Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming (Vintage)

Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming (Vintage)

  • ISBN13: 9780307386526
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A startling book that reshapes the debate about global warming and offers a moderate approach to meeting its challenges.

Bjorn Lomborg argues that many of the elaborate and expensive actions now being considered—the Kyoto Protocol, for example—have a staggering potential cost of hundreds of billions of dollars, but, ultimately, will have little impact on the world’s temperature. He suggests that rather than institutionalizing these programs to “cool” the earth’s temperature 100 ye

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5 Responses to “Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming (Vintage)”

  • Glenn Yates says:

    Review by Glenn Yates for Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming (Vintage)
    What you are getting from this review is a non-scientific analysis of the book, and a summation of the contents. While I taught a year or two of High School Biology in Cheatham County, TN, that probably isn’t going to qualify me to sit on the International Global Warming Council anytime soon. I’ll try and avoid the observation that it still probably makes me more qualified than a lot of people suddenly making careers out of Global Warming.

    The book was not what I expected. I kind of thought, based on the controversy it had generated, that it would be a global warming denial book espousing the glories of capitalism and a desire to turn North America into the new Sahara. Well it is nothing of the sort. The book, whether you agree with the science or not, never argues that global warming is happening nor even that it results to varying degrees from human produced co2. What is argued is that there has become a political, and even hysterical component that has insinuated itself so in the discussion that it has overwhelmed all other argument. Any attempt at debate is met with howls that those bringing up objections are evil incarnate and should be fired, imprisoned, etc. It is an interesting debate technique, and nice work if you can get it, but I’m not sure it’s an accepted debating format.

    For all the balance the book brings, it probably won’t warm hearts on either side. The need for redistribution of wealth is a recurring theme, and his arguments against Kyoto, etc, are more that they are an inefficient means to accomplish this goal, not that they are idealogically mistaken. Much of his analysis also relies heavily on the projection that the next 100 years will produce great wealth across the board. This strikes me as speculative, but then again what about the whole issue is not?

    The book is extremely well documented, footnotes comprising almost as much volume as the treatise itself. And treatise might be the word, much is repeated and reiterated, and it has the feel of a lengthy article that was expanded to meet book-length requirements. It doesn’t suffer too badly in spite of this, as the author writes pretty well and so much of the material is so outside media template information that it probably requires several presentations of the same facts.

    All in all it struck me as balanced, well written, and very logical. One of his major points, that debate has been stifled unfairly, makes one reluctant to criticise for fear of proving his point, but be that as it may it seems a salient observation. It is a quick read, and I’d certainly recommend it as a work that cuts against the grain.

  • Craig Matteson says:

    Review by Craig Matteson for Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming (Vintage)
    True believers won’t like this book, but anyone who is willing to listen with an open mind and consider multiple points of view will find this book to be a breath of fresh air in the climate change / global warming clash. Bjorn Lomborg is a liberal, a vegetarian, an economist and a passionate environmentalist. Certainly, he is far left of me. He also is convinced that global warming is real, that mankind does have a role in creating it and making it worse, and that we do need to change the way we live in order to improve conditions for all life on the planet. So, why do I like him and find this book very much worth reading?

    Because he is sensible in the arguments he makes. Rather than beating the drum of gloom and doom, he looks at the evidence, looks at what we can realistically do, and what it is we can do that will have the most effect. He also pokes holes in the overheated bag-of-wind arguments of the drowning polar bears (more die from hunting), the 20 foot sea rise (it is rising, but no more in the coming century than in the last), and the benefits of Kyoto (basically an attempted $16 trillion tax on the United States that would, after a century, delay global warming by a few years). And he nicely points out that the devastation in New Orleans was NOT because of global warming or because of the hurricane itself, but because of poorly maintained levees and destroyed wetlands that would have provided some protection. He is also right in pointing out that there has been NO increase in the violence of the storms. The critics will point to the vastly increased costs of the storms. But those costs have their roots in the fact that more people are living in these risky areas (partly because of increased wealth and partly because of government subsidies to those experiencing losses in these areas) and are building more costly structures in areas that people mostly avoided in the past.

    His emphasis on what we can do that will have the most positive effect for the money spent is terrific. For example, changing the kinds of building materials we use, the amount of concrete and asphalt versus the opening of green space in our cities all make good sense, as does the helping of people in the developing world with micronutrients and controlling malaria. The list of items that experts and politicians recognize as the most pressing issues and the most useful for the money spent (see pages 44 and 162) is most instructive regarding reality versus hype.

