Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cool It

Cool It
I tried to like the book Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming by Bjorn Lomborg. I patted myself on the back for approaching it with an open mind. The opening paragraphs of the preface seemed inviting: “That humanity has caused a substantial rise in atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels over the past centuries, thereby contributing to global warming, is beyond debate. What is debatable, however, is whether hysteria and headlong spending on extravagant CO2-cutting programs at an unprecedented price is the only possible response.” Seems reasonable enough, so I dove in.

In chapter 1, Lomborg talks about polar bears and one comes away with the idea that polar bears are increasing in numbers, not decreasing as is generally discussed in the media. The polar bear “story” is vastly exaggerated and based on emotional claims - this is the take away message. In chapter 2, Lomborg talks about rising temperatures and postulates that fewer people will die when the temperature rises. The argument goes something like this: the decline in cold-related deaths will be larger than the rise in heat-related deaths. Sounds a bit odd, doesn’t it? It did to me and after this I stopped reading the actual book and started reading more about the book and found that the book is quite controversial and is surrounded by lots of heated debate. There is quite a dissection of the book at Lomborg Errors with rebuttal by the author here. In addition the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty charged the book as containing misleading data and flawed conclusions. Ultimately the findings were rejected by an oversight body. In terms of spending time trying to parse what side is correct, this book is going on the back shelf for a while. Proceed with caution on this one.

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