Sunday, March 14, 2004

Lomborg Exonerated

Three years ago, Bjorn Lomborg published an English language translation of "The Skeptical Environmentalist," the single best source for rebutting the enviro-crazy. The book collects facts about the environment, uses those facts to demonstrate environmental improvements over the past 35 years, and refutes claims of environmental "Chicken Littles." You know who they are--scientists, college professors and "public interest" advocates whose funding depends on doomsday scenarios.

Lomborg has been pilloried ever since. See tpfp posts 2/13 3:13pm, 2/7 11:37pm. Within a year after the publication:
a global smear campaign has attempted to discredit the Danish academic who had the audacity to question the hysterics and distortions of the modern day environmental movement. So threatened were the professional environmental pessimists in academia, NGOs and think tanks by Lomborg's arguments and ideas, they lashed out and viciously attacked him, seeking to destroy his credibility. The attack included a one-sided smear in the pages of Scientific American, protesters throwing pies at him at speaking engagements, and a website,, devoted to discrediting him.
Lomborg smearing soon went from sport to farce--a so-called "Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty" condemned the book as "objectively dishonest" and "clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice." This decision was widely reported in all the old familiar places, i.e., the NY Times, Washington Post, etc.

You'd think lefties, especially the liberal media, would be suspicious when a quasi-government committee denounces science as heresy--as the 17th Century Catholic church did to Galileo. Not so. The left barely noticed when Timothy Wirth, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs for President Clinton, proclaimed "We've got to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing." Rarely reported was the fact that the Danish Committee didn't conduct it's own analysis, but relied solely on articles from Scientific American and that famous science publication, Time Magazine, written by people Lomborg had challenged--who had incentives to defend their work (and funding) to the last footnote. Few mentioned that one of the anti-Lomborg authorities, Stamford Prof Stephen Schneider, admitted that global warming pessimism wasn't neutral, but advocacy:
On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but - which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people, we'd like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climate change. To do that, we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public's imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.
I guess it depends on the meaning of "honesty."

Fortunately for science, the greens' campaign to suppress heresy failed. Late last year, the Danish Ministry of Science and Technology overturned the DCDS's "kangaroo court decision." Then, on Friday, the dishonest Committee on Scientific Dishonesty waved the white flag. Acknowledging the Ministry found its "judgment was not backed up by documentation and was 'completely void of argumentation,'" the Committee "Withdr[ew]" the case against Lomborg. Issue closed. That's good for Lomborg--and for science.

Still I wonder: why is the left so passionately committed to unproven fear mongering? Genetically modified foods, which could increase farm yields and reduce death from starvation, are widely vilified--without a single fatality. The press faithfully headlines every pronouncement of warmer (or cooler) weather, without checking their facts. The media rarely acknowledges scientists who predict no or insignificant global warming. This puts assumptions about man-made warming to the left of even the United States Senate, which called the Kyoto treaty "dead on arrival," and refused to consider ratification, by a vote of 95-0.

It's hard for layman like us to dispute science experts. But it's easy to take account of incentives and bias. Few lefties bother. The newly exonerated Bjorn Lomborg counseled skepticism. It's still the most appropriate environmental policy.

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