Let’s take a long, cool look at Bjorn Lomborg

Written by M. Glantz. Posted in All Fragilecologies

Published on October 13, 2009 with No Comments

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By Dr. Michael H. Glantz and John Firor

Let’s take a long, cool look at the dangers of global warming

By Bjorn Lomborg (Filed: 10/08/2003)

This time last year, the rains were so heavy in central  Europe, northern Italy and southern France that not merely crops, but whole buildings, indeed whole streets, were washed away. The Danube and Po rivers overflowed and flooded many of the cities on their banks, causing irreparable damage
to historic buildings and destroying much of the year’s agriculture.

Let’s take a long, cool look at Bjorn Lomborg

Michael H. Glantz and John Firor

This year, those same regions are experiencing drought. The Po is now so low that in some regions it is possible to walk across it. London, Milan and a number of cities in Switzerland and France have experienced their hottest days since records began. Forest fires are devastating Provence and other regions of southern Europe. The shortage of water is becoming acute.
Unsurprisingly, newspapers and television are packed with stories of climatic doom and disaster. The media’s message is simple: the climate is changing, for the worse, and it is all our fault. And it is not just newspapers in search of a summer
story that claim this: so too do politicians and scientists. Only last week, for example, the prominent researcher Sir John Houghton compared extreme weather with weapons of mass destruction and called for political action.
Some media representatives used Lomborg’s book to go to the opposite extreme — that there is nothing to worry about with regard to climate.

It may be that to Houghton, there are aspects of climate change that have impacts analogous to impacts of the use of weapons of mass destruction. We need to see the context in which Houghton made these statements.

As one sits sweltering in an apparently unprecedented heatwave, that analysis seems completely persuasive. We are boiling, and it is all down to global warming. Something must be done. In this area, however, what seems obvious is not necessarily true. Climate change is notoriously difficult to
identify, never mind accurately to explain. And one hot summer in Europe doesn’t mean that the world’s climate has permanently changed for the worse.
“Unprecedented” in France, when 10,000-15,000 people died in a heat wave of relatively long duration.

It is not necessarily false either.

Climate change IS difficult to identify, but only IF you ignore a large number of published studies showing measured gradual warming during the past century, gradual increase in sea level, and many other events such as the retreat of many glaciers worldwide. And see Lomborg’s next paragraph where he states that global warming is a certainty, a statistically proven phenomenon.

What about 10 of the hottest years on record in the last decade or so? What would convince Lomborg?

Perhaps surprisingly, the UN Climate Panel cannot find anything significant to suggest that weather has become more extreme over the past 100 years. Global warming is a certainly a statistically-proven phenomenon – but its only
well-attested effect is to produce slightly more rain.
Alarmists such as Sir John Houghton readily cite the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) to the effect that global warming has now shown itself to produce extreme weather such as the present heatwave. Unfortunately for Sir John,
this much-cited newsflash from the WMO was only a press release. It was not based on any research. When questioned on that point, the WMO acknowledged that its results suggesting that there was more extreme weather could be
a statistical artifact: they could be explained merely by – as the WMO put it – “improved monitoring and reporting”.
This contradicts his statement in the preceding paragraph: “Climate change is notoriously difficult to identify.” What about the melting glaciers around the globe, the drying up of inland seas (e.g., Lake Chad) and sea level rise? What about changes in seasonality? Also, Lomborg’s “slightly more rain” could also mean heavier downpours occurring irregularly.or
“de-alarmists” like Lomborg
It is not something that the doom-mongers want to hear. It does not fit in with the claim that global warming is becoming a “weapon of mass destruction”. But it is simply not correct to claim that global warming is the primary explanation of the kind of heatwave we are now experiencing. The statistics show that global warming has not, in fact, increased the number of exceptionally hot periods. It has only decreased the number of exceptionally cold ones. The US, northern and central Europe, China,
Australia and New Zealand have all experienced fewer frost days, whereas only Australia and New Zealand have seen their maximum temperatures increase. For the US, there is no trend in the maximum temperatures – and in China they have actually been declining.
Purposely antagonisticHe does admit it affects temperature as suggested by hypotheses about global warming and by model runs.
Having misidentified the primary cause of the heatwave as global warming, we then tend to make another mistake: we assume that as the weather gets warmer, we will get hotter and more people eventually will die in heatwaves. But,
in fact, a global temperature increase does not mean that everything just becomes warmer; it will generally raise minimum temperatures much more than maximum temperatures.
You can still have deadly heatwaves even if some regions get cooler. The global average temperature increases.


In both hemispheres and for all seasons, night temperatures have increased much more than day temperatures. Likewise, most warming has taken place in the winter rather than the summer. Finally, three quarters of the warming has taken place over the very cold areas of Siberia and Canada.
All of these phenomena are – within limits – actually quite good for both agriculture and people.
This statement by Lomborg is consistent with model outputs about greater warming at the higher latitudes as compared to the mid latitudes.

