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"We have to ask why we seem so focused on cutting CO2 when there are so many other policies that would do so much more good."

In "Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming", Danish statistician and ex-member of Greenpeace Bjorn Lomborg demonstrates that his views have changed little from the time that he wrote "The Skeptical Environmentalist" and "How to Spend $50bn to Make the World a Better Place". Lomborg is an unashamed economic liberal and globalist and believes that unrestricted (or at least, only slightly restricted) economic development will make all the world's people wealthier, lifting the grandchildren on those living in poverty today to a level of prosperity exceeding that of the first world by 2100, giving them and us, at the same time, the resources to deal with the effects of global warming. It is perhaps unsurprising to report that while he does believe that (man-made) global warming is happening, that it is not going to cause a calamity for the planet: it may cause a temperature rise of 2.5 degrees by 2100, and while this will, on balance, be bad, it does not present a challenge to humanity that is massively greater than other challenges that it has, and will, face. In support of that evidence he quotes the International Panel for Climate Change's (IPCC) 2007 data for a "business as usual" scenario. This is the worst case scenario of a body that is, he suggests, far from the neutral scientific body that it set out to be.

Lomborg's analysis is optimistic and his objective humanitarian. His argument is that Kyoto, had it been applied as originally intended, would have made little difference to global warming while seriously reducing the world's economic growth (to the tune of $50 - $180bn per year) and thus its ability to remedy current problems (e.g. HIV, malnutrition, a trading system biased against the third world, malaria, drinking water and sanitation). The actual effects of a temperature rise of 2.5 degrees will not in fact be that bad, he says, and can be dealt with more cheaply and efficiently by dealing with the symptoms rather than the cause. Kyoto, he argues, was a bad idea, and the world is lucky that we have not bothered to implement it effectively, because it would have cost far more than it would have achieved. Lomborg's argument is one of cost-benefit analysis.

Objectors to Lomborg's relentless economic optimism might challenge him from a number of angles. Lomborg rubbishes, for example, Dr James Lovelock on the basis of a few of the latter's metaphorical flourishes, but make no mention of the series of possible, and potentially catastrophic, "positive feedbacks" that he lists in "The Revenge of Gaia" (2006). This posited that a rise in temperature will set in train further warming events, including the release of further CO2 from dying rain-forests, methane (a worse greenhouse gas) from melting permafrost, the impairment of the oceans' ability to absorb CO2 as the warm and from the absorption of the sun's heat in areas of melted glacier (glacier that would previously have reflected that radiation). A 2.5-degree upward trend in 2100, even if not disastrous at that point, might indeed be too late to remedy before irreparable harm did occur. While Lomborg may be clever in relying on the IPCC "enemy's" data, however, I do wish that he had spent more time proving that the effects of global warming will certainly be as modest as he says, even if we do nothing.

Lomborg skates over the fact, moreover, that the world's economic development over the past 100 years has depended increasingly on oil. Before very long, say 5 - 10 years at most (e.g. Jeremy Leggett, Half Gone, 2005), the amount of oil we can pump from the ground annually will probably begin to decline. While this will of course reduce CO2 emissions in the long run, it is no foregone conclusion that it will not tip the world into an economic reverse that will leave it least able to deal with the effects of climate change as its effects become worse. Statisticians excel at understanding and extrapolating past data series when the underlying system does not change. They are inevitably less well equipped to deal with a "paradigm shift" caused by a significant change in that underlying system.

Other quibbles? He attacks work that has not been "peer-reviewed" (e.g. the Stern Report and Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth") but it is not clear that his work has been subject to peer review before publication either. While he gives 150 pages of notes and bibliography (more than a third of the book's 352 pages) he does not give page numbers for his references and so academic review, or indeed following up the odd point out of interest, would be more difficult than it might otherwise have been. Nonetheless, this is a work on the scholarly side of popular science.

Lomborg proposes a series of actions consistent with his interpretation that seem sensible, however, even if you think his analysis borders on the complacent. He points out forcefully that while many in the rich west have begun to believe even the most alarmist of global warming stories, all but a few have done more than make a few token cuts. He proposes a modest carbon tax (starting at perhaps $2 per ton of CO2 produced, rising over the course of the century to $14, which he says reflect the actual likely cost of the warming caused), not otherwise focussing on CO2 reduction, but while channelling $25bn (0.05% of GDP, for each nation in the world) into R&D on carbon-free energy*. Otherwise, we should spend money to alleviate the world's current problems of poverty, malnutrition and water shortage, disease and poor sanitation and hurricanes and flooding, which are a problem whether caused by global warming or otherwise. This would, over the next 40 years, make the world a better place, especially for those currently living in poverty, and better equip humanity to deal with the next set of problems.

I am impressed by Lomborg's analysis and his recommendations. Never a natural tree hugger, I am indeed inclined to believe that the current hype is the result of an unholy conspiracy between eco-freaks who would have us adopt an economic model of the middle ages (or some other golden age) and those who, while understanding the scale of the real problem, wish to shock us into action for their own ends, be they political kudos, scientific research grants, or because they simply don't have faith in the people at large to respond to the real situation. I feel more comfortable turning on the heating, driving my car or boarding an aircraft after reading his work (though I do feel a little guilt)! Whether you are impressed may depend to a great degree on whatever you have adopted from the massively confusing "public debate" on the greenhouse effect and climate change and other preconceptions. I do wish he had spent more time analysing the spectrum of possible effects of global warming rather than glibly reassuring us that these would not be catastrophic within the next 100 years, and it does strike me that we could do a lot worse than following his recommendations than merely worrying and wailing about inevitable disaster. I thoroughly recommend the book, and indeed, his earlier ones!
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VINE VOICEon 2 January 2008
Humanity is pumping billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, changing the climate of our planet. The most important question facing humanity is what to do about that.

The author's point is that the answer is not as obvious as it seems. It is very hard to expect individuals (that's you and me!) to reduce our standard of living for the benefit of the planet. This applies especially for those living in countries like China and India where, for the first time, there is a real prospect for billions of people to have the health, education and living standards we currently enjoy in the first world.

His proposal is to focus on the direct problems of humanity (AIDS, malaria, provision of clean water, etc) and then use ingenuity to solve the carbon and other pollution problems over the coming century. He is strongly of the view that Kyoto and other agreements to reduce carbon emissions are a waste of time, and more importantly distract from the good that can be done to solve the world's problems.

The book then takes a sledgehammer to much of the hysterical media coverage of climate change and rubbishes many of the more outrageous claims made about the likely impact of climate change. The book has over a thousand references, reflecting his point that the reader should go back to the original source on climate change information. This original material contains the serious environmental analysis, where as the media coverage (and the coverage by environmental action groups) highlights only the worst case scenarios, making it impossible to form a balanced judgment on the actions we should take and their likely benefits and costs.

Anyone interested in what we should do about climate change should read this book. Even if you disagree with the conclusions, it will challenge you to dig deeper into the issues and not rely on ill-informed, sensationalist media coverage.
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on 15 May 2008
First things first, Lomborg accepts Global warming is happening. This book is not some psuedo scientific "there is no global warming" poppycock. It is an attempt to cut through the hysteria and look at climate change objectively and rationally. What exactly is the problem? What is the best solution? These are the questions Lomborg tries to deal with in this book.

He puts various aspects of climate change under cost - benefit analysis; putting a price on this policy and that policy as he attempts to deduce what is the most effective and feasable approach to deal with the climate change.

Throughout his analysis Lomborg's covers a wide range of climate change issues. For example:
1. Currently more people are victims of cold related deaths than heat related deaths. Therefore, the direct and immediate impact on human life is actually positive with global warming.
2. Many natural disasters, for example hurricanes have little to nothing to do with global warming.
3. Kyoto for all its publicity will not really make that much difference to climate change. Even in its full implementation, it will slow down climate change by only 5 years over a 100 year period. For far less money, we could actually achieve much more.

And just in case you need something quirky while you work you wear through a plethora of hard hitting arguments, there's the idea that painting the roads white would reduce tempature in cities - not sure about the aesthics after a few tyre marks though!

A very pertinent point Lomborg makes is that if our ultimate aim is to do good for humanity we must consider all humanities' problems and not just global warming. He references the Copenhagen consensus and clearly shows that many other problems for example malaria, malnutrition and several others, all of which we could do much more about, with a lot less money, than ineffective climate change policies like Kyoto. Yes, it would be nice to fix every problem, but we never fix every problem. So how do we prioritise? Again, Lomborg argues the cost - benefit anaylsis approach becoming effectively utilitarian in his philosophy. Which approach helps the most amount of people?

I agree with the overall hypotheisis that too much hysteria can mean we miss the big picture but the devil is always in the detail and with climate change, which afterall is an immensely complicated problem, it really is no different. Even though his points are well substantiated, with a voluminous amout of references (over 1,000 in about 200 pages), it's impossible to critically review this analysis unless one is at PhD level in the field or is working at a very senior level in it. I mean, if I was to spend one hour checking each reference out, I'd possibly be unemployed! Heck I wouldn't even had time to write this review.

Now that's not to say that that invalidates anything in the book, but it reminds me how complicated climate change is and as the book constantly points out, simple answers aren't always in Al Gore movies.

Thank you Mr. Lomborg I enjoyed this book.
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on 29 July 2013
for the planet I've seen so far. I'm always sceptical of anyone who tries to sell an idea that is driven by fear and fueled by propaganda. Unfortunately, good ideas and solution-based thinking seems to be unsexy to the media. This video has been the most scientific fact-driven, solution-oriented presentation on the problem of global warming I've seen yet and I've been hearing about it for the past 27 years. Its been extremely inspiring to see the scientific progress in the past 15 years, and to see human ingenuity. I am also impressed by the sensitivity to the social issues in third world countries which always seem to be overlooked by the usual global warning brigade. Facts always speak for themselves and this low-budget video (compared obviously to the flashy "An Inconvenient Truth") has been the best documentary I've seen in a long while.
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on 7 August 2008
What to we want to achieve in the next 40 years? Bjorn Lomborg applies considerable clarity & rigour of thought in answering this question on the subject of climate change.
This work is unlikely to do more than dent the religious fervour surrounding the reduction in CO2 emissions in the short term, but will provide the intellectual base for reviewing the problem when the cost of Kyoto start to bite - when people realise that Kyoto is a hugely expensive and ineffective answer to the issue of global warming.

In a nutshell:
- Climate is always changing (most probably drive by solar activity)
- CO2 is probably a lagging indicator overall
- In the last 50 yearts, CO2 levels have been significantly affected by human economic activity, and this probably contributes to the warming effect.
- The science of climate change contains huge uncertainty.
- Public coverage & reporting has focused on unrealistic worst case scenarios.
- Climate change will have both positive and negatives effects. It is not all one way.
- More practical of doing something would be to work out what we are trying to achieve (e.g. saving lives, prevent flooding,etc) and then assess cost-effective ways of doing this
- Kyoto is a way of pretending to do something about climate change; it is hugely expensive, ineffective, and the bill will come later, and mostly to emerging markets.
Lomborg draws a very illuminating parallel with road traffic deaths. We can fix this problem by imposing a global 5mph speed limit. This has huge, unquantifiable costs; and in practice will not be a solution, because it will not be acceptable to people. It also ignores the benefits of ameliorating the problem by exploiting advances in seat belts, etc etc.

A hugely influential and reasoned book.
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on 2 June 2009
Global warming is real and manmade but Kyoto and subsequent initiatives based on drastic reductions in carbon emmission as the only acceptable course of action is objectively questioned and found wanting by the evidence.

This book remains extremely topical, it is not compulsive reading but it is clear and very thoroughly backed up by factual argument if a bit repetitive. It brings together the climate change issues with the moral panic issues.

Lomborg, a Danish Professor, named one of the most influential people in the world by Time Magazine in 2004, argues that the catastrophic, end of civilisation scare stories about global warming are wildly exaggerated and do not lead to good policy. We need much smarter solutions for global warming. Climate change is slow, and large and expensive CO2 cuts made now will only produce a rather small and insignificant impact far into the future. We must stop thinking about quick and expensive solutions but focus on low-cost, long term research and development.

