I attempted over the course of The Skeptical Environmentalist to describe the principal at portal7.info ———. Climate. The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World is a book by Danish .. A Review of The Skeptical Environmentalist (Bjorn Lomborg)" (PDF ). Union of Concerned Scienists. Archived from the original (PDF) on The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World The book's objective is to prove to the reader that environmentalists such as Paul.
|Language:||English, Spanish, Hindi|
|Genre:||Politics & Laws|
|ePub File Size:||18.74 MB|
|PDF File Size:||15.77 MB|
|Distribution:||Free* [*Sign up for free]|
The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World Paperback – September 10, Bjørn Lomborg, a former member of Greenpeace, challenges widely held beliefs that the world environmental situation is getting worse and worse in his new book, The Skeptical. Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data. Lomborg, Bjørn, –. The skeptical environmentalist: measuring the real state of the world / Bjørn. Cambridge Core - Natural Resource and Environmental Economics - The Skeptical Environmentalist - by Bjørn Lomborg. Access. PDF; Export citation.
Some critics[ who? Supporters[ who? His advocates further note that many of the scientists and environmentalists who criticized the book are not themselves environmental policy experts or experienced in cost-benefit research. Origins[ edit ] In numerous interviews, Lomborg ascribed his motivation for writing The Skeptical Environmentalist to his personal convictions, making clear that he was a pro-environmentalist and Greenpeace supporter. He has stated that he began his research as an attempt to counter what he saw as anti- ecological arguments by Julian Lincoln Simon in an article in Wired , but changed his mind after starting to analyze data.
Lomborg points out that, given the amount of greenhouse gas reduction required to combat global warming, the current Kyoto protocol is grossly insufficient. He argues that the economic costs of legislative restrictions that aim to slow or reverse global warming are far higher than the alternative of international coordination.
Moreover, he asserts that the cost of combating global warming would be disproportionately shouldered by developing countries. Lomborg proposes that since the Kyoto agreement limits economic activities, developing countries that suffer from pollution and poverty most, will be perpetually handicapped economically.
Lomborg proposes that the importance of global warming in terms of policy priority is low compared to other policy issues such as fighting poverty, disease and aiding poor countries, which has direct and more immediate impact both in terms of welfare and the environment. He therefore suggests that a global cost-benefit analysis be undertaken before deciding on future measures. The Copenhagen Consensus that Lomborg later organized concluded that combating global warming does have a benefit but its priority compared to other issues is "poor" ranked 13th and three projects addressing climate change optimal carbon tax, the Kyoto protocol and value-at-risk carbon tax , are the least cost-efficient of its proposals.
Conclusions[ edit ] Lomborg concludes his book by once again reviewing the Litany, and noting that the real state of the world is much better than the Litany claims.
According to Lomborg, this discrepancy poses a problem, as it focuses public attention on relatively unimportant issues, while ignoring those that are paramount. In the worst case, The Skeptical Environmentalist argues, the global community is pressured to adopt inappropriate policies which have adverse effects on humanity, wasting resources that could be put to better use in aiding poor countries or fighting diseases such as AIDS.
Lomborg thus urges us to look at what he calls the true problems of the world, since solving those will also solve the Litany. Reaction[ edit ] The Skeptical Environmentalist was controversial even before its English-language release, with anti-publication efforts launched against Cambridge University Press.
Once in the public arena, the book elicited strong reactions in scientific circles and in the mainstream media. Opinion was largely polarized. Environmental groups were generally critical. Criticism of the material and methods[ edit ] The January issue of Scientific American contained, under the heading "Misleading Math about the Earth", a set of essays by several scientists, which maintain that Lomborg and The Skeptical Environmentalist misrepresent both scientific evidence and scientific opinion.
The magazine then refused Lomborg's request to print a lengthy point-by-point rebuttal in his own defence, on the grounds that the 32 pages would have taken a disproportionate share of the month's installment. Scientific American allowed Lomborg a one-page defense in the May edition,  and then attempted to remove Lomborg's publication of his complete response online, citing a copyright violation.
The "separately written expert reviews" further detail the various expert opinions. Peter Gleick 's assessment, for example, states:  There is nothing original or unique in Lomborg's book. Many of his criticisms have appeared in What is new, perhaps, is the scope and variety of the errors he makes. Jerry Mahlman 's appraisal of the chapter he was asked to evaluate, states: I found some aspects of this chapter to be interesting, challenging, and logical.
In principle, such characterizations could provide a foundation for more meaningful policy planning on this difficult problem. Unfortunately, the author's lack of rigor and consistency on these larger issues is likely to negate any real respect for his insights. David Pimentel , who was repeatedly criticized in the book, also wrote a critical review.
Headlined "Cleanest London Air for Years," the publicity hook was both local and timely, as the tail end of the article linked the book's questioning of the Kyoto climate change protocol to U. Bush's visit the same week to Europe, and Bush's controversial opposition to the treaty. The Times followed up the report the next day with a news article further detailing the book's Kyoto protocol angle.
As is typically the case, other media outlets followed the reporting of the elite newspaper. Richard C. Bell, writing for Worldwatch noted that the Wall Street Journal, "instead of seeking scientists with a critical perspective," like many publications "put out reviews by people who were closely associated with Lomborg", with the Journal soliciting a review from the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Ronald Bailey, someone "who had earlier written a book called The True State of the World, from which much of Lomborg's claims were taken.
