31 August 2010

Lomborg: A Saul/Paul Conversion?

Photo of Bjørn Lomborg.Image via WikipediaHas Bjørn Lomborg had a Saul/Paul conversion on the road to Global Warming's Damascus? Or is Lomborg once again playing the media for attention on the eve of releasing a new book? 

The Guardian reported this morning that the world's most high-profile climate change sceptic (er, skeptic) is now declaring that global warming is "undoubtedly one of the chief concerns facing the world today" and "a challenge humanity must confront," in his new book to be published next month.

Read The Guardian story here.

What timing for an about-face: Lomborg has long been a media darling, vilified by the extreme greens and trotted out by climate deniers whenever he has a new book to push.

His views on the climate were debunked by Howard Friel in some detail in his recent book The Lomborg Deception, where he alledgedly picked apart nearly all of the assertions made in Lomborg's book Cool It!, a follow-up to The Skeptical Environmentalist.

To be fair, Lomborg never really denied that greenhouse gases emissions from fossil fuels were having an impact on the climate.  He simply didn't think it was going to be the runaway disaster it was being made out to be. 

He also argued that focusing on eradicating HIV AIDs and malaria from the planet as the most economical investments we could make to solve the planet's pressing issues.
"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."

He outlines his views in this TED Talk from February 2005: TED Lomborg.  Lomborg asks the audience, Given $50 billion to spend, which would you solve first, AIDS or global warming?
In Lomborg's view, more immediate concerns of health and poverty needed to be addressed.  He's now calling for over $100 billion to be spent annually to address climate change.

But the damage was done, as the author's books fanned the flames of the debate and lent credibility (however fact-unchecked) to climate-change deniers from across the spectrum.

Now even Rajendra Pachauri, the beleagured head of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, himself being pressured to step down after a recent independent review of the panel's work, has flip-flopped.

Pachauri once compared Lomborg to Hitler, but now, according to the Guardian, blurbs the book by his former nemesis.

Lomborg's arguments tick people off, in part because his tone is cavalier and dismissive and his fact-checking isn't always done with the rigor of his assertions.

It remains to be seen whether this latest salvo, whether a conversion or a diversion, will move the needle (or lower the thermostat) on the planet's path to a warmer future.

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