So what’s wrong with Lomborg?

People have noticed that there was an advertisement for Bjorn Lomborg’s Cool It! on ScienceBlogs. Seed’s sales staff know not to accept ads for Creationists, psychics and pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo, so how did Lomborg slip through?

Well, he’s managed to present himself as being in the middle ground. Lomborg makes himself look reasonable by saying that he accepts the science, that AGW is occurring, but that it won’t be that bad. But what Lomborg really does is cherry pick and systematically misrepresent the science. You don’t have to take my word for this. See, for example, Kevin Berger’s interview with Lomborg:


You start “Cool It” by boldly stating that polar bears illustrate the exaggerated claims about global warming. You write that polar bears “may eventually decline, though dramatic declines seem unlikely.” Yet the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment report, which you use to support your thesis, concludes: “As the amount of sea ice decreases, seals, walrus, polar bears and other ice-dependent species will suffer drastically.” Don’t you think that sounds like there will be dramatic declines?

I’m just saying that it will be harder for the polar bears but that they will not decline, and they’re not going to be extinct or even appear to be affected at present.

And it goes on like that — the scientific reports that Lomborg uses say the opposite of what he makes it appear they do. Read the whole thing. But hey, anyone can make a mistake, right? Well, look at Lomborg’s list of corrections for his book. Berger made it clear that there were serious errors in his treatment of polar bears, but Lomborg has corrected none of them.

And that’s typical of Lomborg’s treatment of the science. For more examples, see Climate Progress on Lomborg and 1. polar bears, 2. sea level rise and 3. heat waves and drought. And KÃ¥re Fog is slowly working his way through Cool It! to build an exhaustive list of all of Lomborg’s errors.

Update: John Mashey points to two useful discussions on Lomborg at ThingsBreak and Only in it for the Gold.

Comments

  1. #1 John Mashey
    August 14, 2008

    I recommend the interlocked Lomborg discussions over at (especially) ThingsBreak and Only In It For the Gold.

    The former includes some useful input from another Dane, which is very helpful in figuring out local politics. Also, you might see my August analysis of the Julian Simon connection, and why I say:

    “So, I’d suggest that rather than being WILLFUL IDIOCY, this is a political scientist’s subtle and very effective political argument, even if numerous details fall apart when examined.”

    Over in OIIFTG, see yesterday’s question about why an “Associate Professor of Statistics” (TSE) doesn’t seem to know about topics taught in basic udnergraduate statistics classes, i.e., like using regressions for trend analysis and deciding their significance.

  2. #2 Dano
    August 14, 2008

    And Kåre Fog is slowly working his way through Cool It! to build an exhaustive list of all of Lomborg’s errors.

    Wow. That’s a lot of work to do, categorizing his bullsh*t. And you know Kåre is doing it for free, unlike the other side, who has Heritage, AEI/CEI, Cato et al to foot the bill.

    Best,

    D

  3. #3 Gavin's Pussycat
    August 14, 2008

    Dano,

    perhaps we should suggest Kåre Fog build a list of what is right in the book?

  4. #4 Stuart Pimm
    August 14, 2008

    I’m really sorry to see Kåre Fog wasting time on this recent book by what-ever-it-is that Lomborg is claiming to be this year. But, Kåre did a superb job last time — and that helped support the successful complaint against Lomborg for scientific misconduct in Denmark. (I was one of the plaintiffs.)
    Last time, an important issue was why Cambridge University Press published the book. With hindsight, it was the consequences that are more relevant. One publishes a book with a respectable academic press because its thorough review process adds credibility. CUP lost all credibility and with it many top scientists who took their business elsewhere.
    This matters to bloggers. Blogs are fast and fun, but are they, well, factual? Of course, there’s excellent science on blogs, excellent discussion too! Those who allow adverts from Lomborg, von Danniken, and others of their ilk, seriously harm the credibility of what goes on in blogs like this one. I’m all for honest debate. The Danish committee found Lomborg to be “dishonest.” When blogs promote dishonest work, who will care to read them?

    Stuart Pimm, Duke University.

  5. #5 guthrie
    August 14, 2008

    Stuart pimm asks, naievely:

    “When blogs promote dishonest work, who will care to read them?”

    Everyone whose ego is stroked by what is written, who is in hock to the writer or their world view, or simply doesn’t know any better.

  6. #6 ZZMike
    August 14, 2008

    “Seed’s sales staff know not to accept ads for Creationists, psychics and pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo, so how did Lomborg slip through?”

    Evidently anyone who questions the dogma of AGW is put on a list for the Reeducation Camps.

    “The Danish committee found Lomborg to be “dishonest.” You omit the fact that that committee was found to be dishonest itself and had to retract their finding. So much for objectivity.

  7. #7 dhogaza
    August 14, 2008

    You omit the fact that that committee was found to be dishonest itself and had to retract their finding.

    Well, no, not exactly.

    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;

    In other words, if Lomborg’s work wasn’t a scientific publication, then he couldn’t be guilty of scientific misconduct. Essentially the Danish Ministry supported the position that he can lie as much as he wants in a popular work. The DCSD wasn’t found to be “dishonest”, simply acting beyond its powers.

  8. #8 a lurker
    August 14, 2008

    Why not take the creationists’ money? The people here are not likely to fall for the mumble-jumbo of creationists, psychics, climate-change deniers, etc. They will be wasting money that they could use more effectively in other locals. People could occasionally click though just to cost them money.

  9. #9 Brian D
    August 14, 2008

    A Lurker:

    The same reason why we don’t debate creationists or conspiracy theorists at scientific conferences etc, even if there’s a fee to participate in said debate. These folks’ ultimate goal isn’t to engage in debate (or, here, hock their wares), it’s to have an audience. By accepting the banner ad, it’s not only ‘selling out’ to those who you don’t support, it’s also giving them exactly what they want and exactly what they don’t need.

    Case in point with Lomborg: do you think he wants to sell more books on purely financial grounds, or on the grounds of delaying climate action (which he gets simply by having his argument publicised — and with an audience as large as Seed/Sb’s, that’s a fairly public ad)? Granted, Lomborg’s strategy is a bit more subtle than Singer or Monckton, in that he acts like he accepts the science, misrepresents it, and then says it’s not worth acting on, but the point still holds.

