(born January 6
) is a Danish
author, academic, and environmentalist. He is an adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School
, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre and a former director of the Environmental Assessment Institute
. He became internationally-known for his best-selling and controversial book The Skeptical Environmentalist
In 2002, Lomborg and the Environmental Assessment Institute founded the Copenhagen Consensus, which sought to establish priorities for advancing global welfare using methodologies based on the theory of welfare economics.
Lomborg spent a year as an undergraduate at the University of Georgia
, earned a master's degree in political science
at the University of Aarhus
in 1991, and a Ph.D. in political science at the University of Copenhagen
He lectured in statistics in the Department of Political Science at the University of Aarhus as an assistant professor (1994–1996) and associate professor (1997–2005). For this reason he has been repeatedly referred to as a statistician in the media, although his degree credentials do not support that characterization. He left the university in February 2005 and in May of that year became an Adjunct Professor at Copenhagen Business School.
In 1996, Lomborg's paper, "Nucleus and Shield: Evolution of Social Structure in the Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma", was published in the academic journal, American Sociological Review. This was followed by his most famous book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, whose English translation was published as a work in environmental economics by Cambridge University Press in 2001. He later edited Global Crises, Global Solutions, which presented the first conclusions of the Copenhagen Consensus, published in 2004 by the Cambridge University Press. In 2007, he authored a book entitled "Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming."
His professional areas of interest include: the simulation of strategies in collective action dilemmas, simulation of party behavior in proportional voting systems, use of surveys in public administration, and use of statistics in the environmental arena.
The Skeptical Environmentalist
- Main article: The Skeptical Environmentalist
In 1998, Lomborg published four articles about the state of the environment in the leading Danish newspaper Politiken, which according to him "resulted in a firestorm debate spanning over 400 articles in major metropolitan newspapers.
In 2001, he attained significant attention by publishing The Skeptical Environmentalist, a controversial book whose main thesis is that many of the most-publicized claims and predictions of environmentalists are exaggerated.
After the book's publication, members of the Danish and international scientific community accused Lomborg of "scientific dishonesty". These allegations were investigated by appropriate arms of the Danish government and in the end, no official charges were left standing. However, there are scientists who remain critical of Lomborg's work.
Accusations of scientific dishonesty
After the publication of The Skeptical Environmentalist
, Lomborg was accused of scientific dishonesty. Several environmental scientists brought a total of three complaints against Lomborg to the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty
(DCSD), a body under Denmark's Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation
. The charges claimed that The Skeptical Environmentalist
contained deliberately misleading data and flawed conclusions. Due to the similarity of the complaints, the DCSD decided to proceed on the three cases under one investigation.
On January 6
the DCSD reached a decision on the complaints. The ruling was a mixed message, deciding the book to be scientifically dishonest, but Lomborg himself not guilty because of lack of expertise in the fields in question:
- Objectively speaking, the publication of the work under consideration is deemed to fall within the concept of scientific dishonesty. ...In view of the subjective requirements made in terms of intent or gross negligence, however, Bjørn Lomborg's publication cannot fall within the bounds of this characterization. Conversely, the publication is deemed clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice.
The DCSD cited The Skeptical Environmentalist for:
- Fabrication of data;
- Selective discarding of unwanted results (selective citation);
- Deliberately misleading use of statistical methods;
- Distorted interpretation of conclusions;
- Deliberate misinterpretation of others' results.
On February 13
, 2003, Lomborg filed a complaint against the DCSD's decision, with the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MSTI), which has oversight over the DSCD.
On December 17, 2003, the Ministry annulled the decision made by DCSD. In doing so, MSTI cited several procedural errors, including:
- The DCSD did not use a precise standard for deciding "good scientific practice" in the social sciences;
- The DCSD's definition of "objective scientific dishonesty" was not clear about whether "distortion of statistical data" had to be deliberate or not;
- The DCSD had not properly documented that The Skeptical Environmentalist was a scientific publication on which they had the right to intervene in the first place;
- The DCSD did not provide specific statements on actual errors. On this point the MSTI stated "the DCSD has not documented where [Dr Lomborg] has allegedly been biased in his choice of data and in his argumentation, and ... the ruling is completely void of argumentation for why the DCSD find that the complainants are right in their criticisms of [his] working methods. It is not sufficient that the criticisms of a researcher's working methods exist; the DCSD must consider the criticisms and take a position on whether or not the criticisms are justified, and why.
The Ministry remitted the case to the DCSD. In doing so the Ministry indicated that it regarded the DCSD's previous findings of scientific dishonesty in regard to the book as invalid. The Ministry also instructed the DCSD to decide whether to reinvestigate.
On March 122004
, the Committee formally decided not to act further on the complaints, reasoning that renewed scrutiny would, in all likelihood, result in the same conclusion.
