BJORN LOMBORG'S CONVENIENT HALF-TRUTHS
A couple of days ago, I had a post about Bjorn Lomborg's appearance on Bill maher. Now Amit has a post on Al Gore and the IPCC winning the Nobel Prize in which he cites, not surprisingly, the climate change skeptic who has probably the most proven track record of being a global warming contrarian in the last decade. I am again appalled at how Lomborg, who claims that global warming proponents are "alarmists" and are enunciating half-truths, himself seems to not care too much for nuance and the big picture. His report in the Boston Globe is worth quoting here at length because of the multiple weaknesses it exposes:
"Gore told the world in his Academy Award-winning movie to expect 20-foot sea-level rises over this century. He ignores the findings of his Nobel co-winners, who conclude that sea levels will rise between only a half-foot and two feet over this century, with their best expectation being about one foot. That’s similar to what the world experienced over the past 150 years.There are several things wrong with his statements. However, instead of pointing them out, I will simply link to the relevant post on Realclimate, which is a now well-recognised (even by the IPCC) and authoritative website manned by eleven bonafide climate scientists, including Michael Mann who produced the now-famous "hockey stick graph". The realclimate post refutes in addition to Lomborg's objections, all 9 points raised by a British judge a couple of days ago in declaring Gore's movie unworthy of screening in schools. Clearly, Lomborg needs to check multiple sources instead of just pouncing on a discrepancy or two, and then simply quoting it without investigating it further.
Likewise, Gore agonizes over the accelerated melting of ice in Greenland and what it means for the planet, but overlooks the IPCC’s conclusion that, if sustained, the current rate of melting would add just 3 inches to the sea-level rise by the end of the century. Gore also takes no notice of research showing that Greenland’s temperatures were higher in 1941 than they are today.
The politician-turned-moviemaker loses sleep over a predicted rise in heat-related deaths. There’s another side of the story that’s inconvenient to mention: rising temperatures will reduce the number of cold spells, which are a much bigger killer than heat. The best study shows that by 2050, heat will claim 400,000 more lives, but 1.8 million fewer will die because of cold. Indeed, according to the first complete survey of the economic effects of climate change for the world, global warming will actually save lives."
But what really irks me about Lomborg is that while he is right that issues and solutions need to be prioritized, he downplays the impact of climate change yet again. Also, as I mentioned in a past post, why not get all that funding for infectious diseases (which by the way are also expected to go up in some quarters because of climate change) from the war in Iraq? Also, in saying that "Gore also takes no notice of research showing that Greenland’s temperatures were higher in 1941 than they are today", Lomborg engages in a fallacy that the Bush administration is famous for perpetuating- cherry picking data and quoting it selectively to support one's claim (well-documented in Chris Mooney's book for example). Lomborg should know that this ploy is now old and boring, and we are not going to buy it.
Now let's get to what Lomborg cites as the "good" effects of global warming, about it helping cold regions. This is again a standard argument advocated by climate change skeptics. But this argument not only sets up a straw man, but is downright disingenuous. At the very least, it completely neglects the fact that climate change is a complex issue, and when its effects are unpredictable and violent, any perceived "good" side-effects can only be incidental benefits whose goodness may be far outweighed by so many things we don't know. But mainly, this argument is disingenuous because it shifts the focus from combating root causes of climate change to side-show benefits that we may (or may not) possibly scrape from it. And it is yet again cherry picking because it focuses only on one effect of climate change, neglecting the other deleterious ones.
Finally, disagreement between a couple of points does not make Al Gore and the IPCC "strange bedfellows". Science is a procss of constant inquiry, skepticism, and the perfection of data precisely engendered by disagreement. As Gore himself has noted, disagreement about details does not preempt the fundamental paradigm of global warming. Lomborg not only raises disingenuous objections, but also does not seem to understand this basic feature of scientific consensus. Far from being strange bedfellows, Gore and the IPCC are ideal ones.
Global warming skeptics need to pick a new poster boy if they possibly can for their views. Lomborg is unfortunately toeing the same line, and it's not working.
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