14 July 2010

Bjorn Lomborg's Bad Habit

[UPDATE 16 July: Bjorn Lomborg sent around his op-ed to his email list, with the following in the header:
Please find below Dr. Lomborg's latest Project Syndicate article “Affordable Green Energy" about a smart way to tackle global warming. Part of the article draws on some of the excellent work of the Breakthrough Institute. Readers can find out more about the Breakthrough Institute at http://www.thebreakthrough.org/
It is a welcome corrective.]

Bjorn Lomborg has a bad habit of taking other people's ideas and presenting them without attribution. I pointed this out in 2007:

Bjorn Lomborg writing in The Guardian 7 February 2007:

Imagine if the director of the CIA published a new assessment of Iran, saying: “I hope this report will shock people, governments into taking more serious action.”

I wrote here on Prometheus 25 January 2007:

Imagine, by contrast, if the Director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, another organization with an agenda to be “policy neutral,” were reported in the media to say of the agency’s latest assessment on Iran, “I hope that the report will shock people, governments into taking more serious action.”

In his latest op-ed he cribs from the ideas of the Breakthrough Institute without any attribution.
Here is Lomborg:
This belief in the potential of technological progress strikes some climate activists as naïve or even delusional. But is it really? Consider one of the miracles of the modern age – the personal computer. These devices didn’t become household items because governments subsidized purchases or forced up the price of typewriters and slide rules.
And here is Nordhaus and Shellenberger in 2007:
The kind of technological revolution called for by energy experts typically does not occur via regulatory fiat. We did not invent the Internet by taxing telegraphs nor the personal computer by limiting typewriters.
It is really, really great to see Lomborg move from climate skeptic to geoengineering advocate to realizing the importance of technological innovation for decarbonizing the economy. But he could at least give credit where credit is due.

29 comments:

  1. So that's how he passes for an expert. Just keep on repeating the exact words you like people will mistake you for an "expert".

    The perfect Jarod? The ultimate science "Pretender"?

    Seems like so.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It would also be great if Lomborg AND Roger could move to being advocates for biochar :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Roger:
    How did Lomborg explain the first event?

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm actually a big fan of Bjorn's. I like what he's done and sympathize with what he's been through.

    But really, Roger, how can you be surprised at this? Look at how he got his start. He just lifted wholesale from Julian Simon and went off to the races.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Roger, I think that this plagiarism is limited to admiring the fine way in which the idea is packaged, the turn of phrase, coupled with an arrogant laziness that doesn't bother to find an alternative metaphor or simile?. The ideas expressed are hardly so novel that they could be patented, as it were? I'm not denigrating them at all, it's just that I find myself guilty of the same charge from time to time.

    eg I nicked some stuff from your Breakthrough Blog cross-post for my Telegraph post yesterday, I hope not as blatantly, but even so.

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100047337/some-common-sense-on-global-warming-a-guest-post-by-r-campbell/

    ReplyDelete
  6. The first is pretty suspicious, but the latest one seems pretty generic.
    When was he a skeptic? If I recall, he was always a believe in the science, just not the hype.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Roger,

    I do not feel the thoughts expressed by Lomborg are specific enough to justify attribution. In fact, I cannot prove it but I have used similar arguments in private conversations long before I ever heard of you or Nordhaus.

    ReplyDelete
  8. independent invention
    (aka multiple discovery))


    in·de·pend·ent in·ven·tion (plural in·de·pend·ent in·ven·tions)


    noun
    Definition:

    invention arrived at independent of others: an invention arrived at independently, even though another group of people may have created the same invention in a different place at a different time.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_multiple_discoveries

    ReplyDelete
  9. -7, 8-

    There was no independent invention here in eitehr case. I know this for a fact.

    ReplyDelete
  10. "if the Director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency... were reported in the media to say of the agency’s latest assessment on Iran, “I hope that the report will shock people, governments into taking more serious action.”"

