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Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warmingby Bjorn Lomborg
Synopses & Reviews
A groundbreaking book that transforms the debate about global warming by offering a fresh perspective based on human needs as well as environmental concerns.
Bjorn Lomborg argues that many of the elaborate and expensive actions now being considered to stop global warming will cost hundreds of billions of dollars, are often based on emotional rather than strictly scientific assumptions, and may very well have little impact on the world's temperature for hundreds of years. Rather than starting with the most radical procedures, Lomborg argues that we should first focus our resources on more immediate concerns, such as fighting malaria and HIV/AIDS and assuring and maintaining a safe, fresh water supply — which can be addressed at a fraction of the cost and save millions of lives within our lifetime. He asks why the debate over climate change has stifled rational dialogue and killed meaningful dissent.
Lomborg presents us with a second generation of thinking on global warming that believes panic is neither warranted nor a constructive place from which to deal with any of humanity's problems, not just global warming. Cool It promises to be one of the most talked about and influential books of our time.
"Lomborg, a political scientist and economist with a conservative approach to environmentalism, presents a work that's likely to garner as much acclaim and disdain as his first book, 2001's The Skeptical Environmentalist. This 'Guide to Global Warming,' while thoroughly referenced and convincingly argued, ignores many climate studies and assumes that climate change will continue at a steady rate (not necessarily the case). From this vantage, Lomborg suggests workable solutions beyond 'hysteria and headlong spending,' proposing a tax on CO2 'at the economically correct level of about two dollars per ton, or maximally fourteen dollars per ton' and that 'all nations should commit themselves to spending 0.05 percent of GDP in R&D of noncarbon-emitting energy technologies.' Gross simplification, however, leads to misleading generalizations and questionable arguments, such as Lomborg's claim that a reduction in global cold weather-related deaths that outweighs the rising number of heat-related deaths means global warming is good for humanity. Though he argues passionately, Lomborg's efforts seem more about pushing his opponents' buttons than facing honestly the complexities of global climate change." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Bjorn Lomborg is a Danish statistician and darling of those who believe that markets should not be regulated and that concerns about the environment are overblown. He is articulate, certain in his opinions and well informed on the statistical minutiae of the topics he investigates. Indeed, so compelling and entertaining are the grains of truth that adorn his latest book, 'Cool It,' that you are certain... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) to hear them soon in dinner table conversation. But is this book, as its subtitle proclaims, really an acceptable 'guide to global warming'? In his opening paragraph Lomborg establishes a revealing dichotomy: 'In the face of ... unmitigated despair' about global warming, he intends to write a book that is optimistic about humanity's prospects. It's seductive rhetoric. But is climate change really about unmitigated despair? And can Lomborg's optimistic solutions actually work? It all depends on how well he's read the science. 'Cool It' commences with a look at polar bears. Despite what you might have heard, they're doing fine, according to Lomborg. If we want to protect them better, we should forget about melting ice and just ban hunting. For every bear the Kyoto Protocol saves, a hunting ban would save 800 bears, he conjectures. Lomborg then moves on to the consequences of the warming itself. He does not doubt that it is occurring, nor that it is caused by humans, but almost alone among commentators he finds reason to welcome it. In Europe, 200,000 people die from excess heat each year while 1.5 million die from cold, he asserts. His message is simple: more warming, less death. In this and many other projections, Lomborg is astonishingly certain about how things will be in the future. In a sentence italicized for emphasis, he writes that in 2200 — nearly 200 years from now — more people will still die from cold than from heat. Glib, misleading associations mark Lomborg's style. In his chapter on glaciers, he states that since 'we're leaving the Little Ice Age' (which, in fact, we left long ago) it's not surprising that glaciers are dwindling. Remarkably, he believes that is more good news, because 'with glacial melting, rivers actually increase their water contents, especially in the summer, providing more water to many of the poorest people in the world.' 'It boils down to a stark choice,' he lectures us. 'Would we rather have more water available or less?' Lomborg's flawed grasp of climate science is most evident when he discusses sea levels. He makes much of the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) projection that sea level will rise by 'about a foot,' misleadingly noting that this is lower than previous projections. He does not tell us that the IPCC figures do not account for collapsing ice sheets, which may result in far larger rises, due to the difficulty of predicting how glacial ice will react to warming. While Lomborg waves vaguely in the direction of ice melt and collapse, he assures us it's not a problem. We'll just put up dikes. Indeed, with dikes, he asserts, some nations might end up with more land than they have today. And so the arguments go on, from rising seas to extreme weather events to malaria and other tropical diseases, the collapse of the Gulf Stream, food shortages and water shortages. In one case after another, Lomborg asserts, it's cheaper and better to do nothing immediately to combat climate change, but instead to invest in other things. The deepest flaw in 'Cool It' is its failure to take into account the full range of future