Bell noted that: "The Post did not tell its readers that Dutton's web site features links to the Global Climate Coalition, an anti-Kyoto consortium of oil and coal businesses , and to the messages of Julian Simon --the man whose denial that global warming was occurring apparently gave Lomborg the idea for his book in the first place. It was hardly surprising that Dutton anointed Lomborg's book as 'the most significant work on the environment since the appearance of its polar opposite, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, in It's a magnificent achievement.
This line of criticism considered the book as a contribution to the policy debate over environment rather than the work of natural science. In a BBC column from August 23, , veteran BBC environmental correspondent Alex Kirby wrote: "I am neither a statistician nor a scientist, and I lack the skill to judge Lomborg's reworkings of the statistics of conventional wisdom.
But I am worried that on virtually every topic he touches, he reaches conclusions radically different from almost everybody else. Most I know are honest, intelligent and competent. So it beggars belief to suppose that Professor Lomborg is the only one in step, every single time.
But the real world is messier, more unpredictable - and more impatient. In a September 9, , article, "Why I pied Lomborg", Lynas stated: "Lomborg specialises in presenting the reader with false choices - such as the assertion that money not spent on preventing climate change could be spent on bringing clean water to the developing world, thereby saving more lives per dollar of expenditure. Of course, in the real world, these are not the kind of choices we are faced with.
Because in a world where political choices are not made democratically at a global level, but by a small number of rich countries and corporations, the poor and the environment are never going to be a priority. A separate article examining the book's overall approach took issue with the framing of Lomborg's conclusions: "Lomborg begins by making the entirely reasonable point that accurate information is critical to informed decision-making. If information is skewed to paint a bleaker environmental picture than is justified by reality, as he claims, then we will in turn skew our limited resources in favor of the environment and away from other important causes.
Then Lomborg proceeds to weigh the causes championed by the environmental movement against a deliberately circumscribed universe of other possible "good causes. The worse they can make this state appear, the easier it is for them to convince us we need to spend more money on the environment rather on hospitals, kindergartens, etc. But who is really failing to consider how our money is spent?
As Lomborg notes, "We will never have enough money," and therefore, "Prioritization is absolutely essential. In a busy and under funded world, few people have the time or background knowledge to plow though 3, footnotes checking his sources. It is impressively interdisciplinary. It stated that "This is one of the most valuable books on public policy—not merely environmental policy— to have been written for the intelligent general reader in the past ten years The Skeptical Environmentalist is a triumph.
His richly informative, lucid book is now the place from which environmental policy decisions must be argued. In fact, The Skeptical Environmentalist is the most significant work on the environment since the appearance of its polar opposite, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring , in The authors take the perspective of a court faced with an argument against hearing an expert witness in order to evaluate whether Lomborg was credible as an expert, and whether his testimony is valid to his expertise.
They classify the types of criticisms leveled at Lomborg and his arguments, and proceed to evaluate each of the reasons given for disqualifying Lomborg.
They conclude that a court should accept Lomborg as a credible expert in the field of statistics, and that his testimony was appropriately restricted to his area of expertise.
Of course, Professor Shoenbrod and Wilson note, Mr. Lomborg's factual conclusions may not be correct, nor his policy proposals effective, but his criticisms should be addressed, not merely dismissed out of hand. The Union of Concerned Scientists and the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty raised concern about the responses of certain sections of the scientific community to a peer reviewed book published under the category of environmental economics. The groups worried that the receptions to Lomborg were a politicization of science by scientists.
This unease was reflected in the involvement of the Union of Concerned Scientists and Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty in "When scientists politicize science: making sense of controversy over The Skeptical Environmentalist",  where Roger A.
Pielke argued: The use of science by scientists as a means of negotiating for desired political outcomes — the politicization of science by scientists — threatens the development of effective policies in contested issues.
By tying themselves to politics, rather than policy, scientists necessarily restrict their value and the value of their science. However, in his haste to expose the overzealous fringe, Lomborg repeatedly overlooks the actual import of the environmental research that he is analyzing. In addition, although he purports to show that humanitys future appears incontrovertibly bright based upon the best available scientific evidence, Lomborg instead resorts to his own set of unwarranted conclusions, overbroad generalizations, and shaky assumptionsa menagerie of missteps that Part IB collectively and cheekily terms Lomborgs Counterlitany.
Ultimately, then, the only lesson clearly demonstrated by The Skeptical Environmentalist is the unintentional one that scientific information is both malleable and easily deployed by those with an axe to grind, whichever side they happen to be grinding.
Part II argues that such an uncertain, politicized scientific arena complicates significantly the current drive to erect a cost-benefit state. See Stephen H. Schneider, Hostile Climate: To be sure, Lomborg states that he is not interested in advancing a political argument, see, e. Cass R. This emerging nation remains in a process of development; but it may be described as a cost-benefit state, one whose performance. Like many other commentators,25 Lomborg emphasizes cost-benefit analysis as the linchpin of a more rational regulatory agenda.
However, using Lomborgs analysis of global climate change as an example, Part II demonstrates that the practice of cost-benefit analysis in environmental, health, and safety regulation must overcome a variety of actual and potential problems before achieving its full theoretical promise. For instance, comparative risk assessment and risk-risk analysistwo regulatory decisionmaking processes frequently associated with costbenefit analysis26 and advocated in The Skeptical Environmentalistaim to highlight easily overlooked health and safety tradeoffs, but may in practice handicap effective risk management if not treated with sufficient caution by policymakers.
When used in health and safety contexts, costbenefit analysis also unavoidably involves the comparison of interests that many might consider incommensurable.
