Book review

False Alarm – Bjorn LombergI’ve mentioned this book before but it’s time to put it forward as a strong recommendation and tell you why.Lomberg is not a climatologist. he is an economist, but in the contest of this book it doesn’t matter because he accepts the findings of the IPCC as gospel. Not the media spin added to the IPCC, but their actual findings. I disagree, I believe the IPCC exaggerates the warming effect of CO2 by a factor of at least 2 and likely 3, but that does not matter either. If I am right, everything Lomberg asserts is even more right than he claims.

Most of what Lomberg has in this book I have seen before, but never all in one place and coordinated into a rational whole.

First, Lomberg explains the difference between what the IPCC actually says and the political and media hype. The difference is staggering. Science does not need boogeymen, but politics does, and creates them as needed. So, first understand what is actually projected and with what level of confidence.

Next, Lomberg brings historical context to the impact of climate. He explains the ‘expanding bullseye’ which is easiest to understand in the context of beachfront property. 50 years ago, a hurricane coming ashore would most likely cross an uninhabited location, but now we have million dollar homes on almost every foot of beach. The same effect is true in other contexts as well, we simply have fewer places not in use and more stuff to break.

Having dispensed with climate change as an existential threat, our choices must then be guided by the relative costs of our actions. That task is the primary goal of the book, showing the balanced costs of potential policies and inaction, and the alternatives and their costs and benefits.

Balancing costs of alternatives is really the only rational way to guide policy, spending, or losing, $trillions for trivial benefits makes no sense and harms those most vulnerable. And that is the real value of this book, it provides a RATIONAL framework for climate policy decisions.

I don’t like all of Lomberg’s recommendations, but they make sense if the IPCC is right, less so if I am.

But at least there is a rational basis to the choices. And that is what ahs been largely missing from the climate debate, rational choice.

So, read the book. It’s going to take a while, it’s not a book you will read cover-to-cover in one sitting, but read. I would go so far as to say that until you have, you are unqualified to comment on climate policy.

38 thoughts on “Book review

  1. Balance and compromise. Two of the dirtiest words in politics today.

    Well worded post on your part. Too bad neither side takes the advice of balance and/or compromise.

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  2. So long as the left champions and embraces brats like Greta Thunburg, who now claims “if we all don’t switch to vegan NOW we are all f****d”, we will never find rational and balanced analysis of alternatives. Their national socialist policy depends on a sky is falling narrative. I truly wish there was middle ground but when conservatives give ground, liberals just move the post farther left. Wash, rinse, repeat…

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    1. Your point might be a little more seriously considered if you avoided branding someone as a “brat” or make FALSE claims about the left policies being ‘socialist”. At least they have policies. The only policy I see from the right, AGAIN, is OBSTRUCTION. Nothing except the attempt to remain in some semblance of power.

      Not really, but the language would be more palatable.

      And your accusations of ONLY the left moving the goal posts would be laughable if it weren’t true on the Right as well.

      And conservatives idea of giving ground is “do it our way or no way”. If you don’t believe me, watch Magic Mitch in action.

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      1. don’t worry about the goal posts.

        It is really time we look at the issue as Lomberg does and balance the costs in the fashion economists do, balancing the costs of action, inaction and mal-action.

        When you do, accepting the IPCC projections, as Lomberg does, inaction has a cost of 0.4% of global GDP, while the mal-action of the wind and solar path has a cost of 8.4% of GDP.

        More rational action can gain us that 0.4% GDP boon, but the “cure” we currently pursue is far worse than inaction.

        But this is too important to blind ourselves with partisan tunnel vision. We need to be rational, and that means reducing the problem to numbers.

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        1. The assumption of “mal-action” is a hypothesis without taking into account of the real world effects of doing the right thing.

          Yes, reduce the problem to numbers. But use all of the numbers; not just the ones the portend your desired outcome. (True of both sides of this discussion and to say otherwise is lying to ones self.)

