Another unconvincing assualt on Lomborgs new book. I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know whats so terrible about it. But lots of people seem to dislike it. Alanna Mitchell says:
Worse still, he fails to take into account three of the characteristics of global climate change that scientists fear will make it so dangerous. First, the climate will become unstable and unpredictable, meaning it will be hard for humans to adapt farming, housing, energy sources and, yes, even air-conditioning supplies.
Well no. I haven’t seen any evidence for this at all. Who says so? [Clarification: the problem text is “the climate will become unstable and unpredictable”]
Second, the pace of the changing climate is, historically, unusually fast, and species, fashioned by slower evolutionary pressures, are not prepared for it. You can’t just look at the absolute change in temperature without looking at the speed with which it’s happening.
This is more convincing. There is the teensy problem of Dansgaard-Oeschger oscillations, which were also fast. Perhaps they only happened in the North Atlantic.
Third, the change is not expected to be linear. At some point, it becomes logarithmic; it feeds upon itself and the changes happen exponentially. These are the climate thresholds scientists keep examining and writing about, the tipping points that are difficult to predict and even more difficult to prepare for.
Ahem, we’ll just skip lightly over the odd log error. Meanwhile, were back on the killer tipping points of no return stuff, which are once again being misinterpreted. They may exist, there may be sudden jumps we’ll run across, but if so we dont know what they are (Greenland melting, for example, is *not* going to lead to any exponentia-type effects).
The review fails to take on a single one of BL’s arguments. The only one mentioned is about the 2003 heatwave; BL points out we probably gain as much from loss as winter deaths as we lose in summer deaths; AM doesn’t dispute this, and only says there are other factors, which she lists. If BL fails to consider, say, drought, then she has a point. But I doubt he does.
So, is there a proper critical review of Cool It out there anywhere?
[Thanks to JH for a pointer to a better review by Tim Flannery. Its better, but its still not good. BL appears to have said some dumb things about river flows and glaciers.
Lomborg’s flawed grasp of climate science is most evident when he discusses sea levels. He makes much of the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) projection that sea level will rise by “about a foot,” misleadingly noting that this is lower than previous projections. He does not tell us that the IPCC figures do not account for collapsing ice sheets, which may result in far larger rises, due to the difficulty of predicting how glacial ice will react to warming.
This isn’t much good. It’s unreasonable to crit Lomborg for using baseline IPCC predictions; how glacial ice will react is indeed rather hard to predict, but if IPCC left it out why shouldn’t L? To do anything sensible with it leads us into the interesting territory of how to weight different scenarios of unknown probability, which is an unsolved problem (indeed largely unaddressed, except by the likes of mt). Maybe TF should try to address is soberly.
But The deepest flaw in Cool It is aha, good, now we’re getting somewhere its failure to take into account the full range of future climate possibilities. The computer models project outcomes ranging from mild, which he acknowledges, to truly catastrophic, which he ignores. If BL truely does select only the milder range of possibilities, then he is cheating, and this is a major hit. But I’m doubtful that he does.
Then we come to Lomborg vs Stern. Stern (in my view) erred on the high side of damage and change, and the low side of cost. And (venturing onto dangerous economic ground) no-one with any credibility apart from JQ believed his discount rates. So when TF says Lomborg asserts that “a raft of academic papers have now come out all strongly criticizing Stern…” he is correct, and so is Lomborg: there really are a lot of people who have crit Stern. But when TF says “He further asserts that the Stern report… [is] slanted toward “scary” scenarios. This latter assertion is simply not true. Stern gives a straight reading of the range of possible climate outcomes. he is wrong: Stern does *not* give a straight reading of possibilities (he uses a high version of A2).
All in all, its better than the previous, which was poor, but fails to land much in the way of punches and makes errors of its own -W]
[Thanks to bcl for pointing to the Salon interview, which as he says skewers BL rather badly over polar bears. On page 2 BL (correctly, I think) says (about sea level rise) “don’t trust one scientist (Hansen) trust the intergrated viewpoint (IPCC)”. He is saying this to avoid having to deal with large (and unlikely) rises, but he strongly commits himself to this position. But by page 3, the interviewer quotes ACIA (which is BLs main ref) as “As the amount of sea ice decreases, seals, walrus, polar bears and other ice-dependent species will suffer drastically.” To which BL replies “I’m just saying that it will be harder for the polar bears but that they will not decline…”. Where does BL get this from? Later, he says “OK. But I’ve talked to a different expert that’s up in Greenland, who works for the Danish government, and he has looked over my chapter, and said that it’s OK”. This is precisely the attitude he was previously criticising: picking your pet expert instead of an intergrated assessment. Then the interviewer essentially finds BL lying by selective quotation (re polar bear adaption to ice-free state) and he has no real reply.
Bottom line: over polar bears, Lomborg is at best deceptive. The problem is that many GW problems are ecological. If BL finds himself needing to lie over this one, why should I trust him over the rest? Which leads to, why should I trust his damage estimates? -W]
[Better add the nice review at the NY Rev of Books. This includes the question I’ve asked and never had answered: “Why don’t we divert to it some of the (large and nontheoretical) sums spent on, say, the military? The answer he gave when I asked this question at our dialogue was that he thought military spending was bad and that therefore it made more sense to compare global warming dollars with other “good” spending. But of course this makes less sense. If he thought that money spent for the military was doing damage, then he could kill two birds with one stone by diverting some of it to his other projects. Proposing that, though, would lose him much of the right-wing support that made his earlier book a best seller” -W]