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

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

3.5 21
by Bjorn Lomborg

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Bjorn Lomborg argues that many of the elaborate and staggeringly expensive actions now being considered to meet the challenges of global warming ultimately will have little impact on the world’s temperature. He suggests that rather than focusing on ineffective solutions that will cost us trillions of dollars over the coming decades, we should be looking for


Bjorn Lomborg argues that many of the elaborate and staggeringly expensive actions now being considered to meet the challenges of global warming ultimately will have little impact on the world’s temperature. He suggests that rather than focusing on ineffective solutions that will cost us trillions of dollars over the coming decades, we should be looking for smarter, more cost-effective approaches (such as massively increasing our commitment to green energy R&D) that will allow us to deal not only with climate change but also with other pressing global concerns, such as malaria and HIV/AIDS. And he considers why and how this debate has fostered an atmosphere in which dissenters are immediately demonized.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Random House
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2 MB

Read an Excerpt

Global warming has been portrayed recently as the greatest crisis in the history of civilization. As of this writing, stories on it occupy the front pages of Time and Newsweek and are featured prominently in countless media around the world. In the face of this level of unmitigated despair, it is perhaps surprising–and will by many be seen as inappropriate–to write a book that is basically optimistic about humanity’s prospects.
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. Such a course is especially debatable in a world where billions of people live in poverty, where millions die of curable diseases, and where these lives could be saved, societies strengthened, and environments improved at a fraction of the cost.
Global warming is a complex subject. No one–not Al Gore, not the world’s leading scientists, and most of all not myself–claims to have all the knowledge and all the solutions. But we have to act on the best available data from both the natural and the social sciences. The title of this book has two meanings: the first and obvious one is that we have to set our minds and resources toward the most effective way to tackle long-term global warming. But the second refers to the current nature of the debate. At present, anyone who does not support the most radical solutions to global warming is deemed an outcast and is called irresponsible and is seen as possibly an evil puppet of the oil lobby. It is my contention that this is not the best way to frame a debate on so crucial an issue. I believe most participants in the debate have good and honorable intentions–we all want to work toward a better world. But to do so, we need to cool the rhetoric, allowing us to have a measured discussion about the best ways forward. Being smart about our future is the reason we have done so well in the past. We should not abandon our smarts now.
If we manage to stay cool, we will likely leave the twenty-first century with societies much stronger, without rampant death, suffering, and loss, and with nations much richer, with unimaginable opportunity in a cleaner, healthy environment.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Bjorn Lomborg is the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and USA Today. He was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2004. In 2008 he was named “one of the 50 people who could save the planet” by The Guardian; one of the top 100 public intellectuals by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazine; and one of the world’s 75 most influential people of the 21st century by Esquire. He is presently an adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School, and in 2004 he started the Copenhagen Consensus, a conference of top economists who come together to prioritize the best solutions for the world’s greatest challenges.
Visit the author's website at www.lomborg.com.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming (Movie Tie-in Edition) 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bjørn Lomborg, an adjunct professor at Copenhagen Business School and author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, has written another well-researched book. As he writes, ¿Global warming is happening, the consequences are important and mostly negative.¿ He notes that the 2007 International Panel on Climate Change has predicted rises of 1.50C by 2050 and 2.50C by 2100, which will raise sea levels and increase malaria, starvation and poverty. But, Lomborg argues, it does not follow that directly combating climate change through cutting CO2 will do most to maximise human welfare. Preventing disease, providing clean drinking water and feeding people could do more good more cheaply. What are the options? We could, for example, spend $3 billion a year on mosquito eradication, medicine and mosquito nets: this would halve malaria incidence (2 billion infections and one million deaths every year) by 2015. We could spend $4 billion a year on helping three billion people to access clean water and sanitation. Or, by contrast, we could do what the EU tells us and spend $84 trillion to cut CO2 emissions to 20% below 1990 levels, to ensure that the temperature rises by no more than 20C above pre-industrial times. Yet this hugely expensive effort would have only a tiny effect: it would be 2.480C hotter than now by 2100 instead of by 2098. And a 2.5% rise is only what the IPCC predicted would happen anyway! As a 2007 peer-reviewed study in the journal Energy Policy concluded, ¿the 20C target of the EU seems unfounded.