    Frankly, I think Lomborg calls himself the skeptical environmentalist because it sounds better than the sensible environmentalist. However, he really is sensible and worth listening to whether you end up agreeing with his prescriptions or not.

    Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Ann Arbor, MI

  • T. LAWSON says:

    Review by T. LAWSON for Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming (Vintage)
    All Bjørn is saying is that we’re doing a heck of a job ignoring our current catastrophes. Anyone remember the Katrina victims? Anyone remember that AIDS hasn’t been cured yet? You might want to just sit back, take a breath, and get your priorities in a row.

    Before you go and save some lives from the year 2100, you might want to look around and save a few here in 2007. This is like people from 1907 trying to help us with breast cancer. No one knew what a gene was in 1907! I’m sure that the people of 2100 will have both the technology and the smarts to come up with something better than anything we could do.

    But change IS happening. The ball is rolling. Things are becoming different. We are on a much better trajectory now than we were ten years ago, as far as cutting pollution is concerned. Nothing we do additionally is going to have much effect, so let’s get our priorities straight and save our current victims, our homeless, our hungry, our crappy healthcare system. This is what Bjørn is saying.

    The way the environmentalists are attacking Mr. Lomborg is appalling. “Methinks thou dost protest too much.” The way they attack his character is like a dog protecting his bone. In this case the bone is a company that sells carbon offsets to the gullible, illiterate fans of eco-celebrities. Do you think Sheryl Crow is sitting at home reading the IPCC report? No, she’s playing her guitar. She gets her global warming news from the same place that you do…Access Hollywood.

    I’m sure that every negative reviewer here has not even read the book. This is obvious because your arguments for global warming being real are his same arguments! He’s not saying it’s not happening, he’s saying that it’s not as horrible as people are being led to believe and that we may have a few years to nip it in the bud, but not by throwing money at various environmental firms. We need to find the companies that are going to get the job done right, and right now it is not Joe Bob’s Carbon Offset Emporium at PO Box 119, Santa Barbara, California.

    There are too many fishy environmental companies popping up all over the place, so be wary of where your carbon offsets are going. Better yet, let the free marketplace get the technology up to speed while you send your money to AIDS research and building new homes. That’s where you can really do some good.

    And as far as Michael Crichton is concerned, he might be a novelist, but he’s also a brilliant intellect that knows how to read scientific journals. The only thing he doesn’t have is an agenda. Crichton is not covered in oil money. He’s not trying to sell you anything but novels. Al Gore co-owns a carbon offset firm and an environmental consultancy firm. This is like a cat salesman trying to convince you that you’ve got a rat infestation. The environmentalists fear that this is their last big chance to have all of their wishes come true, so they’re fighting hard to keep you scared. Don’t be afraid. Everything will be okay. The only rats that you have are the ones at your door trying to sell you cats.

  • Gaetan Lion says:

    Review by Gaetan Lion for Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming (Vintage)
    Environmentalists have attacked Lomborg ever since he wrote The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World. I have not read it, but read critiques in Scientific American. It seemed Lomborg did cross lines that rendered him vulnerable to scientific attacks; But, with “Cool It” he his on strong scientific ground. He is still attacked by the usual suspects such as Kare Fog, a Danish biologist who posts on the web all the “errors” Lomborg made. Fog goes on pages advancing a case how Lomborg misinterpreted sea level rise data. Fog argues sea level rise is more likely to be two feet instead of one per Lomborg (relying on the IPCC best estimate). In the end Fog contradicts himself by quoting most recent studies that support Lomborg. Kare Fog other attacks are fruitless.

    In this great short book, Lomborg covers the following fascinating themes. First, the impact of Global Warming is hugely exaggerated. Second, the efficacy of the Kyoto Protocol is close to nil. Third, the Kyoto Protocol is unworkable as the majority of member-countries fail their CO2 reduction targets. Fourth, we can improve our environmental prospects at a fraction of the Kyoto Protocol’s cost and with often more than a 1,000 times the effectiveness.

