Bjørn Lomborg

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Bjørn Lomborg
Bjørn Lomborg 1.jpg
Bjørn Lomborg
Born (1965-01-06) 6 January 1965 (age 49)
Frederiksberg, Denmark
Occupation Author, Researcher, Analyst
Subject Environmental Economics

Bjørn Lomborg (Danish: [bjɶɐ̯n ˈlʌmbɒˀw]; born 6 January 1965) is an adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre and a former director of the Environmental Assessment Institute in Copenhagen. He became internationally known for his best-selling and controversial book The Skeptical Environmentalist (2001).

In 2002, Lomborg and the Environmental Assessment Institute founded the Copenhagen Consensus, which seeks to establish priorities for advancing global welfare using methodologies based on the theory of welfare economics.

Lomborg campaigned against the Kyoto Protocol and other measures to cut carbon emissions in the short-term, and argued for adaptation to short-term temperature rises as they are inevitable, and for spending money on research and development for longer-term environmental solutions, and on other important world problems such as AIDS, malaria and malnutrition. In his critique of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Lomborg stated: "Global warming is by no means our main environmental threat." [1]

In the chapter on climate change in his 2001 book A Skeptical Environmentalist he states; "This chapter accepts the reality of man-made global warming but questions the way in which future scenarios have been arrived at and finds that forecasts of climate change of 6 degrees by the end of the century are not plausible".[2] Cost–benefit analyses, calculated by the Copenhagen Consensus, ranked climate mitigation initiatives low on a list of international development initiatives when first done in 2004.[3][verification needed][dead link] In a 2010 interview with the New Statesman, Lomborg summarized his position on climate change: "Global warming is real – it is man-made and it is an important problem. But it is not the end of the world."[4]

Academic career[edit]

Lomborg spent a year as an undergraduate at the University of Georgia, earned an M.A. degree in political science at the University of Aarhus in 1991, and a Ph.D. degree in political science at the University of Copenhagen in 1994.

He lectured in statistics in the Department of Political Science at the University of Aarhus as an assistant professor (1994–1996) and associate professor (1997–2005). He left the university in February 2005 and in May of that year became an Adjunct Professor at Copenhagen Business School.

Early in his career his professional areas of interest lay in the simulation of strategies in collective action dilemmas, simulation of party behavior in proportional voting systems, and the use of surveys in public administration. In 1996, Lomborg's paper, "Nucleus and Shield: Evolution of Social Structure in the Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma", was published in the academic journal, American Sociological Review.[5]

Later Lomborg's interests shifted to the use of statistics in the environmental arena. His most famous book in this area is The Skeptical Environmentalist, whose English translation was published as a work in environmental economics by Cambridge University Press in 2001. He later edited Global Crises, Global Solutions, which presented the first conclusions of the Copenhagen Consensus, published in 2004 by the Cambridge University Press. In 2007, he authored a book entitled Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming.

The Skeptical Environmentalist[edit]

Main article: The Skeptical Environmentalist

In 1998, Lomborg published four essays about the state of the environment in the leading Danish newspaper Politiken, which according to him "resulted in a firestorm debate spanning over 400 articles in major metropolitan newspapers."[6]

In 2001, he attained significant attention by publishing The Skeptical Environmentalist, a controversial book whose main thesis is that many of the most-publicized claims and predictions on environmental issues are wrong.

Accusations of scientific dishonesty[edit]

After the publication of The Skeptical Environmentalist, Lomborg was accused of scientific dishonesty. Several environmental scientists brought a total of three complaints against Lomborg to the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD), a body under Denmark's Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. The charges claimed that The Skeptical Environmentalist contained deliberately misleading data and flawed conclusions. Due to the similarity of the complaints, the DCSD decided to proceed on the three cases under one investigation.

