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Cambridge University Press
The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World / Edition 1

The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World / Edition 1

by Bjørn Lomborg
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Bjørn Lomborg, a former member of Greenpeace, challenges widely held beliefs that the world environmental situation is getting worse and worse in his new book, The Skeptical Environmentalist. Using statistical information from internationally recognized research institutes, Lomborg systematically examines a range of major environmental issues that feature prominently in headline news around the world, including pollution, biodiversity, fear of chemicals, and the greenhouse effect, and documents that the world has actually improved. He supports his arguments with over 2500 footnotes, allowing readers to check his sources. Lomborg criticizes the way many environmental organizations make selective and misleading use of scientific evidence and argues that we are making decisions about the use of our limited resources based on inaccurate or incomplete information. Concluding that there are more reasons for optimism than pessimism, he stresses the need for clear-headed prioritization of resources to tackle real, not imagined, problems. The Skeptical Environmentalist offers readers a non-partisan evaluation that serves as a useful corrective to the more alarmist accounts favored by campaign groups and the media. Bjørn Lomborg is an associate professor of statistics in the Department of Political Science at the University of Aarhus. When he started to investigate the statistics behind the current gloomy view of the environment, he was genuinely surprised. He published four lengthy articles in the leading Danish newspaper, including statistics documenting an ever-improving world, and unleashed the biggest post-war debate with more than 400 articles in all the major papers. Since then, Lomborg has been a frequent participant in the European debate on environmentalism on television, radio, and in newspapers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780521010689
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication date: 08/28/2001
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 540
Sales rank: 217,742
Product dimensions: 6.85(w) x 9.72(h) x 1.38(d)

About the Author

Bjørn Lomborg is an Associate Professor of Statistics in the Department of Political Science, University of Aarhus, Denmark. He has published in international journals in the fields of game theory and computer simulations. He has given invited lectures on the subjects discussed in The Skeptical Environmentalist in leading universities in North America and Europe following the success of the original Danish edition which has had a significant impact on the terms of the environmental debate within Scandinavia.

Table of Contents

Introduction; Part I. The Litany: 1. Things are getting better; 2. Why do we hear so much bad news?; Part II. Human Welfare: 3. Measuring human welfare; 4. Life expectancy and health; 5. Food and hunger; 6. Prosperity; 7. Conclusion; Part III. Can Human Prosperity Continue?: 8. Are we living on borrowed time?; 9. Will we have enough food; 10. Forests - are we losing them?; 11. Energy; 12. Non-energy resources; 13. Water; 14. Conclusion; Part IV. Pollution: 15. Air pollution; 16. Acid rain and forest death; 17. Indoor air pollution; 18. Allergies and asthma; 19. Water pollution; 20. Waste: running out of space?; 21. Conclusion; Part V. Tomorrow's Problems: 22. Our chemical fears; 23. Biodiversity; 24. Global warming; Part VI. The Real State of the World: 25. Predicament or progress?; Notes; Bibliography.

What People are Saying About This

Lewis Wolpert

At last a book that gives the environment the scientific analysis it deserves, and provides understanding of the problem, the risks and the solutions. Essential reading.
— Professor Lewis Wolpert, Department of Anatomy and Biology, University College London

Lars Kristoferson

When Lomborg concludes that'...the loss of the world's rainforests, of fertile agricultural land, the ozone layer and of the climate balance are terrible..'I agree. But we also need debate, and this book provides us with that in generous amounts, including 2,428 footnotes. If you, like I do, belong to the people who dare to think the world is making some progress, but always with mistakes to be corrected, this book makes important reading.
— Professor Lars Kristoferson, Secretary Genral, WWF Sweden

Jack Hirshleifer

Bjorn Lomborg is an outstanding representative of the new breed of political scientists-mathematically-skilled and computer-adept. In this book he shows himself also to be a hard-headed, empirically-oriented analyst. Surveying a vast amount of data and taking account of a wide range of more and less informed opinion about environmental threats facing the planet, he comes to a balanced assessment of which ones are real and which over-hyped.
— Professor Jack Hirshleifer, Department of Economics, University of California, Los Angeles

Mark Ridley

The Skeptical Environmentalist should be read by every environmentalist so that the appaling errors of fact the environmental movement as made in the past are not repeated. A brilliant and powerful book.
— Matt Ridley, author of Genome

