ecostory 32/2007
The BBC interviewing the environmental charlatan Bjørn Lomborg
home | Climate | Energy | Sustainability | back
Welcome to the BBC World Service.
This is Europe Today with news and comments from across Europe.

(6 April 2007, 18:00 h - Transcript and comments: ecoglobe)

Let's talk about global warming again now. We were hearing earlier about the report released today in Brussels by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which paints an apocalyptic picture of failing crops, water shortages and extreme weather conditions.

Two and a half thousand of the world's top scientists have agreed on the text. But is this the final word on the matter? Bjørn Lomborg wrote a best-selling book 'The Sceptical Environmentalist'. He doesn't doubt that the climate is getting hotter but he isn't convinced that the politicians are taking the right approach. He gave me his reactions to today's report.
    (Lomborg) "It's a good overview of all the things that we know. But the main problem I think is that they have a tendency to tell us what will happen if we don't actually change any things. In their main presentation of all the evidence they specifically tell us down in the footnotes, adaptation to climate change is not included in these estimations. And that's just simply fairly unrealistic. That doesn't give us a good sense of what's going to happen when you tell how many people are actually going to be in risk of flooding. Well, if you expect that people are just going to continue doing whatever they do now, not change anything, then obviously, as sea levels rise - 30 centimeters or so - you will see more flooding. But of course we will also actually deal with that as we have over the last 150 years, where sea levels rose about 30 centimeters."
    [The report is meant as a warning what can happen if we don't act. Lomborg is beyond the point. "30 centimeters or so" is distorting the facts. Instead of "or so" the report actually mentioned up to 90 centimeters. Lomborg claims to know what is going to happen and he also seems to know that our future action will be successful. This is in stark contradiction to what real scientists say, i.e. that climate change is unstoppable and that emissions' reductions of up to 90 percent are required to stabilise the climate gases in the atmosphere. And climate change is much more than sea level rise. It's weather extremes, droughts, mud slides and floodings of river basins, drinking water shortage, famines, pollution by sewerage failure, infectuous diseases, and more.]
(BBC) I suppose it's difficult to factor that in, though. Isn't it? Becaus it's not quite known how people are going to react and what goverments are going to do.
    Well, not really. We do know that it is likely that people will at least spend the same proportion of their GDP on dealing with this. So as they get richer they'll clearly deal much better with these issues. And the difference is dramatic. If you look at how many people get flooded today, it's about ten million. Now, if you just expect sea levels are going to rise by about 30 centimeters by the end of the century and we are going to have many more people on the planet, that means we'll have about a hundred million getting flooded each year. But if we also expect that people will spend more money, as they get richer, dealing with this issue, it's likely that we will have less than one million people. And I think you have a very different political impact of saying a hundred people are going to get flooded each year by the end of the century or saying a little less than a million people are going to get flooded.
    [Lomborg's "getting richer" are wild speculations of a simpleton not bothered by scientific standards. People in the developing countries are getting poorer. Before the middle of the century 'Peak Oil' will have struck and probably severely hampered present manufacturing and distribution structures. Combined with a world population of 9 billion by 2050 and resource shortages of various kinds - on top of the consequences of climate change - this may well lead to resource wars and many millions of refugees - long before the end of the century. ]
This report is supposed to be politically neutral but do you think by coming up with the bolder more dramatic figure, part of the thinking is that politicians are more likely to get involved.
    I think there's a technical part of the reason for why they do this. As you mention it's easier to estimate. But clearly there is also this want to try to do good, to alarm us, to make sure that we act. However, I think there's a good chance that we will end up acting in the wrong way. Because basically cutting carbon emissions now, which is what is the thinking behind the Kyoto Protocol and the EU's new decisions to cut their emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, makes us feel good but it actually makes very little difference in the long run. For two reasons. Partly we're a very small part of the total carbon emission and secondly most of the emissions that will come for the rest of the century will come from poor countries that cannot afford to do what we do right now. So if want want to make sure that we actually deal with climate change on the long run, we have to focus much more on bringing down the costs of cuttig carbon. Right now that cost is about 30 dollars per ton of carbon. If we make to make it down to perhaps 3 dollars per ton of carbon, we could also get India and China on board.
    [The BBC did not say it's easier to estimate. Even if the Kyoto Protocol would be of a little use (it is in fact counterproductive, leading to inceased emissions) we still have to do what we can, independent of what others do. Most emissions are caused by transportation. Cutting carbon by money probably refers to so-called Carbon Capping and Storage for the emissions of power stations. CCS is a pilot project only and is not sure if it will ever be operational on a large scale. ]
So how to bring that cost down?
    Basically by investing in research and development, on energy sources none carbon emitting, energy sources that could be carbon... [stutter]) that could be renewables, it could be carbon capture, it could be conservation. There is many different opportunities. But the idea is to say, let's not spend money just simply because it makes us feel good by cutting emissions a little bit now. Which will have virually no effect by the end of this century. But let's much more focus on making sure we get the costs down so that everybody will be much more inclined to do so by mid-century.
    [Lomborg is giving a non-answer, simply repeating that we must bring costs down. He voices the wide-spread - albeit faulty - belief that technology will do the job. First, technology is not available and probably not going to work. Second, technology requires resources and produces emissions in its own right. ]
That was Bjørn Lomborg, author of 'The Sceptical environmentalist'.

