Crikey's Guy Rundle has a look at the changing tune of the now less skeptical climate skeptic Bjorn Lomborg - Bjørn again? Reshaping the climate change debate.
These are strange times for climate change sceptics-deniers. The science is gradually overwhelming them, and more and more sensible people in the centre-right have come to accept it as something which must be treated as real. A broad swathe of the general public now see it as a clear priority and punish a party like Labor which does not follow through on a commitment to doing something about it.
Yet at the same time, the sceptic-denial position has lodged forcefully amongst a section of the public, and one larger than it might have been a few years ago. Climate change scepticism-denial at this level is equally shared out among people who hate Greens/The Left/etc so much that they will simply refuse to admit they were right all along; by rural people with their folksy 'nature goes in cycles' stuff, and by a third section of people who are so terrified by what climate change might do to their grand-children that they don't want to admit the possibility of it.
Put together, it's not a social coalition of much durability, and its nadir has probably been the recent tour by Christopher 'Lord' Monckton, whose belief that global warming was a plot to create a world Nazi government even the conservatoriat felt necessary to apologise for.
So it's fair to wonder what the effect on them and their sceptic-denial ideologues who lead them of the sudden change-about of Bjørn Lomborg, a prize trophy in the sceptic-denialist cubbyhouse. Lomborg, whose Sceptical Environmentalist of 2001 claimed that climate change was happening but not a high priority, has now announced that, waddaya know, that climate change matters a lot:"If we care about the environment and about leaving this planet and its inhabitants with the best possible future, we actually have only one option: we all need to start seriously focusing, right now, on the most effective ways to fix global warming."
The quote is taken from the end of Lomborg's new book; the title -- Smart Solutions to Climate Change: Comparing Costs and Benefits -- a good deal less insouciant than his previous effort, entitled Cool It, in which he suggested that everyone should just stop worrying and learn to love the warm. Lomborg claims that he hasn't changed his position, but a few quotes would suggest otherwise. The blurb of Cool It, for example, suggested:"Lomborg argues that we should first focus our resources on more immediate concerns, such as fighting malaria and HIV/Aids and assuring and maintaining a safe, fresh water supply which can be addressed at a fraction of the cost and save millions of lives within our lifetime."
And in the Wall Street Journal's Opinionjournal section in March 2006, reviewing the Stern report he noted:"Faced with such alarmist suggestions, spending just 1% of GDP or $450 billion each year to cut carbon emissions seems on the surface like a sound investment. In fact, it is one of the least attractive options. Spending just a fraction of this figure -- $75 billion -- the U.N. estimates that we could solve all the world's major basic problems. We could give everyone clean drinking water, sanitation, basic health care and education right now. Is that not better?"
Evidently not, for Lomborg now proposes spending $100 billion a year to combat climate change, through the expansion of renewable energy, tree planting, methane reduction and cloud whitening. Indeed, Lomborg now mutters various things about "something really bad lurking around the corner" in climate change processes, which seems to evoke the James Lovelock notion of a self-accelerating temperature rise that would make large parts of the earth uninhabitable.
Of course Lomborg has had his fair share of criticism: there are several books claiming that his use of statistics is shoddy, his evidence selective and his conclusions illogical, the most recent of them being The Lomborg Delusion. Then there's the clearing house website, www.lomborg-errors.dk.
The criticism has cut no ice with his adoring fans, but what will they think of his call for a trillion dollars over a decade devoted to the only one option of seriously addressing global warming? Green alarmists don't want to hear Lomborg because he says that far from making a "big mess" of our environment, statistics show we're doing all right. Monsignor Christopher Pearson wrote in 2008:"About the beginning of 2007, maintaining a sceptical stance on human-induced global warming became a lonely, uphill battle in Australia. The notion that the science was settled had gathered broad popular support and was making inroads in unexpected quarters. In recent weeks, articles by NASA's Roy Spencer and Bjørn Lomborg and an interview with the Institute of Public Affairs' Jennifer Marohasy have undermined that confident Anglosphere consensus."
Meanwhile in The Spectator the same year, arch-skeptic James Delingpole confessed to a man-crush:"Gosh, I do hope Bjørn Lomborg doesnt think I was trying to pick him up. I've only just learned from his Wikipedia entry that he's openly gay which, with hindsight, probably made my dogged insistence that we conduct our interview in his cramped hotel bedroom look like a cheap come-on...
"But it's OK, Bjørn... The reason for my awe is quite simply that I believe you are one of the heroes of our age."
One will watch with interest to see how the Lomborgers -- including the IPA, which has hitherto brought him out here -- treat him now. I suspect that for them, there will be no Bjørn Again. After all, this was the guy who could reliably wind up people like Rajenda Pachauri, head of the UN climate change panel, by being flip about the massive geographical changes to be wrought by climate change ... and who now has, in pride of place on the cover of his new book, an endorsement from Rajenda Pachauri.
Ah well, somebody get 'Lord' Monkcton on the phone...