Moreover, such comparisons often are not made in a manner that is readily transparent to public observers given that cost-benefit analysis typically monetizes the value of life, discounts the interests of future generations, excludes distributional consequences of risks, and ignores those variables that have not been or cannot be quantified.
Any version of cost-benefit analysis that remains insensitive to these political and philosophical complications will tend to obscure what it promises to clarify. For that reason, Part II concludes with a few cautionary observations about the technocratic ideal of cost-benefit analysis that seems to have captivated Bjrn Lomborg, arguing that his.
Kip Viscusi, Regulating the Regulators, 63 U. Sunstein, Reinventing the Regulatory State, 62 U. See Thomas O. An old saw advises readers to scrutinize the footnotes of any extended argument, for that is where the bodies are buried.
On that theory, Lomborgs study, with its 2, footnotes, promises a veritable necropolis of misinterpretations, factual errors, and eyebrow-raising omissions. Nevertheless, before taking spade to turf, it is important to acknowledge the many areas in which The Skeptical Environmentalist has brought a refreshing perspective to the environment-development debate. As Lomborg persuasively argues, on any number of measures humanity has made astounding advancements in welfare over the past century.
For instance, more than 85 percent of the worlds inhabitants can expect to live for at least 60 yearsmore than twice as long as people were expected to live on average just a hundred years ago.
Although I would not go so far as to join Lomborg in concluding that [w]e have experienced fantastic progress in all important areas of human activity,35 I concur that there is much to celebrate. Moreover, I agree with Lomborgs intuition that paying exclusive attention to negative aspects of the human condition might foster a sense of hopelessness that ultimately undermines any prospect of eradicating those problems.
See id. For that reason, in order to evaluate what, if any, original contribution the Danish statistician has made to our understanding of the real state of the world, one must turn to his chapters on resource use and environmental degradation.
In these sections, Lomborg sets out to demonstrate that the Litany constructed by environmental organizations not only overlooks progress in important areas of human development, but also misrepresents the various areas of ecological trouble to which it does attend. To his credit, Lomborg candidly discloses in the preface to The Skeptical Environmentalist, I am not myself an expert as regards environmental problems.
However, elimination of all photosynthesizing life forms from the Earth eventually would result in a decline of atmospheric oxygen content, a fact that perhaps reveals more about Lomborgs level of concern for future generations than it does his scientific expertise.
Simon ed. See David R. Hodas, Standing and Climate Change: Can Anyone Complain About the Weather? See LOMBORG, supra note 5, at Even if all plants, on land as well as at sea, were killed off and then decomposed, the process would consume less than 1 percent of the atmospheres oxygen. Unfortunately, such confusions plague The Skeptical Environmentalist. In four short pages, Lomborg argues that acid rain has no effect on forests, dismissing the well-known claim to the contrary as a myth.
He begins by opining that big-city pollution has nothing to do with acid rain,45 despite the fact that traffic emissions have been shown to be a major contributor of nitrogen compounds that cause acid rain. Numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies demonstrate that acidic deposition adversely impacts forest ecosystems, whether by causing observable mortality and decline in tree species, as in the case of the sugar maple50 and the red spruce,51 or by causing more long-term and widespread declines in forest quality due to the gradual erosion of base cation nutrient levels in soil.
But Lomborg did not need to delve deeply into the primary scientific literature to discern these facts. For instance, in his chapter on the environmental and health risks of synthetic chemicals, Lomborg erroneously claims that benzene and aflatoxin are pesticides, see LOMBORG, supra note 5, at , , and that maize apparently is not a type of grain, see id.
Lomborg wisely chooses not to dispute the impact of acid rain on lakes and other aquatic environments. See C. Driscoll et al. See A. Johnson et al. Adams eds. As will be seen, Lomborgs analysis of each of these subjects fits into a pattern of oversimplification. As with the rest of his study, Lomborgs section on the value of biodiversity adopts a purely instrumentalist and anthropocentric perspective: This does not mean that plants and animals do not also have rights but that the focus will always be on the human evaluation.
I will, however, criticize Lomborg for ignoring the major instrumental reason for valuing diversity in ecosystem life: In addition to an outpouring of online criticism, see infra note , Lomborgs book also has been rebutted by prominent scientists in the pages of Nature, Science, and Scientific American.
See Stephen Schneider, Global Warming: Neglecting the Complexities, SCI. Holdren, Energy: William F. See Barton H. Thompson, Jr. See James Salzman, Barton H. Daily, Protecting Ecosystem Services: Nevertheless, in reflecting upon the significance of biodiversity, Lomborg somehow manages to overlook entirely the teachings of this literature.
Lomborg introduces the subject with what he terms the irreverent question, Is biodiversity important? He argues that biotic communities as a whole produce ecosystem services, and therefore the worth of any individual species within a community is negligible.
Ruhl, Valuing Natures Services: The Future of Environmental Law? To be sure, at times in The Skeptical Environmentalist Lomborg reveals an awareness of the concept of ecosystem services. For instance, in trying to debunk the view that global warming has led to catastrophic weather events, Lomborg argues that a particularly severe flood in China was in large measure caused by clear-cutting forests on the upstream slopes, causing more rapid runoff.
Thus, flood control provides a salient example of ecosystem services when it serves Lomborgs purpose, but when the topics of biodiversity and ecosystem vitality are directly at issue, such services disappear from view. To make matters worse, when Lomborg does recognize the existence of ecosystem services, he refuses to credit natural scientists with this discovery: Of course, [acknowledging the flood protection services provided by standing forest] is just plain and simple.
