in the field of statistics, and that his testimony was appropriately restricted to his area of expertise. Of course, Professor Shoenbrod and Wilson note, Mr. Lomborg's factual conclusions may not be correct, nor his policy proposals effective, but his criticisms should be addressed, not merely dismissed out of hand. The Union of Concerned Scientists and the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty raised concern about the responses of certain sections of the scientific community to a peer reviewed book published under the category of environmental economics.
The groups worried that the receptions to Lomborg were a politicization of science by scientists. This unease was reflected in the involvement of the Union of Concerned Scientists and Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty in "When scientists politicize science: Pielke argued:.
The use of science by scientists as a means of negotiating for desired political outcomes — the politicization of science by scientists — threatens the development of effective policies in contested issues.
By tying themselves to politics, rather than policy, scientists necessarily restrict their value and the value of their science. The Skeptical Environmentalist obviously should be held to high standards of accuracy, but to insist that it read like a scientific paper is both specious and disingenuous.
The book is essentially a response to such popular environmentalist tracts as the State of the World report and the reams of misinformation disseminated by Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the Union of Concerned Scientists, The Ecologist, the Turning Point Project, Grist, Wild Earth, and the rest of the sprawling eco-media propaganda complex. After the publication of The Skeptical Environmentalist , Lomborg was accused of scientific dishonesty.
Lomborg was asked whether he regarded the book as a "debate" publication, and thereby not under the purview of the DCSD, or as a scientific work; he chose the latter, clearing the way for the inquiry that followed. Due to the similarity of the complaints, the DCSD decided to proceed on the three cases under one investigation. On January 6, , a mixed DCSD ruling was released, in which the Committees decided that The Skeptical Environmentalist was scientifically dishonest, but Lomborg was innocent of wrongdoing due to a lack of expertise in the relevant fields: In doing so the Ministry indicated that it regarded the DCSD's previous findings of scientific dishonesty in regard to the book as invalid.
On March 12, , the Committee formally decided not to act further on the complaints, reasoning that renewed scrutiny would, in all likelihood, result in the same conclusion. The original DCSD decision about Lomborg provoked a petition  among Danish academics from scientists, many from the social sciences, who criticised the DCSD's investigative methods.
A group of scientists published an article in in the Journal of Information Ethics ,  in which they concluded that most criticism against Lomborg was unjustified, and that the scientific community had misused their authority to suppress the author. Fog reasserted his contention that, despite the ministry's decision, most of the accusations against Lomborg were valid, and rejected what he called "the Galileo hypothesis", which portrays Lomborg as a brave young man confronting an entrenched opposition.
Fog has established a curated catalogue of criticisms against Lomborg,  which includes a section for each page of every Skeptical Environmentalist chapter. If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username. Sustainable Development Volume 11, Issue 1. First published: Tools Request permission Export citation Add to favorites Track citation. Share Give access Share full text access. Share full text access. Please review our Terms and Conditions of Use and check box below to share full-text version of article.
No abstract is available for this article. All misjudgments, errors, and omissions are my own. Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich is an expert in the fields of ecology and biology, the author of more than scientific papers and several books, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a past president of the American Institute of Biological Sciences.
Along with the authors of The Limits to Growth,3 Ehrlich was seen as a figurehead among ecological doomsayers and, thus, a natural foil for Simon in his deliberately public gamble. Though hardly an academic exercise, the gamblealong with the prodigious growth of world economic output during the s and scast a demoralizing cloud over the efforts of scholars like Ehrlich who insist that human material appropriation necessarily faces constraints imposed by nature.
For whatever reason, growth in economic production has not been limited by obvious natural limits in recent human history, providing support for the intoxicating notion that humans can both enhance their numbers and improve their quality of life ad infinitum.
After all, gross world product expanded seventeen-fold between and ,4 allowing increasing percentages of a dramatically increasing population to enjoy levels of consumption previously reserved only for royalty. By ignoring such palpable triumphs of capitalist development, Ehrlich and his followers seemed rather like party-crashers, prematurely announcing that the keg is almost empty when, to most observers, it looks primed to flow all night. Indeed, according to a prominent recent survey of scientific research by heretofore little-known Danish statistician Bjrn Lomborg, the party may continue unabated for the next century and beyond.
PAUL R. Meadows et al.
Brown et al. We are not running out of energy or natural resources. There will be more and more food per head of the worlds population. Fewer and fewer people are starving.
In we lived for an average of 30 years; today we live for According to the [United Nations] we have reduced poverty more in the last 50 years than we did in the preceding , and it has been reduced in practically every country.
Global warming, though its size and future projections are rather unrealistically pessimistic, is almost certainly taking place, but the typical cure of early and radical fossil fuel cutbacks is way worse than the original affliction, and moreover its total impact will not pose a devastating problem for our future.
Nor will we lose percent of all species in our lifetimein fact we are losing probably 0. Acid rain does not kill the forests, and the air and water around us are becoming less and less polluted.
Mankinds lot has actually improved in terms of practically every measurable indicator. Instead, the American popular press began to lionize Lomborg and his study even before its U. An early review in the New York Times hailed The Skeptical Environmentalist as a substantial work of analysis that exposes the urban myths of the environmental agenda. Rachel Carsons Silent Spring, in The scientific community, in particular, took pains to identify and.
Nicholas Wade, Bjorn Lomborg: See Dutton, supra note 9.
Judge Alex Kozinski, for instance, described The Skeptical Environmentalist as an indispensable resource that provides a devastating critique of the environmental scare-mongering of the last three decades.
Could it really be the case that widespread exaggeration, prevarications, white lies and even convenient typographical errors had been absorbed unchallenged into the folklore of environmental disaster scenarios?
My apprehension scarcely dissipated when the English language edition of Lomborgs tome landed on my desk, for his manuscript, with over pages, nearly footnotes, and tables and diagrams, is instantly impressive. Indeed, much has been written about the sheer volume of citations in The Skeptical Environmentalist,19 as if their numerosity alone demonstrated their veracity. See Douglas A. In fact, the Danish Research AgencyDenmarks preeminent scientific associationresponded to numerous professional complaints brought against Lomborg by conducting an official investigation into the matter, which ultimately concluded that The Skeptical Environmentalist constituted a form of scientific dishonesty that was clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice.
It is hard to know what to make of such a condemnation, however, given that Lomborg continues to hold an official government post as head of the Danish Institute for Environmental Assessment. See Andrew C. In addition, as this article went to press, the Case Western Law Review published an articles only symposium on The Skeptical Environmentalist, the introduction of which called Lomborgs work the most talked about environmental book in recent memeory.
See Jonathan H. Morris, Introduction: Dutton, supra note 9. See, e. Rubin, Green No More: I have now spent considerable time wading through The Skeptical Environmentalist and its prolific footnotes and I am prepared to offer an assessment.
In brief, Lomborgs study is neither as riotously good as his champions claim it to be, nor as scathingly bad as his critics portray it. Rather, it is simply the latest salvo in a debate that will continue to rage until the keg unequivocally runs dry or, alternatively, until humanity finally eases into a giddy, self-congratulatory stupor.
To be sure, Lomborg provides a valuable service by reminding us that we are not entirely the nest-fouling neer-do-wells that we appear to be in the screeds of the most ardent environmentalists. Rather, over the last century in particular, we have made enormous gains in life expectancy, literacy rates, poverty reduction, access to food and water, and other undeniably significant areas of social welfare. Nevertheless, Lomborgs more fundamental claim concerns our prospects for continuing such successes in the future and here, despite appearances, The Skeptical Environmentalist turns out to be much less about knowledge than it is about uncertainty.
Ultimately, what Lomborg and other environmental optimists fail to acknowledge is that Ehrlich and Simon both may be correct in their observations: Put differently, with its tap at the bottom, a keg simultaneously can be flowing steadily and nearing empty.
Lomborgs approach to environmental policy, which focuses upon measuring flows of material inputs to drive production, may not perceive an end to the total stock of such inputs nor, consequently, an end to the economic party. The environmentalist pessimists contention in contrast is that nature, like a keg, has a finite capacity that constrains human development in ways both far more varied and more subtle than revealed by Lomborgs study.
This debate, of course, is an empirical one and The Skeptical Environmentalist does little to resolve it, despite the promise to deliver a comprehensive scientific assessment of the human condition. Rather, what Lomborg offers is simply a particular view as to how humanity should govern itself in the face of uncertainty: See infra text accompanying notes Put differently, Lomborg provides his reader with heavily footnoted, yet eminently familiar political argument, not scientific description, which might help to explain why Cambridge University Press published the book through its social science department, not its natural science division.