DCSD investigation[edit]

On 6 January 2003 the DCSD reached a decision on the complaints. The ruling sent a mixed message, deciding the book to be scientifically dishonest, but Lomborg himself not guilty because of lack of expertise in the fields in question:[7]

Objectively speaking, the publication of the work under consideration is deemed to fall within the concept of scientific dishonesty. ...In view of the subjective requirements made in terms of intent or gross negligence, however, Bjørn Lomborg's publication cannot fall within the bounds of this characterization. Conversely, the publication is deemed clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice.

The DCSD cited The Skeptical Environmentalist for:

  1. Fabrication of data;
  2. Selective discarding of unwanted results (selective citation);
  3. Deliberately misleading use of statistical methods;
  4. Distorted interpretation of conclusions;
  5. Plagiarism;
  6. Deliberate misinterpretation of others' results.

MSTI review[edit]

On 13 February 2003, Lomborg filed a complaint against the DCSD's decision, with the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MSTI), which has oversight over the DCSD. On 17 December 2003, the Ministry annulled the decision made by DCSD. In doing so, MSTI cited several procedural errors, including:

  • The DCSD did not provide specific statements on actual errors. On this point the MSTI stated "the DCSD has not documented where [Dr. Lomborg] has allegedly been biased in his choice of data and in his argumentation, and ... the ruling is completely void of argumentation for why the DCSD find that the complainants are right in their criticisms of [his] working methods. It is not sufficient that the criticisms of a researcher's working methods exist; the DCSD must consider the criticisms and take a position on whether or not the criticisms are justified, and why."[8]
  • The DCSD did not use a precise standard for deciding "good scientific practice" in the social sciences;
  • The DCSD's definition of "objective scientific dishonesty" was not clear about whether "distortion of statistical data" had to be deliberate or not;
  • The DCSD had not properly documented that The Skeptical Environmentalist was a scientific publication on which they had the right to intervene in the first place;

The Ministry remitted the case to the DCSD. In doing so the Ministry indicated that it regarded the DCSD's previous findings of scientific dishonesty in regard to the book as invalid.[9][verification needed][dead link][10] The Ministry also instructed the DCSD to decide whether to reinvestigate.

On 12 March 2004, the Committee formally decided not to act further on the complaints, reasoning that renewed scrutiny would, in all likelihood, result in the same conclusion.[9]

Response of the scientific community[edit]

The original DCSD decision about Lomborg provoked a petition[11] among Danish academics. 308 scientists, many of them from the social sciences, criticised the DCSD's methods in the case and called for the DCSD to be disbanded.[12] The Danish Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation then asked the Danish Research Agency to form an independent working group to review DCSD practices.[13] In response to this, another group of Danish scientists collected over 600 signatures (primarily from the medical and natural sciences community) to support the continued existence of the DCSD and presented their petition to the Danish Research Agency.[12]

The top 50 sustainability books[edit]

The alumni network of the Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership (CPSL) voted The Skeptical Environmentalist among its list of the top 50 sustainability books.[14]

Continued debate and criticism[edit]

The rulings of the Danish authorities in 2003-2004 left Lomborg's critics frustrated. Lomborg claimed vindication as a result of MSTI's decision to set aside the original finding of DCSD.

The Lomborg Deception, a book by Howard Friel, claims to offer a "careful analysis" of the ways in which Lomborg has "selectively used (and sometimes distorted) the available evidence".[15] Lomborg has provided a 27-page argument-by-argument rebuttal. Friel has written a reply to this rebuttal,[16] in which he admits two errors, but otherwise in general rejects Lomborg´s arguments. An attempt to analyse the controversy argument-by-argument is presented on the web site Lomborg-errors.[17]

A Dutch think tank, HAN, Heidelberg Appeal the Netherlands, published a report in which they claimed 25 out of 27 accusations against Lomborg to be unsubstantiated or not to the point.[18] A group of scientists with relation to this think tank also published an article in 2005 in the Journal of Information Ethics,[19] in which they concluded that most criticism against Lomborg was unjustified, and that the scientific community misused their authority to suppress Lomborg.