With this statement, Lomborg slides from merely negligent to reckless disregard of intellectual history. As I have detailed in other work, see supra note 16 , the incorporation of ecosystem services into economic theory requires extensive modification of background assumptions regarding the availability and substitutability of natural capital.
Although these modifications are beginning to take place, they are doing so largely at the behest of biologists, physicists, and other natural scientists who have collaborated with a few sympathetic economists to bring multidisciplinary rigor to the study of natures role within human economic production. Lomborgs ignorance of this history not only undermines his discussion of biodiversity, it also reflects a deeper problem of asymmetric skepticism that plagues The Skeptical Environmentalist throughout.
See infra Section IIB. This reasoning is fatuous. To begin with, there is some reason to believe that the loss of even a single species may have significant consequences for the integrity of an ecosystem. Just as the introduction of a single non-native species often leads to sweeping changes in the composition of an ecosystem,65 the elimination of just one native component of an ecological community also appears capable of rendering the remaining system dramatically unstable.
Scholars who advocate orienting environmental law and policy around the notion of ecosystem services do not base their case on the notion that such services depend upon the health of any individual species. Rather they contend that overall species diversity acts as an important factor in determining the resiliency and vitality of an ecosystem. Turning to the actual measurement of biodiversity and species extinction, Lomborg introduces the issue by noting that the fact of species getting blotted out has been part and parcel of evolution.
With respect to the former question, environmental organizations have. Estes et al. I am indebted to J. Ruhl for the insightful analogy between introduction of a non-native and removal of a native species.
See J. Naeem et al. Salzman, Thompson, Jr. Nevertheless, much like the traditional health advice to consume eight glasses of water per day,71 the extinction figure appears to have achieved great salience and authority merely through its pervasive repetition. Thus, with regard to this well-known statistic, Lomborgs critique of the Litany has hit its mark.
The reader is still left wondering, however, why the author would devote several pages of his skeptical opus to such easy prey. The dominant method of determining rates of extinction today depends upon associations believed to exist between habitat destruction and species loss. First, he argues that the eastern forests of the United States were reduced over two centuries to fragments totaling just percent of their original area, but nonetheless this resulted in the extinction of only one forest bird.
OF SCI. Lovejoy, supra note 54, at It is instructive to contrast Lomborgs use of original forest cover data here, where it appears to aid his argument that extinction rates are overestimated, with his use of total forest cover data later, where it appears to aid his argument that deforestation is overestimated.
See infra note In both cases Lomborg has chosen the method of measurement that arguably is least appropriate for the analytical task at hand. Second, Lomborg cites a study of bird life in Puerto Rico finding that seven out of sixty species of birds became extinct during a period of heavy deforestation on the island.
More importantly, as the editor of Scientific American has pointed out, Lomborg neglects to note that many species of bird did not go extinct because they were not unique to Puerto Rico and could recolonize it from other islands; that the seven species that did become extinct were all from a group of only 20 bird species unique to the island; and that at least four of the surviving species have only a few members and may yet perish.
To counter the figures derived from species-habitat area formulae, Lomborg makes much of the fact that official World Conservation Union IUCN recorded extinction figures for mammals and birds are very small. Had Lomborg undertaken that task, he would have For instance, Lomborg accuses Edward O. Wilson and Paul Ehrlich of supporting a plan to move the entire population of the [United States] so as to re-create a natural wilderness in most of the North American continent. In reality, these scientists simply have offered public endorsement of the Wildlands Project, a nonprofit organization that seeks to interconnect large wilderness reserves with undeveloped pathways that will allow species migration between preservation zones.
See http: In short, he might have discovered relevant, credible information that reveals much more about the real state of the world than a straw-man critique of Norman Myerss twenty-year old extinction rate figure.
Although s debates about the future of the environment tended to focus on the projected availability of nonrenewable resources,86 renewable resources appear to have emerged as the area in which environmental constraints are most apparent.
Douglas Hopkins et al. Peel, Swimming Past the Hook: Of course, to engage in a comprehensive comparison of aquaculture to wild catch, one also would need to consider fuel consumption and other impacts of open seas fishing that are not shared by aquaculture. However, even apart from the ecological distinctions between farm-raised and wild catch, recent analysis suggests that the Chinese government systematically overstated national catch rates during the s in a manner that fundamentally taints the FAO data relied upon by Lomborg.
Revised data now suggest that the global catch fell by some , tons per year, rather than rising by approximately that amount as previously believed. Lomborgs data on forest loss suffer from a variety of such problems that have been explored by Emily Matthews, a senior associate with the World Resources Institute.
For instance, he relies upon a data series from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization FAO that was expressly discontinued by FAO because it considered the data unreliable for assessing forest cover. He also confusingly juxtaposes net forest cover figures with estimates of reductions in original forest cover, see LOMBORG, supra note 5, at n. Finally, he criticizes the World Wildlife Fund WWF for overestimating the massive Indonesian forest fires of the late s, when in fact the most authoritative consensus estimate of the extent of forests burned during the Indonesian fires of is more than twice the WWF estimate that is derided by Lomborg.
See supra text accompanying note 67 noting that many ecosystem services are positively correlated with ecosystem diversity. Lomborg states that the tropical deforestation rates is only 0. Amazingly, Lomborg still claims that [b]asically. However, to the many humans and other life forms that depend directly or indirectly on the unique biological qualities of the rainforest, Lomborgs data are meaningless.
