CNN’s Fareed Zakaria Asks Discredited Political Scientist to Game Global Warming

Jun 20 2012 Published by under Featured News, Issues, Republican Party

Bjorn Lomborg: Ignoring the evidence around him and profiting andsomely from it

Leave it to CNN’s  Fareed Zakaria to interview Bjørn Lomborg on his “Fareed Zakaria GPS” Sunday to address climate change, rather than an actual climate scientist – in other words, somebody who knows what they’re talking about.

Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre and author of 2001’s The Skeptical Environmentalist, significantly, isn’t a scientist – not of any kind. His Ph.D. is in political science (concentrated on game theory, James Hoggan reminds us, that is, “the study of strategic decision making”).[1] This is the man, all sanity aside, who was listed as a climate expert by the Washington Post in 2009.

He’s a climate specialist like David Barton is a historian – just the kind of expert conservatives like.

Zakaria introduces Lomborg thusly:

Bjorn Lomborg, author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist,” says the Rio+20 summit will be a wasted opportunity and that the U.N. is focused on the wrong things. He says that for every person who might die from global warming, 210 will die from health problems caused by a lack of clean water and pollution.

Watch this edited version of the interview from CNN:

But you won’t find out much about Lomborg’s complete lack of science or environmental credentials from Zakaria or CNN. It doesn’t suit CNN’s corporate purposes to undermine a friendly witness for corporate America, after all. No, better to let everyone think Lomborg knows what he is talking about, and that he is at all sincere.

For that you have to turn to people who actually care about the environment. James Hoggan relates a few details about Lomborg in his Climate Cover-Up (2009).

He tells us, for example, that on April 16, 2009, Lomborg’s article “Forget the Scary Eco-Crunch: The Earth is Enough” appeared in Canada’s Globe and Mail. In it, as Hoggan says, Lomborg “sets out to dismiss the concern that humans are currently consuming global resources at a pace that cannot be sustained.”

Lomborg actually argued that population growth is decreasing and that if you factor in technological progress, there will be “no ecological collapse.” Lomborg also claimed:

“Due to technology, the individual demand on the planet has already dropped 35 percent over the past half-decade, and the collective requirement will reach its upper limit before 2020 without any overdraft.”[2]

Since pollution causes global warming, how can one be a problem but not the other? How can we be running out of water if global warming isn’t a serious problem? Aren’t global warming and pollution affecting the availability of safe drinking water? Of course they are! You cannot separate them.[3]

Hoggan calls Lomborg’s 2001 best-seller, The Skeptical Environmentalist a “hymn to industrialization.” In this book, Lomborg actually argued that “air and water quality improved in the industrialized world between the early 1970s and the late 1990s.”[4]

Zakaria won’t mention, of course, that in 2003 the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty had this to say about Lomborg’s magnum opus: “Objectively speaking, the publication of the work under consideration is deemed to fall within t he concept of scientific dishonesty” and called it “clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice.” But that was not all. The Danish Committees also “cited The Skeptical Environmentalist for ‘Fabrication of data; selective discarding of unwanted results (selective citation); Deliberately misleading use of statistical methods; Plagiarism; and deliberate misinterpretation of others’ results.”[5]

New Statesmen says that in 2003 Lomborg was “cleared of scientific dishonesty” but as you can see, that’s not exactly the case. This is true only in the sense that Lomborg’s complete lack of knowledge of the environment saved him – because he didn’t actually know anything he was not culpable for his errors. That’s hardly being “cleared of scientific dishonesty.” He was dishonest as the day was long. He just wasn’t punished for it.

The only real victory for Lomborg in all this was that the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MSTI), which oversees the Danish Committees, annulled the DCSD’s decision in December 2003, based on procedural errors, a decision that did nothing to prove Lomborg did not in fact lie or engage in scientific dishonesty. It was no different than a case being thrown out of court despite a ton of evidence because prosecutors or police had made some procedural error.