He eloquently demonstrates that resources spent on control of HIV and malaria, trade liberalisation and small scale water technology and productivity projects have a much more appreciable impact on the lives of those who suffer the effects of today's climate change than Kyoto or high carbon taxes. The "do both" argument avoids the hard choices that have to be made in allocating resources. And the worst climate change scenarios are not going to lead the planet tipping into oblivion.
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on 29 January 2008
This book is so incredibly well-researched that the bibliography and footnotes make up about a quarter of its total length. Sources look impeccable and a great deal of the data comes from the IPCC so it's hard to argue with much of Lomborg's data. The conlusions are extremely eye-opening. Are we doomed? Well no, we're not. And if we're not, is it possible there are some issues facing the world today that are even more important than global warming?

The answer to that is that there are plenty, and that it would be a genuine crime to waste scarce resources on futile efforts like Kyoto when the same money could be used to save lives now. Lomborg doesn't argue that we should do nothing about global warming - he has some very sane suggestions. But he does argue that we should prioritise, and does a good job of showing that at the moment we're failing to do that effectively.

The book is perhaps most effective in revealing the distortions and exaggerations to which we're subjected by the media. It's vital to have the kind of perspective this book offers, especially when it's so hard to come by anywhere else.
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on 3 August 2013
Very thought provoking book as always from Lomborg. (I like the way he gives figures and quotes sources unlike must of the rubbish published by others on Global Warming).

Great service from the seller too.
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on 23 September 2012
a fantastic read!
it'll turn your head on the environment, and make you spend weeks boring all your family and friends .

the first chapter's a little dry, but probably needs to be, but you should persevere. very rewarding.

probably worth read0ing with an open mind though, try not to buy into it without thinking it all through.
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on 28 April 2008
Bjørn Lomborg, an adjunct professor at Copenhagen Business School and author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, has written another well-researched book. As he writes, "Global warming is happening, the consequences are important and mostly negative." He notes that the 2007 International Panel on Climate Change has predicted rises of 1.50C by 2050 and 2.50C by 2100, which will raise sea levels and increase malaria, starvation and poverty.

But, Lomborg argues, it does not follow that directly combating climate change through cutting CO2 will do most to maximise human welfare. Preventing disease, providing clean drinking water and feeding people could do more good more cheaply.

What are the options? We could, for example, spend $3 billion a year on mosquito eradication, medicine and mosquito nets: this would halve malaria incidence (2 billion infections and one million deaths every year) by 2015. We could spend $4 billion a year on helping three billion people to access clean water and sanitation.

Or, by contrast, we could do what the EU tells us and spend $84 trillion to cut CO2 emissions to 20% below 1990 levels, to ensure that the temperature rises by no more than 20C above pre-industrial times. Yet this hugely expensive effort would have only a tiny effect: it would be 2.480C hotter than now by 2100 instead of by 2098. And a 2.5% rise is only what the IPCC predicted would happen anyway! As a 2007 peer-reviewed study in the journal Energy Policy concluded, "the 20C target of the EU seems unfounded."

Lomborg shows that the consequences of global warming will not be as bad as they have been painted. For example, the IPCC predicted that sea-levels would rise by 29 cm by 2100 (the same as the rise since 1860), as against the 20 feet that Al Gore publicises. We could cope with this by better use of floodplains, more wetlands, stricter building policies and fewer floodplain subsidies.

Lomborg shows that global warming does not cause extreme weather events, which are anyway not curable by cutting CO2. The IPCC said of the Hollywood/Pentagon/Al Gore picture of a new ice age triggered by a shutdown of the Gulf Stream, "we can confidently exclude this scenario."

Fossil fuels have grown the industries that produce the goods we need and give us low-cost light, heat, food, travel and trade. As Lomborg writes, "a world without fossil fuels ... is a lot like a world gone medieval." So he argues that we need to spend far more on researching renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Directly cutting CO2 would be hugely expensive. Lomborg argues that we should do what is both cheaper and more effective - cope with the consequences of global warming rather than try to stop it at source. If he is right, we would maximise human welfare not by rolling back our civilisation's industrial advance, but by using our industrial ingenuity and know-how to prevent disease, provide people with food and water, and develop energy resources.
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