515 pages, 162 illustrations, 9 tables
The Skeptical Environmentalist challenges widely held beliefs that the environmental situation is getting worse and worse. The author, himself a former member of Greenpeace, is critical of the way in which many environmental organisations make selective and misleading use of the scientific evidence. Using the best available statistical information from internationally recognised research institutes, Bjørn Lomborg systematically examines a range of major environmental problems that feature prominently in headline news across the world. His arguments are presented in non-technical, accessible language and are carefully backed up by over 2500 footnotes allowing readers to check sources for themselves. Concluding that there are more reasons for optimism than pessimism, Bjørn Lomborg stresses the need for clear-headed prioritisation of resources to tackle real, not imagined problems. The Skeptical Environmentalist offers readers a non-partisan stocktaking exercise that serves as a useful corrective to the more alarmist accounts favoured by campaign groups and the media.
Whilst this book undoubtedly makes a valuable contribution to the debate on rates of extinction and other aspects of global environmental degradation, there is a real danger that it will also encourage unwarranted complacency and strengthen the hand of the powerful anti-environment lobby, particularly in North America and Europe. By way of example, see The Observer, [10th June, 2001, p.16] - 'Environmentalists said our planet was doomed to die. Now one man says they are wrong.' Amongst other claims, the article suggests that depletion of world forest cover has come to a halt. However, the recent WRI study, The Pilot Analysis of Global Ecosystems: Forest Ecosystems demonstrates that whilst temperate forest cover has increased, tropical forests are still being depleted at a terrifying rate.
"This is one of the most valuable books on public policy – not merely on environmental policy – to have been written for the intelligent reader in the past ten years [...] The Skeptical Environmentalist is a triumph."
– The Economist
"[...] a superbly documented and readable book."
– Wall Street Journal
"The Skeptical Environmentalist should be read by every environmentalist, so that the appalling errors of fact the environmental movement has made in the past are not repeated. A brilliant and powerful book."
– Matt Ridley, author of Genome
"The Skeptical Environmentalist is perhaps the most important book about the environment since Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (1962) awakened the world to the dangers of unrestrained economic growth."
– Jason Cowley, New Statesman
"...] this book deserves an open minded read by anyone in the least bit interested in the environment."
– The Local Planet
"Bjørn Lomborg is an outstanding representative of the 'new breed' of political scientists – mathematically-skilled and computer-adept. In this book he shows himself also to be a hard-headed, empirically-oriented analyst. Surveying a vast amount of data and taking account of a wide range of more and less informed opinion about environmental threats facing the planet, he comes to a balanced assessment of which ones are real and which over-hyped. In vigorous informal style, he indicates what needs to be done to address the real environmental hazards – and what needs not to be done about those turning out to be pseudo-problems."
– Jack Hirshleifer, University of California, Los Angeles
"A new book is about to overturn our most basic assumptions about the world's environment. Far from going to hell in a handcart, it is improving by almost all measures. Those things not getting better are getting worse at a slower rate."
– Anthony Browne, Environment Correspondent, Observer
"Lomborg's challenge will have to be met [...] he has given an important challenge to the scientific establishment that is not only good for science, but damned necessary to it."
– Fortean Times
"When Lomborg concludes that ' [...] the loss of the world's rainforests, of fertile agricultural land, the ozone layer and of the climate balance are terrible [...]' I agree. But we also need debate, and this book provides us with that in generous amounts. If you, like I do, belong to the people who dare to think the world is making some progress, but always with mistakes to be corrected, this book makes important reading."
– Professor Lars Kristoferson, Secretary General, WWF Sweden
"Lomborg's book has drawn considerable attention. Although it may cause problems for the more militant and political environmentalists, it should be welcomed by anyone genuinely concerned about the environment. [...] Lomborg's book sheds needed light on the real state of the world. I recommend it to anyone interested in our global environment [...] The Skeptical Environmentalist is the most valuable book available in many years on public policy in general, not only environmental policy in particular. It should be required reading for all legislators, government bureaucrats and corporate executives who preside over the ever-increasing array of environmental regulations and politics."
– John P. Bluemle, Geotimes
"Whatever your standpoint, The Skeptical Environmentalist will make indispensable reading."
– Mail on Sunday
"A brilliant book [...] All in all, this is a must-have/must read book. Don't take my word for it. Check it out for yourself."
– Clean Technologies & Environmental Policy
"[...] his book is the Christmas present for a rational future."
– The Chemical Engineer
"[...] it should be welcome by anyone genuinely concerned about the environment."