The treatment of nonrenewable resources in The Skeptical Environmentalist follows a similarly indiscriminate path. According to Lomborg, given technological advances in recovery and exploitation techniques, one may state as a practical matter that most resources have actually become more abundant despite enormous increases in resource use over the last century.
See Matthews, supra note See supra text accompanying notes Robert M Solow, Sustainability: Stavins ed. Resources are, to use a favorite word of economists, fungible in a certain sense. Moreover, while Lomborg foresees a vague but rosy future of increasing oil availability, the U. Energy Information Administration recently has used U. Geological Survey data to estimate that world oil production will peak sometime between and , a range that the authors of the study admit is among the most optimistic available in the literature.
How should scarcity be measured? If we want to examine whether oil is getting more and more scarce we have to look at whether oil is getting more and more expensive. Geological Survey data is preferable to the interpretation of the Energy Information Administration. Lomborg does not answer that question and, given the impact that discounting would have on the markets valuation of future oil demand, it is doubtful that he could. Perhaps aware that his view of nonrenewable resources is untenable in the long run and also problematic in the short run given greenhouse emissions and other negative externalities associated with fossil fuels , See Sustainability, supra note 16, at 21 describing the second law of thermodynamics and its implication that [t]he fixed quantum of matter-energy with which the universe is endowed must necessarily move from a state of high-availability to low-availability, of lowentropy to high-entropy, and of order to chaos.
See Kysar, Vision, supra note 16, at With respect to certain applications such as electricity generation, coal offers a substitute for oil of enormous abundance. See Jeffrey J. Thus, the short run constraint of negative externalities becomes of primary significance.
Lomborg wisely predicts a future dominated by alternative energy sources: A thousand years ago we did not use oil, and a thousand years from now we will probably be using solar, fusion or other technologies we have not yet thought of. The concerned citizen justifiably might ask what form such substitutes will take, but Lomborgs optimism seems equally boundless for nuclear, solar, and wind energy, and even for some as-of-now unimagined technology.
After all, littered throughout Lomborgs tome are unintentional acknowledgments that modern production techniques indeed, modern civilizationis heavily dependent upon fossil fuels.
He claims that [t]he fall in the price of food is a genuine long-term tendency, on the same page that he attributes heavy price increases for food during the s to the oil crisis. But as we have seen. Consequently, the assumption should still be that the market will invest [in] the optimal amount of renewable energy.
Lomborg himself admits as much at various points in the text. The question of whether and how humanity will feed an additional 3. As if to deflect attention from the ruse, Lomborg repeatedly claims that current dependence on fossil fuels for energy production is a temporary anomaly of little long-term significance.
After all, Lomborg seems to argue, given that the global price for energy constitutes less than 2. Thus, synthetic fertilizer has been and will continue to be crucially important in feeding the world while leaving sufficient space for other species. The answer is to be found in a number of technologies which are collectively known as The Green Revolution. Nor is food production the only optimistic prediction made by The Skeptical Environmentalist that trades upon an obscured dependency on fossil fuels.
The desalination plants that Lomborg posits as a technological solution to freshwater scarcity, see id. Gleick, Wheres Waldo? A Review of the Skeptical Environmentalist , available at http: Likewise, the solar panels and wind turbines that Lomborg speculates will replace coal and oil in future applications, see LOMBORG, supra note 5, at , require raw materials that are themselves dependent on fossil fuels for their production, see id. Incomplete references to technological fixes such as these serve only to distract the reader from the more fundamental point that humanity has been given a one-time endowment of fossil fuels that must be distributed equitably between current and future generations.
Confronted with evidence that modern agriculture depends heavily on fossil fuel inputs, Lomborg might respond similarly that food constitutes only 5 percent of the global GDP. Like the denizens of this hypothetical future, readers seeking answers to the great ecological challenges ahead are left hungry by The Skeptical Environmentalist. As the previous Section described, Lomborgs glowing assessment of the human condition is marred by his selective analysis of scientific research and his failure to appreciate fully the significance of the research that he does choose to analyze.
Were these the only failings of The Skeptical Environmentalist, one might be content to discount the work as merely a careless gloss on the findings of environmental science. As will be detailed in this Section, however, Lomborgs book also attempts to provide a positive political account of why the state of the world is so strikingly good assuming for the moment that Lomborg is correct in believing that it is strikingly good.
In delivering this part of the argument, Lomborg relies upon a veritable Counterlitany of assumptions about the tendency for markets to foster technological solutions to resource scarcities, the degree to which government regulation is responsible for environmental improvements, and the potential for international trade and economic development to resolve environmental problems in the Third World. This Section notes that Lomborgs Counterlitany is subject to considerably more uncertainty and debate than the author discloses.
For a self-described skeptic Lomborgs optimism regarding the environmental outlook is oddly unqualified: To the contrary, the systematic study of natures dynamic interrelated systems is still in its relative infancy. Such efforts at least in part stand outside of the market processes that Lomborg believes will result in the automatic conservation of essential resources.
We have seen this type of black box from Lomborg before. As noted in the previous Section, Lomborg assures his reader that humanity will devise substitutes for fossil fuels in due course, but the actual form that such substitutes will take is left unspecified. In making such claims, Lomborg borrows an idea from Julian Simon that has constituted the primary counterargument to ecological prognosticators who foresee dramatic troubles ahead. After all, throughout history humans have circumvented apparent natural resource constraints by relying upon technology, substitution, and adaptation why should we have reason to doubt that such triumphs will continue in the future?
As The Skeptical Environmentalist demonstrates, no aspect of the environmentalists agenda can withstand this relentless optimism. Worried about rising sea levels? Most scientists who study systems ecology trace the disciplines origin to E.
Odums classic, Fundamentals of Ecology. See Sven E. See Kysar, Sustainability, supra note 16, at It begins with the proposition that labor and human-made capital have proven to be widely substitutable for each other over the past century.
So long as these assumptions hold, Lomborg may be correct to discount the implications of the Litany on the theory that we continuously find new resources, use them more efficiently, and are able to recycle them and to substitute them. As such, everything that follows in The Skeptical Environmentalist is simply an article of faith, not a matter of knowledge about the real state of the world.
Lomborg should express it as such. Some of Lomborgs claims regarding the improving state of the environment are meritorious. Most notably, as Lomborg emphasizes, several harmful sources of air pollution have been reduced throughout most of the developed world over the last century and particularly within Lomborg relies upon an FAO study for this bold projection as far into the future as can be seen, but fails to emphasize that the studys time horizon extended only to the year Lomborg is by no means alone in drawing this conclusion, as many prominent economists have argued essentially the same point.
In describing air quality improvements in London, for instance, Lomborg states that for the greater part of the twentieth century [the improvements have] been due to a change in infrastructure and fuel use and only slightly, if at all, connected to environmental worries expressed in concrete policy changes. In fact, Lomborg concludes that regulation of air pollution has not had any documented noteworthy effect on air quality.
This is a remarkably strong statement for Lomborg to make based upon only two studies, one nearly three decades old and one that expressly contradicts his conclusion. See Mark R. Powell, Three-City Air Study, Resources for the Future Discussion Paper at 19 Overall, the results of this analysis suggest that mandated pollution control investments have often had a significant effect in reducing maximum air pollutant concentrations.
A succinct and helpful overview can be found in A. What Have We Gained? Throughout The Skeptical Environmentalist he takes pains to avoid admitting any role of government action in achieving the favorable conditions that he describes.
When discussing the problem of ozone depletion, for instance, Lomborg reassures his reader that even at ozone depletions greatest impact, it will cause a relatively slight increase in the cancer incidence and death rate. Paul R. Stavins, eds. Lomborg also presents data showing declines in particulate matter prior to the enactment of major United States and United Kingdom statutes addressing air emissions, see LOMBORG, supra note 5, at , , as if to demonstrate that the role of legislation in achieving subsequent improvements has been minor.
However, he neglects to note that pollution control ordinances have been traced back at least to King Edward Is ban on the burning of certain types of coal in thirteenth century England. See Portney, supra note , at In the United States, Chicago and Cincinnati began a nationwide trend of municipal air quality control by enacting laws to regulate smoke and soot in the year Thus, long before the Clean Air Act of , improvements in air quality were hastened by state and local ordinances that regulated the incineration of garbage and the burning of coal or high-sulfur fuel oil in residential, commercial, and industrial furnaces.
See generally Christopher H. Schroeder, Regulating Automobile Pollution: An Environmental Success Story for Democracy? Jon D. Kysar, Taking Behavioralism Seriously: To be sure, the role of regulation in bringing about environmental improvements is not unequivocal. Other factors such as shifts in consumer demand, changes in weather patterns, macroeconomic conditions, non-induced technological improvements, and demographic changes among affected populations also undoubtedly are in operation.
Equally fanciful, however, is Lomborgs apparent view that no promising trend is even partially attributable to governmental controls. The last prong of Lomborgs Counterlitany is built upon an empirical relationship between economic growth and environmental quality that has become known as the Environmental Kuznets Curve EKC.
It is. Ruhl, Sustainable Development: However, he ignores a variety of factors that render reliance on the EKC alone problematic as a solution to pollution, deforestation, and other unsustainable environmental conditions in the developing world.
First, and most notably, the EKC simply has not been demonstrated for many actual or potential sources of pollution, including carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, municipal solid waste, and a variety of potentially toxic pollutants such as organic chlorine compounds. Finally, it bears noting that some forms of environmental harm, like biodiversity loss, are simply irreversible, such that the second half of the supposed inverse-U curve never can occur.
Lomborg nowhere acknowledges these complications of the EKC. Specifically, many of the most pressing environmental problems today concern pollutants with cumulative, transboundary effects.
See Daniel C. A Survey of the Literature 4 municipal solid waste , available at http: De Bruyn et al. See Hemamala Hettige et al. Actually, buried amidst Lomborgs 2, footnotes is the rather unhelpful statement, Note, that a number of later studies have discussed and questioned the approach [of the EKC proponents]. That is, the environmental improvements witnessed in nations like the United States and captured by the EKC data may have occurred not simply because the environment is a luxury good that only wealthy people can afford, but also because the United States has been able to export some of its environmentally degrading activity to developing nations.
Unfortunately for Lomborg, a remarkable recent study has supported this very hypothesis. Using a complex system dynamics analysis that models inter alia deforestation rates, domestic GNP, and the GNP of a countrys trading partners, Corey Lofdahl has shown that between and , an increase in either the percentage trade with a high GNP trading partner or an increase in a traditional trading partners GNP results in decreased local forest area for the country in question.
Thus, when Lomborg argues that the primary solution to [tropical deforestation] will be higher growth and a better economic foundation so as to secure the. Dasgupta, supra note , at Indeed, by combining a variety of EKC studies with projected global per capita GDP distributions and population estimates, two researchers have concluded that emissions will continue to increase for most pollutants through the year See T.
