I’ve never met Bjorn Lomborg. Never exchanged emails or shared a public forum with him. Although I have seen him speak twice, and I have to concede he’s a compelling character, one who’s almost impossble to ignore. Until now, I just couldn’t figure out how someone as obviously bright and dedicated could be so very wrong. But thanks to the Guardian‘s Juliette Jowit, it’s now clear that guy just doesn’t care whether he’s right or wrong.
In Sunday’s Observer, Jowit tried to find out why Lomborg believes most of the world’s polar bear populations aren’t facing any threats, despite a clear trend toward less of the arctic ice on which they depend for their primary food supply and the opinion of just about every polar bear expert on the planet. He said that according to an IUCN report from 2001, one two of 20 populations were declining and two were increasing. So there.
Jowit then produced Andrew Derocher, chairman of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group and a biology prof at the University of Alberta, who noted that the 2001 report, and therefore Lomborg’s new anti-climate change book, Cool It!, contain outdated data. Seems that if Lomborg had bothered to read the latest research, conveniently assembled in a 2006 IUCN report, he would have known that “of 19 populations five were declining, five were stable and two were increasing; and for the remaining six there was not enough data to judge.”
[Here I would like to add that getting a grip on the latest research doesn't always mean relying on the IUCN's publication schedule. I wrote a report on Canada's polar bears in 2005, and most of the peer-reviewed science I could find led me to the same conclusion as the IUCN's 2006 report authors, or that the US Geological Survey, which just released the results of its study. Which is: the species faces some extremely serious challenges.]
So how does Lomborg explain his failure to include the most recent data?
Speaking to The Observer, Lomborg said he concentrated on the 2001 report because it was so influential in promoting polar bears as an icon of climate change, but added: ‘I would have liked to have known there was a new one.’
Of course, when he was doing the research for his new book last year he could have asked someone if there might have been anything new in the way of polar bear science since 2001. And maybe he did, but
Derocher said the author had not tried to contact him: ‘Lomborg choosing not to ask for accurate information or using outdated information reflects a lack of scholarship.’
That’s putting it mildly. The ‘borg’s problem is that he just isn’t interested in finding out what’s going on in the real world. Instead he just data-mine/fishes/cherry-picks/reaches for the low-hanging apples that best support his thesis, which seems to be that climate change ain’t what it’s cracked up to be.
Maybe now that it’s blindingly obvious that the guy has no interest in getting at the truth, newspapers like the Washington Post will stop giving him 1,900 words to promote his book. Sheesh.