  10. #10 Brian D
    August 14, 2008

    I forgot this one earlier.

    Tim, here’s another site discussing Lomborg’s recent work. It has a few points missed by both Tobis and ThingsBreak, although they do a far better job of addressing the argument critically (IMHO). Until I discovered ThingsBreak’s spectacular takedown, that’s the site I used to demonstrate Lomborg’s strategy.

  11. #11 Simon D
    August 14, 2008

    The problem is that mere mention of Lomborg draws us back into yet another defensive discussion of the flaws in his reasoning. In political speak, the “skeptics” get to control the agenda (on the blogs).

    Whenever I get dragged into these debates, I try to remember this old line from Huxley: Life is too short to occupy oneself with the slaying of the slain more than once.

  12. #12 Dano
    August 14, 2008

    Whenever I get dragged into these debates, I try to remember this old line from Huxley: Life is too short to occupy oneself with the slaying of the slain more than once.

    Well said Simon.

    This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ‘e rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed ‘im to the perch ‘e’d be pushing up the daisies! ‘Is metabolic processes are now ‘istory! ‘E’s off the twig! ‘E’s kicked the bucket, ‘e’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!

    Best,

    D

  13. #13 John Mashey
    August 14, 2008

    Folks, including esteemed Professors Pimm & Donner:

    1) I think people are missing the point, just as computer engineers who worked on performance improvements in the 1980s were sometimes outmaneuvered by marketeers [in a much, much easier domain].

    Lomborg is a *political scientist* (or really, a political advocate running a cleverly-disguised magician’s sleight-of-hand misdirection campaign). That he gets facts wrong so often blinds people to the reality that he is running a very sophisticated campaign, far better than Singer, Monckton, etc. The details make reasonable people angry, and responses are sometimes suboptimal, and get people sucked down into the details.

    2) It is a fact that the American version of Cool It! (there is a different, longer version in UK) is popular.

    It is ranked ~9,000 in books, by Amazon, which says:

    “Popular in these categories:

    — #3 in Books > Science > Earth Sciences > Climatology > Climate Changes

    — #15 in Books > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Political Science > Public Policy

    — #23 in Books > Outdoors & Nature > Environment > Conservation

    3) Again, please take a look at my & TB’s comments August 3 and 4 at .

    I think the underlying goal is Julian Simon, CATO-like “free markets, no regulation”. CO2 restrictions for global warming just happens to be something that would cause regulation, and like anything else that would cause regulation, cannot be allowed.

    Search {CATO, Heartland} websites for Lomborg or copenhagen consensus and see what they say.

    Of course they support the free-market items in the list.

    As a reality test, you might ask how much effort they spend demanding US tax raises to pay for all the good things listed in the Copenhagen Consensus or how much money they give to NGOs like, for example The Pacific Institute (Peter Gleick & co, water), or for people who actually spend their time doing useful things in developing countries.

    4) It is a fact that some pretty rational people, even ones involved with environmental issues, get confused/conflicted by this stuff, in part because they get pretty peeved at the extreme lunatic “environmental” fringe when they themselves are working hard for useful goals, and Lomborg’s attacks on such resonate with them a bit.

    It took me 2 hours with my (very smart, reasonable, environmental) VC friends mentioned over at TB to get them to start to understand the misdirection effect, especially since Cool It! doesn’t mention Julian Simon anywhere. SO, if you start there, rather than TSE, the connection is lost, and really, it explains a great deal of what I think is really happening.

  14. #14 Lee A. Arnold
    August 14, 2008

    John Mashey, I think it’s something a little different. The key to Lomborg is that he hopes to be a policy entrepreneur. He wants to gather together and run the world conferences on what to do about it. So “the middle ground” is something of an advertising move.

    He has swallowed at least part of the ideology of the free marketeers, and certainly he doesn’t understand the underpinnings of the total discipline of economics (in addition to ecology, energy, climatology, what have you…) That helps him find Julian Simon believers who are the same way — which in the United States, includes a ready-and-able, 24/7, think-tank-based publicity machine that has promulgated tosh on policy issues since the Reagan days, and reaches all the way to the Wall Street Journal. “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” and these well-funded folks have proven the old saw over and over and over…

  15. #15 Lee A. Arnold
    August 14, 2008

    Stuart Pimm, I just have to gush. You’ve been one of my heroes since studying about community structure in the late 70’s. I think I read probably everything by you and a large handful of other ecologists from that general time, rummaging around in the libraries at Berkeley. It helped lead to this:

    http://youtube.com/leearnold

    Feel free to disavow! No world conferences intended!

  16. #16 Barton Paul Levenson
    August 15, 2008

    ZZMike writes:

    Evidently anyone who questions the dogma of AGW is put on a list for the Reeducation Camps.

    Yeah, Mike, not accepting pseudoscience advertising on a private blog is the same as putting people in concentration camps.

    Watch out for those black UN helicopters, boy. Oh, and we’ve tapped your phone, so be careful what you say.

  17. #17 Jeff Harvey
    August 15, 2008

    Hi folks,

    Just thought I’d drop into this thread and add my two cents worth, as I co-reviewed Lomborg’s erroneous tome with Stuart for Nature (2001) and was also one of the plaintiffs with the DCSD.

    Stuart is completely correct in his overview. In my view, Lomborg promotes his one-sided cherry-picked worldview not to generate discussion but to promote himself. I really believe this was his intention, although others may beg to differ. Egotism, pure and simple, and damn the empirical data. The facts are these: to gain stature in science amongst one’s peers usually takes years, many publications in rigid journals, innumerable lectures at major conferences, workshops etc. I got my PhD in 1995, have almost 80 peer-reviewed publications by now and will net about 200-250 citations this year which is reasonable, but still not in the ‘big leagues’ compared with the likes of Stuart and others who have 150+ career publications and net 500+ citations a year. By contrast, Lomborg realized in the late 1990s that his one innucuous paper on iterated prisoner’s dilemma did not fit the bill. He saw the long queue to prominence in front of him and, given his predisposition, wanted to ‘jump the queue’ big time. He stuck his finger to the wind, saw that issues dealing with the state of the environment were HOT, and carved out a strategy whereby he’d paint himself as a reformed lefty. Nothing makes a bigger splash than a horse that changes midstream, to quote Elizabeth May, and especially one who claims to have been a former member of Greenpeace who ‘saw the light’. His mentor, the late Julian Simon, was always on thin ice when discussing related issues because he was a business economist whose speciality was in mail-order marketing. By contrast, given the concentration of wealth into certain sectors of society and the economy, it was obvious that someone like Lomborg was going to be given a veritable megaphone by those with a vested interest in denial to spew out his vision of the world. I believe that Lomborg’s rise from absolute obscurity to apparent authority and celebrity in a few years is actually a stroke of genius on his part.