However, in his haste to expose the overzealous fringe, Lomborg repeatedly overlooks the actual import of the environmental research that he is analyzing. In addition, although he purports to show that humanitys future appears incontrovertibly bright based upon the best available scientific evidence, Lomborg instead resorts to his own set of unwarranted conclusions, overbroad generalizations, and shaky assumptionsa menagerie of missteps that Part IB collectively and cheekily terms Lomborgs Counterlitany.
Ultimately, then, the only lesson clearly demonstrated by The Skeptical Environmentalist is the unintentional one that scientific information is both malleable and easily deployed by those with an axe to grind, whichever side they happen to be grinding. Part II argues that such an uncertain, politicized scientific arena complicates significantly the current drive to erect a cost-benefit state.
See Stephen H. Schneider, Hostile Climate: To be sure, Lomborg states that he is not interested in advancing a political argument, see, e. Cass R. This emerging nation remains in a process of development; but it may be described as a cost-benefit state, one whose performance. Like many other commentators,25 Lomborg emphasizes cost-benefit analysis as the linchpin of a more rational regulatory agenda.
However, using Lomborgs analysis of global climate change as an example, Part II demonstrates that the practice of cost-benefit analysis in environmental, health, and safety regulation must overcome a variety of actual and potential problems before achieving its full theoretical promise.
For instance, comparative risk assessment and risk-risk analysistwo regulatory decisionmaking processes frequently associated with costbenefit analysis26 and advocated in The Skeptical Environmentalistaim to highlight easily overlooked health and safety tradeoffs, but may in practice handicap effective risk management if not treated with sufficient caution by policymakers.
When used in health and safety contexts, costbenefit analysis also unavoidably involves the comparison of interests that many might consider incommensurable. Moreover, such comparisons often are not made in a manner that is readily transparent to public observers given that cost-benefit analysis typically monetizes the value of life, discounts the interests of future generations, excludes distributional consequences of risks, and ignores those variables that have not been or cannot be quantified.
Any version of cost-benefit analysis that remains insensitive to these political and philosophical complications will tend to obscure what it promises to clarify. For that reason, Part II concludes with a few cautionary observations about the technocratic ideal of cost-benefit analysis that seems to have captivated Bjrn Lomborg, arguing that his.
Kip Viscusi, Regulating the Regulators, 63 U. Sunstein, Reinventing the Regulatory State, 62 U. See Thomas O. An old saw advises readers to scrutinize the footnotes of any extended argument, for that is where the bodies are buried. On that theory, Lomborgs study, with its 2, footnotes, promises a veritable necropolis of misinterpretations, factual errors, and eyebrow-raising omissions.
Nevertheless, before taking spade to turf, it is important to acknowledge the many areas in which The Skeptical Environmentalist has brought a refreshing perspective to the environment-development debate. As Lomborg persuasively argues, on any number of measures humanity has made astounding advancements in welfare over the past century. For instance, more than 85 percent of the worlds inhabitants can expect to live for at least 60 yearsmore than twice as long as people were expected to live on average just a hundred years ago.
Although I would not go so far as to join Lomborg in concluding that [w]e have experienced fantastic progress in all important areas of human activity,35 I concur that there is much to celebrate. Moreover, I agree with Lomborgs intuition that paying exclusive attention to negative aspects of the human condition might foster a sense of hopelessness that ultimately undermines any prospect of eradicating those problems. See id. For that reason, in order to evaluate what, if any, original contribution the Danish statistician has made to our understanding of the real state of the world, one must turn to his chapters on resource use and environmental degradation.
In these sections, Lomborg sets out to demonstrate that the Litany constructed by environmental organizations not only overlooks progress in important areas of human development, but also misrepresents the various areas of ecological trouble to which it does attend.
To his credit, Lomborg candidly discloses in the preface to The Skeptical Environmentalist, I am not myself an expert as regards environmental problems. However, elimination of all photosynthesizing life forms from the Earth eventually would result in a decline of atmospheric oxygen content, a fact that perhaps reveals more about Lomborgs level of concern for future generations than it does his scientific expertise.