¿ Lomborg shows that the consequences of global warming will not be as bad as they have been painted. For example, the IPCC predicted that sea-levels would rise by 29 cm by 2100 (the same as the rise since 1860), as against the 20 feet that Al Gore publicises. We could cope with this by better use of floodplains, more wetlands, stricter building policies and fewer floodplain subsidies. Lomborg shows that global warming does not cause extreme weather events, which are anyway not curable by cutting CO2. The IPCC said of the Hollywood/Pentagon/Al Gore picture of a new ice age triggered by a shutdown of the Gulf Stream, ¿we can confidently exclude this scenario.¿ Fossil fuels have grown the industries that produce the goods we need and give us low-cost light, heat, food, travel and trade. As Lomborg writes, ¿a world without fossil fuels ¿ is a lot like a world gone medieval.¿ So he argues that we need to spend far more on researching renewable energy and energy efficiency. Directly cutting CO2 would be hugely expensive. Lomborg argues that we should do what is both cheaper and more effective - cope with the consequences of global warming rather than try to stop it at source. If he is right, we would maximise human welfare not by rolling back our civilisation¿s industrial advance, but by using our industrial ingenuity and know-how to prevent disease, provide people with food and water, and develop energy resources.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I first saw this title I thought 'Oh man, another book about global warming.' But then, I saw it was by Bjorn Lomborg and started to read the back cover. This book has to be the most refreshing work on global warming I have read in a long while. The author does not deny that global warming exists, and that we are a factor in its rise. Instead he argues that perhaps there are other things we should be more concerned about. The author also suggests that there are different aspects to the global warming debate that are left out, whether on purpose, or due to poor science. Above all, the book offers rational and constructive advice for all people to consider. If you only read one book about Global Warming make it this one. (As trite as that sounds)
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bjorn Lomborg does a great job of describing the global warming 'catastrophe'. He does not just jump all in to a conclusion but thinks about this decision a bit. He does admit that global warming is a problem, but right now we don't have the technology or knowledge to solve this global problem efficiently. It makes more sense to solve the pressing issues of today's world and concentrate more on finding a better solution rather than solving global warming with the ineffective plan we have now. Lomborg really makes some good comparisons, but he does not write this book strictly focused on his opinion. He provides facts to support his ideas, and he shows both sides of the debate.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The great thing about this book is that it looks at the environment and the problems surrounding it with a level-headed and democratic mindset. Everything you read about global warming in the media today leads you to believe that the world is heading toward extinction. It was nice to read something that did not try to scare me into supporting an agenda. Aside from obvious grammer problems, 'Jesse Jenkins, a energy and climate change blogger' (the reviewer below) seemed to have a strong pre-determined view of the environment and likes to spit out stats that don't mean much to people to try and get an agenda across. That is exactly what this book is talking about. Lomborg realizes that global warming IS something that needs to given attention, but it should be looked at with a level-head and a composed mindset. He points out that scare tactics and hysteria do not lead to good debate and it causes us to waste money where it could be put to better use.
ShadMan More than 1 year ago
A refreshing perspective on ehat is actualy emportant
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leopardiNJ More than 1 year ago
Let's see: The nations of the world will have to spend umpteen trillions of dollars to comply with the greenhouse gas reduction goals of the Kyoto Protocol. The reward for spending the world into bankruptcy will be what? Nothing. Hmm. How about trashing this global warming stuff and spending the money elsewhere? Like providing safe drinking water for everybody? Or defeating HIV/AIDS. Very noble. Much cheaper. In what is essentially a pamphlet (with only 130 pages of argument, 42 pages of "notes" and 43 pages of bibliography) rather than an analytical text, Bjorn Lomborg, the self-proclaimed skeptical environmentalist, questions the cost/benefit economics of responding to global climate change. The essential argument Cool It is that on a priority scale ranging from 1 to anything, climate change should rank dead last. Lomborg was either born a debater or picked up his ample debating skills along the way. Cool It repeatedly follows a classical debating style - Find your opponent's weakness, exploit it and pounce over and over or if you can't find a weakness, create one and continue to pounce. Quite frankly, it all gets boring very fast. Science is not a debate. Science proceeds on the weight of evidence, the reproducibility of results and the power of prediction. If the author wants his arguments accepted as objective