6.3.09

Bjorn Lomborg - The Rational Environmentalist

Bjorn Lomborg - The Rational Environmentalist


Lomborg, a boyish 43-year-old, first burst onto the intellectual scene in 2001 with his best-selling book The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World. There the former Greenpeace member argued persuasively that most of the planetary doom scenarios imagined by ideological environmentalists were contradicted by the available ecological and economic data. The book provoked a furious green backlash, the low point of which was a 2003 ruling by the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty that "the publication of the work under consideration is deemed to fall within the concept of scientific dishonesty." Lomborg was vindicated later that year when the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation overturned the ruling, calling it "completely void of argumentation."




The author most recently of Cool It, Lomborg is also the force behind The Copenhagen Consensus, a path-breaking approach toward effecting efficient solutions to the planet's most pressing issues. "At the end of the day," says Lomborg, "this is about saying, Yes, global warming is real. It's often massively exaggerated, which is why we need smarter solutions.... Let's pick them smart, rather than stupidly. And also, let's remember that they are many other problems in the world that we can fix so much cheaper and do so much more good....If this is really a question about doing good in the world, then let's do real good—and not just make ourselves feel good about what we do."



Saving the planet became a specific job description six years ago, when Lomborg was appointed director of the Danish National Environmental Assessment Institute, a group whose explicit aim is to "get the most environment for the money." In 2004, under Lomborg's guidance, the institute convened the first Copenhagen Consensus conference, in which eight leading economists, including four Nobel laureates, were asked to allocate a theoretical $50 billion to solve the world's biggest problems. The panel was presented with 30 proposals from other researchers for ranking and evaluation. The top four priorities left standing at the end of the conference were: controlling HIV/AIDS, providing micronutrients to children, liberalizing trade, and rolling back malaria. Addressing climate change ranked near the bottom. This infuriated many environmentalists, but overall the meeting garnered favorable attention around the world.

Lomborg is Al Gore's nemesis - lets see a head to head!

In 2007, following with the Copenhagen Consensus theme of sensible policy prioritization, Lomborg published Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming, in which he acknowledged that man-made global warming is a problem but challenged the notion that it is the biggest threat to human well-being. Instead of draconian and poverty-inducing cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, Lomborg argued, rich countries could more effectively tackle the problem through massive research and development into low-carbon energy technologies.

In May 2008, Lomborg convened the second Copenhagen Consensus Center conference. This time eight leading economists, including five Nobelists, considered how to allocate a theoretical $75 billion during the next four years to solve 10 of the world's largest problems. Would it be better, for example, to provide efficient stoves to poor people who are exposed to indoor cooking smoke, or supply middle-aged people in developing countries with cheap pills combining aspirin and cholesterol-reducing statins to prevent heart attacks? The panel's top four solutions: providing vitamin A and zinc supplements to poor children, liberalizing trade, fortifying salt and staple foods with the micronutrients iodine and iron, and expanding childhood immunization. Cutting greenhouse gases came in at the bottom, although another approach to global warming—R&D spending on low-carbon energy technologies—was a mid-list priority.

The Top Thirty Solutions to the World's Biggest Problems

Further reading:
Copenhagen Consensus
Reason TV
Reason online
Global Cooling





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