Environmentally yours

By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  September 24, 2007

Lomborg gleefully presents rebuttals to such so-called overstatements, including the suggestion that the world’s polar bears are in grave global-warming peril. Despite a few isolated drownings, he tells us, the global polar-bear population “has increased dramatically over the past decades.” Lomborg is even more triumphant when he explains why “cutting carbon emissions also has costs” (mostly in the form of clean-energy implementation), and points out that, even if global warming leads to more heat-related deaths, it will also reduce the number of cold-weather fatalities. (This assertion already has been questioned in various forums.)

But Lomborg isn’t an eco-villain, or at least he doesn’t want anyone to think he is. He asks whether “we want to feel good, or do we actually want to do good?” If we choose the latter, our money and energy would be better spent addressing global poverty or HIV/AIDS. “Every dollar spent on condoms and information will do about forty dollars’ worth of social good (the value of fewer dead, fewer sick, less social disruption, and so on),” Lomborg writes of international HIV/AIDS-prevention programs. Meanwhile, every dollar spent on “climate-change opportunities, including [the Kyoto Protocol] . . . would end up doing much less than a dollar’s worth of good for the world.”

Lomborg, Nordhaus, and Shellenberger all advise a paradigm shift that emphasizes big, international thinking. Yet Lomborg falls short, because telling readers to chill out is hardly the way to drum up enthusiasm — except with conservative global-warming doubters.

Ted Nordhaus + Michael Shellenberger | Harvard Museum of Natural History, 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge | October 24 | 6 pm | 617.495.3045

Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility | by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger | Houghton Mifflin | 256 Pages | $25

Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming | by Bjørn Lomborg | Knopf | 272 Pages | $21

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