My thoughts on “Cool It”

Having just finished Bjorn Lomborg’s highly controversial book “Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalists Guide to Global Warming” I thought I would post some of my thoughts and reactions to it here. By no means do I endorse nor entirely believe everything that Lomborg discusses in this book, but I do think that he has many interesting ideas that are worth consideration and should not just be dismissed.

  • Concerning his section “Extreme Weather, Extreme Hype”: While parts of this I agree with I find his writing here to be very distracting and somewhat misleading. In his discussion of the “three strong points” made by the UN Meteorological Organization I found it difficult to determine where their words ended and his opinion began. This is also a critique that I have of his book as a whole too. I think that he takes points made by others and then expands upon them in such a way that makes it somewhat unclear whether the ideas expressed are still those of another source or whether they are his own.
  • Concerning page 98: Here Lomborg writes that, “Moreover, concerns from Western governments, nongovernmental organizations, and local populations make it hard to utilize DDT, which is still the most cost-effective insecticide against mosquitoes and, properly used, has negligible environmental impact.” There were a few portions like this throughout the book where I just think that Lomborg is plain wrong. In so many ways he is a realist, yet here he fails to acknowledge that the reality is a world in which it is essentially impossible to ensure that pesticides like DDT are always used properly. Due to this there are huge downsides to allowing DDT to be used: it will be used improperly in some cases and because of this it will cause tremendous environmental impact.
  • Concerning his recounting of historical depictions of climate change: I just found this to be interesting. I’m not entirely sure what to make of it; it could simply be a case of a continuing problem, but on the other hand it could also signify a culture in which we perpetually focus on the bad and the potentially horrendous events.

I also found a portion of his book toward the back to be a pretty fair summation of the issues involved. On page 131 Lomborg writes that:

Global warming will definitely not be costless. As we have seen, it will cause more heat deaths, it will increase sea levels, and it will plausibly cause more intense hurricanes and more flooding. It will give rise to more malaria, starvation, and poverty. This is an important message to convey.

Equally, doing something about global warming will not be costless. Switching from coal to gas or to renewables comes at a price. Restricting transportation will make the economy less efficient. Cutting back on hot showers, plane trips, and car use will leave you less well-off. It will also reduce the number of people being saved from cold, it will increase the number of water stressed, and it will allow fewer to get rich enough to avoid malaria, starvation, and poverty. This is also an important message to convey.

Overall, I found his book to be interesting. I wasn’t solely convinced, but nor did I find myself completely writing off his opinions and views. When read simply as a competing viewpoint it can be interesting and thought provoking. Fire away in the comments if you have opinions, views, etc.