The claim that the accusations against Lomborg were unjustified was challenged in the next issue of Journal of Information Ethics[20] by Kåre Fog, one of the original plaintiffs. Fog reasserted his contention that, despite the ministry's decision, most of the accusations against Lomborg were valid. He also rejected what he called "the Galileo hypothesis", which he describes as the conception that Lomborg is just a brave young man confronting old-fashioned opposition. Fog maintains a detailed catalogue of criticisms of Lomborg on the Lomborg Errors website.[21]

Further career[edit]

Government work[edit]

In March 2002, the newly elected center-right prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, appointed Lomborg to run Denmark's new Environmental Assessment Institute (EAI). On 22 June 2004, Lomborg announced his decision to resign from this post to go back to the University of Aarhus, saying his work at the Institute was done and that he could better serve the public debate from the academic sector.

In 2002, Lomborg and the Environmental Assessment Institute founded the Copenhagen Consensus, which seeks to establish priorities for advancing global welfare using methodologies based on the theory of welfare economics. A panel of prominent economists was assembled to evaluate and rank a series of problems every four years. The project was funded largely by the Danish government, and co-sponsored by The Economist. A book summarizing the conclusions of the economists' first assessment, Global Crises, Global Solutions, edited by Lomborg, was published in October 2004 by Cambridge University Press.

Further books[edit]

Solutions for the World's Biggest Problems, published in 2007, offers an "... overview of twenty-three of the world's biggest problems relating to the environment, governance, economics, and health and population. Leading economists provide a short survey of the state-of-the-art analysis and sketch out some policy solutions for which they provide cost-benefit ratios."[22]

Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming, also published in 2007, argues against taking immediate and "drastic" action to curb greenhouse gases while simultaneously stating that "Global warming is happening. It's a serious and important problem ...". He argues that "... the cost and benefits of the proposed measures against global warming. ... is the worst way to spend our money. Climate change is a 100-year problem — we should not try to fix it in 10 years."[23]

Howard Friel wrote a book entitled The Lomborg Deception, which criticizes Lomborg, claiming that the sources Lomborg provides in the footnotes do not support—and in some cases are in direct contradiction to—Lomborg's assertions in the text of the book;[24] Lomborg has denied these claims in a public rebuttal.[25]

Personal life[edit]

Lomborg is openly gay and a vegetarian.[26] As a public figure he has been a participant in information campaigns in Denmark about homosexuality, and states that "Being a public gay is to my view a civic responsibility. It's important to show that the width of the gay world cannot be described by a tired stereotype, but goes from leather gays on parade-wagons to suit-and-tie yuppies on the direction floor, as well as everything in between"[27]

Recognitions and awards[edit]

In November 2001, Lomborg was selected "Global Leader for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. In June 2002, BusinessWeek named Lomborg one of the "50 Stars of Europe" (17 June), in the category of Agenda Setters. The magazine noted, "No matter what they think of his views, nobody denies that Bjorn Lomborg has shaken the environmental movement to its core."[28] Lomborg was selected as one of TIME magazine's 100 most influential people of 2004. In 2008 he came 41st in the Top 100 Public Intellectuals Poll run by Foreign Policy and Prospect Magazine,[29] having placed 14th the previous time the poll was conducted in 2005,[30] and was named as one of the 50 people who could save the planet by The Guardian.[31] Glocal Hero Award in 2011 (Transatlantyk - Poznań International Film and Music Festival).[citation needed]

"For taking the black and white out of climate politics", Lomborg was picked as a 2012 FP Top 100 Global Thinkers.[32]

Discussions in the media[edit]

After the release of The Skeptical Environmentalist in 2001, Lomborg was subjected to intense scrutiny and criticism in the media, where his scientific qualifications and integrity were both attacked and defended. The verdict of the Danish Committees for Scientific Dishonesty fueled this debate and brought it into the spotlight of international mass media. By the end of 2003 Lomborg had become an international celebrity, with frequent appearances on radio, television and print media around the world.