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The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The false optimism of this book leave the reader with the impression that if we just close our eyes to the destruction of wetlands and rainforests and our mouths and noses to the increasing pollution in the air, everything will be just fine. The very premise of the book--that statistics about the environment are false--is backed up with other statistics designed by the author. I hope I'm not the only person to notice the hypocrisy there...
Guest More than 1 year ago
Book Busted This book interested me, so I did some research. Apparently the book is not based on accurate science. Why? Read on... 'But now that the Danish Research Agency¿s Committees on Scientific Dishonesty has busted the author, contrarians may have to wait for a new treatise. After examining scientific criticism of The Skeptical Environmentalist (see 'Mixed Media,' March/April 2002), the Danish agency, which is akin to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, concluded that the book fell 'within the concept of scientific dishonesty' and 'was clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice.' But because Lomborg lacks 'any special scientific expertise,' the agency could not rule that he 'misled his readers deliberately or with gross negligence.' In other words, the committee did not accuse Lomborg of intentionally distorting science, but only of knowing too little science to be able to do so.For example, he assures us that the percentage of people starving in sub-Saharan Africa decreased from 38 to 33 percent between 1970 and 1996. What he doesn¿t mention is that the population of the region roughly doubled during this period, meaning that the actual number of starving people has greatly increased. This sly approach also lets him contend that acid rain is harmless to forests, by using a single graph that was never published in a peer-reviewed journal¿while conveniently ignoring numerous reputable forest studies that document serious damage. Similarly, Lomborg¿s estimate of extinction rates of .7 percent every 50 years is 15 to 40 times lower than that of almost all the qualified scientists who have studied extinction. To arrive at these figures, he juxtaposes the known number of extinct species against a total number of millions of species about which we have no information at all. Lomborg addresses global warming by choosing economic models that claim it¿s too costly to mandate reductions in carbon-based energy emissions. But then he assures us that emissions will decline anyway 'as we move towards ever cheaper renewable energy sources.' Technological change will somehow save the day even though his sources say that it¿s unaffordable. Like his predecessors¿, Lomborg¿s effort fails because of half-truths, super-selective use of data, and egregious misinterpretation. A better title might have been The Selective Opportunist. Lomborg¿s authority to write this book hinges on his environmentalist credentials¿which, apart from being endlessly promoted in news releases, are incredibly thin. Membership in Greenpeace in the 1980s hardly qualifies one as an environmental authority. One has to wonder if Cambridge University Press abandoned the normal protocol of peer review to publish a book by a statistician with no proven expertise in environmental science. This would be akin to a journal like Nature publishing, without review by an astronomer, an article on celestial motion by an accountant. ¿Jeffrey A. Harvey, Department of Multitrophic Interactions, Netherlands Institute of Ecology
Guest More than 1 year ago
the environmental threats to the earth have been well demonstrated by sound science expertise in stastics is not particulary useful to a general analysis of the subject area the attempts of industry to greenwash all the problems away is well demonstrated the respected journal THE ECOLOGIST reviewed it briefly giving the web site of environmental studies at the author's university as a critical reference, as stating that this book did not deserve any publicity this book deserves to be treated with extreme caution
PastorBob on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've been paying attention to Lomborg for some time, and have seen his "Cool It" book which was much fun, but a relatively light read. The Skeptical Environmentalist lays out the solid data lying behind lighter presentations of Bjørn's lectures and work. Challenged by the claim of the great economist, Julian Simon, that the world was actually getting better whilst the masses were being led astray into believing otherwise, Lomborg undertook to research the real numbers and statistics lying behind the great crises and social problems in our world today. The result is a masterful assembly and presentation of the kind of information professors hide from undergraduates likely to question the political party line. With 2930 endnotes and a 70 page bibliography (in a 7" x 9.5" book!) Lomborg gives ample data on Human Welfare, Pollution, forestry, biodviersity, energy and resources, and much more. This book is a definitive must read for anyone hoping to interact intelligently with the greatest debates of our time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Given the choice, would you rather have a cardiac surgeon perform your heart surgery or would you prefer your auto mechanic to perform the surgery.  Bjorn Lomborg is a Statistician and he’s NOT an Environmental Scientist.  The contents of the book are filled with cherry picked pieces of information that’s disingenuously reorganized to make it persuasive for the laymen.  This book represents the perfect example of quote, “The best lies are based on the truth, at least in part” - Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel.  Unfortunately, special interest groups now use this book as a tool for promoting their political and financial agendas which causes people to vote in ways against their own self-interest. 
just_gene More than 1 year ago
i might be UN-PC, politically incorrect... but i've been a real environmentalist since EARTH DAY ONE... i've cleaned streams... cleaned garbage... got my hands dirty this is why i like BJORN LOMBERG SCIENCE IS DISCUSSION... SCIENCE IS TRUTH... SCIENCE IS REPEATABLE he offers real science... real thinking.... NO DOGMA think impact... think choices... think less impact do your research... call the press and tell them what you find out... then tell CONGRESS... then tell THE WHITE HOUSE stand up and ASK why DATA IS DESTROYED.... ASK is there a HIDDEN AGENDA... be it PROFIT or GLOBAL GOVERNMENT... then stress real environmentalism... do more research... DEMAND LESS IMPACT FROM BUSINESS AND GOVERNMENT
