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Keywords: Climate change, global warming, science, science policy

Title: Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming

Author: Bjorn Lomborg

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish/Knopf

ISBN: 0462099121/0307266923

 

Not by any stretch of the imagination is Bjorn Lomborg a 'climate change denier'. Lomborg, the Skeptical Environmentalist, is not a skeptic when it comes to the theory that anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions cause global warming. He is not a skeptic who disputes the basic theory presented by the IPCC. He makes all of this abundantly clear in Cool It. Life would be simpler for those who want to avoid critical scrutiny of the claims put forward by the IPCC if Lomborg could simply be dismissed as just another 'denialist' who fundamentally disagrees with anthropogenic global warming (AGW).

Instead Lomborg accepts the basic theory and then subjects the evidence and conclusions to critical scrutiny. For this he has been attacked and pilloried, for it seems critical scrutiny is not allowed these days. Such is the state of public discourse when it comes to climate change, that only those who accept without questions the revealed truths from Al Gore, James Hansen and the IPCC can be accorded respect. For those who want to really discuss the issues, however, Lomborg provides plenty of food for thought.

Lomborg's arguments are two-fold. First, he assesses the evidence and concludes that the most alarmist of statements simply do not stand examination. Temperature rise, sea-level rise, increased hurricane activity, increased heat deaths and many of the other favourite horror stories trotted out regularly in the media are simply not backed up by the evidence. The evidence is rather mixed and in fact even the IPCC has been scaling down the future horrors that it predicts for some time now.

Just as importantly Lomborg looks at the options open to us to tackle climate change. Again his conclusions go against the so-called consensus view that reductions in CO2 emissions are the best way to proceed. A good part of this book is a skilful demolition of the Kyoto agreement. He argues convincingly that this would be a criminal waste of precious resources and would do much harm and little ultimate good, even in the case of the worst climate change predictions coming true.

Even for those who are wedded to the AGW theory, Lomborg presents compelling arguments that suggest that economic development is the better bet for the future. When there are so many problems in the world that need tackling now, it is indeed insane to even contemplate spending trillions of dollars to reduce emissions in the hope that one day in the future we might be able to shave a few fractions of a degree from the temperature. Malaria, poverty, indoor pollution from burning dung and wood, improved sanitation, access to education for the poor?There are other areas that are more worthy of attention and dollars and which will ultimately lead to the kinds of improvements that will make adaptation to increased warming much easier.

Those who doubt that the climate is controlled by a single variable (CO2), and who dispute the AGW-theory will find this book as interesting and as useful as those who do accept the so-called consensus. For those who believe that we need a new and more powerful post-Kyoto treaty there are some powerful arguments marshalled here that deserve a hearing.

Contents © London Book Review 2008. Published 21 April 2008