    However, this does not obscure the fact that his take on the world, in my view, is based on kindergarten level analysis (as well as Tim points out, on a healthy dose of cherry picking, which I exposed during our one debate in Holland in 2002, and which Lomborg could not answer). Lomborg’s view expunges political realities – neoliberal economics, free market absolutism, wealth concentration and, contrary to the musings of Bush and co., a complete hatred of democracy on the part of western elites and their counterparts in the south unless it is in their fiscal interests. He writes and speaks as if there has been a real concerted effort to eliminate poverty by the developed world, and that all nations are trying to create a sustainable world economy, in spite of copious evidence to the contrary. I see his vision as nothing more than someone living in a world of fairy tales and make-believe. He ignores the natural economy as if it plays little or no role in the workings of the material economy.

    Stuart suggested to me a couple of years ago when he was in Holland that its a waste of time trying to counter the veritable tsunami of environmenal disinformation coming from the corporate funded libertarian think tanks, and from their useful pawns (as I see Lomborg) because there will always be those who promote the kinds of nonsense these sources generate. Stuart was correct. I have moved on, and limit my thoughts to the likes of Tim’s excellent blog from time to time. But it is still urgent that those who distort and mangle the empirical science to promote their ‘business-as-usual’ agenda are answered by scientists doing the actual research.

  18. #18 Boris
    August 15, 2008

    Out: Zombie arguments
    In: Ex Parrot arguments

    I like it.

  19. #19 Dano
    August 15, 2008

    Mashey’s

    I think the underlying goal is Julian Simon, CATO-like “free markets, no regulation”. CO2 restrictions for global warming just happens to be something that would cause regulation

    and Jeff Harvey’s

    I see his vision as nothing more than someone living in a world of fairy tales and make-believe. He ignores the natural economy as if it plays little or no role in the workings of the material economy.

    are, IMHO, largely correct but the aim hits the target a little low.

    Mashey is correct in my view, and in addition to wanting unfettered access for resource exploitation, vested interests need to ensure they don’t endure lawsuits like Big Tobacco, and so are using the same strategy to avoid the army of lawyers licking their chops.

    Also, Harvey adds good insight into the Lomborg phenomenon, and it is important to understand and emphasize that the audience for this trope needs this sort of narrative. They need to have the fairy tale, the construct. The alternatives – admitting their chosen self-identity is problematic, changing their lazy habits and easy lifestyles, reducing denial – require too much work and thought.

    In my view, it is not important to change the minds of the unwilling. Can’t be done for most. It is more important to state that the unwilling won’t change, and that their discord and objections will occur no matter what (even if they get a pony for every wind turbine in their yard). Therefore it is important to continue the work to redirection society in spite of these objections.

    Trouble is, we need strong leadership to make this happen, and strong leadership is about as common these days as a working climate scientist on the new Oregon Petition signature list or in attendance at one of Fred Singer’s PR banquets.

    Best,

    D

  20. #20 QrazyQat
    August 15, 2008

    Evidently anyone who questions the dogma of AGW is put on a list for the Reeducation Camps.

    I had no idea that reeducation camps involved being given huge sums of money and jetted around to give talks and media appearances.

  21. #21 Lance
    August 15, 2008

    So you gents seem to be of the opinion that Lomborg is lying to make a name for himself or to gain monetary advantage in various ways.

    You seem to be saying that he knows all too well the dire consequences we face as a civilization and planet but he is happy to delude people for his own short term gain while Rome burns.

    Wow! I had no idea the man was so evil that for a couple of bucks and short term notoriety he is willing to send us all to hell, including himself, his family, all his friends and everyone he knows. What a monster!

    Honestly, after reading the above statements that is the only conclusion that can be drawn if what you all are saying is true. Do you seriously contend that Lomborg is that kind of fiend?

  22. #22 Lee
    August 15, 2008

    Lance, either that, or he is one of those sad people who is so convinced that his ideology is correct that he gives his ideology priority over fact-based reality.

    BTW, there are some questions still waiting for you over at the old discussion on Open Thread 9.
    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2008/07/open_thread_10.php#comment-1012867

  23. #23 dhogaza
    August 15, 2008

    either that, or he is one of those sad people who is so convinced that his ideology is correct that he gives his ideology priority over fact-based reality.

    Which, of course, is seen all the time, and in fact is demonstrated by Lance himself …

  24. #24 Lee A. Arnold
    August 15, 2008

    Lee, you beat me to it:

    Intentional lying and intellectual incompetence are two different things.

    But sadder: the latter oft needs employ the former.

  25. #25 Lance
    August 15, 2008

    I find it interesting that catastrophic AGW proponents laugh off accusations that they so readily accept AGW because the policy remedies comport with their worldview while tarring people that don’t think we face catastrophic climate peril as evil ideologues blinded to the truth by their political prejudices.

    It seems you’d like to segregate the sauces for your different gender of large water fowl.

  26. #26 Lance
    August 15, 2008

    Lee,

    Your link is broken so I looked back at Open Thread #9 and the comments there continued into Open Thread #10 and finally on into Open Thread #11.

    I see no obvious unanswered question loitering in any of them.

    Care to elaborate?

  27. #27 I Am Become Majorajam
    August 15, 2008

    Lance, u ascribe to a worldview that requires one of a global conspiracy of a field of scientists, or of their unique ineptitude (which is to say, I know of few people, skeptical or not, that take their medical advice from the local plumber), and have the chutzpa to assert that people who accept mainstream science do so irrationally? Well, points for lack of originality, but that’s no longer going to get it done in today’s ultra competative wing-nut-Olympiad. Lombard is a passive aggressive polemisist, nothing more. There are real economists out there whose sincere efforts at getting a handle on this problem have led to low or very low estimates of optimal mitigation without working backwards from the answer. U will never see me talk about them as I do about Lomborg, even as I’ve little respect for the quality of their solutions.