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an extremely critical book on a range of environmental topics. The approach is to examine the statistical basis of many assertions and observations regarding environmental issues, and focuses on long-term trends. The outcome of this analysis is that indeed environmental problems and concerns have been remediated, and the future looks very good. The book's findings challenges the prevailing paradigms of European bureacrats and American environmentalists and shows that the sky isn't falling, nor is it necessary to panic from short term observations. The key lesson is to verify before asserting and hyping a problem, to look at long-term trends and to use rigorous and quantitative methods to evaluate the results. That doesn't mean there aren't problems, but the good news is they can be addressed and solved, and most have been solved. I had to downgrade the rating because of the awkward writing style of the author. Frankly speaking, I fault the editors at Cambridge Univesity Press for (1) failing to properly edit the wordy text and rambling writing style, and (2)failing to make many of the diagrams self-contained. At one time, I taught for nearly 24 years at the University of Illinois @ Urbana-Champaign, and if Lomborg's mansucript was turned in to me for a PhD (or Master's) dissertation, I would have required a massive rewrite before recommending acceptance and awarding the degree.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Outstanding analysis of the environmental debate. Those who gave the book 'one star' never read it. With 2930 footnotes and a 72 page bibliography Lomborg lays out ALL the accepted data (mainly from UN development agencies), rather than picking and choosing 'the sky is falling' items like the religious zealots who call themselves environmentalists. By putting things in perspective, voters can make better decisions on how best to allocate our resources to have the best life for everyone on the planet.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As some have previously alluded to, The Skeptical Environmentalist was under review from Danish courts. Only, this time, they actually managed to read the book and came to the same conclusions. This is a wonderful book with more facts, figures, references, and charts than any topic ever written on environmentalism and the political structures built around it. The decision in the court case is listed at
Guest More than 1 year ago
Those put off reading this book by the report from the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSC), may be interested to note that on December 22, 2003 the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation severely repudiated this board. The DCSC report was, to be charitable, a piece of junk, but its conclusions, coming from an official body, have nonetheless been given prominent display in the world's media. The Ministry of Science characterized the DCSC's treatment of the case as 'dissatisfactory,' 'deserving criticism,' and 'emotional.' It found that the ruling was 'completely void of argumentation.' The DCSC relied for its ruling on excerpts from a Scientific American article. The only other evidence came from Time magazine. In its conclusion, the Ministry sent the case back to the DCSD 'with an injunction that the DCSD should allow itself to be advised by the Danish Social Science Research Council in matters regarding good scientific practice. In summary, the Ministry must also state that, in its opinion, the treatment by the DCSD of this case deserves criticism.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
Contrary to the reviews of others here, Lomberg has been cleared of charges of academic dishonesty and the committee that brought the charges against him has been publicly chastised by the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. It seems clear that the smear campaign conducted by the environmental lobby against this book is a result of their knowledge that Lomberg is correct. Get the facts by reading this book
Guest More than 1 year ago
Those of us in the general public depend upon dedicated scientists objectively studying and presenting findings through the critical application of scientific method. It is a criminal betrayal and an intellectual travesty when political agendum are legitimized by misrepresenting falsehoods, deceptions and outright lies as 'scientific' results. Dr. Lomborg's book helps restore some integrity to the analysis of serious concerns that have been trivialized by the 'sky is falling' human hating arguments of the radical environmentalist.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bjorn Lomborg, Associate Professor of Statistics at Denmark¿s Aarhus University, aims to allow us to see the real state of the world more clearly by confronting myths with data. He seeks to use only the best available statistical information from internationally recognised research institutes: 2930 references and a 70-page bibliography attest to the depth of his research into health, life expectancy, food, forests, resources, pollution and global warming. For example, we are constantly told that our forests are vanishing, but according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the world¿s forests covered 40.24 million square kilometres in 1950, and 43.04 million in 1994. 