Global Warming's Danish Denialist Coming to America: Part 1

In 2004, Time magazine named Bjorn Lomborg one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He's a hot selling author who's managed to carve out a reputation for occupying the reasonable middle ground in the global warming debate.

He's done that by calling himself a "skeptical environmentalist," even though he's hardly an environmentalist. He's a 43-year-old adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School with a PhD in political science who once directed Denmark's Environmental Assessment Institute for a period of two years.

And "skeptical?" Well, there's a much more accurate adjective. If you really read what he has to say, he's not skeptical, just, well, awfully dumb, his impressive resume and personal web site notwithstanding.

Here's how dumb. A primary pillar of his argument about global warming, which he develops in his book called Cool It, is this: global warming will actually save lives, because when the temperature rises, fewer people will die of cold. Really.

His logic suggests that he wouldn't take coals to Newscastle, but he'd stuff his suitcase full of marshmallows for a trip to Varanasi. To Bjorn, global warming means a rise of a few degrees in temperature, merely. He fails to grasp that a few degrees translates into massive global climate disruption, and so he can only comprehend the impact of global warming this way:

.....we may just notice people wearing fewer layers of clothes on a winter's evening. (p.12)

Presumably while watching 120 million South Asians displaced by rising sea levels on television?

Yet Bjorn is wildly popular, a darling of the media and also of denialists in America, who are hosting him next week for a talk at a Manhattan Institute breakfast at the New York Yacht Club. Bjorn, you see, doesn't fit the established denialist mold. He accepts that man-made global warming is happening. He just denies that we need to do anything about it. And that's precisely why he's become a hot right-wing property.

America's home-grown denialist campaign is now hitting a wall and is need of a new strategy. Denying climate science, like Senator Inhofe likes to do, doesn't work well anymore. Even Exxon is hiding the details of its continued funding of denialists. This sea change was exemplified last week on ABC World News, which exposed the work of the denial machine's chief guru Fred Singer as "fraudulent nonsense." When major TV networks start going against you, you know your days are probably numbered.

So Bjorn is arriving in New York just in the nick of time. He's a charming foreign import, above the partisan fray, half Fred Singer's age, who comes on a mission to replace the truly disturbing global scientific consensus on global warming with his own Copenhagen Consensus, which says the world has better things to do than fight global warming.

His message of complacency encourages you to forget about global warming and go shopping at the nearest IKEA. That's why there's a danger in Bjorn that goes beyond his stupidity. His pre-fabricated "consensus" on global warming sets up a false moral choice that ought to deeply offend the American national sensibility.

His neat, flat-pack thinking not only doesn't fit together as you'd expect from a Scandinavian product, it's also intellectually dishonest and lethally misleading. In subsequent posts over the next two days, we'll be looking at the wares he'll be peddling in New York next week in order to provide inoculation against the well-marketed brand of denialism that's uniquely his.

Please stay tuned.

Tomorrow: Bjorn's Copenhagen Consensus, and how it sets up a false choice designed to stack the deck against sensible climate action.

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