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The Skeptical Environmentalist
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The Skeptical Environmentalist

The Skeptical Environmentalist is a controversial book by political scientist Bjørn Lomborg; which argues that claims made by environmentalists about global warming, overpopulation, energy, deforestation, species loss, water shortages, and a variety of other issues are exaggerations unsupported by a proper analysis of environmental data.

Lomborg is a Danish political scientist with a background in statistics. He states that he originally started work on the book as an attempt to counter what he saw as anti-ecological arguments by Julian Simon in an article in Wired, but changed his mind after starting his research. Lomberg describes the views he attributes to environmental campaigners as "the Litany", which his book attempts to correct.

The Skeptical Environmentalist has many references to primary and secondary material, but much of its methodology and integrity has been subject to serious and often unpleasant criticism (see below) from those whose livelyhoods depend upon sustaining public concern about environmental issues. Lomborg's supporters consider his work to be a landmark in the development of the ecological movement. The Daily Telegraph described the book as '... probably the most important book on the environment ever written'.  

Table of contents
1 Criticisms
2 Investigation
3 References
4 External links
5 Reviews of the book
6 See also


Environmental groups as well as members of the scientific community have heavily criticised the book for selective use of statistics—essentially, taking the most optimistic view on the environmental damage being caused by current human activity, and the most pessimistic view of the adjustment costs of changing to less environmentally-damaging technologies.

The January 2002 issue of Scientific American contains, under the heading "Misleading Math about the Earth", a set of essays by several scientists about Lomborg's thesis, claiming that Lomborg is misrepresenting both scientific evidence and scientific opinion. The magazine refused Lomborg's request to write in his own defence.

Nature also published a harsh review of Lomborg's book. In the review, Stuart Pimm of the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation at Columbia University and Jeff Harvey of the Netherlands Institute of Technology wrote: "the text employs the strategy of those who, for example, argue that gay men aren't dying of AIDS, that Jews weren't singled out by the Nazis for extermination, and so on."

Lomborg has published an annotated response to both articles and many others on his website.


In 2003, the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD), an independent body composed of eminent Danish scientists and responsible for investigating scientific fraud in that country, was asked to investigate.

One of the people who brought the charges against Lomborg to the DCSD is Jeff Harvey, a former editor of Nature who is currently a Senior Scientist at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology. Harvey said, "It is unfortunate that I and many others felt it necessary to take Lomborg and his book to task for the veritable deluge of inaccuracies it contains, but Lomborg has veered well across the line that divides controversial, if not competent, science from unrepentant incompetence." He added: "Lomborg has failed time and again to rectify the egregious distortions he makes, he has based his conclusions on cherry-picking the studies he likes, and he has seriously undermined the public's understanding of important contemporary scientific issues."

The DSCD investigation found Lomberg guilty of scientific dishonesty, reporting that The Skeptical Environmentalist suffered from "systematic one-sidedness in the choice of data and line of argument". Although the DCSD found no evidence that Professor Lomborg deliberately tried to mislead readers (which would have been a graver issue) it did pronounce Lomborg guilty of having "acted at variance with good scientific practice." In their decision, they declared that Lomborg's research was "objectively dishonest" and "clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice".

Lomborg did not accept the decision, writing on his web site that:

The Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD) has found that I am "systematically one-sided" in a decision handed down 7 January 2003. Here they exclusively rely on the critique from Scientific American 2002 without taking my rebuttal into account.

Denmark's Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation in December 2003 repudiated the DCSD's findings, noting that the original ruling was "completely void of argumentation".

Lomborg retains his position as director of Denmark's Environmental Assessment Institute, a body established by the Danish government to advise on environmental policy.


External links

Reviews of the book


Against: Mixed:

See also