Friday, October 22, 2010

Silke Beck on Lomborg: A climate change of mood? Lomborg’s turn from a skeptical environmentalist to an honest broker?

The German magazine DIE ZEIT just published an interview with Bjørn Lomborg;  (see also Lomborg is a statistician at the Copenhagen Business School and author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming. In former controversies, Lomborg advanced to the role model for a “skeptical environmentalist” (TSE) and to the “bogeyman” for climate activists.
Bjorn Lomborg is in the news again. In interviews with the Guardian and the ZEIT (that do not differ very much), Lomborg appears to make a surprising about turn in his views:

1. He states that global warming is “undoubtedly one of the chief concerns facing the world today”. This is a surprising statement from one of the world's best-known climate sceptics. Lomborg also claims in the ZEIT interview that he has never played down global warming.

2. Lomborg’s solutions how to tackle with climate change, surprisingly reminded me of positions represented by The Hartwell Paper and Roger Pielke’s The Climate Fix.
Crazy new world? What about our old controversies and battlefields? Who is a sceptic and who is a denial now? Does Lomborg simple borrow these ideas? Or, are these ideas as persuading that Lomborg can not resist anymore? Or do these similarities simply indicate a welcome pragmatism in climate politics?


Richard Tol said...

Note that the Skeptical Environmentalist, Lomborg's first book, advocates a carbon tax.

As far as I know, Lomborg has always advocated moderate climate policy, proportionate to the urgency of the problem and other demands on public money and attention.

The change is in the portrayal and perception of Lomborg rather than in his position.

Hans von Storch said...

I would agree with Richard in characterizing Lomborg's position. His chief argument was - there are several serious global issues; you need to priortize the problem, for which mitigation is most efficient. This would not be climate.

Zajko said...

Lomborg has long been an R&D advocate as well, and he's been putting his eggs in many baskets, warning against the "either or" approach for dealing with climate change.
In The Skeptical Environmentalist he minimized the severity of climate change in proportion to other global problems, and argued how cost-effective adaptation would be compared to mitigation, but he's always said global warming was a serious problem (albeit at the bottom of the "serious" list) and mitigation was important.
His recent change seems to be one of emphasis, but I haven't seen the new book yet. Still, in today's world he's hardly the arch-skeptic he was once supposed to be.

Anonymous said...

Neither the (nameless :-)) Zeit interview(s?) nor Lomborg mentioned what seems to me to be also relevant and what germany's Minister of Defense, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, solicited from us recently at the 'Zeit-Konferenz zur internationalen Sicherheitspolitik':

That is to say e.g. to factor in causes for conflict which emerge due to unsolved questions regarding climate change or the safety of ressources. He said, an debate concerning safety policy would be in one's infancy if any and with a lot of catching-up to do to be considered strategically substantiated:

„Auch das wird als sicherheitspolitische Debatte zu bewerten sein, die sich bislang, wenn überhaupt, erst in den Kinderschuhen befindet“ (See Ministry of Defense, 19.10.2010: "Zu Guttenberg sieht 'Nachholbedarf in der strategisch fundierten Debatte'").

It would be also of interest – at least to me – to adept what Matthias Nass, Deputy Editor of Die Zeit and member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Coferences (cf. here), has_possibly_to/is_allowed_to/can say about this year's Biderberg meetings issue "Global Cooling" (cf. here).


Werner Krauss said...

Lomborg is an emblematic figure in the climate change debate. He is both scientist and media person; he works exactly on the border between science and public. He has great talent for good book titles ("Cool it!"), and for highlighting and shaping discourse options. He is a kind of trickster in a mythical sense - you can never pin him down, but you can mark your own position in relation to him. Either you blame him for being scientifically incorrect or you praise him because he supports your own political position (only alarmists never liked him).
Most of all, he is really honest - just have a look at his website
It is all about his public fame and influence, and only at the end there is a small entry that he is also an adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School. I think this could serve as a role model for some other scientists who have their saying in the global climate debate.

Anonymous said...

@Richard - It is great to see that you have actually carefully read Lomborg's book. Lomborg's position has altered slightly, he advocates 3 times more money (from 30Bn a year to about 100Bn) for climate change mitigation.

Lomborg has never been a skeptic - he accepted MBH98 in The Skeptical Environmentalist.

It is odd that Roger Pielke Jnr, Nordhaus and others do not seem to like Lomborg. Their positions are similar and Lomborg is an amazingly good self-promoter and would be a powerful advocate for the low carbon tax that funds research cause.

_Flin_ said...

@Anonymous 6: Accepting MBH98 or not is the lithmus for being a sceptic? What about questions about the role of clouds? What about questions about the extent of climate sensitivity? What about underestimated importance of decadal oscillations? What about questions about high uncertainties? What about questions about the high costs of mitigation?

All sceptic positions, all have zip to do with MBH1998.

MBH1998 is just an obsession, the holy grail of the professional denial industry.

Concerning Lomborg:
Everyone who accepts that there is AGW will sooner or later change teams towards the alarmists. The longer esp. the USA do nothing at all to mitigate climate change (or prepare adaption), the more expensive mitigation and adaption will become. And the more urgent things will become.
And as long as the prices of resources continue to climb and the threat of peak oil comes closer and closer, the more important a sustainable energy policy will become.

The Department of Defense has already got the message.

And really funny how the number country spending money on renewable energies comes out of the crisis on top of the western countries.