  28. #28 Lee
    August 15, 2008

    Lance, my apologies – Thread 10.

    here

  29. #29 Brian D
    August 15, 2008

    It’s broke again, but here it is.

    Lance, he gave you more than enough information to reach it. In my case, I just opened up Open Thread 11, checked the category “Open Thread”, clicked Open Thread 10, and added the bookmark (#comment-1012867) to the end of the URL. Brought me right there, despite not following the open threads at all. Took all of seven keystrokes.

  30. #30 Lance
    August 15, 2008

    Lee,

    Link is dead again.

    I Am Become Marjoram (Jeez talk about your pretentious and clumsy pseudonyms),

    I am heading home for the weekend. I will answer your ill intentioned and ill considered remarks on Monday.

    Try not to let our impending doom spoil your week-end guys.

  31. #31 John Mashey
    August 15, 2008

    This thread has certainly attracted some serious commenters.

    Thanks Jeff for the further personal insights. I’ve long suspected that [given the publication record, and labels as environmentalist, economist, or statistician], but my comments ignored that on purpose. It’s much harder for me to comment on internal motivations than to carefully examine external effects, i.e., comparing what someone says, and the on-the-ground outcomes.

    As one last personal tidbit, before I get back to the strategic analysis in next post, see the first two segments of Kare Fog’s Lomborg Errors, especially in the second:

    “During the first six months of 1997, Bjørn Lomborg made a study tour in USA. During this stay, he suddenly changed his attitude to environmental issues. According to his own description, it happened in a bookstore in Los Angeles in February 1997, where he happened to read an interview with the American right-wing economist Julian Simon (who died in 1998).”

    I speculate now, but I once asked about cases where people seemed to suddenly switch from one extreme to another, without going through the middle.
    They talked about things like ambiguity tolerance, psychological anchoring, etc. I’ve several times run into people who said “I was a long-time Green, but then I saw the light.” This seems to happen when someone has a set of views that may well have been arrived at more by faith than by investigation, and something punctures those views in a way that causes them to collapse, rather than just deflate a little. This is akin to the occasional religion/atheism flip, in either direction.

    Some people find ambiguity tolerance natural, some are trained for it, and for some, it is terrifying.

    But anyway, speculating a lot about Lomborg’s personal motivations (ego? ambition? ideology? personality?) doesn’t seem very useful compared to careful analysis of tactics and audiences.

    Again, this is *not* about science, but about marketing and politics, and while it is important for scientists to debunk things that should be, many scientists’ skillsets are more tuned to finding truth than in doing good strategy when dealing with marketing.

    This is somewhat akin to the issue in studying claims about parapsychology: sometimes stage magicians are more useful than scientists, because the latter usually don’t expect the universe to purposefully fool them :-)

    Alternatively, it’s akin to the kind of marketing wars over the performance claims of microprocessors in the 1980s. Some computer performance folks got to be pretty good at sorting out conflicting claims and sometimes outright dishonesty, but not so many were really good at applying accurate knowledge effectively in the marketing wars’ on the-ground-combat. And that turf was *way simpler* than this one. Hence, one had to:

    a) Possess accurate knowledge, i.e., the science

    b) Understand competitors’ marketing, and the audiences for which it was intended

    c) And use a) honestly, but with good tactics from b).

    If you haven’t seen Oreskes : You CAN argue with the facts, I strongly suggest watching the last 30 minutes of her talk. She illustrates the way Western Fuels ran their *marketing* campaign, test-marketing, demographics analysis, tweaking arguments to fit, careful cherry-picking, using scientists as representatives, creating front organizations, producing materials, etc.

    Now, go back and see if you find any parallels with Lomborg, Copenhagen Consensus…

    (more later)

  32. #32 dhogaza
    August 15, 2008

    I find it interesting that catastrophic AGW proponents laugh off accusations that they so readily accept AGW because the policy remedies comport with their worldview

    Personally, I don’t know of any policy remedies that are going to work. The conservation strategies I’ve worked on from the 1970s through the 1990s are pretty much consigned to the toilet. No joy here.

    Believing mainstream science doesn’t always mean that its conclusions are going to be pleasant.

  33. #33 douglas clark
    August 15, 2008

    Can I perhaps rather nervously advance a case on this thread? I am not a scientist, but I do have a general, if not ultimate, faith in the scientific method. So, you because of your knowledge, and me, because you generally hang global warming denialists out to dry, think that it is QED.

    But we are in fact still in a battle for hearts and minds. I recently took on a libertarian who views AGW as an attempt to control his unique mind. My usual references are to things like the Royal Society, the IPCC and sites like Real Climate. Usually this makes the politicially motivated back off, as my friend did. But what was quite interesting was that neutrals, people that think there is still a debate to be had, were impressed with the AGW arguement. The point being that that particular site is read by a lot of folk, and those that bothered to respond thought I’d made a point. Which is shocking, in the sense that it appeared to be new to them.

    These folk are not idiots. They may be involved in other issues with which I agree or correspond. They are not aware of the overwhelming case in respect of AGW and the impact it will have.

    I’d hesitantly suggest that we need a strategy to directly challenge the bullshit in front of audiences – read voters – that we might otherwise lose through a default disengagement.

    In other words, if we don’t challenge in forums where the debate seems to be ongoing rather than determined, we will remain a correct but marginalised consituency.

    I’d be interested if any of you have a view on this. There is nothing inevitable about winning, I’d have thought.

  34. #34 I Am Become Majorajam
    August 15, 2008

    Oh goodie, the village idiot is going to get back to me. Life in the reality based community was getting me down, but things are looking up. Maybe I’ll strike up a vigorous debate with my porch light while I’m hot.

  35. #35 John Mashey
    August 15, 2008

    Followon to #31 i.e., analysis of Lomborg marketing strategy

    1) Some pointers, with usual caveats on care with sources:
    Copenhagen Consensus 2008.