Simon ed. See David R. Hodas, Standing and Climate Change: Can Anyone Complain About the Weather? See LOMBORG, supra note 5, at Even if all plants, on land as well as at sea, were killed off and then decomposed, the process would consume less than 1 percent of the atmospheres oxygen. Unfortunately, such confusions plague The Skeptical Environmentalist. In four short pages, Lomborg argues that acid rain has no effect on forests, dismissing the well-known claim to the contrary as a myth. He begins by opining that big-city pollution has nothing to do with acid rain,45 despite the fact that traffic emissions have been shown to be a major contributor of nitrogen compounds that cause acid rain.
Numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies demonstrate that acidic deposition adversely impacts forest ecosystems, whether by causing observable mortality and decline in tree species, as in the case of the sugar maple50 and the red spruce,51 or by causing more long-term and widespread declines in forest quality due to the gradual erosion of base cation nutrient levels in soil.
But Lomborg did not need to delve deeply into the primary scientific literature to discern these facts. For instance, in his chapter on the environmental and health risks of synthetic chemicals, Lomborg erroneously claims that benzene and aflatoxin are pesticides, see LOMBORG, supra note 5, at , , and that maize apparently is not a type of grain, see id. Lomborg wisely chooses not to dispute the impact of acid rain on lakes and other aquatic environments.
See C. Driscoll et al. See A. Johnson et al. Adams eds. As will be seen, Lomborgs analysis of each of these subjects fits into a pattern of oversimplification. As with the rest of his study, Lomborgs section on the value of biodiversity adopts a purely instrumentalist and anthropocentric perspective: This does not mean that plants and animals do not also have rights but that the focus will always be on the human evaluation.
I will, however, criticize Lomborg for ignoring the major instrumental reason for valuing diversity in ecosystem life: In addition to an outpouring of online criticism, see infra note , Lomborgs book also has been rebutted by prominent scientists in the pages of Nature, Science, and Scientific American. See Stephen Schneider, Global Warming: Neglecting the Complexities, SCI.
Holdren, Energy: William F. See Barton H. Thompson, Jr. See James Salzman, Barton H. Daily, Protecting Ecosystem Services: Nevertheless, in reflecting upon the significance of biodiversity, Lomborg somehow manages to overlook entirely the teachings of this literature. Lomborg introduces the subject with what he terms the irreverent question, Is biodiversity important?
He argues that biotic communities as a whole produce ecosystem services, and therefore the worth of any individual species within a community is negligible. Ruhl, Valuing Natures Services: The Future of Environmental Law?
To be sure, at times in The Skeptical Environmentalist Lomborg reveals an awareness of the concept of ecosystem services. For instance, in trying to debunk the view that global warming has led to catastrophic weather events, Lomborg argues that a particularly severe flood in China was in large measure caused by clear-cutting forests on the upstream slopes, causing more rapid runoff.
Thus, flood control provides a salient example of ecosystem services when it serves Lomborgs purpose, but when the topics of biodiversity and ecosystem vitality are directly at issue, such services disappear from view. To make matters worse, when Lomborg does recognize the existence of ecosystem services, he refuses to credit natural scientists with this discovery: Of course, [acknowledging the flood protection services provided by standing forest] is just plain and simple.
With this statement, Lomborg slides from merely negligent to reckless disregard of intellectual history. As I have detailed in other work, see supra note 16 , the incorporation of ecosystem services into economic theory requires extensive modification of background assumptions regarding the availability and substitutability of natural capital.
Although these modifications are beginning to take place, they are doing so largely at the behest of biologists, physicists, and other natural scientists who have collaborated with a few sympathetic economists to bring multidisciplinary rigor to the study of natures role within human economic production. Lomborgs ignorance of this history not only undermines his discussion of biodiversity, it also reflects a deeper problem of asymmetric skepticism that plagues The Skeptical Environmentalist throughout.
See infra Section IIB. This reasoning is fatuous. To begin with, there is some reason to believe that the loss of even a single species may have significant consequences for the integrity of an ecosystem. Just as the introduction of a single non-native species often leads to sweeping changes in the composition of an ecosystem,65 the elimination of just one native component of an ecological community also appears capable of rendering the remaining system dramatically unstable.
Scholars who advocate orienting environmental law and policy around the notion of ecosystem services do not base their case on the notion that such services depend upon the health of any individual species. Rather they contend that overall species diversity acts as an important factor in determining the resiliency and vitality of an ecosystem. Turning to the actual measurement of biodiversity and species extinction, Lomborg introduces the issue by noting that the fact of species getting blotted out has been part and parcel of evolution.