– Environmental Geology
"The Skeptical Environmentalist marks a critical environmental moment [...] We can forget those dreary old idols: Paul Ehrlich, Lester Brown with his Worldwatch Institute, Greenpeace and all the others. They have been exiled into the darkness. Eco-optimism can begin to rise over the Earth. After Lomborg, the environmental movement will begin to wither."
– National Post
"Bjørn Lomborg's book is hugely beneficial for a debate that has been one-sided."
– The Financial Times
"[...] it is large and full of facts [...] this book deserves an open minded read by everyone in the least bit interested in the environment [...] Please read this mind-expanding book [...]"
– The Local Planet
"It's a magnificent achievement."
– Washington Post Book World
"[...] reading it was a valuable experience since it forced me to reconsider the foundations of my own opinions."
– Journal of Antarctic Science
"With relentless precision, the author [...] dispatches many of the misrepresentations about the environment that are propounded with monotonous regularity by so called 'non-government organisations [...] Every politician at every level of all the world's governments should read it carefully. So should scientists, bureaucrats and academics whose jobs are even remotely related to environmental matters."
– Asia Pacific Shipping
"[...] think of The Skeptical Environmentalist as a young geek's answer to Al Gore's Earth in the Balance [...] Lomborg pulls off the remarkable feat of welding the techno-optimism of the Internet age with a lefty's concern for the fate of the planet."
– Rolling Stone
"[...] the most controversial science book of 2001 [...] The thesis has been angrily disputed by some scientists and endorsed by others, but the book is thought-provoking essential reading for those who wish to keep pace with all sides of environmental thinking."
– The Times Christmas Books round-up
"The index is possibly the most thorough you are likely to see [...] It should be required reading in second-level education."
– Wild Ireland
"The Lomborg affair merits attention not because of its robust criticisms, character assassination and pressure politics – these are nothing new – but because its extremeness could mark a watershed in how science relates to policy and politics."
"As an example of writing across multiple disciplines, this book is a tour de force."
– Geographical Journal
"Do read The Skeptical Environmentalist [...] There will be something you agree with, and something that makes you bite the carpet. That's money well spent these days."
– Alex Kirby, environmental correspondent of BBC News Online
"Lomberg's book sheds needed light on the real state of the world. I recommend it to anyone interested in our global environment [...] the book is a credible attempt at refuting many of the more outrageous environmentalist claims – a point of view that is seldom heard. The Skeptical Environmentalist is the most valuable book available in many years on public policy in general, not only environmental policy in particular. It should be required reading for all legislators, government bureaucrats and corporate executives who preside over the ever-increasing array of environmental regulations and policies."
"Lomborg's argument is of great potential importance to peace research."
– Journal of Peace Research
"Number five, of ten of the most fascinating books published recently. Hugely controversial."
– Sunday People
"Lomborg's message is one that the public deserves to hear [...] he makes his case calmly and transparently [...] Lomborg's unruffled earnestness is admirable, and he is a wonderful witness for the prosecution."
– The Weekly Standard
"[...] he has written probably the most comprehensive, up-to-date and provocative contribution to environmental optimism so far [...] his book is marvellously referenced, providing many details with a comprehensive list of sources of data."
– Times Higher Education Supplement
"An absolute must read."
"[...] unique in its scope as well as the depth to which he plumbs the issues [...] It is also a book that should be read by would-be adversaries to his position as much as by policy students and practitioners alike."
"[...] for the student and academic interested in the environmental issues I have no hesitation in recommending the book as an example of an alternative viewpoint."
– Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics
Part I. The Litany
1. Things are getting better
2. Why do we hear so much bad news?
Part II. Human Welfare
3. Measuring human welfare
4. Life expectancy and health
5. Food and hunger
Part III. Can Human Prosperity Continue?
8. Are we living on borrowed time?
9. Will we have enough food
10. Forests - are we losing them?
12. Non-energy resources
Part IV. Pollution
15. Air pollution
16. Acid rain and forest death
17. Indoor air pollution
18. Allergies and asthma
19. Water pollution
20. Waste: running out of space?
Part V. Tomorrow's Problems
22. Our chemical fears
24. Global warming
25. Predicament or progress?
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Bjørn Lomborg is an Associate Professor of Statistics in the Department of Political Science, University of Aarhus, Denmark. He has published in international journals in the fields of game theory and computer simulations. He has given invited lectures on the subjects discussed in The Skeptical Environmentalist in leading universities in North America and Europe following the success of the original Danish edition which has had a significant impact on the terms of the environmental debate within Scandinavia.