  • Scientific American published strong criticism of Lomborg's book. Lomborg responded on his own website, quoting the article at such length that Scientific American threatened to sue for copyright infringement. Lomborg eventually removed the rebuttal from his website; it was later published in PDF format on Scientific American's site.[33] The magazine also printed a response to the rebuttal.[34]
  • The Economist defended Lomborg, claiming the panel of experts that had criticised Lomborg in Scientific American was both biased and did not actually counter Lomborg's book. The Economist argued that the panel's opinion had come under no scrutiny at all, and that Lomborg's responses had not been reported.[35]
  • Penn & Teller: Bullshit! — the U.S. Showtime television programme featured an episode entitled "Environmental Hysteria" in which Lomborg criticised what he claimed was environmentalists' refusal to accept a cost-benefit analysis of environmental questions, and stressed the need to prioritise some issues above others.[36] Rolling Stone stated, "Lomborg pulls off the remarkable feat of welding the techno-optimism of the Internet age with a lefty's concern for the fate of the planet."[37]
  • The Union of Concerned Scientists strongly criticised The Skeptical Environmentalist, claiming it to be "seriously flawed and failing to meet basic standards of credible scientific analysis", accusing Lomborg of presenting data in a fraudulent way, using flawed logic and selectively citing non-peer-reviewed literature.[38] The review was conducted by Peter Gleick, Jerry D. Mahlman, Edward O. Wilson, Thomas Lovejoy, Norman Myers, Jeff Harvey, and Stuart Pimm. Lomborg countered that some of the scientists involved in this report were also named and criticised in The Skeptical Environmentalist, and thus had a vested interest in discrediting it and its author.[citation needed]


Documentary film[edit]

Main article: Cool It (film)

Bjørn Lomborg released a documentary feature film COOL IT on 12 November 2010 in the US.[41][42] The Atlantic review of Cool It described it as "An urgent, intelligent, and entertaining account of the climate policy debate, with a strong focus on cost-effective solutions.""[43]

