Improvement of the World Environment: The Skeptical Environmentalist
Economic Note / January 2004
During the past generation, a large environmentalist movement has emerged committed to showing that the world is a bad place and is growing progressively worse. This movement is headed by individuals such as Paul Ehrlich and David Pimental, and by organisations such as the World Wide Fund for Nature, Greenpeace, Worldwatch, and many others. Bjørn Lomborg is an Associate Professor of Statistics in the Department of Political Science at the University of Aarhus in Denmark. He is vegetarian who rides a bicycle and approves of big taxes in Denmark on cars and petrol. He is also an environmentalist and is concerned about world poverty. In 1997, he visited California. While browsing in a bookshop there, he came across a profile in Wired magazine of the anti-environmentalist economist Julian Simons, who claimed that there was no problem with resource depletion. Back in Denmark, he set his students the project of disproving the statistics given by Professor Simons. No such disproof could be found.
On the basis of this, Professor Lomborg began an intensive research of the environmentalist claims. He found these in many respects lacking in scientific rigour. They are based on misunderstandings of the material being examined, on selective readings of the material, on exaggerations, and often on unsupported assertion. Using material published by governments and international organisations, Lomborg claimed in a book that was internationally controversial and is now available in French under the title: l’Ecologique Sceptique that the environmentalists cite it misleadingly.