An April 24 New York Times op-ed from "Skeptical Environmentalist" Bjorn Lomborg contends "that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a hopeless cause and that public money is better spent on research and development of renewable energy"–which Jonathan Hiskes of Grist calls (4/27/09) "a classic Lomborg argument–deliberately provocative and presenting several worthy goals as an either/or choice. Choose either emissions caps or R&D, he proposes. You can't have both." Pointing out that Lomborg "makes no mention of the tremendous potential that carbon regulation has to raise money for clean energy R&D," Hiskes gives us some background:
Lomborg made his name in 2001 by publishing The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World, a 540-page attack on conventional green wisdom. It suggested that supposed environmental crises–including global warming–were "phantom problems" drummed up by the environmental old guard to serve its own ends. That prompted Grist to respond with A skeptical look at The Skeptical Environmentalist, a special series in which experts scrutinized Lomborg's claims in their fields.
Did much debunkery ensue? Oh yes it did. Nobel-winning Climatologist Stephen Schneider exposed Lomborg's selective use of statistics in his climate analysis. Energy expert David Nemtzow called out Lomborg for knocking down a straw man of fossil fuel scarcity. Biologist E.O. Wilson blasted holes in Lomborg's "stop worrying" analysis of species extinction. And more.
As Schneider complained eight years ago, the most vexing question might be how Lomborg keeps getting such high-profile attention. And that prompts a question about the New York Times' rationale for going to Lomborg for this essay. He is, basically, a climate change denier. Granting him space on the NYT op-ed page is yet another example of the media treating a scientific matter as just another political topic fit for debate.
By way of comparison, Hiskes "wonders, would they grant the same privilege to the wackos who think HIV doesnÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢”Å¡Â¬ÃƒÂ¢”Å¾Â¢t cause AIDS?"