Lomborg is a professional doubter. His book has been widely condemned by the environmental community as a collection of fabrications, distortions of facts and biased interpretations.
The BBC's choice to allow this charlatan to shed doubt upon the findings of 2500 serious scientists could be explained by an subconscious trial to repress the horror scenarios painted in the climate change report.
On the other hand the media think it is their duty to be controversial and entertaining. But it actually creates far more doubts than justified and thus hampers a development towards societal change for the better.
The issue that remains unmentioned is the here-and-now option of reducing emissions by changing our lifestyles and societal structures. Localisation, slowing down, longevity, contraction instead of economic growth are other options that will dramatically reduce emissions and at the same time achieve the much needed reduction of the resource depletion rate.
The earth is really finite and overburdened by humanity. We can't carry on like this. In the media and in politics the issues of climate change, resource shortages and depletion are carefully separated from economic expansion (growth) - as if they would not be linked.

    This is BBC news (6 April 2007)
    Scientists and officials from around the world have published a key report on the impact of global warming. The documet agreed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change paints a stark picture of the consequences of rising temperatures. It says the lives of millions of people will be lighted in the coming decades by drought, flood and hunger. No region is likely to escape. Those living in poor countries will suffer most. Saleen Alhac is one of the authors.
    The evidence is now so overwhelming from all over the globe, from the polar regions to the tropics. Looking at cyclones in the Idian Ocean and the Atlantic and the Pacific. Looking at droughts in the mid-continents of Africa and Asia. Looking at the floods across the world, heat waves in Europe. The accumulation of this evidence that we have harnished is very very overwhelming that there is no other explanation other than climate change is already happening.

    You're listening to Newshour with me Audrey Carville
    on the BBC World Service
    (6 April 2007 22:00h)
    Famine, floods, water shortages, avalanches and species extinction. This apocaliptic vision will be the result of global warming in less than twenty years unless countries develop policies to stop it. After five years of research that is the stark conclusion of a panel of the world's leading scientists and approved by an international conference on global warming. According to the panel's chairman, Rajendra Pachurai, the world's most disadvantaged will be the worst affected.
    "It's the poorest of the poor in the world - and this includes poor people even in prosperous societies - who are going to be the worst hit and who are the most vulnerable. People who are poor are least equipped to be able to adapt to the impacts of climate change and therfore in some snse this does become a global responsibility in my view."
  • IPCC summary for Policy Makers
  • Lomborg's The Sceptical Environmentalist and Biodiversity
  • The deceptive terminology of climate change (BBC)
  • Deceptive "solutions" to climate change - Question time at the Climate and Diplomacy Conference at the HEI of Geneva 19.1.2007
  • The limits to growth (ecostory 17-2004)
  • sustainability
  • time-growth scenarios
  • stop growth letters
  • home | site map a-z | ecostory | feedback
    ecoglobe realistic