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The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World Paperback – September 10, 2001

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Editorial Reviews


"This is one of the most valuable books on public policy - not merely on environmental policy - to have been written for the intelligent general reader in the past ten years. The Skeptical Environmentalist is a triumph."
The Economist

"... a superbly documented and readable book."
The Wall Street Journal

"... it is a surprise to meet someone who calls himself an environmentalist but who asserts that things are getting better ... Strange to say, the author of this happy thesis is not a steely-eyed economist at a conservative Washington think tank but a vegetarian, backpack-toting academic who was a member of Greenpeace for four years ... The primary target of the books, a substantial work of analysis with almost 3000 footnotes, are statements made by environemtal organizations like the Worldwatch Institute, the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace. He refers to the persistently gloomy fate from these groups as the Litany, a collection of statements that he argues are exaggerations or outright myths."
The New York Times

"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

"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

"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 hardheaded, 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 are over-hyped. In vigorous and what needs not to be done about those turning out to be pseudo-problems."
Jack Hirshleifer, University of California, Los Angeles

"Bjørn Lomborg raises the important question whether the costs of remedying the damage caused by environmental pollution are higher than the costs of the pollution itself. The answer is by no means straightforward. He has written a pioneering book."
Richard Rosecrance, University of California, Los Angeles

"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, incl 2428 footnotes. 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."
Lars Kristoferson, Secretary General, WWF Sweden

"... probably the most important book on the environment ever written."

"Lomborg is right on his points, that his critique of much green activism and its reporting in the media is just, and, above all, that where there is room for disagreement, Mr Lomborg invites and facilitates discussion, rather than seeking to silence it."
The Economist

Book Description

Challenges widely held beliefs that the environmental situation is getting worse and worse. Making use of the best available statistical information, Lomborg systematically examines a range of major environmental problems that feature prominently in global headline news. 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. The Skeptical Environmentalist offers readers a non-partisan stocktaking exercises that serves as a useful corrective to the more alarmist accounts favored by campaign groups and the media.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 540 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1st edition (September 10, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521010683
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521010689
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1.4 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (377 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #294,527 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

605 of 673 people found the following review helpful By Antonio on September 24, 2001
Format: Paperback
Worthy causes, whether religious, political or moral tend to see themselves as above the duty to provide evidence to substantiate both their claims about reality and the suitability of their proposed measures to improve said reality. To their believers, the state of the world is obvious (usually bad), and they are genuinely astonished to find that most people are unconcerned about the grave issues that drive them. Their natural reaction is to become even more feverish about their respective causes and to step up efforts to proselytise and convert the benighted masses.
Bjorn Lomborg started working on the issues that would eventually make up the content of his book by leading some of his statistics students into debunking some claims made by University of Maryland's professor Julian Simon. Julian Simon had claimed that things were actually getting better rather than worse, and that most negative environmental indicators were connected to poverty, violence and bad government rather than consumption or wealth. To their surprise (for he initially took Simon's claims as evidence of typical American arrogance), Lomborg and his students found that Simon was roughly right.
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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Fabian Boudville on January 1, 2004
Format: Paperback
It is true that Lomborg's book does contain some errors. And that is why I am giving it only 4 Stars. But Lomborg has freely admitted them; More importantly, however, these minor mistakes do not undermine his main conclusion that the Earth's Environment is improving, rather than declining. We have had predictions of mass famine in the 1960's too due to the growing world population but the subsequent Green Revolution boosted crop production and supported the increased population. My point here is that Scientists and Prognosticators cannot predict the future. Personally, I do think that we should do more to curb Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions and increase Fuel Economy Standards in both Canada and the US. Having a higher gas or electric bill tends to focus one's mind on buying energy saving devices, light bulbs, etc. Having said that, we should equally NOT Demonise individuals such as Bjorn Lomborg who argue that the Earth's Environment is gradually improving rather than going to hell in a hand basket. Rather we should rationally examine the scientific facts first and then form a conclusion as Lomborg attempts to do in his book.

Some critics of Dr. Lomborg have referred to the January 2003 report by the Danish Commitee on Scientific Dishonesty(DCSD) as essentially discrediting the entire basis of The Skeptical Environmentalist. But, in fact, many lay people have pointed out serious flaws in the Methadology of DCSD's conclusions and on its refusal to give Lomborg prior to the release of their critical report. The Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation has now(December 2003) intervened to harshly criticised the DCSD's methadology and to repudiated their findings on Lomborg's book.
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47 of 51 people found the following review helpful By A. Hoekstra on February 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
Contrary to what the critics are claiming, this book does not tell us "everything is alright". Basically what the book does is place al problems in context and then it tries to compare them so we can judge where our money makes the biggest difference.
But some people apparently don't like the resulting priorities like "we could give all people in the world food and clean water forever for less than the yearly costs of Kyoto". Notice that the writers sympathy is with the sick and starving, not with the wealthy.
What is so good about the book that the writer uses the most acclaimed sources in each field, so people that don't like the resulting priorities find themselves fighting their own conclusions.
As you've guessed from the title I've carefully read the 11 page Scientific American article, Lomboks even larger rebuttal, Scientific Americans reaction to that and finally the ruling of the DCSD (the Danish group of scientists that ruled him biased).
This Scientific American article uses a very heavyhanded and even rhetoric approach to stress that the critics are scientific heavyweights in their field, not te be disputed.
But after the dust clears only two factual errors (that are never relevant to the main theme) remain: (1) the tekst contains the term catalyse where it should have been electrolyze (translation error according to Lombok) and (2) a "20% dependence" on nuclear energy in nations having nuclear power should have been a "20% dependence for electric use".
So here's a book picked to pieces by heavywheights and these are the only factual mistakes they can find!
In his rebuttal (DO read it: I'cant put in web adresses here but you'll find it in no time) Lombok comes up with a long list of errors on the part of his critics.
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