29 Dec 2007

The Iceman cometh: A reveiw of Cool It

Lomborg is an unusual climate sceptic because he believes humans are contributing to global warming. In fact, he accepts most of the science behind the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But - and here is the twist - he does not believe that science justifies the degree of concern expressed by the panel and many others. from here

Lomborg believes by cutting greenhouse-gas emissions, "probably we can save about 0.06 bears per year." Seriously. As we'll see, Lomborg suffers from an inability to even imagine the possibility of thresholds or tipping points, beyond which irreversible and catastrophic change occur.

Bjorn Lomborg, the great skeptical environmentalist, has an unusual position on climate change. Unlike the Marlboro men and women he does not deny the science behind the IPCC report and with such a prominent opponent of the green movement saying that climate change is occuring, the deniers seem defeated.

What he does argue, to simplify, is that climate change does not matter. It is the old opportunity cost argument, if you spend money on Y you can't spend it on X. World hunger, water shortages and HIV could be tackled if the money spent on preventing climate change was spent on these problems, according to Lomborg. Nuclear weapons, advertising and global tobacco cash could, he forgets to add, be spent instead.

Power and politics are not something he discusses, its a neutral world of cost benefit analysis...that the strong fuck over the poor is not on his agenda. For example, a free/open source software approach to patent medicine is key to helping Africans.

He says some wise things about coastal management, pointing out that removal of mangrove swamps makes 'natural disasters' worse...but ecology is not really an area discussed...the book can only defend the indefensible of 'do nothing/very little' if it tackles head on all the positive feedback mechanisms such as methane from melting permafrost that would create run away climate change. I read the whole book but found no detailed account of feedback mechanisms....they are what makes climate change potentially so devastating.

Lomborg's thesis cannot be defended but his life work by shouting 'do nothing' feeds back into the lack of serious action that he notes is occuring to deal with climate change. Skeptics are skeptical of efforts to deal with climate change arguing that they are irrelevent. The lack of real action is of course a product of the discourse of the skeptics. You can't tell people loudly to do nothing and they complain when they take your advise.

Cure, he argues, such as flood defence, is better than prevention. Imagine Lomborg's approach to cancer...it is the logic of the butcher, even conventional economists are better than this, take a look at any weeks edition of the Economist, I may disagree with their solutions based on carbon markets but even they are saying don't dump global projects to tackle global warming.

Does Lomborg discuss the importance of defending rainforest people who live well and preserving these vital ecosystems...no. I bet he is cheering on the mining corporations, loggers and palm oil plantation people.

Commons regimes as a mechanism for creating prosperity and ecology...no he ignores this area as with many others.

this is un cosa de tonto (a thing of foolishness).

So lets break out the cream pies, Lomborg in this book is probably too marginalised to be dangerous but who knows....he still deserves another pieing.

For a very detailed critique of his crappy book look at Gristmill, Lomborg starts off with the polar bears arguing that they are in no danger from climate change, the critic picks him up on this:

'Paddling across the ice, polar bears are beautiful animals. To Greenland -- part of my own nation, Denmark -- They are a symbol of pride. The loss of this animal would be a tragedy. But the real story of the polar bear is instructive. In many ways, this tale encapsulates the broader problem with the climate-change concern: once you look closely at the supporting data, the narrative falls apart.'

Doubly ironic, then, that the polar bear is doomed thanks to people like Bear Lomborg, who urge inaction. Lomborg says (p. 7) polar bears "may eventually decline, though dramatic declines seem unlikely." Uh, no. Even the Bush Administration's own USGS says we'll lose two-thirds of the world's current polar bear population by 2050 in a best-case scenario for Arctic ice.

How will the bears survive the loss of their habitat? No problem, says Lomborg, they will evolve backwards (p. 6):

'[T]hey will increasingly take up a lifestyle similar to that of brown bears, from which they evolved.'

Seriously. Yet, Wikipedia notes:

According to both fossil and DNA evidence, the polar bear diverged from the brown bear roughly 200 thousand years ago; fossils show that between 10 and 20 thousand years ago the polar bear's molar teeth changed significantly from those of the brown bear.

Doh! Lomborg is giving the bears a few decades to undo tens of thousands of years of evolution. In fact, most experts do not believe the bears can survive the loss of their habitat:

Dr. Andrew Derocher, Chair of the Polar Bear Specialist Group of the World Conservation Union (a group whose work Lomborg cites), says:

No habitat, no seals; no seals, no bears ... At the end of the day, the sea ice is disappearing. Take away the habitat and the species follows shortly thereafter (or before).
The 2004 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, (a group whose work Lomborg cites), says:

The survival of polar bears as a species is difficult to envisage under conditions of zero summer sea-ice cover.
A 2004 Canadian study finds:

[G]iven the rapid pace of ecological change in the Arctic, the long generation time, and the highly specialised nature of polar bears, it is unlikely that polar bears will survive as a species if the sea ice disappears completely.
And thanks to delayers like Lomborg, the ice will probably be gone long before the USGS projects, perhaps even by 2030.

But Lomborg believes by cutting greenhouse-gas emissions, "probably we can save about 0.06 bears per year." Seriously. As we'll see, Lomborg suffers from an inability to even imagine the possibility of thresholds or tipping points, beyond which irreversible and catastrophic change occur.

More debunking here

1 comment:

mguk said...

Today there are 22–25 thousand polar bears, compared to 8–10 thousand 40 years ago and only 5,000 in 1940, before the big rise in carbon dioxide. Eleven of the 13 polar bear groups in Canada today are stable or increasing. The two that are decreasing are in an area where the climate has gotten colder!