climate possibilities. The computer models project outcomes ranging from mild, which he acknowledges, to truly catastrophic, which he ignores. While the chances of catastrophic climate change may still be small, they are increasing: By comparing real world data with the 2001 IPCC projections, researchers have shown that the sea is rising more swiftly than even the worst case scenarios in the projections. Lomborg's mantra is the supposedly high costs of dealing with climate change. The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change is a detailed analysis of those costs, commissioned by the UK Treasury and reported to the prime minister. Stern, a senior government economist, argues that it's much cheaper to combat climate change than to live with the consequences. Because Stern and Lomborg cover the same ground but strongly disagree, I had hoped for a detailed critique of the report, but Lomborg devotes a scant three and a half pages to it (about the same space he devotes to an analysis of the far less relevant social activist George Monbiot). Lomborg asserts that 'a raft of academic papers have now come out all strongly criticizing Stern, characterizing his report as a "political document" and liberally using words such as "substandard," "preposterous," "incompetent," "deeply flawed," and "neither balanced nor credible."' Such broad accusations are impossible to assess. He further asserts that the Stern report was not peer reviewed (making one wonder whether 'Cool It' or the Internet postings he cites criticizing Stern were), and that it's slanted toward 'scary' scenarios. This latter assertion is simply not true. Stern gives a straight reading of the range of possible climate outcomes. Despite all the supposed benefits global warming will bring, Lomborg acknowledges that some people want to act to reduce it. His solution is to abandon the Kyoto process and devote more dollars to research on technologies to prevent it. Yet we already have the necessary clean technologies: What we need is market penetration for them, and this will only come by getting the polluter to pay, which means adopting a carbon tax much higher than the $14 per ton of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere that Lomborg is willing to allow. What, ultimately, is 'Cool It' all about? On the surface, it's a cry from a compassionate conservative not to waste money on combating climate change when that money could be better spent helping the poor. But why climate change rather than military spending? By empathizing with those who are concerned about climate change and poverty, and trying to persuade them to divert their energies, 'Cool It' is a stealth attack on humanity's future. Tim Flannery, author of 'The Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth,' is a professor at Macquarie University in Sydney and chairman of the Copenhagen Climate Council." Reviewed by Tim Flannery, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"[A] book brimming with useful facts and common sense.... Mr. Lomborg's cost-benefit approach won't sit well with leftists who see global-warming programs as a proxy for other goals (say, reducing "materialism")....But his analysis is smart and refreshing, and it may bridge at least one divide in our too divided culture." Wall Street Journal
"Cool It is a highly valuable contribution to the climate-policy literature. In clear and concise prose, Lomborg diagnoses the problems plaguing contemporary climate policy, injecting a needed tonic of realism and common sense into the climate debate. And for that very reason, it is sure to make Lomborg's critics hot-under-the-collar." Jonathan Adler, National Review
"A reasoned addition to the debate about what to do about climate change. And it is sure to provoke just as much controversy as his last book." Esquire
"Bjorn Lomborg's rational and compassionate suggestions would save more lives, preserve more wilderness and have a better chance of eventually halting man-made global warming than hysterical catastrophism, global treaties, and high-minded energy rationing. Read this ingenious book." Matt Ridley, author of The Origins of Virtue
"At last we have a book that puts the hype of global warming into perspective. Bjorn Lomborg's eye-opening book, Cool It, examines and meticulously documents climate change's effects and proposed solutions. An extraordinarily timely and supremely useful book." John Naisbitt, author of Megatrends
Book News Annotation:
While the fact of anthropogenic global warming is certainly beyond debate, argues Lomborg (an economist at the Copenhagen Business School, Denmark), the nature of our response to it is not. He warns that "hysterical" spending on extravagant carbon dioxide reduction programs as envisioned by the Kyoto Protocol is a wasteful option, especially in comparison to the good that could be done by diverting extra resources to global priorities identified by the 2004 Copenhagen Consensus of economists. These include control of HIV AIDS, addressing malnutrition, trade liberalization, control of malaria, development of new agricultural technologies, research on water productivity in food production, and lowering the cost of starting a new business. According to the Copenhagen Consensus, all of these are good to very good opportunities, while carbon taxes and the Kyoto Protocol are bad opportunities. Annotation ©2007 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Written by the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, this groundbreaking book transforms the debate about global warming by offering a fresh perspective based on human needs as well as environmental concerns.
About the Author
Bjorn Lomborg is the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist. He was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2004 and has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Economist. He is presently an adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School, and in 2004 he started the Copenhagen Consensus, a conference of top economists who come together to prioritize the best solutions for the world's greatest challenges.
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