Song, Environmental Quality and Development: LOMBORG, supra note 5, at [O]ur historical experience tells us that only when we are sufficiently rich can we start to think about, worry about and deal with environmental problems. EKC studies tend to consist of cross-country data rather than single-country time-series data, thus raising the possibility that the EKC actually is just a conflation of two distinct trends: The EKC that Lomborg believes is universally replicable may in fact be contingent upon a developing world whose resources are open to international exploitation.
To the extent that the EKC has been empirically demonstrated for a given environmental contaminant and to the extent that the fallacy of composition is not a barrier to generalization, Lomborg may be right to expect better environmental conditions to arise as a matter of course from economic development in the Third World.
Nevertheless, given the interconnectedness of the atmosphere, the oceans, and other significant ecological systems, the developed world still has an interest in helping both to flatten and shorten the EKC of developing nations as well as to forge an EKC of its own with respect to the many pollutants, including especially greenhouse gases, that continue to rise monotonically with per capita income.
Toward that end, a growing body of evidence suggests that, whatever the robustness of the EKC, certain factors other than income per capita may emerge as stronger determinants of environmental quality. Specifically, studies suggest that literacy, political rights, and civil liberties are highly correlated with environmental quality even in lowincome countries. As one can see, the results of Lomborgs survey of scientific literature fall considerably short of an account of the real state of the world.
At his best, Lomborg puts to rest some rather extreme concerns that have surfaced from time to time in the environmental debate. His great failing, however, is to think that by debunking a handful of nightmare scenarios, he justifies ignoring the vast areas of concern that remain both well documented and potentially of great significance to human welfare.
Biodiversity provides an excellent example. Lomborg devotes significant energy to debunking Norman Myerss longsuperseded quotation regarding species loss estimates, yet he fails utterly to appreciate that one does not need Myerss extreme case of species loss to be concerned about the rate of extinction.
Lomborgs own estimate of 1, times the background rate would seem to raise the eyebrows of See M. Boyce, Income, Inequality, and Pollution: Despite the authors attempt to portray the book as a simple, even-handed review of relevant scientific literature, what The Skeptical Environmentalist actually demonstrates to great effect is that scientific inquiry in the modern regulatory state has become a game of competing Litanies.
Each of these entities is an active competitor in the contest to manage public perceptions of risk and thereby influence the regulatory agenda. As Cass Sunstein and Timur Kuran have put it, these actors focus attention on isolated events, select information to support their preferred interpretations, and make anyone who questions their objectives appear ignorant, duped, or depraved, all in the name of advancing their pro- or anti-regulatory interests.
Similarly, his treatment of global warming begins by criticizing statements made by Isaac Asimov, a science fiction writer. Verchick, Feathers or Gold?
See LOMBORG, supra note 5, at 42 noting that we must start searching for the facts to measure the real state of the world, and introducing the authors survey as the start of that process. Debunking Pseudo-Scholarship: Things a journalist should know about The Skeptical Environmentalist, at http: In fact, The Skeptical Environmentalist has spawned a cottage industry of websites debunking and defending the work.
See Richard B. LOMBORG, supra note 5, at It is not clear how much political backing the rainforest lobby could have attracted if the biologists had emphasized that what would be lost [from tropical deforestation] would primarily be insects, bacteria and viruses. More specifically, legal scholars have noted that public demand for regulation is a function of risk perceptions that are themselves subject to manipulation, particularly by those actors able to influence the availability and presentation of relevant scientific information.
Indeed, a critical element of his argument is that the Litany is made possible by the coordinated efforts of environmental organizations and a few radical scientists to manipulate the media and the public. The public, in Lomborgs view, is easily led to mass delusions about the state of the environment because the communication of environmental.
The Problem of Market Manipulation, 74 N. Some Evidence of Market Manipulation, Harv. Henderson, Jr. McGarity, supra note 26, at 25 describing the unattractive prospect of adversarial science and dueling risk assessments as groups with conflicting stakes in the outcome of the regulatory process draw varying inferences from the data and plug different assumptions into the model. Consider the reaction of one exasperated scientist who was asked to draw conclusions for human health from his study demonstrating sexual mutation in frogs following small exposures to a common pesticide: Im not saying its safe for humans.
Im not saying its unsafe for humans. All Im saying is that it makes hermaphrodites of frogs. Randolph E. The pesticide at issue, atrazine, is one of the most commonly used weed-killers in North America. See John H. Cushman, Jr. Rules for Pesticide, N. Yet the scientists study revealed significant developmental disruptions in frogs at levels far below the E. Journalists, policymakers, and the public obviously desire to know what implications for humans, if any, can be drawn from the deformity of the frogs.
The scientist merely wants to perform the descriptive exercise that he has been trained to perform, but he has been drawn into a public debate far more politicized and far more impatient than his usual disciplinary exchanges. In other words, The Skeptical Environmentalist itself casts doubt on Lomborgs notion of a real state of the world.
This Part examines the implications of the foregoing observations for Lomborgs preferred method of policy review, cost-benefit analysis. In theory, cost-benefit analysis offers a straightforward method for evaluating regulatory proposals by identifying and summing expected outcomes. As will be seen, however, the actual practice of cost-benefit analysis in regulatory decisionmaking becomes considerably more difficult once one acknowledges the political, ethical, and scientific uncertainties that unavoidably characterize it.
The Paralysis of Hypothesis Before addressing the more philosophical issues that complicate the use of cost-benefit analysis in environmental, health, and safety decisionmaking, this Section will address two relatively minor difficulties that arise from the politicized nature of the scientific and regulatory processes.