Response of the scientific community
The original DCSD decision about Lomborg provoked a petition
among Danish academics. 308 scientists, many of them from the social sciences, criticised the DCSD's methods in the case and called for the DCSD to be disbanded. The Danish Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation then asked the Danish Research Agency to
form an independent working group to review DCSD practices. In response to this, another group of Danish scientists collected over 600 signatures (primarily from the medical and natural sciences
community) in support of the DCSD and presented their petition to the Danish Research Agency.
Continued debate and criticism
The rulings of the Danish authorities in 2003-2004 left Lomborg's critics frustrated. Lomborg was jubilant, claiming vindication as a result of MSTI's decision to set aside the original finding of DCSD.
A Dutch think tank, HAN, Heidelberg Appeal the Netherlands, published a report in which they claimed 25 out of 27 accusations against Lomborg to be unsubstantiated or not to the point.
A group of scientists with relation to this think tank also published an article in 2005 in the Journal of Information Ethics, in which they concluded that most criticism against Lomborg was unjustified, and that the scientific community misused their authority to suppress Lomborg.
The claim that the accusations against Lomborg were unjustified was challenged in the next issue of Journal of Information Ethics
by Kåre Fog, one of the original plaintiffs. Fog reasserted his contention that, despite the ministry's decision, most of the accusations against Lomborg were valid. He also rejected what he called "the Galileo hypothesis", which he describes as the conception that Lomborg is just a brave young man confronting old-fashioned opposition.
Kåre Fog has established a catalogue of criticisms against Lomborg on the Lomborg-errors website. Fog maintains the catalogue, which includes a section for each page in each chapter in The Skeptical Environmentalist. In each section, Fog lists and details what he believes to be flaws and errors in Lomborg's work. Fog explicitly indicates if there are any details which he believes support the interpretation that the particular error may have been made deliberately by Lomborg, in order to mislead. Lomborg has on numerous occasions commented and defended himself against Kåre Fog's critique. Most exceedingly in the web-book "Godhedens Pris" (English summary version: see: http://lomborg.com/publications/the_skeptical_enviromentalist/critique/) where the critique is taken one-by-one on 159 pages.
In March 2002, the newly elected center-right prime minister
, Anders Fogh Rasmussen
, appointed Lomborg to run Denmark's new Environmental Assessment Institute
(EAI). On June 22 2004, Lomborg announced his decision to resign from this post to go back to the University of Aarhus, saying his work at the Institute was done and that he could better serve the public debate from the academic sector.
In 2002, Lomborg and the Environmental Assessment Institute founded the Copenhagen Consensus, which sought to establish priorities for advancing global welfare using methodologies based on the theory of welfare economics. A panel of prominent economists was assembled to evaluate and rank a series of problems. The project was funded largely by the Danish government, and co-sponsored by The Economist. A book summarizing the conclusions, Global Crises, Global Solutions, edited by Lomborg, was published in October 2004 by Cambridge University Press.
Lomborg's book published in October 2007 'Solutions for the World's Biggest Problems' by Cambridge University Press offers non-conventional reasoning, including suggesting the legalisation of drugs. Leading economists find solutions to the Worlds 23 biggest problems from battling AIDs/HIV and Malaria to combating air pollution. It also offers a unique free software enabling the reader to calculate their own cost-benefit analysis.
Bjørn Lomborg has also recently authored Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming, which is a new and controversial examination of global warming and the measures being taken to combat it.
The book argues that, while global warming is a genuine concern, the problem needs to be dealt with in a responsible way. He suggests that the solutions currently suggested by Kyoto etc. are both prohibitively expensive, and therefore will not be followed-through, but even if they were fully implemented, they would result in only a minuscule change, perhaps slowing global warming by only 5 years or so, by even the most optimistic predictions.
Lomborg maintains that there can be no ten-year quick-fix solution, that climate change is a 100-year problem. Lomborg explains why his research has led him to believe that other strategies like environmental R&D or combating aids/HIV and Malaria would yield a much higher benefit to the planet for lesser investment of the world’s financial resources. He argues for the need to utilize a cost-benefit analysis of measures proposed to tackle global warming and other global problems.
Lomborg argues that spending even a fraction of the cost of Kyoto (for example - .5% of GDP) on actual research needed to advance environmental solutions, alternate fuels, clean vehicles, etc. would result in a much higher reduction in global warming, and it would be politically feasible to secure such funding, unlike Kyoto.
This puts Lomborg's book at odds with the 2006 Stern Review, which concludes that by investing one percent of global GDP it would be possible to avoid the worst effects of climate change and that failure to do so could damage global GDP by up to twenty percent, possibly resulting in the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen. The Stern Review is the largest report to date on the economics of global warming, though Lomborg criticizes it as making extreme assumptions that are at odds with peer-reviewed research.