With respect to the former question, environmental organizations have. Estes et al. I am indebted to J. Ruhl for the insightful analogy between introduction of a non-native and removal of a native species. See J. Naeem et al. Salzman, Thompson, Jr. Nevertheless, much like the traditional health advice to consume eight glasses of water per day,71 the extinction figure appears to have achieved great salience and authority merely through its pervasive repetition.
Thus, with regard to this well-known statistic, Lomborgs critique of the Litany has hit its mark. The reader is still left wondering, however, why the author would devote several pages of his skeptical opus to such easy prey. The dominant method of determining rates of extinction today depends upon associations believed to exist between habitat destruction and species loss.
First, he argues that the eastern forests of the United States were reduced over two centuries to fragments totaling just percent of their original area, but nonetheless this resulted in the extinction of only one forest bird. OF SCI. Lovejoy, supra note 54, at It is instructive to contrast Lomborgs use of original forest cover data here, where it appears to aid his argument that extinction rates are overestimated, with his use of total forest cover data later, where it appears to aid his argument that deforestation is overestimated.
See infra note In both cases Lomborg has chosen the method of measurement that arguably is least appropriate for the analytical task at hand. Second, Lomborg cites a study of bird life in Puerto Rico finding that seven out of sixty species of birds became extinct during a period of heavy deforestation on the island. More importantly, as the editor of Scientific American has pointed out, Lomborg neglects to note that many species of bird did not go extinct because they were not unique to Puerto Rico and could recolonize it from other islands; that the seven species that did become extinct were all from a group of only 20 bird species unique to the island; and that at least four of the surviving species have only a few members and may yet perish.
To counter the figures derived from species-habitat area formulae, Lomborg makes much of the fact that official World Conservation Union IUCN recorded extinction figures for mammals and birds are very small.
Had Lomborg undertaken that task, he would have For instance, Lomborg accuses Edward O. Wilson and Paul Ehrlich of supporting a plan to move the entire population of the [United States] so as to re-create a natural wilderness in most of the North American continent. In reality, these scientists simply have offered public endorsement of the Wildlands Project, a nonprofit organization that seeks to interconnect large wilderness reserves with undeveloped pathways that will allow species migration between preservation zones.
See http: In short, he might have discovered relevant, credible information that reveals much more about the real state of the world than a straw-man critique of Norman Myerss twenty-year old extinction rate figure.
Although s debates about the future of the environment tended to focus on the projected availability of nonrenewable resources,86 renewable resources appear to have emerged as the area in which environmental constraints are most apparent. Douglas Hopkins et al. Peel, Swimming Past the Hook: Of course, to engage in a comprehensive comparison of aquaculture to wild catch, one also would need to consider fuel consumption and other impacts of open seas fishing that are not shared by aquaculture.
However, even apart from the ecological distinctions between farm-raised and wild catch, recent analysis suggests that the Chinese government systematically overstated national catch rates during the s in a manner that fundamentally taints the FAO data relied upon by Lomborg. Revised data now suggest that the global catch fell by some , tons per year, rather than rising by approximately that amount as previously believed.
Lomborgs data on forest loss suffer from a variety of such problems that have been explored by Emily Matthews, a senior associate with the World Resources Institute. For instance, he relies upon a data series from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization FAO that was expressly discontinued by FAO because it considered the data unreliable for assessing forest cover. He also confusingly juxtaposes net forest cover figures with estimates of reductions in original forest cover, see LOMBORG, supra note 5, at n.
Finally, he criticizes the World Wildlife Fund WWF for overestimating the massive Indonesian forest fires of the late s, when in fact the most authoritative consensus estimate of the extent of forests burned during the Indonesian fires of is more than twice the WWF estimate that is derided by Lomborg.
See supra text accompanying note 67 noting that many ecosystem services are positively correlated with ecosystem diversity. Lomborg states that the tropical deforestation rates is only 0. Amazingly, Lomborg still claims that [b]asically. However, to the many humans and other life forms that depend directly or indirectly on the unique biological qualities of the rainforest, Lomborgs data are meaningless.
The treatment of nonrenewable resources in The Skeptical Environmentalist follows a similarly indiscriminate path. According to Lomborg, given technological advances in recovery and exploitation techniques, one may state as a practical matter that most resources have actually become more abundant despite enormous increases in resource use over the last century. See Matthews, supra note See supra text accompanying notes Robert M Solow, Sustainability: Stavins ed.
