On Bjorn Lomborg and the “middle ground”

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Global warming contrarian Bjorn Lomborg told POLITICO he is trying to defend the“smart middle” ground in the climate policy debate. But, we asked, where is the middle ground when one of the political parties appears to be aligning itself in a denialist position on climate science and the reality of the climate change problem?

Robin Bravender at POLITICO reported on an interview with Lomborg (“Bjorn Lomborg says he agrees with Al Gore, sort of,” October 7):

One of the world's most famous global warming contrarians says he sees eye to eye with Al Gore on climate science – for the most part – and claims his view have been distorted by those on both sides of the global warming debate.

Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish academic and the self-proclaimed "skeptical environmentalist," said he "fundamentally" agrees with the global warming crusader and former vice president.

“We agree that global warming is real, that it’s man-made that it is an important problem," Lomborg told POLITICO in an interview Wednesday. But, “We disagree very much about how to tackle it.” ….

“That's the way it is with heresy – there is no middle ground,” Lomborg has written.

He told POLITICO that the media coverage has been a “very good demonstration of what that dichotomy does to the smart middle, which is what I’m trying to defend – a place where you can say, ‘Listen, global warming is real, it’s not the end of the world, but it’s not a hoax either. And so we need to tackle it smartly, but we shouldn’t panic and do whatever to deal with it.”

But when it comes to climate science, there is no middle ground, said Rick Piltz, director of the watchdog group Climate Science Watch. "It's not a faith-based thing, it's evidence based,” Piltz said.

"I really think people should pay attention to the leading experts in any field – not slavishly – but you don't just throw it overboard,” Piltz added.

Since what I said is considerably compressed in the article, I’ll expand a bit here. We should welcome a multi-sided discussion among people who are seeking meaningful policy approaches to climate change and paths forward in the current very difficult circumstances. That discussion could usefully include Lomborg, if he can get beyond spreading scientific  misinformation and being a self-promoting provocateur at the expense of serious people. (Though his complaining about how everyone is supposedly “misusing” him and distorting his views, while throwing in that we need to get the Democrats “off the high horse,” still comes across as a bit opportunistic.)

But Lomborg is hardly the real problem facing the search for a “middle ground” on climate policy. The collapse of Congressional action on climate and clean energy legislation this year, after the House had passed a highly-compromised bill and Senate sponsors had painstakingly sought to bring forward something similar, was due mainly to lock-step opposition from Republicans along with corporate and parochially-oriented Democrats. Regardless of what one thinks of cap-and-trade as a policy approach, nothing looks likely to change in that arena in the near-foreseeable future, except for greater numbers on the no-compromise corporate and global warming denialist side.

I said to POLITICO that I saw no middle ground on climate science, in the sense that climate science is evidence-based and that we should pay attention to scientific expertise. I didn’t mean that all scientific issues have been settled – far from it – but rather that we face a situation of seeking a negotiated climate policy in a situation in which one of the major parties, to quote National Journal, appears to be “coalescing around a uniquely dismissive position on climate change.” Where are we to find a “middle ground” in dealing with this crew?--

From “GOP Gives Climate Science A Cold Shoulder” (Ronald Brownstein, National Journal, October 9):

“Republicans in this country are coalescing around a uniquely dismissive position on climate change. The GOP is stampeding toward an absolutist rejection of climate science that appears unmatched among major political parties around the globe, even conservative ones….

“[V]irtually all of the serious 2010 GOP challengers have moved beyond opposing cap-and-trade to dismissing the scientific evidence that global warming is even occurring.

“Senate nominees with tea party roots, such as Nevada's Sharron Angle, have expressed these views most emphatically. But the pattern of repudiation extends to more-measured nominees such as Ohio's Rob Portman and California's Carly Fiorina who pointedly insisted, "I'm not sure," when asked whether climate change was happening. Of the 20 serious GOP Senate challengers who have taken a position, 19 have declared that the science of climate change is inconclusive or flat-out incorrect. (Kirk is the only exception.) With sentiments among rank-and-file Republicans also trending that way, it's no coincidence that two Republicans who affirmed the science -- Rep. Michael Castle in Delaware and Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska -- were defeated in Senate primaries this year….

“Indeed, it is difficult to identify another major political party in any democracy as thoroughly dismissive of climate science as is the GOP here. Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, says that although other parties may contain pockets of climate skepticism, there is "no party-wide view like this anywhere in the world that I am aware of."

“It will be difficult for the world to move meaningfully against climate disruption if the United States does not. And it will be almost impossible for the U.S. to act if one party not only rejects the most common solution proposed for the problem (cap-and-trade) but repudiates even the idea that there is a problem to be solved….”

Earlier posts:

Interview with Stephen Schneider on climate science expert credibility study

New study finds striking level of agreement among climate experts on anthropogenic climate change

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One Response to On Bjorn Lomborg and the “middle ground”

  1. caerbannog says:

    Professional science teachers say that 2+2=4
    Math deniers insist that 2+2=6

    The Lomborgian "middle-ground": 2+2=5

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