Bjorn Lomborg, a controversial scientist who dismisses doom-mongering over global warming has come under fire from former UK planning minister Tim Yeo for using ‘seductive but dangerous’ arguments based on flimsy evidence. Lomborg told the British Council for Offices conference in Edinburgh he accepted warming was happening but the threats had been exaggerated and efforts to reduce CO2 emissions misguided.
The Kyoto agreement would postpone a critical average temperature rise by only six years but at a vast cost of $350bn a year. ‘This is equivalent to the total aid to third world counties – the very ones we are trying to protect.’ The money would be better spent giving everyone in those countries clean water and better sanitation. ‘That would save 2m lives in a year,’ said Lomborg.
He also attacked fears about increased air pollution, pesticide dangers and diminishing natural resources. Air was cleaner than since medieval times, alcohol killed more people than pesticides and renewable fuels were replacing oil – which in any case continued to flow despite claims going back to the 1920s that it was about to run out.
These arguments, first aired in the statistics teacher’s book The Skeptical Environmentalist, made him an overnight hate figure for environmentalists but won applause from the Bush administration, which withdrew from the Kyoto agreement. But leading Conservative Yeo, now a frontbench spokesman on culture, accused Lomborg of using flimsy evidence and muddled arguments. ‘Many people in the developed world will take comfort from Lomborg’s claims,’ he said. ‘It is not rich western countries that will suffer if the threats to sustainability are ignored.’
Many improvements Lomborg cited came from government intervention, such as laws on air pollution, rather than leaving everything to market forces. He questioned whether the upward trend in world population would suddenly be reversed in a couple of generations or that alternative fuels would be any cheaper. ‘Only the most reckless and short-sighted policy makers would now deny the need for a response to the growing accumulation of evidence.’