Resources are, to use a favorite word of economists, fungible in a certain sense. Moreover, while Lomborg foresees a vague but rosy future of increasing oil availability, the U. Energy Information Administration recently has used U.
Geological Survey data to estimate that world oil production will peak sometime between and , a range that the authors of the study admit is among the most optimistic available in the literature.
How should scarcity be measured? If we want to examine whether oil is getting more and more scarce we have to look at whether oil is getting more and more expensive. Geological Survey data is preferable to the interpretation of the Energy Information Administration. Lomborg does not answer that question and, given the impact that discounting would have on the markets valuation of future oil demand, it is doubtful that he could.
Perhaps aware that his view of nonrenewable resources is untenable in the long run and also problematic in the short run given greenhouse emissions and other negative externalities associated with fossil fuels , See Sustainability, supra note 16, at 21 describing the second law of thermodynamics and its implication that [t]he fixed quantum of matter-energy with which the universe is endowed must necessarily move from a state of high-availability to low-availability, of lowentropy to high-entropy, and of order to chaos.
See Kysar, Vision, supra note 16, at With respect to certain applications such as electricity generation, coal offers a substitute for oil of enormous abundance. See Jeffrey J. Thus, the short run constraint of negative externalities becomes of primary significance. Lomborg wisely predicts a future dominated by alternative energy sources: A thousand years ago we did not use oil, and a thousand years from now we will probably be using solar, fusion or other technologies we have not yet thought of.
The concerned citizen justifiably might ask what form such substitutes will take, but Lomborgs optimism seems equally boundless for nuclear, solar, and wind energy, and even for some as-of-now unimagined technology.
After all, littered throughout Lomborgs tome are unintentional acknowledgments that modern production techniques indeed, modern civilizationis heavily dependent upon fossil fuels. He claims that [t]he fall in the price of food is a genuine long-term tendency, on the same page that he attributes heavy price increases for food during the s to the oil crisis.
But as we have seen. Consequently, the assumption should still be that the market will invest [in] the optimal amount of renewable energy. Lomborg himself admits as much at various points in the text. The question of whether and how humanity will feed an additional 3. As if to deflect attention from the ruse, Lomborg repeatedly claims that current dependence on fossil fuels for energy production is a temporary anomaly of little long-term significance.
After all, Lomborg seems to argue, given that the global price for energy constitutes less than 2. Thus, synthetic fertilizer has been and will continue to be crucially important in feeding the world while leaving sufficient space for other species.
The answer is to be found in a number of technologies which are collectively known as The Green Revolution. Nor is food production the only optimistic prediction made by The Skeptical Environmentalist that trades upon an obscured dependency on fossil fuels. The desalination plants that Lomborg posits as a technological solution to freshwater scarcity, see id. Gleick, Wheres Waldo? A Review of the Skeptical Environmentalist , available at http: Likewise, the solar panels and wind turbines that Lomborg speculates will replace coal and oil in future applications, see LOMBORG, supra note 5, at , require raw materials that are themselves dependent on fossil fuels for their production, see id.
Incomplete references to technological fixes such as these serve only to distract the reader from the more fundamental point that humanity has been given a one-time endowment of fossil fuels that must be distributed equitably between current and future generations. Confronted with evidence that modern agriculture depends heavily on fossil fuel inputs, Lomborg might respond similarly that food constitutes only 5 percent of the global GDP.
Like the denizens of this hypothetical future, readers seeking answers to the great ecological challenges ahead are left hungry by The Skeptical Environmentalist. As the previous Section described, Lomborgs glowing assessment of the human condition is marred by his selective analysis of scientific research and his failure to appreciate fully the significance of the research that he does choose to analyze.
Were these the only failings of The Skeptical Environmentalist, one might be content to discount the work as merely a careless gloss on the findings of environmental science. As will be detailed in this Section, however, Lomborgs book also attempts to provide a positive political account of why the state of the world is so strikingly good assuming for the moment that Lomborg is correct in believing that it is strikingly good.
In delivering this part of the argument, Lomborg relies upon a veritable Counterlitany of assumptions about the tendency for markets to foster technological solutions to resource scarcities, the degree to which government regulation is responsible for environmental improvements, and the potential for international trade and economic development to resolve environmental problems in the Third World.
This Section notes that Lomborgs Counterlitany is subject to considerably more uncertainty and debate than the author discloses.