Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

The Skeptical Environmentalist

  1. May 19, 2003 #1
    Does anyone have opinions on this controversy?

    A guy named Bjorn Lomborg published this popular book two years ago, suggesting that some environmental problems -- global warming, deforestation, etc -- were not as bad as commonly suggested. He's a statistics professor, the book was heavily referenced, and the book seems far above the typical 'there is no such thing as an environmental problem' junk written by some apologists.

    Environmentalists immediately jumped on it as misleading and inaccurate, Nature and Science reviewed it unfavourably, and Scientific American devoted a lot of pages to debunking it. Normally this would be enough for me to dismiss it, but a lot of intelligent science-minded people I know seem to think Lomberg has a point and is generally being unjustly criticised because of the political implications of his views, especially from an increasingly-political SciAm. These are generally not people I would expect to take an anti-environmental stance for political/wordlview reasons. Lomborg responded in detail and SciAm published a long chain of letters and articles wrangling back and forth.

    Usually I find it pretty easy to tell where the science lies in these disputes, and whether one of the parties is distorting and misrepresenting the facts, but I haven't been able to hear.

    So anyone here know anything? Any good refs to suggest?

    Here is the whole SciAm stuff: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=00000B96-9517-1CDA-B4A8809EC588EEDF

    The Economist has articles at:
    http://www.phoenix.liu.edu/~uroy/eco54/lomborg/lomborg013102-2.html [Broken]
    http://www.phoenix.liu.edu/~uroy/eco54/lomborg/lomborg013102-1.html [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. May 19, 2003 #2
    The first thing that comes to my mind is the general inability for the world of science to accept something that radically differentiates from the norm. I don't confess to have an insider's point of view here, just the observation that as you look out over history, people who come up with something new, or something that flies in the face of "traditional" beliefs, is generally not well received.

    Just my 2 cents ;)
  4. May 19, 2003 #3
    I had a quick look at the sci-am stuff and I agree it's never too certain especially when you are outside the field, however given the level of backlash I would tend to side with the scientists. Usually such a large criticism doesn't happen unless there is something kooky going on. I agree there is a possiblity that it is science not being willing to consider the alternative, but I find this unlikely given the number of experts who have looked in depth at this field and his claims in detail. More often than not science is right to dismiss a completely crazy idea and I think this may be the case. I haven't read the book so I can't offer an in depth analysis just opinion, perhaps I'll have a look at some point.
  5. May 19, 2003 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Greetings !

    I read some of the critique in Scientific
    American a while back. I'd like to say 3 things:
    1. I have the impression that this is an
    EXTREMELY complex and inclusive subject.
    2. As a result I think that opinions and
    estimates can easily vary greatly and it
    is even more difficult when you try to
    simplify this with short good or bad answers.
    3. I only read the critique of Sci-Am scientists
    not the response, but I got the impression
    that the book was at least a bit strange in
    its analisys.

    My personal opinion on the larger issue:
    Who bloody cares if it's half a degree or 3
    and all that stuff. The simple and undeniable
    fact is that this DOES cause changes and
    the vast majority of the data indicates these
    changes should be considered negative.
    So, let's just stop this crap. :wink:

    Live long and prosper.
  6. May 19, 2003 #5


    User Avatar

    There was a critique in Newscientist following the scandal:

  7. May 20, 2003 #6
    I remember reading the New Scientist articles, but they were written a while ago. I seem to recall that the biggest overall complaints were that the analysis was "fishy" as Drag hinted at.
  8. May 20, 2003 #7


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook