Field of Science

Lomborg on Maher

The economist Bjorn Lomborg appeared on Bill Maher last Friday. As some may know, Lomborg is one of the more well-known global warming skeptics in the world, and became persona non grata in many scientific and policy circles after publishing his controversial book The Skeptical Environmentalist in which he spoke spiritedly against global warming.

Now Lomborg has come out with another book disarmingly titled "Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming". As in his earlier book, Lomborg's basic thesis is not that man-made climate change is unreal, but that there are more pertinent problems to solve in the world, and one has to think about the issues in a rounded manner before deciding where to spend money to cause the optimum effect.

I think his way of thinking is legitimate, but I don't agree with it. However, I think Maher and Salman Rushdie probably castigated him a bit too much after the interview. At least in the interview, it did not seem that Lomborg was actually denying global warming, but was trying to ask that all the effects of climate change, positive and negative, should be evaluated as a sum total. In fact, he even admits that the bad effects of climate change may outweigh the good ones. Clearly, Lomborg is a very smart and articulate guy, and I don't think he is dumb enough to just negate global warming.

But what I find most disingenuous in Lomborg's argument is his assertion that all that money spent on climate change could be more productively channeled into more pertinent problems, like AIDS, poverty, and infectious diseases. What I want to say is this; you want to look for a source from which to funnel unproductive funds into these problems?? Please think of the war in Iraq. Or think of the myriad other ways in which governments and especially the US government spend taxpayers' money. If you want to spend money on these undoubtedly important problems, why pick on climate change to do it? At the very least it's disingenuous and ignores other massive sinks of crucial money in the world, and in reality it is a travesty because you want to sap funds from something that's obviously critical for future generations.

On a related optimistic note, more people from various countries now seem to think that climate change overall is bad and that humans are contributing to it.

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