    Copenhagen Consensus – Wikipedia

    Copenhagen Consensus – Sourcewatch.

    Lombrog errors (Kare Fog).

    2) Some context for why I worry.
    The issue is *not* Lomborg appealing to the obvious base, it’s Lomborg appealing to the less knowledgeable center.

    This is like a close-fought US 2-party political election, in which the keys usually are:

    (a) Your base will vote for you and will never vote for your opponent – mobilize them, make sure everyone comes out, but you’re not trying to convince them of anything, they’re already with you.

    (b) Do your best to sway the center to your side, whether that’s political independents or the near edge of the other side.

    (c) Some will never vote for you, so the best you can do is discourage them from voting. An extreme case would be Zimbabwe.

    Applying this framework to Copenhagen Consensus, Cool It!:

    (a1) Conservative and certainly Libertarian folks certainly would like this message, as it avoids actually doing anything that would actually affect them, and the chances of countries raising taxes to pay for this seem low.

    (a2) Many economists might like it, as the CCC puts economics as the central discipline.

    (b) There are large number of people in the middle, who might well care about both environment and economics, but whose first exposure to Lomborg is Cool It!, and who aren’t necessarily experts, but are generally open to skepticism, especially of the popular press.

    (b1)Some of these might well say “This seems like a middle-of-the-road process that weighs benefits carefully”, especially if they don’t take the time to chase down the blizzard of references and check for cherry-picking.”

    (b2)In fact, some people who work on environmental or third-world social issues may well get conflicted. A bunch of economists say it’s important to work on AIDS? or better water? Is that wrong? i.e., this is the false dilemma approach, wherein the CC process pretty well guarantees that actually starting to do anything about AGW will fall to the bottom of the list.

    (c1) Real science experts, who are usually enraged by this, sicne they can recognize the problems immediately.

    (c2) Environmental extremists & exaggerators in the press, who often make people in (b2) and (c1) cringe, feeling that they get in the way of actually making progress. A good strategy is to point at the excesses here, try to tar (c1) with the same brush, and appeal to the irritation against (c2) by everybody else. This of course, is a common political tactic: attack a small group who won’t like you no matter what and make them the enemy.

    The brilliance of Lomborg’s & CCC approach is that it manages to support the base (a1 & a2), appeal to analytical (b1), conflict (b2), waste the time of (c1), and blame (c2), all at once.

    SO, let me do a just a few examples:

    3) The Economist is a weekly newsmagazine with a strong transatlantic flavor, a definite free-market P.O.V. (that must always be remembered). But, IMHO, it’s one of the better things around at that level. [Certainly, people who love the WSJ's OpEd or Forbes's think The Economist is an awful left-wing rag :-)] They even occasionally admit they were wrong. I wouldn’t call them irrational on AGW, and they at least do some (relatively) in-depth analyses.

    I first read Lomborg’s TSE because of an article in The Economist. The Economist supported Lomborg, and partnered in setting up CC 2004, although as far as I can tell, not in 2008, although they certainly gave it some press.

    I recommend visiting the website, and searching for Lomborg, and then Copenhagen Consensus. If you can’t see the actual content, you can at least see the list of references, although the second search generates some spurious hits, I think.

    While they often label him controversial, and note his opposition to Kyoto, and often include objections, they do not dismiss this, and don’t get at (what I think) are the underlying issues. I’ve seen various speculations as to reasons, but at this point, what matters is that a *lot* of people read The Economist.

    4) In previous posts, I’ve mentioned some VC friends, who:

    — are very smart, well-educated, including graduate degrees from top schools

    — are environmentally-conscious. One is active in a major environmental NGO

    — live in two of the best-educated, intensely-environmental-concerned towns in the SF Bay Area. Both towns have trees in their logos, and cutting down a big tee means life imprisonment … just kidding, but not too much…

    — would both fit category (b) above

    For them, Lomborg raised issues they couldn’t immediately dismiss, although VCs are natural skeptics.

    The idea of prioritization by top economists appealed to them. They hadn’t read TSE, and aren’t scientists, and don’t follow Lomborg-debunking. They’re busy, so chasing down all the references wouldn’t work.

    They get irritated by (c2), especially the one involved with a credible NGO. They had been passing Cool It! around the office, and there was disquiet, but they couldn’t quite put their fingers on what was really wrong. One of them asked me to come over, and this model emerged from the conversation, over which we spent 2 hours.

    Now, I’d call that *brilliant* political marketing.

    In this game, all you have to do is fool some of the people some of the time, and if you can fool people like this, you’re good.

  36. #36 thingsbreak
    August 15, 2008

    Whether or not one agrees with Ruddiman’s Early Anthropocene thesis or is comfortable with calling our current epoch the Anthropocene, the plain fact of the matter is that there are ever fewer pockets of “nature” that do not directly or indirectly bear the imprint of humankind. Terraforming and geoengineering are not hypothetical processes that may aid us in one day colonizing new planets or combating climate change. They are centuries if not millennia-old, ongoing experiments being carried out in the here and now. And beyond that, humans are by definition part of the natural. Our homes, strip malls, and office parks are ecosystems- we ourselves are ecosystems. The idea that nature is a ‘somewhere’- a place that we can visit on occasion- is not just incorrect, it is a delusion. In a sane world, there would be no arbitrary and artificial distinctions between the mental constructs of economy and ecology, between industry and nature. We are long past the point where we can pretend such divisions exist, even if we are only now becoming aware of it.

    Our influence on nature and its influence on us have consequences. No amount of self-deception about the former can shield us from the latter-

    However, acknowledging this invalidates entire economic [limitless growth, supply-side] and political [minarcho-libertarian, individualistic] philosophies which have been explicitly linked to patriotism and nationalism for significant portions of the population, hence a pushback. This is what spawns the accusations of conspiracy, crypto-communism, “watermelons” (green on the outside, red on the inside), etc. nuttery from allegedly mainstream-economics poster children such as the WSJ, and people like Penn Gillette, who believe they are rational skeptics. This is the origin of the reaction, so emotional and irrational to the findings of climate science. That second hand smoke (aka ETS) shares many of the same players is no accident. That the proponents of the precursor to Star Wars shares some of the same players is no accident. That one root of all of this was a belief that scientists in favor of nuclear disarmament were either active or accidental pawns of the Communists is no accident.