    The minimum occupying force for a country of 70 million people is 350 thousand troops, preferably 700 thousand troops or if things go badly 1.4 million troops. The ratios of 5/10/20 security force personnel required to effectively govern has been historically demonstrated numerous times. The occupation period would by necessity be up to a decade.

    The US Army's volunteer force is insufficiently large to provide even a 5/1000 force. The ratio of teeth(deployable) to tail(rear area support) is about 1-3. Deployment would have to be 'for the duration' which is politically improbable or conscription would have to be instituted, also politically improbable.

    Any half baked low level intel-analyst would know this.

    The director of the CIA is not an idiot. There is no point in creating a sense of 'urgent need to take action' when the proposed action would have insufficient political sustainability to have a reasonable probability of success.

    CIA's de-classified intel assessments are not entirely policy neutral. They are tempered by the availability of viable solutions.

    Various 'climate experts' would do well to ask themselves the question as to whether 25 cent/KWh alternative energy electricity and $100,0000 'fossil free' econoboxes are politically viable.

    Since they are not, 'shocking people' into action will create either a bunch of 'feel good' measures to demonstrate political commitment to solve the problem(how many UN resolutions have been applied to Iran?) that don't actually solve the problem or a very expensive, unsustainable push to solve the problem that results in eventual return to 'status quo ante'.

    ReplyDelete
  11. -5- Roddy,

    Your 'nicks' of our stuff was definitely less egregious than Lomborg's. And Raven is right that ideas don't require attribution. But I think Roger's point here is that an acknowledgment would, in every one of these cases, be good form. It takes nothing away from author to give credit where credit is due.

    Michael

    ReplyDelete
  12. I second the question: when was Lonborg a skeptic? He questioned priorities, but as far as I know he didn't question whether global warming was a problem. If you have a bridge that needs repair, and there's somoeone standing at the edge ready to jump off, do you ignore them because a failure of the bridge could kill someone some day?

    Lonborg got classified as a skeptic because he publicly challenged the priorities of the advocates. Like someone else we know. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Again, the first quote does bear some specific similarity in style vocabulary and intent.
    The second is very generic and is not going to hold well unless you have a text message or some other corraboration of his plagiarism.
    for the first, it would probably be better if he gave you a hat tip.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Don't forget that Lomborg called himself 'The Skeptical Environmentalist'

    ReplyDelete
  15. Reiner - that was before 'skeptic' got perverted into a pejorative.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Lomborg's book with the same title was published in 2001. By that time, the term 'climate change skeptic' or 'global warming skeptic' had been well established in its pejorative meaning.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I also would like to know when and why Bjorn Lomborg was as "climate skeptic".

    ReplyDelete
  18. markbanner - 17

    I too wondered the same thing. I have followed him for years. What I get from his writings and is that he believes humans have a great impact on the environment including climate. However, he seems skeptical that specific climate initiatives will have any effect on climate and believes in a cost/benefit prioritization of problems and efforts facing humankind.

    ReplyDelete
  19. -18 et al.-

    Craig 1st and I have been discussing this on another thread, and to be explicit, I agree with Reiner Grundmann ... if you read Lomborg's TSE (2001),you'll find a classic "skeptic" argument, that uncertainties will break in a particular direction.

    This should not be a particularly controversial point.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Let's incorporate by reference comments 18 thru 21 from http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/07/here-we-go-again.html

    Your last comment from there said your were defining Lomborg based as his book in 2001. I disagree with your assessment of that work. Furthermore, in recent years Lomborg has specifically stated that there is an AGW factor. Assuming, for the sake of discussion, the 2001 book is as you claim and the Lomborg of today regarding C02 and AGW is quite different than 9 years ago. Should he, or any person, be defined by their current thinking or that of almost a decade ago?

    What makes Lomborg definable today as a climate skeptic as you have done?

    ReplyDelete
  21. -20-Craig 1st

    Please do re-read what I wrote:

    "It is really, really great to see Lomborg move from climate skeptic to geoengineering advocate to realizing the importance of technological innovation for decarbonizing the economy."