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          1. Read the book. Seriously.

            Lomberg fully explains why the wind and solar route can’t pay its way and would drag down the global GDP disastrously.

            A lot more good could be done by spreading fracking to China so they could use natural gas for electricity instead of coal.

            There are a lot of things that sound good but are wrecked by numbers, and a lot of good news in the numbers too.

            Read the book

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      2. Your post might be more seriously considered if you avoided branding GOP senators with ignorant liberal pet names. I will replace brat with climate Nazi if that makes you feel better but honestly Greta, being an uneducated puppet, is so far out there it is amazing liberal media repeats her trash that is fed her from her handlers like PETA kooks.

        https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/greta-thunberg-aims-change-how-food-is-produced-2021-05-22/

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        1. Amazing how a grown ass man takes goes to such lengths to attack an autistic child.

          Accusing ANYONE of being fed trash from kooks coming from you who eats up the Fox News/Breibart/Newsmax/OAN feedbag is milk-out-the-nose hysterical.

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          1. Oh sheesh. Claiming anyone that disagrees with you is a Fox news troll further diminishes any credibility you might have. It’s extremely lame.

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          2. If it ain’t fox, it sure as hell is Fox-like.

            Reveal your BS sources then. Please I beg of you. Just so I can slap them down with the joy I take in calling you out for what you are. A hateful troll who attacks a disabled CHILD, and takes pleasure in it.

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        1. His attacks on an autistic teenager says more about him than any liberal pet name I tag Mitch McConnell with.

          And besides, at least my “nickname” is accurate: McConnel has made more legislation disappear than David Blaine.

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    1. Was able to read it using another browser.

      Have to wonder if Stieglitz actually read to book or is relying on what someone told him. The concerns he raises are addressed in the book and footnotes, particularly regarding innovation.

      Remember that whatever course we take, if the rest of the world does not follow suit, will accomplish nothing.

      Do we really think wind and solar the US cannot afford on a significant scale will be embraced by Botswana?

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      1. …” if the rest of the world does not follow suit, will accomplish nothing.”

        It’s called “Global Leadership”. A concept that went away with the advent of America ONLY. If we lead the way and show the world it works, it will be embraced.

        “Do we really think wind and solar the US cannot afford”…

        You keep saying that and using old info to justify it, but regrettably you seem to leave out the costs coming down for renewables. R & D continues to IMPROVE the prospects for storage as well.

        But as long as your fossil fuel stocks support you in your retirement, damn the grand and great-grand children.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. That is part of the problem: You still live in the 1950’s and 60’s. Which is kind of funny if you consider the advances made on several fronts in that time.

            We ain’t going back there, Don. Try a little optimism for a change.

            Liked by 1 person

    2. Here is another review . . .

      https://tinyurl.com/9ykm6626

      The author makes several telling points about the key assumptions and omissions in this “lukewarmer” book.

      He also points out in passing that now being a “lukewarmer” is the fallback position of people who previously flatly denied the fact of climate change and, when that became untenable, the reality of AGW.

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      1. The Guardian conflates two very different books.

        Lomberg accepts the IPCC projects as is, He is not a lukewarmer. He isn’t a dupe for the catastrophic AGW rantings, but neither is the IPCC, NASA or NOAA.

        But it is amazing the lengths to which you will go to find an excuse to avoid information that conflicts with your narrative.

        Read the book and check out the footnotes before trying to discredit it.

        You might even find you will understand the situation a little better.

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      2. The Guardian review covers two different books but its explicit criticisms are clearly addressed to their source. That is hardly “conflating.”

        After reading your post, I considered reading the book. So I did the rational thing one does before committing to the time and effort involved – seek out reviews. I read the Stiglitz review in the NYT and the one I linked to in the Guardian. The reviewers did their job of conveying the thrust of the book and offering their critiques.

        Maybe instead of a personal attack on me, you could offer factual rebuttals for the damning criticisms in these reviews.