science, he should have taken his central thesis of relative cost and benefit of GHG reduction and analyzed it systematically and critically. Perhaps he felt that would not have sold books as well. Probably right. Lomborg pulls his numbers from thin air. The system of "notes" that he uses - a 42-page addendum that is organized around snippets of text from the 5 chapters - places all of the burden on the reader for checking on facts and figures. His erratic bibliography is heavily weighted with web and non-refereed journal articles with much of what is refereed in policy, not science journals. But the most damaging aspect of Lomborg's approach to the climate change issue is that world's response to the threat of climate change does not necessarily require a choice between human welfare or the environment. Nor does it follow that ignoring climate change will automatically imply that the world will turn its attention to all the other problems it faces. Richard R. Pardi, Environmental Science, William Paterson University
Guest More than 1 year ago
Like his earlier work, 'The Skeptical Environmentalist,' which prominent Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson called a 'sordid mess' and was found to have cherry-picked the facts, Bjorn Lombord's latest effort, 'Cool It' is more hot air. Lomborg's basic thesis, that 'scare-monger' environmentalists have over-hyped the threat of climate change and that we shouldn't take any serious action to tackle the climate crisis because doing so would harm economic growth that poor people need requires a particularly slanted view of the world and rests on 'facts' selectively picked to support his arguments as he ignores a vast body of science. As economist Eban Goodstein's review of 'Cool It' in Salon writes: 'In 'Cool It,' Lomborg has three messages. First, the planet will warm up no more than 4.7 degrees Fahrenheit this century, and on balance, this will be bad, but not too bad. Second, all benefit-cost models show that serious limits on global warming emissions are too costly, and therefore we should pollute with virtual impunity. And -- surprisingly -- we should invest a decent amount '$25 billion per year' in clean energy technologies now so that, starting in a few decades, we will have tools to slow down global warming just a little bit through 2100.' While I can't agree more with the third point, his first two messages are quite frankly bull. Lomborg's first agrument assumes that global warming will be held to 'only' 4.7 degrees F. First off, that's a swing of temperatures halfway to ice age proportions 'the last ice age was only 9 degrees F colder than today'. Not a big deal, eh? Lomborg argues that as the temperatures heat up, deaths from heat waves will be offset by less deaths from cold exposure. This contradicts the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's authoritative Fourth Assessment Report, released earlier this year. The report does agree that cold deaths will decrease with warming, but says that while 'climate change is projected to bring some benefits, such as fewer deaths from cold exposure ... overall it is expected that these benefits will be outweighed by the negative health benefits of rising temperatures, especially worldwide.' So sure, Mr. Lomborg, less people will die of cold exposure in rich countries in Northern climes. But at the same time, the IPCC report warns that literally billions of people will be affected by water and food shortages, droughts, floods, storms, etc. People in poorer developing countries, the people Lomborg supposedly cares so much about, will be most severely affected. These aren't the made-up scenarios of 'fear-mongering environmentalists.' They're the warnings of an international body of the world's top climate scientists, literally hundreds of them, and the report they produced is truly a consensus document every word in the 'summary for policymakers' report I referenced above has to be approved by representatives of 130+ countries 'including representatives of the Bush Administration'! In fact, throughout his book, Lomborg cites the IPCC report like gospel, all the while selectively ignoring much that doesn't serve his arguments. For example, in assuming that temperatures will not warm by more than 4.7 degrees, despite the inaction that he advocates, he ignores the fact that the IPCC includes a range of temperature estimates going all the way up to 10.5 degrees. The most crucial error in the book - the most glaring oversight that disqualifies the book as a serious examination of the risks and tradeoffs of climate change - is that Lomborg ignores the existence of powerful climate feedback loops hidden within the climate system. As Eban Goodstein writes,: 'The global warming 'alarmism' that Lomborg finds so distasteful is motivated by a serious, science-driven concern that hidden within our global climate system are powerful positive feedback loops. So that as we inch up from 3 to 4 and then 4 to 5 degrees of warming, we may
Guest More than 1 year ago
While Lumborg is certainly entitled to his own opinion, his facts are hand-picked and do not represent the whole global warming picture. Idly allowing an increase of 4 and a half degrees is insane due to the costs of dealing with the consequences. Displacement from rising ocean levels, droughts and monsoons due to shifting weather patterns, and the subsequent loss of farmland are reasons alone to try to keep global warming to a minimum doing whatever we can. Ignoring the feedback loops is just as dangerous, and while Lumborg argues against sensationalist environmentalism, it is no more sensational or emotional to appeal to the natural laziness of the average person.