Debating Bjorn Lomborg on global warming
I taped a debate with Lomborg today on a Denver radio station. I’ll post a link when it will be broadcast on the Internet. I’ll be interested to hear your reactions.
I have long thought it is pretty much impossible to win a one-on-one debate on climate change with anybody who knows what they’re doing — who knows the literature and is willing to make statements that are not really true but can’t be quickly disproved. After all, the audience is not in a position to adjudicate scientific and technological issues, so it just comes down to who sounds more persuasive. And Lomborg is quite good at sounding reasonable — he doesn’t deny the reality of climate change, only its seriousness.
Lomborg is more of what I term a delayer — the clever person’s denier. Lomborg is especially persuasive because he is so clearly concerned about reducing suffering and death in the Third World.
Yes, damnit, we should do more to provide developing countries with clean water and protection from mosquitoes — but Lomborg thinks global warming is at the bottom of the list of things we should be spending money on right now. Such delay is the road to ruin. As Tim Flannery put it:
By empathizing with those who are concerned about climate change and poverty, and trying to persuade them to divert their energies, [Lomborg’s book] is a stealth attack on humanity’s future.
Lomborg’s book, Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming, is already #62 in Amazon.com sales ranks, and #1 in the categories of climate changes, public policy, and conservation (as of Sep. 12, 2007). Contrarian books do well these days. The #2 climate change book is a hardcore denier treatise, Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years. (Yes, the title makes no sense — if global warming is unstoppable, then why did it stop 1500 years ago?)
Lomborg’s book is painful to read, but quite short. I read it quickly for the debate, and will read it more closely tomorrow while I await selection for jury duty. I will do a thorough debunking in the coming days, since I do think progressives will need to know how to respond to Lomborg’s clever arguments — and I will need some way to restore my blood pressure to normal after reading it twice.
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