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Bjorn Lomborg

Associate professor of statistics in the Department of Political Science at the University of Aarhus, former Greenpeace member, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist (2001). Lomborg created international storms in the environmental community by showing that selective and misleading use of scientific information is widespread among environmental activists. He argues that while a few problems loom - usually smaller than popularly believed - the resources necessary to tackle the problems are being broadly dispersed and wasted on many fronts made large by the misrepresentation of activist organizations.


We have data for air pollution in London since 1585, estimated from coal imports until 1935 and adjusted to measured pollution from the 1920s until today. This shows how levels of smoke and sulphur pollution increased dramatically over 300 years from 1585, reaching a maximum in the late 19th century, only to drop even faster since then. The levels of the 1980s and 1990s were below the levels of the late 16th century. And despite increasing traffic, particulate emissions are expected to decrease over the next 10 years by 30%... Generally, the data indicates that this picture holds true for all developed countries. Although air pollution is increasing in many developing countries, analyses show they are merely replicating the development of the industrialized countries. When they grow sufficiently rich they, too, will start to reduce their air pollution.

2001 - from The Skeptical Environmentalist as excerpted in the National Post, Sept. 1, 2001
Air pollution is not a new phenomenon that has got worse and worse - it is an old phenomenon, that has been getting better and better.

2001 - from The Skeptical Environmentalist as excerpted in the National Post, Sept. 1, 2001
Knowing the real state of the world is important because fear of largely imaginary environmental problems can divert political energy from dealing with real ones. The Harvard University centre for risk analysis has carried out the world's largest survey of the costs of life-saving public initiatives. Only initiatives whose primary stated political goal is to save human lives are included. Thus the many environmental interventions that have little or no intention to save human lives, such as raising oxygen levels in rivers, improving wetlands and setting up natural reservations, are not considered here... There are tremendous differences in the price to be paid for extra life-years by means of typical interventions: the health service is quite low-priced, at $19,000 per person median price to save a life for one year, but the environment field stands out with a staggeringly high cost of $4.2 million.

2001 - from The Skeptical Environmentalist as excerpted in the National Post, Sept. 1, 2001
Four factors cause [a] disfunction between perception and reality [in beliefs about the state of our environment.] The first is the lopsideness built into scientific research. Scientific funding goes mainly to areas with many problems. That may be wise policy, but it will also create an impression that many more potential problems exist than is the case. [Second is] ... the self-interest of environmental groups... They need to be noticed by the mass media. They also need to keep the money that sustains them rolling in... A third source of confusion is the attitude of the media. People are clearly more curious about bad news than good, and newspapers and broadcasters give the public what it wants. That can lead to significant distortions of perception... The fourth factor is poor individual perception. People worry that the endless rise in the amount of stuff everyone throws away will cause the world to run out of places to dispose of waste. Yet [assuming exaggerated growth rates similar to America's] the total landfill area needed for 21st century U.K. waste would be a meagre 30 metres tall and thirteen kilometres square - an area equivalent to 28% of the Isle of Man.

2001 - from The Skeptical Environmentalist as excerpted in the National Post, Sept. 1, 2001
Developments in agricultural technology... have squeezed ever more food out of each hectare of land. It is this application of human ingenuity that has boosted food production. It has also... reduced the need to take new agricultural land into cultivation, thus reducing the pressure on biodiversity.

2001 - from The Skeptical Environmentalist as excerpted in the National Post, Sept. 1, 2001
Population growth has turned out to have an internal check: as people grow richer and healthier, they have smaller families. Indeed, the growth rate of the human population reached its peak of more than 2% a year in the early 1960s. The rate of increase has been declining ever since. It is now 1.26%, and is expected to fall to 0.46% by 2050. The UN estimates that most of the world's population growth will be over by 2100, with the population stabilizing at just below 11 billion.

2001 - from The Skeptical Environmentalist as excerpted in the National Post, Sept. 1, 2001
According to the UN, agricultural production in the developing world has increased by 52% per person. The daily food intake in developing countries has increased from 1,932 calories in 1961 - barely enough for survival - to 2,650 calories in 1998, and is expected to rise to 3,020 by 2030. Likewise, the proportion of people going hungry in these countries has dropped from 45% in 1945 to 18% today, and is expected to fall even further, to 12% in 2010 and 6% in 2030. Food, in other words, is becoming not scarcer but ever more abundant. This is reflected in its price. Since 1800, food prices have decreased by more than 90%, and in 2000, according to the World Bank, prices were lower than ever before.

2001 - from The Skeptical Environmentalist as excerpted in the National Post, Sept. 1, 2001