    In the first three chapters Lomborg debunks all the wild exaggerations regarding the impact of Global Warming as conveyed by the media. A couple of examples include the supposedly rapid disappearance of the polar bear often pictured on a melting iceberg. Meanwhile, the overall polar bear population is actually growing. Another is the prospective catastrophic sea level rise of 20 to 40 feet as vividly depicted in An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It with maps showing flooded global coastal regions. Meanwhile the IPCC scientists’ models suggest only a one foot increase by the end of the century (same as what we experienced over the last century without any disruption). Al Gore scenarios entail the melting of half or all of the ice caps of both Greenland and Antarctica. The reality is that Greenland is loosing ice at a very slow pace and Antarctica is actually gaining mass. Warmer temperatures cause more precipitation and more snow and ice formation in Antarctica that contributes to lower sea levels. Lomborg goes on uncovering a bunch more mythical exaggerations including the increasing frequency and intensity of hurricanes. None of them is being supported by IPCC data. He also mentions the flawed `hockey stick’ graph manufactured by Michael Mann’s spurious model that artificially created a spike in simulated temperatures in present time. He indicated how reluctant the IPCC scientific community was to admit the flaw in this hockey stick model. I was not surprised by any of the above. I have studied Global Warming for several years now, and had already learned about these politicized exaggerations in other excellent books including: Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media and Shattered Consensus: The True State of Global Warming.

    Lomborg moves on to explaining how ineffective the Kyoto Protocol is. If all countries ratified this agreement and met their CO2 reduction targets, it would only reduce temperature by 0.3 degree Fahrenheit by the end of the century with a negligible impact on sea level and the environment. This estimate is from IPCC scientists. Lomborg adds that the Kyoto Protocol is unworkable. Countries with already modernized economies, growing population and rising living standards can’t dramatically cut CO2 emissions. The majority of West European countries, Canada, and New Zealand have routinely failed their respective CO2 emission reduction targets. The EU has seen CO2 emission per capita increase by 4% since 1990. Meanwhile, the U.S. has remained flat.

    Since 2002, Lomborg has dedicated his professional life to exploring the best social policies to improve life on Earth given a hypothetical $50 billion a year. In this effort, he co-founded the Copenhagen Consensus that has engaged numerous Nobel Prize winning economists to evaluate the best social policies. This led him to write this book and also edit How to Spend $50 Billion to Make the World a Better Place. After demonstrating that the Kyoto Protocol is ineffective, he also shares how costly it is ($180 billion a year). On table 2 page 162, he benchmarks the Kyoto Protocol’s cost and benefits vs the alternatives. The discrepancy between the two is almost ridiculous. Are you concerned about the polar bears? The Kyoto Protocol would save 0.06 polar bears lives per annum. A simple tighter hunting regulation could easily save 49 polar bears a year at little cost. You are concerned about the spreading of malaria? The Kyoto Protocol would result in 70 million infections avoided over this century. Much cheaper alternatives entailing distribution of mosquitoes net would reduce infections by 28 billion over the same time frame. You are concerned about starvation. The Kyoto Protocol would result in just 2 million fewer starving. Low cost agricultural policies would result in 229 million fewer starving. Thus, social policies deliver often 100 to over 1,000 times the result of the Kyoto Protocol (if countries could meet targets) at less than one third the costs ($50 billion vs $180 billion).

    Regarding CO2 emission, Lomborg recommends a low carbon tax of $2 per ton (vs Al Gore’s $140). He states this tax would reduce emission by 5% which is much more than what the Kyoto Protocol achieves. He also recommends nations to commit 0.05% of GDP in R&D of noncarbon emitting energy technology (about $25 billion a year or 7 times cheaper than Kyoto). He quotes a scientist who states that dramatic CO2 reduction schemes won’t succeed until the public has a cost effective convenient access to an alternative. Lomborg should cheer up; Al Gore has become a venture capitalist working on new energy technologies!

  • American Bandersnatch says:

    Review by American Bandersnatch for Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming (Vintage)
    This is a very short book (164 small pages with another 100 pages of endnotes, references and an index) that tries to add some perspective and reasonableness to an overheated exchange. Lomborg concurs that global warming is occuring and that mankind is contributing to the warming.

    The book focuses on four areas: (1) what is the likely impact (both positive and negative) of global warming, (2) what are the costs and benefits of the ways to address global warming (emissions reductions/adaption/do nothing), (3) the importance of having a rational debate about where resources should be spent to better the human condition over the next century and (4) the difficulty of having such a debate when a number of environmental advocates have become overzealous and strident.

    Lomborg makes his points but he hurries to cover a lot of ground and the book lacks the detail that made his “skeptical environmentalist” so authoritative. This is one of those unusual cases where a book should have been longer; where the author should have taken more time to explore alternative scenarios (e.g. what’s the impact if global warming ends up in the high end of the respected forecasts), more fully describe our responses (e.g. carbon taxes, flood control programs, water retention) and other uses of resources (HIV/AIDS prevenetion, micronutrients, reduced trade barriers). In addition, while Lomborg has been the subject of frequent unfair and vicious written and verbal attacks, sometimes you can feel the impact seep into his writing and it takes away from the calm, rational tone of the book.

    All in all, a quick and highly recommended read.

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