    When ideologies are threatened by a scientific interpretation of the evidence, it is inevitably the science that is attacked, rather than a reexamination of the ideology.

    Reading about Lomborg’s “conversion” to Simonism, taking it to its logical conclusion, and viewing that with the practical effects of all of his Copenhagen Consensus and book writing have been- in what light does Lomborg make sense?

  37. #37 Lee A. Arnold
    August 16, 2008

    John Mashey, it boils down to education, education, education. One side bangs the drum, the other side bangs the drum.

    What’s different now is the internet, or else these boneheads would have used their traditional-media muscle to squelch all public knowledge about global warming already, around a decade ago.

    In fact the internet is going to make them lose, in the end. The steady and relentless application of facts to their fictions.

    I think it may help to understand how to approach it, by what is happening to the larger context of world events and public understanding. I think there are two general conditions, and they have different origins:

    (1) The increasing crowding and complexity of the world are causing accelerating “network effects” of social transaction costs and ecological externalities — interacting and multiplying perhaps logarithmically, and with an increasing number of likely breakpoints,

    plus

    (2) The ongoing process of specialization and division of labor is making people evermore narrow in their intellectual competences — and incidentally making the common culture (i.e. that which we all share together) to be very simple-minded.

    The first one is from general ecological systems theory, the second one is first noticed, (to my knowledge,) in Adam Smith’s discussion of the intellectual state of factory workers. But even brain surgeons are enormously specialized in one thing, and lack the time to learn much else.

    Indeed, serious synthesis in general has no current structure, which is a condition unique to modern culture, and it is almost absent in the universities. There is a nice discussion of this in Gell-Mann’s The Quark and the Jaguar.

    Anyway, the marketing pre-strategy: combining (1) and (2) : things are getting worse, and no individual has enough information to deal with it.

    In addition to this, less than half the people in the world get their information through reading. The rest are informed through word-of-mouth from their trusted friends. Which makes sense of course.

    Even so, most people would agree that we are starting to damage the planet by living life the way we do. So then the question is, what to do next?

    Now Julian Simon brought two basic ideas to this question (I am sitting here staring at The Ultimate Resource up on the shelf, but I’ll do it from memory.)

    Simon’s first idea was that additional people (i.e., the growing population) will bring more creativity to solve problems. This is negated by number (2) above — also it appears to me that real creativity may not be strictly linear to population, or else we would have about 8 Shakespeares walking around, or 4 or 5 Beethovens, or a couple of Einsteins. Most “creativity” as the word is used is rather what we call “know-how,”– so if you give people chain saws, they can figure out how to cut down a forest, etc.

    Also, the effects of (1) would tend to counteract the “more creativity is coming” hypothesis, on its own. Of course Simon didn’t study ecology.

    His second idea was to combine the first idea with what is basically the libertarian Hayek/M. Friedman line — that prices will naturally communicate all the relevant information, and do so in enough time to prevent absolute catastrophes.

    The real world “proof” often adduced here is that Simon won the bet with Ehrlich on price trends of some commodities. What is not reported is that Simon had the good sense NOT to take Ehrlich up on the second bet, which he would have lost handily — regarding fresh water availability, world grain yields, ecosystem services and the like.

    However, the Hayek/M.Friedman line is also theoretically inadequate, and it is inadequate even if we correct for certain “market failures” (and note that those corrections themselves are often a process of institutional expertise.)

    Because there still remains the problem that prices carry only allocative information — so some things still aren’t included: and the lopsided distribution of income, the unquantifiability of most ecological externalities, and the narrowing of knowledge competences mentioned above, all conspire to destroy the system.

    Now, there are only three ways to inform the world: (A) price transactions, (B) governmental and nongovernmental institutions, of various law-giving, regulatory, and redistributionist sorts, and (C) better, comprehensive, synthetic education — for absolutely everybody.

    (A) won’t fix the problems alone. We just knocked it out, as above. The argument is a little complicated, but I think it may be possible to get the message over.

    The internet means the bad guys can no longer all the public discourse. That’s good. But fight has merely begun.

  38. #38 Ian Gould
    August 16, 2008

    “Wow! I had no idea the man was so evil that for a couple of bucks and short term notoriety he is willing to send us all to hell, including himself, his family, all his friends and everyone he knows. What a monster!

    Honestly, after reading the above statements that is the only conclusion that can be drawn if what you all are saying is true. Do you seriously contend that Lomborg is that kind of fiend?”

    Hey Lance still pushing the neofascist barrow I see.

    Tell me why is it you have no problem with your fellow neo-fascists pushing the same line about Gore, Hansen et al?
    Try to avoid threats of physical violence in replying, you only make youself even look more absurd when you do that (if such a thing is possible.)

  39. #39 Chris O'Neill
    August 16, 2008

    Lance:

    I will answer your ill intentioned .. remarks on Monday.

    Try not to let our impending doom spoil your week-end guys.

    Love the hypocrisy.

    Try not to let our impending doom spoil your week-end guys.

    Don’t worry, there’s too many arrogant hypocrites for me to be bothered by them.

  40. #40 Lance
    August 18, 2008

    OK, Let’s see what came in over the week-end.

    “Oh goodie, the village idiot is going to get back to me. Life in the reality based community was getting me down, but things are looking up. Maybe I’ll strike up a vigorous debate with my porch light while I’m hot. – I Am Become Marjoram”

    No reason to answer that one. What a douche bag.

    “Hey Lance still pushing the neofascist barrow I see.
    Tell me why is it you have no problem with your fellow neo-fascists pushing the same line about Gore, Hansen et al? Try to avoid threats of physical violence in replying, you only make youself(sic) even look more absurd when you do that (if such a thing is possible.) – Ian Gould”

    More name calling I see. I said something once about wishing these discussions could be conducted face to face in response to your calling me a fascist, if you consider that a “threat of physical violence” you are more than a little paranoid. Also what in my remarks did you interpret as being “neo-fascist”?