        For example, Ward says that Lomborg exaggerates the costs of mitigation by using an already exaggerated (according to Stiglitz) study and then doubling it. “Lomborg doubles Nordhaus’s estimates of the costs of global action and concludes that the “optimal” level of global warming, balancing both damages and emissions cuts, would be 3.75C by 2100.” Is that criticism wrong?

        Nobel Laureate in Economics Stiglitz elaborates on this point . . . “A third critical mistake, compounding the second, is not taking due account of risk. As the atmospheric concentration of carbon increases, we are entering uncharted territory.” Is that wrong? I think it is the essence of the issue. We really do not know what we do not know. The risk of global catastrophe from pushing ever harder on the world’s systems cannot and should not be ignored.

        Bottom line, from the reviews cited I have the “information” that Lomborg downplays the risks of climate change and exaggerates the costs of mitigation. I have decided not to acquire his book. If there is other “information” that I have missed in this process, so be it.

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  3. One of the problems with economists and the logics of their underlying “rationality” is that they are, by definition, looking at economic factors. Taking Tabor’s example of inaction = .4% GDP vs action 8.4% GDP. That’s a lot of money to be sure, but missing from this analysis is how many human lives are affected.

    Storms and floods means people dead and displaced. Displaced people strain existing supplies. Add droughts to the equation and food and water become even more scarce. We’re not just talking about money, we’re talking about a lot of people dying, and it will eventually affect us in the developed world too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. RE: “missing from this analysis is how many human lives are affected.”

      Not exactly. It may seem reasonable to guess that .4% of GDP would prevent X amount of human suffering, whereas 8.4% of GDP would prevent human suffering by some multiple of X. But it is not obvious that the multiplier is 21 (8.4/0.4). One also must account for the human suffering that occurs directly as a result of diverting GDP from its “normal” application to environmental purposes (e.g., money spent on CO2 capture is money not spent on food, clothing and shelter).

      The analysis may be limited, but it is not limiting.

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    2. Read the book.

      First chapter deals with floods and storms.

      Question. When a storm hits, do people drown in Virginia Beach, or in Bangladesh?

      Having the wealth to adapt and protect makes a difference.

      Bad climate policy will kill, by an order of 2 magnitudes, more people than none at all.

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      1. “Question. When a storm hits, do people drown in Virginia Beach, or in Bangladesh?”

        That’s my point. People will die, just probably not us.

        “Bad climate policy will kill, by an order of 2 magnitudes, more people than none at all.”

        I understand not wanting to waste money and resources, but how would this happen?

        Liked by 2 people

        1. When Katrina hit New Orleans, wealthy people had evacuated, poor people lacked transportation and the city employees fled and left them to drown.

          The largest threat to life everywhere in the world is poverty. If environmental policies lock people in poverty, many will die. The immediate cause may not appear to be the policies, but poverty kills.

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          1. “. If environmental policies lock people in poverty,”…

            But that is not the case. GOOD environmental policies could actually help lift people and areas out of poverty. But you just want to be a skeptic and refuse to see any hope for a cleaner future.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Sure, GOOD policies like modular nuclear power and fracking for natural gas have positive results but wind and solar are just too expensive and limited to be useful in the developing world.

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          3. IF they could develop a cleaner way to frack for NG, count me in. I have already come out in the side of developing newer nuclear tech.

            You, on the other hand, won’t change anything.

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          4. cleaner than what? Unicorns trotting on treadmills and farting rainbows?

            The comparison is the extraction and burning of COAL, with all the environmental destruction of strip mining and ash disposal vs fracking and burning natural gas.

            NG wins by a factor of about 10,000

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          5. No. It is going into the pockets of C-suite denizens of fossil fuel companies and to a handful of stockholders.

            We get ours, the rest of you, suck our smoke. Literally.

            Liked by 1 person

          6. nope you get the advantages in the form of cheaper energy and lower prices on goods and services. The profits the stockholders are well earned in making your life immeasurably better.

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