But if the DCSD wasn’t specific enough about Lomborg’s errors, others are. Zakaria won’t direct your attention to, a site maintained by Danish academic Kåre Fog, who pointed to “319 specific errors, exaggerations, or logical flaws” in The Skeptical Environmentalist. Zakaria also will not point to Howard Friel’s book, The Lomborg Deception (2010), which demonstrates that Lomborg’s citations in Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming (2007) not only don’t support his claims but are in direct contradiction to them. Friel’s unhappy assessment is that Lomborg is “a performance artist disguised as an academic.”

All these lies, all this dishonesty, made Lomborg a hero of the “antienvironmental movement.”  In 2010 he told New Statesman that he had never been a climate-change denier; that “Global warming is real – it is man-made and it is an important problem. But it is not the end of the world” and that because he dared to be skeptical, “a lot of people pushed me into the deniers’ camp.”

But he wasn’t just skeptical – he was cynical and more than willing to pocket the money paid to him by the denialists on speaking tours, for example by the Exxon-Mobil and Koch funded Frasier Institute (see below for more). And despite his claims that he believes AGW is real, he is as of May 2012 still listed as a climate expert by the Heartland Institute, also Exxon-Mobil and Koch funded which talks about the “global warming delusion.”

Sounds like Lomborg’s actions belie his claims to the contrary. “Sure, AGW exists,” he says as he takes money from those who say it doesn’t, all the while knowing nothing will be done about it and liking it that way (see below for more on this).

Another Lomborg critic Zakaria carefully avoided interviewing or even mentioning is “Silicon Valley software wizard John Mashey” who on January 8, 2009, addressed Lomborg’s method on the blog The Way Things Break.  Here Mashey argued that Lomborg follows the “Julian Simon/Cato Institute Worldview”:

I think Lomborg follows the school of thought made famous by Julian Simon(deceased), and conservative think tanks like CATO InstituteCompetitive Enterprise InstituteFraser InstituteHeartland InstituteHoover Institution,Manhattan InstituteReason Foundation, etc. with at least six of which Lomborg has relationships. The following are typical high priorities:

– Above all, totally free markets and no government regulation of … much of anything.
– Keep taxes down
– Resource exhaustion is no problem, and probably never will be.
– Avoid regulation of CO2, or at least, minimize the cost.
– Protect the economic interests of the country.

Mashey reveals Lomborg’s relationship with conservative think-tanks:

– CEI: In 2003, Lomborg received the Julian Simon award from CEI.
– Fraser Institute: Lomborg spoke for them in 2007.
– Heartland Institute: Lomborg is on their “climate expert’s” list.
– Hoover Institution: Lomborg was a contributing author for their publication “You Have to Admit It’s Getting Better”
– Manhattan Institute: Lomborg spoke and interviewed for them in April, 2008
– Reason Foundation: Lomborg is a contributing author and spoke for their 40th anniversary celebration

And as Mashey points out, Lomborg is far from sincere, however he comes across. As Hoggan paraphrases what Mashey calls “the Lomborg method”, Lomborg’s “whole approach is a carefully constructed ruse to avoid paying anything toward climate change mitigation.” According to the Lomborg method, “you can avoid almost any spending issue that doesn’t suit your political or economic preferences.”

You begin by proposing a list of alternative priorities that include useful, desirable items that everyone must agree deserve attention – the treatment of AIDS or the provision of food and water to the desperate. Then you make sure that these are items that, for political reasons, will never get funded (foreign aid is a low political priority, especially in difficult economic times).[6]

The result is, of course, that neither anthropogenic global warming nor these other issues – AIDS and drinking water – despite all the talk, despite interviews like that with Zakaria, ever actually get addressed. No money will ever be spent on either under the Lomborg method, and industry triumphs over human need – and survival. Fat pocketbooks for a few, but not much of a future for the many.


[1] James Hoggan, Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming  (2009), 11.

[2] Hoggan (2009), 9-10.

[3] Hoggan (2009), 124.

[4] Hoggan (2009), 119.

[5] Hoggan (2009), 119-120.

[6] Hoggan (2009), 123.

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