Lomborg is gay
and a vegetarian
. As a public figure
he has been a participant in information campaigns in Denmark about homosexuality, and states that "Being a public gay is to my view a civic responsibility. It's important to show that the width of the gay world cannot be described by a tired stereotype, but goes from leather gays on parade-wagons to suit-and-tie yuppies on the direction floor, as well as everything in between"
Recognitions and awards
In November 2001, Lomborg was selected "Global Leader for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum
In June 2002, BusinessWeek
named Lomborg one of the "50 Stars of Europe" (June 17), in the category of Agenda Setters. The magazine noted, "No matter what they think of his views, nobody denies that Bjorn Lomborg has shaken the environmental movement to its core. Lomborg was selected as one of TIME
magazine's 100 most influential people of 2004.
In 2007 Lomborg was named one of the "50 people who could save the planet" by the UK newspaper The Guardian.
Discussions in the media
After the release of The Skeptical Environmentalist
in 2001, Lomborg was subjected to intense scrutiny and criticism in the media
, where his scientific qualifications and integrity were both attacked and defended. The verdict of the Danish Committees for Scientific Dishonesty fueled this debate and brought it into the spotlight of international mass media
. By the end of 2003 Lomborg had become an international celebrity, with frequent appearances on radio, TV and print media
around the world.
- Scientific American published strong criticism of Lomborg's book. Lomborg rebutted on his own website, quoting the article at such length that Scientific American threatened to sue for copyright infringement. Lomborg eventually removed the rebuttal from his website; it was later published in PDF format on Scientific American's site. The magazine also printed a response to the rebuttal.
- The Economist defended Lomborg, claiming the panel of experts that had criticised Lomborg in Scientific American was both biased and did not actually counter Lomborg's book. The Economist argued that the panel's opinion had come under no scrutiny at all, and that Lomborg's responses had not been reported.
- Penn & Teller: Bullshit! - the US Showtime program featured an episode entitled "Environmental Hysteria" in which Lomborg criticised what he claimed was environmentalists' refusal to accept a cost-benefit analysis of environmental questions, and stressed the need to prioritise some issues above others. Rolling Stone stated, "Lomborg pulls off the remarkable feat of welding the techno-optimism of the Internet age with a lefty's concern for the fate of the planet.
- The Union of Concerned Scientists strongly criticised The Skeptical Environmentalist, claiming it to be "seriously flawed and failing to meet basic standards of credible scientific analysis", accusing Lomborg of presenting data in a fraudulent way, using flawed logic and selectively citing non-peer-reviewed literature. The review was conducted by Peter Gleick, Jerry D. Mahlman, Edward O. Wilson, Thomas Lovejoy, Norman Myers, Jeffrey Harvey and Stuart Pimm. Lomborg countered that some of the scientists involved in this report were also named and criticised in The Skeptical Environmentalist, and thus had a vested interest in discrediting it and its author.
- Bjørn Lomborg: The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World. Cambridge University Press 2001 (ISBN 0521010683).
- Nichola Wade: "From an Unlikely Quarter, Eco-Optimism". The New York Times, 7 August 2001.
- Stephen Schneider, John P. Holdren, John Bongaarts, Thomas Lovejoy: "Misleading Math about the Earth". Scientific American, January 2002.
- Lomborg's personal website, with own articles, links to related broadcasts on radio and TV, and Lomborg's opinion on the issues with the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty.
- Bjorn Lomborg's monthly op/ed commentary series "Global Warning" for Project Syndicate
- Kåre Fog's "Lomborg errors" website contains a catalogue of claims of errors in Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist, Fog's opinion on Lomborg and his career.
- Wired magazine interviews Lomborg, June 2004, regarding the Copenhagen Consensus.
- Article on Bjørn Lomborg in the online edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. The article was written by Michael Allaby, author of many (although not peer-reviewed) books on climate, who had previously expressed ideas similar to Lomborg. If you cannot access the full text, click the first link in this Google search
- Grist magazine article Rebuttals from scientists working in the various fields his book makes claims about.
- HAN investigation of complaints made by Lomborg critics, by a number of Dutch scientists of the complaints made by Lomborg critics.
- Correcting myths from Bjørn Lomborg, extensive collection of criticisms of Lomborg, with replies.
- Skeptical About The Skeptical Environmentalist, Richard M. Fisher's review of The Skeptical Environmentalist, in "The Skeptical Inquirer".
- Letter in Support of Lomborg in Scientific American, a defense of Lomborg's work, from the eminent geneticist Matt Ridley, former scientific correspondent of The Economist.
- Vanishing Point: On Lomborg and Extinction, a criticism of Lomborg, from Edward O. Wilson.
- Watch or download a Bjorn Lomborg lecture at the 2005 TED Conference.
- ZenSci Lomborg portrait Interview on climate and science politcs.
- E&E.tv: Skeptical enviro Bjorn Lomborg discusses post-Kyoto roadmap, calls Kyoto "feel good strategy" (OnPoint, 12/12/2007)