Statistics and Environmentalists:
The Case of Bjorn Lomborg


Illuminant by
Robert Wilfred Franson


September 2004


There has been an interesting campaign in the scientific press and in the popular-scientific press, as well as (for a while) in the Danish politico-scientific community, against Bjorn Lomborg's book The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World.

Bjorn Lomborg provides a Critique webpage with a brief overview of this debate, with pointers to many relevant documents. The quality of the criticism varies, but it seems to me that Lomborg tries to answer both the detailed and general objections to his theses. Unfortunately, he says, Scientific American would not allow him to reprint their articles attacking The Skeptical Environmentalist, so Lomborg's counter-arguments for that magazine stand rather alone. But they can be followed well enough.

(Of course the great Star that dominates our astrophysical neighborhood is rather more radiant than many of our circumscribed theories.)

In rebuttal to those of the scientifically-correct establishment who claim to be defending science itself by attacking Lomborg, The Economist ran a scathing editorial: Defending science: The fury inspired by a new book is extraordinary, and raises some questions (31 January 2002; web-subscription). This is an excellent overview, and itself to be commended as a service to understanding how science works in the community.

Lomborg's book says, in effect:

  • These are the revealing numbers about important aspects of the environment.
  • What interesting conclusions must therefore follow from these statistics?
  • All right, now we may consider or re-consider what public and private policy should be.

Lomborg's statistics hold many surprises contrary to our heretofore emotionally or politically allowable wisdom, and many people are upset and angry. Yet surely our use and conservation of the Earth are better managed when we have pertinent information and honest analysis. Science is not about allowable wisdom.


© 2004 Robert Wilfred Franson

W. H. Stoddard's review of
The Skeptical Environmentalist:
  Measuring the Real State of the World

Bjorn Lomborg on
The Climate-Industrial Complex
at The Wall Street Journal


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