22A Skeptical Environmentalist: The Greening World of Bjørn Lomborg

The Data Hound

Bjørn Lomborg (see Figure 22.1), the youthful author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and other books, is an enigma.1 What can you say about a man who’s written a book with 2,930 footnotes? He is obsessed with data.

Picture of the author, Bjørn Lomborg.

Figure 22.1 Bjørn Lomborg.

Source:Photo by Emil Jupin. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bj%C3%B8rn_Lomborg_1.jpg.

And he loves controversy. Rarely presenting both sides of a story (you may have noticed that I don’t either), the Danish academic argues that the environment is getting better in most ways. The reason, he says, is that we are becoming richer, more technically able, and thus continually better positioned to deal with the problems that large, technologically advanced societies face.

Essentially, he says that we’re on the down side (the good side) of the environmental Kuznets curve—hereafter “EKC”—described in Chapter 21, “Prologue,” although he doesn’t mention the EKC by name even once.2

A good bit of this chapter will be about Lomborg’s book and the data he presents, but first I want to place Bjørn Lomborg, the man, in context and comment briefly on his philosophy and the controversy he has engendered.

Challenging Received Wisdom

Originally a left-leaning Greenpeace member and “vegan backpacker,” Lomborg, while researching environmental science, was influenced ...

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