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Day after blunt takedown of #climate deceivers, @WashingtonPost gives soapbox (again) to one of them

September 19th, 2016 · 1 Comment

The Washington Post devoted a full page of the Sunday Outlook section to Pulitzer

Michael Mann & Tom Toles, The Madhouse Effect

winner Tom Toles’ and Nobel Prize (sharer) Dr. Michael Mann’s Deniers club: Meet the people clouding the climate change debate which provides nine clarion examples of people who have “stalled action with a campaign of deliberate misinformation”.

One of those nine, ‘The Smiling Dane‘, Bjorn Lomborg who is, as they describe,

A self-styled “skeptical environmentalist” who brandishes a Greenpeace T-shirt as evidence of his unassailable environmental bona fides, Lomborg represents an insidious form of climate change denial. He doesn’t dismiss the scientific evidence outright; he denies the seriousness of the threat and the monumental nature of the effort required to avert it. His arguments often have a veneer of credibility, but he lowballs climate projections and underestimates the potential damage and cost. In one op-ed, he stated that “a 20-foot rise in sea levels .?.?. would inundate about 16,000 square miles of coastline, where more than 400 million people live. That’s a lot of people, to be sure, but hardly all of mankind.” What’s 400 million people among friends?

Lomborg has made a career of wrapping himself in seemingly reasonable analyses that inevitably skews toward supporting continued (if not expanded) deployment of fossil-fuel infrastructure and investing in research and development for magical solutions that will always, it seems, be out there on the future horizon for never-to-be deployment.

The day after prominently laying out Lomborg as someone who is “clouding the climate-change debate”, the Washington Post again gave a soap box to him.  Today’s Lomborg false priorities discussion is classic Bjorn.  Laying out “analysis” — analysis that does not stand up to scrutiny — to support assertions that, well, we should simply put off action to mitigate climate change until some form of energy miracle (some form of fairy dust) magically emerges for instant world-wide deployment. What are some examples of misleading elements (truth, of course, first) in today’s Lomborg:

  • Solar and wind are beating out fossil fuel prices in electricity markets around the world.
    • Lomborg writes “Many policies focus on solving global warming by investing in solar and wind, but … they are not competitive now …” Again, FALSE. As a small example, in Chile, recently, new solar pv bid into the market at 2.9 cents per kilowatt hour or roughly half the price from existing coal power plants.
  • Efficiency factors are interesting and eye-catching but often an aside.  The real issues are, over lifetime, cost per energy unit, reliability, safety, etc … When it comes to solar, there is a simple reality: the sun doesn’t shine 24/7/365 so there will be a gap between ‘peak’ performance and the 24/7/365 average.  Again, this is interesting but often simply beside the point.  If a 60% “efficient” system that pollutes costs 10 cents per kilowatt hour and a 20% “efficient” system that has no pollution (once installed) costs 3 cents per kilowatt hour, please explain why you would want that “efficiency”?
    • Lomborg writes that “solar and wind … will be mostly inefficient for at least 25 years.”  Hmm, have to wonder where that “25 years” comes from (will the sun magically start shining 24/7/365) and, again, this is a seemingly sensible argument that is utterly misleading.
  • The world is complex. We — as humanity — need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time (e.g., deal with multiple issues).  There are serious immediate national security threats (cyber, Russia, China) and long-term existential threats (like climate change) — we cannot, safely, ignore one or the other but have to have a suite of policies that help address all of these. And, in the context of development, we need to deal with malaria and birth
    • Lomborg, in essence rejects that complexity, and places various development policies in competition with each other, asserting that dealing with climate change will mean not dealing with malaria.  Besides asserting, in essence, that we can’t (shouldn’t) walk and chew gum at the same time, this has multiple other misleading elements. This glosses over (ignores) that climate change worsens problems like malaria (by increasing mosquito ranges, for example) and that it is quite possible to have combined benefits (for example, reducing emissions by replacing kerosene lighting with solar-powered LEDs reduces indoor pollution (and health impacts), improves educational achievement (by enabling more studying), increases economic output (allowing work to be done at night), fosters more gender equality (girls being able to study longer), and leads to reduced population growth (with more educated and more economically empowered women getting married and having children later).
  • And …

Sadly, like essentially every Lomborg piece — whether an article or a book — an entire monograph could be written dissecting the dissembling. After all, there is a reason why Bjorn Lomborg holds the distinction of having a Yale University Press book devoted solely to demonstrating how he deceives in footnotes.

And, that brings us back to The Washington Post. Reading that book, which documented (as one example) how Lomborg misrepresented Washington Post reporting even as the Post published deceptive Lomborg OPEDs, my review was entitled: The Lomborg Deception … leads to a question: “Does the Washington Post have any honor left?”

Seeing Lomborg published (the day) after a Washington Post pulitzer prize winner’s article laying him out as engaged in a “campaign of deliberate misinformation” leads to another question:

Does The Washington Post editorial page staff have any idea what they are doing?

Earlier today, the Post’s Tom Toles published a cartoon and commentary entitled: There are two sides to the climate argument, Facts and Falsehoods. By publishing (yet again) Bjorn Lomborg, the Post gave voice to falsehoods.


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Tags: bjorn lomborg · Washington Post

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Science Denial Bad Guys and Good Guys – Greg Laden's Blog // Sep 20, 2016 at 9:51 am

    […] Get Energy Smart notes that only a day after the Madhouse Effect authors highlighted nine key deniers (including Bjorn Lomborg) in the Washington Post, that venerable newspaper publishes yet another bogus editorial (YABE) by Lomborg. […]