    I was angry the first time you called me a fascist but now I understand that it is just your simplistic way of viewing the world. Anyone that doesn’t yield to your didactic socialistic tirades is a counter-revolutionary fascist.

    Carry on comrade Ian!

  41. #41 P. Lewis
    August 18, 2008

    Lance said:

    OK, Let’s see what came in over the week-end.

    “Oh goodie, the village idiot …. What a douche bag.

    More name calling I see. …

    Just curious (as what is sauce for the goose is …), but what are village idiot and douche bag if they are not name calling?

  42. #42 Lance
    August 18, 2008

    Yes P. Lewis when someone demonstrates repeated ill will and bad manners I will call them a name in response.

    Act like a douche bag and I will call you a douche bag.

  43. #43 P. Lewis
    August 18, 2008

    Smacks of hypocrisy, a touch, I think most would agree.

  44. #44 Lee
    August 18, 2008

    I note that Lance dove right into the insult-fest, but has carefully avoided comment on the substantive issues laid out for him before he left on Friday.

  45. #45 z
    August 18, 2008

    See also:

    Look, some feces; I will roll around in them to demonstrate how disgusted I am.

  46. #46 Ian Gould
    August 19, 2008

    “Also what in my remarks did you interpret as being “neo-fascist”?”

    Lance, here’s a description of the key characteristics of the “Right Wing authoritarian” personality type. “Right Wing Authoritarian” is just a more polite term for “fascist” – and results on the RWA test correlate well with the earlier f-scale test which was based on studies of people who had in fact been in Fascist parties prior to 1945.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Search?search=right+wing+authoritarian&go=Go

    “According to research by Altemeyer, right-wing authoritarians tend to exhibit cognitive errors and symptoms of faulty reasoning. Specifically, they are more likely to make incorrect inferences from evidence and to hold contradictory ideas that result from compartmentalized thinking. They are also more likely to uncritically accept insufficient evidence that supports their beliefs, and they are less likely to acknowledge their own limitations.”

    More fundamentally, the underlying belief system of the RWA (and the fascist) is that they are part of a group which is both morally superior to others and unjustly oppressed by them.

    When you advance your claims that AGW is a conspiracy of the liberal elite against American free market capitalism’s inevitable and glorious march to world domination you display both the characteristic logical errors of the Neo-fascist (or the Right wing Authoritarian if you prefer) and the underlying paranoid and conspiratorial mindset.

    “The Jews are responsible for us losing world War I” and
    “Al Gore is using the global warming hoax to to set up a one world socialist government” are products of the exact same mindset.

  47. #47 Lance
    August 19, 2008

    Ian Gould,

    You quote the following to tar me as a fascist,
    “More fundamentally, the underlying belief system of the RWA (and the fascist) is that they are part of a group which is both morally superior to others and unjustly oppressed by them.”

    This is an excellent description of your behavior. Your posts simply ooze with moral superiority and you are constantly lashing out at some imaginary cadre of rightwing corporate overlords.

    “When you advance your claims that AGW is a conspiracy of the liberal elite against American free market capitalism’s inevitable and glorious march to world domination you display both the characteristic logical errors of the Neo-fascist (or the Right wing Authoritarian if you prefer) and the underlying paranoid and conspiratorial mindset.”

    Again you are blindly focused on some bizarre phantom-Lance that bears not the slightest resemblance to me. I have never said that AGW was a “conspiracy” or advocated US world domination. These rants are just comical.

    Clearly you are the one that imagines some vast right-wing conspiracy of corporate carbon barons running rough shod over the valiant workers and brave intellectuals of the left who are trying to save humanity and the planet from these greedy capitalists.

    “The Jews are responsible for us losing world War I” and “Al Gore is using the global warming hoax to to set up a one world socialist government” are products of the exact same mindset.

    Jews? World War One? One world socialist government? Maybe we should get you and Linden La Rouche together and let you two work this thing out.

    Al Gore is largely a distraction that I rarely mention. The Jew thing is pure lunacy on your part.

    Politics inevitably enters into the discussion and I have been very open about my mildly Libertarian views, but I find such diversions tiresome, especially when they turn ludicrously inane as your latest screed demonstrates.

  48. #48 Lance
    August 19, 2008

    Lee,

    “I note that Lance dove right into the insult-fest…”

    Some guy called me an idiot, after I politely told him I would respond to his post on Monday, to which I replied by calling him a douche bag. “Insult-fest” must be pretty dull in your neck of the woods.

    “… but has carefully avoided comment on the substantive issues laid out for him before he left on Friday”
    What the hell are you talking about? I chased your two bad links and then scanned through the old open threads. I did not find any “substantive issues” that weren’t thoroughly played out.

    If you have something new to discuss I’ll be glad to meet you in the current open thread.

  49. #49 Lee
    August 19, 2008

    Lance – It’s at 41 in Open Thread 10, comment #1012867.

    29 in this thread, by Brian D, lays out how he found it, and then he linked it for you. It is my last post to you in that earlier conversation. My first dead link – I despise markup – included the comment number. I’m somewhat baffled that you cant find that post, but here I’ve pointed directly at it for you.
    Post 41, Open Thread 10, comment #1012867, July 26, 2008 2:54 AM

  50. #50 Lance
    August 19, 2008

    Lee,

    That post is just one in a long exchange that I answered and then you countered etc. etc. on and on for sometime. I don’t see anything in there particularly unique in its relevance.

    If you have a specific question, then ask it.

  51. #51 TTT
    August 19, 2008

    I’m not sure which piece of Lomborg’s self-mythology speaks worse about him: that he “was an environmentalist” because he wore a Greenpeace button for two weeks in 1986, or that he relinquished all his old beliefs after being instantly converted by an essay from Julian Simon. I’m always astounded when, occasionally, I meet someone sufficiently cloistered in Ivy League economist ideological purity that they still cite Simon as an authority on anything–and those who do, don’t merely cite him but practically worship him. He lost his precious bet with David South re: timber prices going up, but his personality cult doesn’t care about that.

    If Julian Simon was so smart, why is he dead? No, really. He said human technology would allow us to solve any problem, and also attributed to us plainly magical powers such as the ability to sustain current population growth levels for the next 6,000 years and the ability to transmute common elements into rarer ones. If we can solve EVERY problem and we have that kind of Superman-turning-the-planet-backwards omnipotence, produce for me Julian Simon, himself, alive, now. Nothing less will do.