80% of the world¿s original rainforest is still intact. The evidence that Lomborg presents undermines the misanthropic scare mongering of leading environmentalists like Paul Ehrlich, who said in 1967 that India was doomed. Lomborg explodes the Greens¿ litany of disaster and their liberal contempt for productive forces; he shows how wonderfully creative workers are, and how technological progress brings great benefits. Listening to some Greens, you would think that our factories produced only pollution! In the historic debate between the anti-industry parson Malthus and the pro-industry Marx, Lomborg is clearly with Marx. Unfortunately, Lomborg mistakenly credits `market economies¿, not workers¿ creativity, for this progress, although, as he notes, the most important welfare improvement of the last 50 years was achieved in post-revolutionary China, and the most significant worsening of welfare has happened in post-counter-revolutionary Russia and Eastern Europe. Some environmentalists mistakenly damn GM foods, pesticides, the chlorination of water and vaccination, technological achievements that all help to save us from killer diseases. As Lomborg points out, nobody has died from eating GM foods, or from cancer caused by pesticides, or from chlorination or vaccination. Banning GM foods and pesticides would reduce yields of fruit and veg, making them dearer and diets worse, and would therefore increase deaths from cancer. Peru didn¿t chlorinate its water, which resulted in the cholera epidemic of 1991. Falling rates of vaccination are increasing the risks of lethal epidemics. He does not ignore the huge problems facing the world: every year, ten million children under the age of five die of preventable diseases; 1.1 billion people still have no clean drinking water, and 2.5 billion have no access to sanitation. But to solve these problems, we need a clear-headed prioritisation of resources, not counsels of despair.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Very many people have been and will be upset by Lomborg's book. I personally was intrigued by it because I subscribed to two different publications that took opposite sides in their reviews of it, namely The Economist and Scientific American, both outstanding publications. I obviously liked the book -- I read it in practically one day, on vacation. If you listen to the negative press and avoid reading the book, you will be missing a chance to exercise your mind and challenge many preconceptions you may have about the state of the world today. After (or even before) you've read the book, track down the detailed negative review and point-by-point rebuttal that Lomborg submitted to Scientific American, on Sci Am's website or Lomborg's home page. Be warned, you're going to have to decide for yourself who speaks more clearly, who makes more sense. Lomborg notes (as do I) that many of the folks who are crying foul are those who are targeted in his book, and I note someone from the World Research Institute has also responded negatively on this site. Whomever you end up believing, it is clear that everyone who addresses environmental issues must come to terms with the facts raised in this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lomborg brings reason and sanity to the debate on the state of the world. The debate for the most part has been dominated by leftists political extremists posing as environmentalists. And, of course, the main stream media can not be relied on for accurate information. Lomborg fills a great vaccum.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In this book Mr. Lomburg proves to have a preoccupation with reality, and that¿s not a bad thing. It is very refreshing to find someone who can represent environmental science on a factual instead of fictional standing. It has been very frightening to watch the art of soothsaying elevated to the height of an actual science and then this so-called ¿science¿ used to achieve political power. As Stephen Schweider (global ¿cooling¿ scare/scam) has said, ¿Each of us (greens) has to decide the right balance between being effective and being honest¿ which in fact tells us our gullibility is no longer in question. The peer review process so often mentioned is no more than bad science ¿back patting¿. I have read the reviews in the so-called reputable publications and have found very little resembling objective science rebuffs. Instead they have resorted to emotional tantrums and irrational outbursts, which is typical of those not having a leg to stand on. One good thing did come out of reading these reviews though¿ it provides me with a very good guideline of what publications not to rely on for scientific insight. With this book Mr. Lomburg successfully weakened the cartoon foundation the greens have been building for so long. It is now up to ACTUAL scientists to knock it down altogether, re-take the intellectual high ground and prevent science from ever being used as a political weapon again. It¿s up to us to stop buying the snake oil.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lomborg makes a strong case that most of the environmental scares that consume newsprint are paper tigers. There are masses of data to support his arguments, which is very reassuring since there is enough for the reader to study the data themselves and draw one's own conclusions. He is certainly rather glib in places; for instance in discussing oil, he blithely adds up all the oil, compares it to consumption, and says we have at least 60 years left. This gives no consideration to the fact that the vast majority of the oil is found in the most unstable parts of the world. As an example of the kind of risk we run all the time and don't give a second thought to, he points out that plants are loaded with natural pesticides (because they can't defend themselves by running away) and these have measurable carcinogenic risks. The risk from coffee for instance if far higher than any synthetic pesticide, and alcohol is a hundred times higher again. It shows beautifully how people fear the unfamiliar to a much higher degree than is rational.
Guest More than 1 year ago
We are doing some things right. We CAN improve the environment and the quality of life on this planet. The author of this book was skeptical about statements made by some American business men stating that the world environment was actually improving on many fronts. The author assigned his top students and researchers to debunk the statements. What they found was that a rational scientific analysis of the data clearly shows that WE ARE MAKING PROGRESS and that by most measures, the world environment is IMPROVING. This is not to say that we do not have a lot of work to do. We do. However we must make accurate measurements and assessments of the current conditions so that our efforts may be directed to the right places. All too frequently environmental groups such as Green Peace cry wolf and overstate a problem to the extent their credibility goes to zero. Read this book before taking any more gloom and doom statements at face value. Excellent book. Well researched. Very well documented with many references.