A Controversial Author that Deserves Some Attention

[Video source: Cool It the Movie official website]

I have read a few late opinion pieces by Bjørn Lomborg (the latest one, The Return to Reason, via Project Syndicate), one of the most controversial figures in the climate change debate, and to my surprise, I have to admit his arguments are quite persuasive.

When I heard about Mr Lomborg, it was always in the context of his 1998 book (The Skeptical Environmentalist), and thought of him as nothing more than one of those scientist (he is actually a political scientist) on Chevron's payroll, denying climate change and creating more false debate. I am as innately bias as anyone (we are all more receptive to ideas we agree on, aren't we?), so I didn't pay too much attention. Proving again that my 7th grade Civics teacher was right, reading what the other side has to say has proven to be an interesting experience.

It turns out Mr Lomborg is not a denier, since there is nothing to deny about climate change. Data is data. What Mr Lomborg maintains, and the reason why he is vilified by the environmental activists (establishment?), is that first there is no point scaring our kids silly as if they will not have a world left to inherit, and secondly, that before dumping billion of dollars into inefficient technologies, it would be wiser to spend the money in R&D and find out real solutions that are both effective and economically feasible, while at the same time look for short term adaptation to the real changes that are already happening, changes that are too late to stop, and that will mostly affect poor people around the globe.

The first anti-fear argument might seem counter-intuitive; we all know how effective fear could be. But as fear reaches a certain point, it first breeds skepticism, which in turn transforms into irrational denial (irrational as long as one is not economically motivated, like the oil-industrial complex is). The backlash against climate alarmism is here, and we should be dealing with it whether we like it or not. Especially in a place like the US, positive can-do attitudes (there is a problem, let's fix it) are much more effective in the long run than fear and negativity (as the Party-of-No is going to find out soon).

The second argument, advocating for R&D development instead of wasting money in subsidies to inefficient technologies, is the one I find even more convincing. A big part of the argument behind itMoves was my radical distaste for conversions, from Mini-Es to Leafs, since conventional steel cars are not a suitable platform for what is intrinsically a very different energy source, with very different needs in terms of overall efficiency. Like the proverbial hummer that can only see nails, the auto industry has regarded electric power as just another powertrain option (do you want gasoline, diesel or electric, sir?), with the predictable result of overpriced and/or underwhelming products.

Of course, underwhelming beta products are part of any innovative enterprise; it's also true that subsides are another way in which governments are helping R&D (although indirectly, through the private sector). I am certainly aware of both sides of the argument.

Time will tell whose solutions are right. In the mean time, people like Bjørn Lomborg are bringing a necessary, realistic, middle of the road point of view to a debate that seems to became more and more political (hence polarized) every election season, and therefore tragically headed towards gridlock and inaction, precisely what no one who cares about our planet should want.

PS.- The film version of Mr Lomborg's book Cool it! has just been released in the US. Directed by award-winning documentary filmmaker Ondi Timoner,it should make for an interesting counterpoint to both An Inconvenient Truth and Collapse. I'll try to watch it before its Nextflix release.