  52. #52 Lee
    August 19, 2008

    Lance,

    That post begins IN ITS VERY FIRST SENTENCE with a specific question, one I had asked you before, and you had failed to answer. The fact that we had “a long exchange” does not change that you still have not answered that question.
    “Lance, re my post at 19, let me ask again: “What exactly do you see here, Lance, that is inappropriately simplified for the problem as stated? Be specific.””

    The post then ends with another specific question regarding your belief that feedbacks must be net negative. That question comes out of my listing specific facts relevant to the belief.
    “How do you square this with your belief that net feedback MUST be negative? ”

    For you to avoid all that, and instead challenge me to ask a specific question is… disingenuous – at best.

  53. #53 Lance
    August 19, 2008

    Lee,

    You popped back into a weeks old post (Open Thread 10, post #41) that refers back to another post (post #19) that concludes with,

    “The problem then simplifies to:
    1. Given 2xCO2, what is the change in radiation transfer characteristics. The line by line codes provides that answer. It adds 3.5 – 4.1 w/m2 of forcing.
    2. Given 3.5-4.1 w/m2 of additional forcing and no change in the gray-body characteristics of the earth other than that caused directly by the added CO2 (because there is no feedback, so nothing else changes) how much must the planet surface and atmosphere heat up to radiate an additional 3.5 – 4.1 w/m2, to balance that additional forcing. The answer is 1C – 1.3C at the surface.
    What exactly do you see here, Lance, that is inappropriately simplified for the problem as stated? Be specific.”

    Do you really want to chase this one around again, completely out of context, and for what purpose?

    Be specific.

  54. #54 Lee
    August 19, 2008

    Thank you, Lance, for making it clear that you are unwilling to address those questions.

  55. #55 Lance
    August 20, 2008

    Lee,

    I am unwilling to jump back into the middle of a very long and drawn out discussion that started long before the post you arbitrarily selected and continued to a conclusion some weeks ago unless you can tell me what you are specifically asking and why.

    Hardly unreasonable on my part.

  56. #56 Lee
    August 20, 2008

    Lance, that is not the “middle” of that conversation, and it is not an “arbitrarily selected” post. It is the last post I made in the conversation, the one that has been sitting unanswered since I made it. It is the point at which you left the conversation – and you left it without answering those questions, one of which I had been asking you in previous posts, and you had not answered earlier either.

    They are simple, easy to understand questions:

    1. What specifically do you consider to be inappropriately simplified in the no-feedback CO2 sensitivity analysis?

    The background – why I referred to an earlier post – is that the definition is itself simplifying. Given no feedbacks, the ONLY thing one needs to worry about is the radiation characteristics of CO2. IOW, we are asking what CO2 – or greenhouses gasses in general – will do if NOTHING ELSE CHANGES. Yo argued that the simplifying assumptions are problematic – I’m asking yo to detail for us which simplifying assumptions are a problem, and why. I asked this question before in that conversation, and you never answered.

    2. “How do you square this with your belief that net feedback MUST be negative? ”
    You repeatedly state that net feedbacks are negative – this is the core, it seems, of your belief that sensitivity must be low. I posted an argument that says that net feedback in at least one instance must be positive, with an amplifying factor of about 3. I then asked you to look at this evidence and defend your statement about net negative feedback. Again, this is simple, and clearly stated in that post.

  57. #57 Lance
    August 20, 2008

    Lee,

    I know we went around and around on this topic even though I can’t find the thread where we did it.

    I’m not trying to dodge you but I have an engineering analysis report due in an hour and I have to teach my first course of the semester this evening and have to prepare class materials so I’ll have to beg off for the moment.

    Maybe I should latch onto that vast right-wing money teat that so many of you are always railing against for full-time blog funding.

  58. #58 Lee
    August 20, 2008

    We didn’t go “around and around” anything Lance. You simply didn’t answer those questions.
    They arent going anywhere – they can wait until you have time.

  59. #59 MikeB
    August 21, 2008

    Moving back to Lomborg.. he has a piece in the Guardian opposing Olivers Tickell’s article from the other day. Lomborg uses his usual tactics, including the fact that apparently we are all going to be 1700% richer by the end of the century. Of course he misses out the fact that we will have far less to eat and possibly have no home due to it being flooded, but its a small price to pay…http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/aug/15/carbonemissions.climatechange

    Fortuately, Tickell has a companion piece which takes him on, as do many of the comment posters, such as Manclad. Manclad gets Lomborg perfectly, so I’ll just quote him in full:

    ‘ interviewed this cretin once for a feature and it was like wrestling with a bar of soap, having stats spouted at you like numbers made up the world and could prove anything. His ho hum let’s wait and see, it’s not too bad, see 2+2=5 ramblings are responsible for people saying, I don’t want to give up lifestyle because it will never be that bad.

    Apart from his cheek at quoting the IPCC at us, how can he argue that things won’t be so bad, when he argues things can never be as bad as people say? Surely his only honest stance could be that he doesn’t know, but then from a man who thought oil would be around $20 a barrel right now, honesty is a long way from what he can comprehend. He’s been taken apart countless times by economists and climate scientists for his myriad errors, but like a blind man, he cannot see, he’s in thrall to his extreme dogma and ideology.

    He scares me much more than anyone saying the Arctic could be ice-free this summer… oh hang on, that’s true. He’s not. As for quoting the Copenhagen Consensus, er, Mr Lomborg, would that be the group you got together? It’s like me getting a group of my mates together and proclaiming that beer doesn’t make you drunk if you drink enough.

    By the way, I live in Australia, and our climate is screwed.

    I issue you a challenge for a future piece, by the way. I would like you to write a feature on what the point would be that you would change your mind about simply “adapting” to the changes that AGW would bring.

    When would you get scared Bjorn?

    Because if that point is never, this is pure drivel that adds nothing to any debate, apart from winding people up.’

    Bravo! Lomborg – still a total dick.

  60. #60 Lee
    August 22, 2008

    Just a reminder here for Lance that the questions haven’t gone away – they are still waiting for him even when he goes away.

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