The Bloggers' Briefing with Bjørn Lomborg and his movie COOL IT. Accuracy In Media[44]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lomborg, Bjørn (2012). "Wrongheaded in Rio". Project Syndicate. 
  2. ^ Lomborg 2001, p. 259.
  3. ^ claims
  4. ^ Elmhirst, Sophie (2010-09-24). "The NS Interview: Bjørn Lomborg". New Statesman. 
  5. ^ Lomborg, Bjørn (1996). "Nucleus and Shield: The Evolution of Social Structure in the Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma". American Sociological Review (American Sociological Review, Vol. 61, No. 2) 61 (2): 278–307. doi:10.2307/2096335. JSTOR 2096335. 
  6. ^ Bjørn Lomborg Biography, Retrieved 26 February 2006.
  7. ^ The Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty: 2003 Annual Report. Retrieved 13 February 2008.
  8. ^ "A reprieve for free speech". The Economist. 18 December 2003. 
  9. ^ a b "(Needs an account to access)". 
  10. ^ "Lomborg celebrates ministry ruling". BBC. 22 December 2003. 
  11. ^ "Underskriftsindsamling i protest mod afgørelsen om Bjørn Lomborg fra - Udvalgene Vedrørende Videnskabelig Uredelighed". Retrieved 26 February 2006.
  12. ^ a b "Social scientists call for abolition of dishonesty committee". Nature. 
  13. ^ The Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty: 2002 Annual Report. Retrieved 13 February 2008.
  14. ^ Visser, Wayne (2009). The Top 50 Sustainability Books. Cambridge: Greenleaf Publishing. p. 256. ISBN 978-1-906093-32-7. 
  15. ^ Philip Kitcher. The Climate Change Debates Science, Vol. 328, 4 June 2010, p. 1232.
  16. ^ "Response by Howard Friel to Bjørn Lomborg’s comments about The Lomborg Deception. February 26, 2010.". Yale Press. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  17. ^ "Lomborg´s rebuttal: Who is right: Lomborg or Friel? Article on the Lomborg Errors Website". Kåre Fog. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  18. ^ Rörsch, Arthur, et al. "A Critical Consideration of the Verdict of the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty on the Book by Bjorn Lomborg 'The Skeptical Environmentalist'". Heidelberg Appeal the Netherlands, 4-April-2003. Retrieved 26 February 2006.
  19. ^ Rörsch, A. et al. (Spring 2005). "On the opposition against the book The Skeptical Environmentalist by B. Lomborg". Journal of Information Ethics 14 (1): 16–28. doi:10.3172/JIE.14.1.16. 
  20. ^ Fog, K. (Fall 2005). "The real nature of the opposition against B. Lomborg". Journal of Information Ethics 14 (2): 66–76. doi:10.3172/JIE.14.2.66. 
  21. ^ "The Lomborg Errors Website". Kåre Fog. Retrieved 19 July 2011. 
  22. ^ Solutions for the World's Biggest Problems: costs and benefits, Cambridge University Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0-521-71597-3, OCLC 165408072 
  23. ^ Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming, Cyan and Marshall Cavendish, 2007, ISBN 978-0-462-09912-5, OCLC 271251227 
  24. ^ Begley, Sharon (22 February 2010). "Book Review: The Lomborg Deception". Newsweek. Retrieved 23 February 2010. 
  25. ^ Lomborg, Bjørn. "A Response by Bjorn Lomborg to Howard Friel’s ‘The Lomborg Deception’". 
  26. ^ Cowley, Jason (30 June 2003). "The man who demanded a recount". New Statesman. Retrieved 24 July 2007. 
  27. ^ "OBLS personer: Bjørn Lomborg". Danmarks Radio. Retrieved 12 June 2007.  - translated.
  28. ^ The Stars of Europe - Agenda Setters - Bjorn Lomborg. BusinessWeek Online, 17 June 2002. Retrieved 26 February 2006.
  29. ^ "Intellectuals – the results". Prospect. 26 July 2008. Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  30. ^ "Prospect/FP Top 100 Public Intellectuals Results". Foreign Policy. October 2005. Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  31. ^ Vidal, John; Adam, David; Watts, Jonathan; Hickman, Leo; Sample, Ian (5 January 2008). "50 people who could save the planet". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  32. ^ "The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers". Foreign Policy. 26 November 2012. Archived from the original on 28 November 2012. Retrieved 28 November 2012. 
  33. ^ "Bjørn Lomborg’s comments to the 11-page critique in January 2002 Scientific American (SA)". Scientific American; rebuttal last updated 16 February 2002. Retrieved 26 February 2006.
  34. ^ Rennie, John. "A Response to Lomborg's Rebuttal". Scientific American, 15-April-2002. Retrieved 26 February 2006.
  35. ^ "Thought control". The Economist, 9 January 2003. Retrieved 26 February 2006.
  36. ^ Bullshit, "Environmental Hysteria". Showtime.
  37. ^ "Early Praise for The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World". Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 26 February 2006.
  38. ^ "UCS Examines 'The Skeptical Environmentalist'". Union of Concerned Scientists. Retrieved 11 February 2010. 
  39. ^ Bjørn Lomborg: $100bn a year needed to fight climate change in The Guardian, 30 August 2010 "Although Pachauri once compared Lomborg to Hitler, he has now given an unlikely endorsement to the new book, Smart Solutions to Climate Change."
  40. ^ Resisting Climate Reality April 7, 2011 Bill McKibben
  41. ^ "Cool It" movie seeks climate solutions: Lomborg, Reuters
  42. ^
  43. ^ Crook, Clive ((2010-10-6)). "Bjorn Lomborg's Movie: Is Quiet the New Loud?". The Atlantic.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  44. ^ "The Bloggers' Briefing with Bjorn Lomborg and his movie COOL IT". Accuracy In Media. 2010-10-10. 

External links[edit]