Canadian agriculture cannot move further north in the prairies because of the Canadian shield; they are already at the northern soil limits for agriculture. As for Siberia, as the permafrost warms, methane will be produced which is a greenhouse gas.

The idea of comparing this with weapons of mass destruction is, to put it mildly, misleading. Yes, more people will die from heatwaves – but what is forgotten is that many more people will not die from cold spells. In the US, it is estimated that twice as many people die from cold as from heat, and in the UK it is estimated that about 9,000 fewer people would die each winter with global warming. But don’t expect headlines in the next mild winter reading “9,000 not dead”. Native people in North America are adversely affected by the change in the duration and warming of the seasons. Highway construction and pipelines are at risk to changes in the permafrost.

We do not know those limits, therefore the precautionary principle should be involved.

It is a typical example of the way that we ignore the fact that climate change has beneficial effects as well as damaging ones, allowing ourselves to be scared witless by every rise in temperature. All the same, you may say,
isn’t it true that the effects of the weather extremes we do experience are getting more serious? Yes it is – but the explanation for this is simply that there are more people in the world, they are wealthier, and many more prefer to live in cities and coastal areas. Accordingly, extreme weather will affect more people than before and because people are more
affluent, more absolute wealth is likely to be lost
These are not the ones who are at risk of dying.

The affluent and wealthy are not the ones who are dying from extreme events.

Florida is an example of this development. When Florida was hit by a hurricane in September 1926 the economic loss was, in present day dollars, $100 million. In 1992 a very similar hurricane cost the economy $38 billion. Clearly it was a bigger disaster, but not due to developments in extreme weather. The explanation comes from economic growth and urbanisation. We are becoming more vulnerable to extreme weather – but this is only very weakly related to climate change. It is therefore tenuous to blame the damage currently unfolding on global warming. And it does not help to argue – as Sir John does – that the wise political solution is a massive collective action against global warming.
Although global warming has had little effect on extreme weather in the past, it might have a greater effect in the future – although we have little idea how much, except that as we get richer, it will cost us more to repair the damage. Still, shouldn’t we, for the sake of our children, or our children’s children, start to tackle the greenhouse effect – the heating up of the atmosphere caused by the increase in carbon dioxide emissions? Well – no, actually. If the goal is to reduce our vulnerability to extreme weather, limiting carbon emissions is certainly not the most cost-effective way. The objective is not just to reduce the cause of global warming but also to reduce the impacts as well.

There can be multiple objectives; reducing the burning of coal for example, reduces air pollution, acid rain, as well as climate warming. Given the idea of “Paradox of second Best,” for the environmental problem of global warming there may only be on solution in practice.

In the Kyoto Protocol, industrialised countries have agreed to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 30 per cent by 2010. This will be very expensive and will only have a negligible effect. Estimates from all macro-economic models show a global cost of $150 billion-$350 billion every year. At the same time, the effect on extreme weather will be marginal: the climate models show that Kyoto will merely postpone the temperature rise by six years from 2100 to 2106. Lomborg states this with no uncertainty. How can he do that? He is using the same type of statements that those he challenges used in their assertion. The major difference is a change in the sign of the change.

The temperature is already rising.

The major problems of global warming will occur in the Third World. Yet these countries have many other and much more serious problems to contend with. For the cost of implementing the Kyoto Protocol in the single year of 2010,
we could permanently satisfy the world’s greatest need: we could provide clean drinking water and sanitation for everybody. It would surely be better to deal with those most pressing problems first.

Bjorn Lomborg is the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and a professor at the University of Aarhus, Denmark.




Lomborg misunderstands the Framework Convention on Climate Change, negotiated in Rio in 1992 and of which the Kyoto Protocol is one step in implementation.
In Rio, it was agreed that the developed countries, being both the largest emitters of greenhouse gases and more prosperous, would be more able to take steps to reduce emissions than would the developing countries. Therefore, he delegates agreed that the developed countries would go first. They set a test for the rich countries by agreeing that such countries would attempt
to reduce their emissions back to 1990 levels by 2000. All developed countries, except Russia, Germany, and the UK failed to take effective steps to achieve this small reduction. So, at Kyoto, developing counties expressed considerable skepticism about whether the rich countries would really be willing to reduce their emissions. The Kyoto delegates therefore chose another modest test for the developed countries: they set a small decrease by 2010 to see if the rich guys would step up to the task. Since they knew that this decrease would produce only a quite small decrease in the rate that the atmospheric
concentration of carbon dioxide would increase, they also agreed that after 2010 they would put forward a schedule of increasingly large reductions to be observed by all countries.

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