A Few Things Ill Considered

Does it matter why?

So apparently, according to an “exclusive” in the Guardian, Bjørn Lomborg is about to put his “Cool It“thrusters into full reverse and declare that the world should be spending $100 billion per year towards “resolving the climate change problem by the end of this century”.

This is a very interesting development to say the least.

My question to readers is both why do you think he is doing this and does it matter? Clearly we can only speculate on his motives and sincerity and I am not one to jump to negative conclusions without good reason, but should anyone care why he has changed his tune?

Even if, say, he has found some scheme he hopes to profit from, isn’t the removal of his prominent voice from the Heartland Institute’s register of “climate experts” and the likely mainstream media coverage of his new message going to be a good thing for those of us trying to drag the whole conversation forward?

I don’t know for sure, I tend to think it doesn’t matter what his motives are and regardless of how little integrity his past work has shown, the important fallout form this will be positive media coverage. Then again, I don’t like being constatnly asked to defend Al Gore’s big electric bill, will this turn out to be an albatross around our necks?

As I said, an interesting turn of events….

Comments

  1. #1 Byron Smith
    August 31, 2010

    I’d be very hesitant to think that Lomborg has really changed his spots here. He has apparently changed his emphasis a little, but take note of the details.

    He thinks we can “solve” ACC with a mere US$100 billion per year. That is quite a bit less than most other estimates.

    He is a big believer in dangerous geo-engineering projects, puts forward fairly modest adaptation funding and pushes for more R&D to find a silver bullet so that we don’t really need to worry much. If we implemented his suggestions, we’d be likely to head to little better than business as usual.

    This represents the next major battleground: underaction.

  2. #2 Anders Emretsson
    August 31, 2010

    Lomborg is doing his usual dance. The one common denominator for all his postures is that cutting down on carbon emissions is stupid. Either it’s because climate change isn’t that big a problem, or it’s because AIDS and malaria are much bigger problems, or it’s because geoengineering is a much cheaper means of mitigation, but count on Bjorn to always oppose caps on carbon.

  3. #3 coby
    August 31, 2010

    He is apparently endorsing a carbon tax. I did note the geoengineering, but at this late stage I am not sure we can take it off the table, as long as it is not an excuse to not do everything we can to reduce carbon emissions.

  4. #4 Anders Emretsson
    August 31, 2010

    But it is.

  5. #5 skip
    August 31, 2010

    Thanks for that, Coby.

    This excerpt from the link summarizes my perception of this well:

    Lomborg denies he has performed a volte face, pointing out that even in his first book he accepted the existence of man-made global warming. “The point I’ve always been making is it’s not the end of the world,” he told the Guardian. “That’s why we should be measuring up to what everybody else says, which is we should be spending our money well.”

    In fact in *Cool It* he (a) never denied the reality of anthropogenic global warming and (b) argued for green R&D as part of a broad front of approaches to the problem.

    He also annoyed me with his simplistic understanding of “wealth” as “leverage” against the collateral effects of warming, making his book shallow sophistry, more like a creative but lazy undergrad’s thesis than a real work of scholarship.

    My guess is his current book is more about an adjustment of the perceived urgency of the problem and the extent of sacrifices acceptable in addressing it, but I’ll probably never read it. I rarely read anything that agrees with me any more.

  6. #6 darwinsdog
    August 31, 2010

    Maybe if we didn’t spend $100 billion per year for the next 90 years on fossil fuels to burn, and left them in the ground instead, it might do some good.

  7. #7 adelady
    August 31, 2010

    Direct subsidies alone were $557 billion last(?) year.

    $100 billion rolls nicely off the tongue. But it’s not really very inmpressive in this sort of company.

  8. #8 mandas
    August 31, 2010

    coby

    “…..My question to readers is both why do you think he is doing this and does it matter? Clearly we can only speculate on his motives and sincerity and I am not one to jump to negative conclusions without good reason….”

    The answer to your question is very obvious when you have a look at the articles that you linked to. He has a book out next month, and is getting the sort of publicity that money simply can’t buy. He is just trying to sell his book – he doesn’t care that he will do that by selling his principles, flawed though they may be.

  9. #9 Ordinary Fool
    August 31, 2010

    Give Lomborg credit for recognizing the halfway point between an increasingly obvious AGW reality, and the politically formidable but scientifically bankrupt skeptic position.
    $100 billion a year is a low enough ante, to give him a patina of reasonableness. while he’s still receiving Go-Slow backing.

    Adaptation (instead of mitigation) would require planning skills our politicians don’t have. Think New Orleans, its levees, and the Ninth Ward…
    Seaports are urban and blue collar and Democratic. Suburbs and rural areas are Republican…

  10. #10 adelady
    August 31, 2010

    Suburbs and rural areas are Republican?

    But so are private beaches and island resorts, I would have thought.

  11. #11 Lou Grinzo
    August 31, 2010

    He started this pivot a year ago, with his embrace of geohacking: http://www.grinzo.com/energy/index.php/2009/08/07/bjorn-again-on-cc/

    I agree that his motives are likely as prosaic as they are obvious: This spasm of media attention results in higher book sales and paid appearances. Lomborg is exceedingly good at playing this game, and make no mistake, to him it’s almost surely a game. One does wonder how he justifies it to himself during those moments when most of us can’t escape our inner voice. Does he simply say, “The world will either fix this mess or not, regardless of what I do, so I should look after my own interests and make as much money as possible”?

    Bah…

  12. #12 Ordinary Fool
    August 31, 2010

    adelady

    “A 20-foot rise in sea levels…would inundate about 16,000 square miles of coastline, where more than 400 million people currently live……the vast majority of these 400 million reside within cities, where they could be protected relatively easily…only about 15 million people would have to be relocated. And that is over the course of a century…the total cost…would be about $600 billion a year…” Bjorn Lomborg

    http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/lomborg63/English

    Lomborg’s fantasy doesn’t save private beaches or island resorts. By his cost/benefit analyses, we continue producing CO2, and future generations build levees higher and higher.

