little green footballs

Bjorn Lomborg Strikes Again: Spreads Obfuscation about AGW Costs and Lethality

Sun, Oct 14, 2012 at 10:48:19 am

Bjorn Lomborg is at it again, spreading confusion about climate change and doubt about its lethality:

When Good Intentions Go Bad

"Two studies—one on genetically modified corn and one on climate change—demonstrate how scare tactics can backfire."

Campaigners on important but complex issues, annoyed by the length of time required for public deliberations, often react by exaggerating their claims, hoping to push a single solution to the forefront of public debate. But, however well-intentioned, scaring the public into a predetermined solution often backfires: When people eventually realize that they have been misled, they lose confidence and interest.

Last month, there were two examples of this in a single week. First, French researcher Gilles-Eric Séralini attempted to fuel public opposition to genetically modified foods by showing the public how GM corn, with and without the pesticide Roundup, caused huge tumors and early death in 200 rats that had consumed it over two years.


The Séralini fiasco was only a week old when, the Climate Vulnerability Forum, a group of countries led by Bangladesh, launched the second edition of its Global Vulnerability Monitor. Headlines about the launch were truly alarming: Over the next 18 years, global warming would kill 100 million people and cost the economy upwards of $6.7 trillion annually.

These public messages were highly misleading and clearly intended to shock and disturb. The vast majority of deaths discussed in the report did not actually result from global warming. Outdoor air pollution—caused by fossil-fuel combustion, not by global warming—contributed to 30 percent of all deaths cited in the study. And 60 percent of the total deaths reflect the burning of biomass (such as animal dung and crop residues) for cooking and heating, which has no relation to either fossil fuels or global warming.


First off, Lomborg is just wrong in equating the two "studies". Lomborg is trying to plant into the minds of his readers the following syllogism:

A: Estimates of deaths from AGW are just like the Seralini paper.
B: The Seralini paper is probably fraudulent.

Therefore estimating deaths from AGW is likewise fraudulent

The GMO "study" was published in a scientific journal, and it immediately brought criticism from other scientists and while it is being promoted by policy activists to change laws, the science community will get to the bottom of the Seralini controversy. Furthermore, the controversy over the Seralini paper has been noticed far and wide - for example, see here: Using junk science to promote Proposition 37

The AGW position paper Lomborg references is just that - a publication of an independent organization (sort of a cross between a think tank and an aid organization) called DARA:
and the very effort that Lomborg laments:
is upfront that they are tackling a variety of issues surrounding carbon. And, Lomborg seems to be looking at media headlines to pull his "scare" blaming, rather than the actual press release by DARA:

Now, one can quibble with the economic costs described in the DARA documents - as I keep pointing out, Economics really is the "dismal" science. DARA presents costs as percentages of GDP, but as anyone who has followed arguments over what constitutes "GDP" knows, the concepts of national economic valuations are fraught with issues.

And as we all know, not all "costs" in life can be meaningfully measured in a dollar amount.

Lomborg isn't really doing a detailed rebuttal of the costs of AGW that DARA has offered but is trying to sweep the whole DARA position under the rug, because whatever DARA comes up with will be different from what Lomborg himself has claimed, in books and lectures, about the costs and impacts of AGW, and he doesn't want to be shown to be wrong.

Furthermore, Lomborg uses his latest article to once again try to get people away from worrying about CO2, even though increasing CO2 in the atmosphere is far and away the principle means by which humans are modifying the climate.

Mostly, I suspect, is that DARA is bluntly stating that people will die because of AGW, and Lomborg tends to want and ignore the moral implications of such.