    Let me annotate:

    "It is really, really great to see Lomborg move from climate skeptic (circa 2001) to geoengineering advocate (circa 2009) to realizing the importance of technological innovation for decarbonizing the economy (circa today)."

    To be fair there were a few stops in between that I did not highlight -- such as adaptation (circa 2007).

    To be clear, Lomborg's current views are not accurately described as being those of a "climate skeptic" -- but they did once.

    ReplyDelete
  22. -19 Roger

    Didn't see your comment before posting my last remark.

    ReplyDelete
  23. "Craig 1st and I have been discussing this on another thread, and to be explicit, I agree with Reiner Grundmann ... if you read Lomborg's TSE (2001),you'll find a classic "skeptic" argument, that uncertainties will break in a particular direction.

    This should not be a particularly controversial point."

    It's controversial because it's BS. Here are the three conclusions in TSE's global warming chapter:

    1) "We have to realize what we are arguing about--do we want to handle global warming in the most efficient way or do we want to use global warming as a stepping stone to other political projects."

    2) "We should not spend vast amount of money to cut a tiny slice of the global temperature increase when this constitutes a poor use of resources and when we could probably use these funds far more effectively in the developing world."

    3) "We should realize that the total cost of global warming will be substantial--about $5 trillion. Since cutting back CO2 emissions quickly becomes very costly, and easily counterproductive, we shoult focus more of our effort at easing the emission of greenhouse gases over the long run. Partily, this means that we need to invest much more in research in development of solar power, fusion and other likely power sources of the future. Given a current US renewable energy R&D of just $300 million, a considerable increase would seem a promising investment to achive a possible conversion to renewable energy towards the latter part of the century."

    Which of those 3 conclusions--or any part of those 3 conclusions--is "skeptical" about climate change?

    ReplyDelete
  24. 22- Roger

    My mistake. Extend my apology. However, I remain "skeptical" of your assertion that Lomborg was ever a climate skeptic. However he did not have much faith in the robustness of climate model accuracy.

    ReplyDelete
  25. -23-Mark Bahner

    I too have Lomborg's TSE book here in front of me (I used it to good effect in my courses from about 2001 to 2005).

    Lomborg spends a good part of that chapter arguing why his version of the science (WG1) is better than that of the IPCC -- e.g., hockey stick, aerosols. On p. 316 he suggests that uncertainty is a reason for inaction ("we should be skeptical . . .") For better or worse, these views were -- circa 2001 -- the canonical "skeptic" position.

    Lomborg's arguments have always been worth listening to, and they have gotten more so since he dropped his efforts to argue that he knows the science better than anyone else (it doesn't work for Romm either!) and has instead simply focused on the policy arguments, given the uncertainties.

    ReplyDelete
  26. -24-Craig 1st

    Thanks, but no worries ... no need for apologies, healthy debate welcomed, and misunderstandings are just as often with the writing as in the reading ;-).

    ReplyDelete
  27. 26-Roger

    You are being kind. No it was my mistake. Now on p.265 I believe he poses the question, "How much effect does C02 have on temperature?" He responds by saying, "The important question is not whether the climate is affected by human C02, but how much."

    ReplyDelete
  28. "... he [Lomberg] did not have much faith in the robustness of climate model accuracy."

    In a rational world that would be the mainstream position. Privately maybe it even is: It's revealing in the cru emails just how much the private view differs from the IPCC sales brochure for the paleo studies. And that's the trouble...when does it stop becoming PR and start becoming downright dishonesty? And what right have the dishonest to criticise the morals of anyone else?

    ReplyDelete
  29. I have read almost all of Bjorn's stuff and I basicly agree with most of his ideas. But he should BUTT OUT of real science, unless he takes some courses in physics. Political science does NOT qualify someone to speculate about the efficacy and probable future of "alternative energy" systems. When it comes to real science too many political scientists are dreamers. They need some thermodynamics if they are to speak about the real world!

    ReplyDelete