  13. #13 adelady
    August 31, 2010

    Ordinary Fool. Thanks for the quote.

    Where on earth does he get 15 million people needing relocation for a 20ft sea level rise. I have no idea what the real number would be, but when I add up the areas of Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, The Philippines, Sri Lanka, Burma and the rest of SE Asia vulnerable to this advance of the seas, I’m way over 15 million. And I know nothing about countries surrounding the Atlantic. By his approach we can just write off all the South Pacific nations I presume – their populations are just too small to count.

    Of course places like Auckland, Melbourne and Hobart would not be in much of a position to take refugees, because they’d have lost a fair amount of area themselves. (Along with the fishing grounds and crop producing areas nearby.)

  14. #14 crakar24
    August 31, 2010

    adelady,

    Forget about where on earth does he get 15 million people needing relocation figure from, the real question is where on earth does he get 20ft rise in sea level from, Al Gore, James Hansen?

  15. #15 mandas
    August 31, 2010

    The problem with the quote that Ordinary Fool used is that it has been completely taken out of context. Lomberg is saying (and I am not saying I agree with him) that an increase in sea level of that extent is unlikely (crakar – if you read the quote you would know where he gets it from), but even if it were to occur, most people of the 400 million in danger could be protected relatively easily.

    Mind you, Lomberg criticises people like Gore for being sensationalist, yet is not above sensationalising himself with his statements about Tokyo sinking. Whilst what he says is true – in a strict sense – he grossly overstates the problem. But the same could be said about Gore (Gore never said sea level would rise by 20ft – he just showed what a problem such a rise would be. In the process, he certainly led people to believe that is what he was saying – exactly as Lomberg is doing). For those who care, here is a hydrological report on the subsidence of some land in Tokyo:

    http://wwwrcamnl.wr.usgs.gov/rgws/Unesco/PDF-Chapters/Chapter9-4.pdf

    I go back to what I said at post #8. Lomberg is just trying to publicise his book – and he doesn’t really care what underhanded or unethical means he employs to do so.

  16. #16 crakar24
    August 31, 2010

    Unfortunately Mandas Lomberg is not alone.

  17. #17 adelady
    September 1, 2010

    I’d agree that the sea level rise is unlikely short of collapse of the major ice sheets, but I don’t trust that figure. Does that mean I have to read the book? Perhaps I’ll read some other stuff. I’m more interested in mitigation and maintaining or expanding economic activity in the process anyway.

    Ignore might be the best strategy. (For me.)

  18. #18 hengist mcstone
    September 1, 2010

    Two reasons why this should be taken with a pinch of salt: 1.Lomborg has a film out soon where he bicycles around preaching the word of Lomborg, now would be an odd time for an epiphany and a right time for some pre-publicity.
    2.Lomborg’s PhD is game theory,so don’t play poker with him. He’s just too good at bluffing.

  19. #19 Ordinary Fool
    September 1, 2010

    adelady

    Before buying this book, consider an entire book (‘The Lomborg Deception’) written about the misrepresentations in Lomborg’s earlier book, ‘Cool It’.

    http://www.newsweek.com/2010/02/21/book-review-the-lomborg-deception.html

    Lomborg’s first use is a misrepresentation of Al Gore’s AIT ambiguity…
    The ’20 Foot Sea Level Rise’ comes from “Global Estimates of the Impact of a Collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet” Nicholls,Tol&Vafeidis,2004
    This paper is part of the EU ‘Atlantis’ project, which considers “Adaptation to Imaginable Worst Case Climate Change.”

    The model of the shortest period(the 100 years from 2030 to 2130) is recognized as being only an intellectual exercise.
    The ‘400 million’ is the only one of Lomborg’s given numbers that I can find in the psper(in Figure 2).

    http://www.uni-hamburg.de/Wiss/FB/15/Sustainability/annex6.pdf

  20. #20 adelady
    September 1, 2010

    thx, O F

  21. #21 Turboblocke
    September 2, 2010

    How does geoengineering provide a solution for ocean acidification?

  22. #22 adelady
    September 2, 2010

    It doesn’t.

    Geo-engineering is just the ticket for over-grown 11 year old boys who never got the chance to drive a great, big machine. Train or fire truck doesn’t matter. It’s gotta be a lot, lot bigger than you are and the whole world has to come out and admire how big and clever and strong you are.

    The idea of working smarter rather than harder is an alien, cowardly, sissy concept.

  23. #23 Susann
    September 2, 2010

    We have always been at war with Eastasia…

  24. #24 Ordinary Fool
    September 2, 2010

    COSTS……….Estimating of costs in heavy construction is a difficult thing, even under ideal conditions. By a contractor who has cost records on similar projects.
    Incredulity comes to mind when ratcheting the cost estimates up to Lomborgian levels. When the design isn’t known, when everybody is building at the same time, decades in the future…when the sea level rises.

    BENEFITS……….are the fun part of the calculation, in an Engineering Economy class. Putting valuations on time, safety, or a life.

    COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS……….is discussed on pages 9-10, which can be read at Amazon.com.
    Incredulity returns, when it is applied to geoengineering, with all its uncertainties.

    WIKIPEDIA……….”Comparative studies indicate that similar inaccuracies apply to fields other than transportation. These studies indicate that the outcomes of cost-benefit analysis should be treated with caution because they may be highly inaccurate. In fact, inaccurate cost-benefit analyses may be argued to be a substantial risk in planning, because inaccuracies of the size documented are likely to lead to inefficient decisions…”

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