Specifically, two decisionmaking heuristics frequently associated with cost-benefit analysiscomparison of a regulatory proposal against hypothetical alternate uses of public funds, and analysis. Oddly, Lomborg later notes that the environment seldom rises above 2 percent in most-important-problem polls. Such an assertion seems to cast doubt on both Lomborgs claim that the Litany exists and that it has a pernicious influence on democratic prioritizing. Lomborg does argue that public funding of scientific research can bias its results, given that the public would tend to fund research likely to identify problems over research likely to confirm the status quo.
Similar reasoning might suggest that privately funded research would be more likely, other things equal, to find that the status quo is optimal. As Lomborg derisively puts it, There are many grants at stake. To begin with, the practice of cost-benefit analysis may indirectly handicap regulatory decisionmaking by inviting comparison of proposed regulations against hypothetical alternate uses of public funds. See sources cited infra notes , , The type of comparison I am describing here should be distinguished from costeffectiveness analysis.
The latter method of policy review compares the costs of various approaches to achieving the same identified regulatory goal. See Robert H.
In this Section, I am considering the comparison of a particular proposal against different regulatory goals altogether, often as a ground for rejecting the proposal under consideration.
A familiar device in this regard the cost-per-life-saved table originally devised by John Morrall and since reproduced prolifically in the risk regulation literatureis trotted out one more time by Lomborg in The Skeptical Environmentalist.
Tengs et al. The objection raised in this Section is simply the narrow one that, in the absence of some comprehensive means for allocating funds among competing risk regulation priorities, comparison of regulatory proposals to hypothetical alternate uses of public funds can unintentionally impede regulatory action.
Allocating scarce public funds among competing uses is the essence of political decisionmaking and a reasonable polity surely would want to know whether its expenditures could be made more wisely. Lomborg, in fact, argues that failure to so evaluate life-saving regulations amounts to statistical murder, as the opportunity cost of an inefficient health and safety regulation consists of additional lives that could have been saved pursuant to some other, more cost-effective regulation.
A difficulty arises, however, when such opportunity cost comparison is treated as more than simply a cautionary reminder about the relative efficiency of public projects. After all, it takes little effort or imagination to hypothesize more cost-effective alternate uses of social resources. Lomborg has a favorite: When they are cited as independent reasons for rejecting the regulatory goal itself, however, the hypothetical alternate uses become a potentially harmful distraction.
This argument has been made several times before in the risk regulation literature. Hahn ed. McGarity provides an insightful discussion and critique in McGarity, supra note 26, at See also, Heinzerling, Regulatory Costs, supra note , at Domestically, the detection and prevention of radon gas is an oft-invoked example. Specifically, as Thomas McGarity has noted, when hypothetical alternate uses of funds are raised as persuasive grounds for defeating a regulatory initiative, no reliable mechanism exists to ensure that the proposed alternate use actually is undertaken.
That is, regulators are not empowered to maximize collective welfare by allocating public funds among all manner of social problems. They face discrete issues that demand concrete responses. Even legislators, with their broad lawmaking authority, must work within the constraints of the political process. Even those areas for which sufficient political support of regulation had been mustered would face a risk of paralysis by hypothesis.
See McGarity, supra note 26, at Even under the highly contestable assumption that a cost-benefit decision criterion would eliminate waste, no vehicle exists for channeling the savings to the most deserving social programs.
Calandrillo, Responsible Regulation: To add another layer of complexity, as David Driesen has pointed out, priority-setting in the environmental, health, and safety arenas is a far more complicated task than simply ranking risks according to severity, or even according to cost-benefit ratios.
In light of these structural difficulties, scholars increasingly are calling for the creation of an agency or other governmental actor empowered to help direct risk regulation dollars in a comprehensive manner. Cass Sunsteins recent critique of the precautionary principle offers a somewhat parallel line of objection. See Sunstein, supra note Sunstein argues that the precautionary principle, a decisionmaking heuristic prominent in international environmental law, is literally paralyzing forbidding inaction, stringent regulation, and every step in between because the opportunity costs of precaution frequently involve the same type and degree of harm as the activity being cautioned against.
See also id. To be sure, the reasoning is not precisely parallel: Rather, it would simply help to produce an ordinal ranking of risk priorities.
In the absence of such an agency, however, the risk of decisionmaking paralysis is real. Cost-benefit analysis exerts a potentially paralyzing influence on environmental, health, and safety decisionmaking in a second way. The growing prominence of risk-risk analysis focuses decisionmakers on the secondary effects that may be expected from adopting any particular health or safety standard, being careful to avoid those standards that produce ancillary harms of greater magnitude than their direct benefits.
Lomborg uses a hypothetical ban on chemical pesticides as an example.
According to Lomborgs calculations, removing the use of pesticides from agricultural production would save some twenty deaths a year currently caused by chemical exposure, but would add approximately 26, deaths a year as higher food prices reduce the intake of fruits and vegetables which are, of course, a primary defense against various forms of cancer. That is, once one determines to set sail on the uncertain seas of general equilibrium analysisattempting to account not just for the direct and intended effects of a regulatory intervention, but also its myriad secondary economic and behavioral consequencesthen one had better trawl with a pretty wide net or be prepared to face charges of poaching.
In addition to the effect of fruit and vegetable price elasticity on nutrient intake, Lomborg also would have to consider numerous other factors including the distinct health hazards faced by farm workers due to chemical exposure; the effect of pesticides on wildlife and habitat. See Jonathan B.