Bjørn Lomborg

Bjørn Lomborg

Bjørn Lomborg
Born (1965-01-06) January 6, 1965
Frederiksberg, Denmark
Occupation Author, adjunct professor, think tank director
Subject Environmental Economics

Bjørn Lomborg (Danish: [bjɶɐ̯n ˈlʌmbɒˀw]; born January 6, 1965) is a Danish author and adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School as well as President of the Copenhagen Consensus Center. He is former director of the Danish government's Environmental Assessment Institute (EAI) in Copenhagen. He became internationally known for his best-selling and controversial book, The Skeptical Environmentalist (2001), in which he argues that many of the costly measures and actions adopted by scientists and policy makers to meet the challenges of global warming will ultimately have minimal impact on the world’s rising temperature.[1]

In 2002, Lomborg and the Environmental Assessment Institute founded the Copenhagen Consensus, a project-based conference where prominent and generously paid economists sought to establish priorities for advancing global welfare using methods based on the theory of welfare economics.

In 2009, Business Insider cited Lomborg as one of "The 10 Most-Respected Global Warming Skeptics".[2] While Lomborg campaigned against the Kyoto Protocol and other measures to cut carbon emissions in the short-term, he argued for adaptation to short-term temperature rises, and for spending money on research and development for longer-term environmental solutions. His issue is not with the reality of climate change, but rather with the economic and political approaches being taken (or not taken) to meet the challenges of that climate change. He is a strong advocate for focusing attention and resources on what he perceives as far more pressing world problems, such as AIDS, malaria and malnutrition.[3][4] In his critique of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Lomborg stated: "Global warming is by no means our main environmental threat."[5] In 2011 and 2012, Lomborg was named a Top 100 Global Thinker by Foreign Policy "for looking more right than ever on the politics of climate change".[6]


Lomborg spent a year as an undergraduate at the University of Georgia, earned an M.A. degree in political science at the University of Aarhus in 1991, and a Ph.D. degree in political science at the University of Copenhagen in 1994.


Lomborg lectured in statistics in the Department of Political Science at the University of Aarhus as an assistant professor (1994–1996) and associate professor (1997–2005). He left the university in February 2005 and in May of that year became an adjunct professor in Policy-making, Scientific Knowledge and the Role of Experts at the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School.[7]

Early in his career, his professional areas of interest lay in the simulation of strategies in collective action dilemmas, simulation of party behavior in proportional voting systems, and the use of surveys in public administration. In 1996, Lomborg's paper, "Nucleus and Shield: Evolution of Social Structure in the Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma", was published in the academic journal, American Sociological Review.[8]

Later, Lomborg's interests shifted to the use of statistics in the environmental arena. In 1998, Lomborg published four essays about the state of the environment in the leading Danish newspaper Politiken, which according to him "resulted in a firestorm debate spanning over 400 articles in major metropolitan newspapers."[9] This led to the The Skeptical Environmentalist, whose English translation was published as a work in environmental economics by Cambridge University Press in 2001. He later edited Global Crises, Global Solutions, which presented the first conclusions of the Copenhagen Consensus, published in 2004 by the Cambridge University Press. In 2007, he authored a book entitled Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming.

In March 2002, the newly elected center-right prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, appointed Lomborg to run Denmark's new Environmental Assessment Institute (EAI). On 22 June 2004, Lomborg announced his decision to resign from this post to go back to the University of Aarhus,[10] saying his work at the Institute was done and that he could better serve the public debate from the academic sector.

Copenhagen Consensus

Lomborg and the Environmental Assessment Institute founded the Copenhagen Consensus in 2002, which seeks to establish priorities for advancing global welfare using methodologies based on the theory of welfare economics. A panel of prominent economists was assembled to evaluate and rank a series of problems every four years. The project was funded largely by the Danish government and was co-sponsored by The Economist. A book summarizing the conclusions of the economists' first assessment, Global Crises, Global Solutions, edited by Lomborg, was published in October 2004 by Cambridge University Press.

In 2006, Lomborg became director of the newly established Copenhagen Consensus Center, a Danish government-funded institute intended to build on the mandate of the EAI, and expand on the original Copenhagen Consensus conference.[11] Denmark withdrew its funding in 2012 and the Center faced imminent closure.[12][13] Lomborg left the country and reconstituted the Center as a non-profit organization in the United States.[14][15] The Center was based out of a "Neighborhood Parcel Shipping Center" in Lowell, Massachusetts, though Lomborg himself was based in Prague in the Czech Republic.[16] In 2015, Lomborg described the Center's funding as "a little more than $1m a year...from private donations",[13] of which Lomborg himself was paid $775,000 in 2012.[16]

In April 2015, it was announced that an alliance between the Copenhagen Consensus Center and the University of Western Australia would see the establishment of the Australian Consensus Centre, a new policy research center at the UWA Business School. The University described the Center's goals as a "focus on applying an economic lens to proposals to achieve good for Australia, the region and the world, prioritizing those initiatives which produce the most social value per dollar spent.".[17] This appointment came under intense scrutiny, particularly when leaked documents revealed that the Australian government had approached UWA and offered to fund the Consensus Centre, information subsequently confirmed by a senior UWA lecturer.[18] Reports indicated that Prime Minister Tony Abbott's office was directly responsible for Lomborg's elevation.[19] $4 million of the total funding for the Center was to be provided by the Australian federal government,[13] with UWA not contributing any funding for the centre.[20]

On 8 May 2015 UWA cancelled the contract for hosting the Australian Consensus Centre as "the proposed centre was untenable and lacked academic support".[21][22] The Australian federal education minister, Christopher Pyne, said that he would find another university to host the ACC.

In July 2015, Flinders University senior management began quietly canvassing its staff about a plan to host the renamed Lomborg Consensus Centre at the University, likely in the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences. A week later the story was broken on Twitter by the NTEU (National Tertiary Education Union)[23] and Scott Ludlam.[24] The story appeared the next day in The Australian,[25] but described as “academic conversations” with no mention of Bjorn Lomborg’s involvement and portrayed as a grassroots desire for the Centre by the University.[26] The following week, a story appeared in the Guardian quoting two Flinders University academics and an internal document demonstrating staff’s withering rejection of the idea.[27] Flinders staff and students vowed to fight against the establishment of any Centre or any partnership with Lomborg,[28] citing his lack of scientific credibility, his lack of academic legitimacy and the political nature of the process of establishing the Centre with the Abbott federal government. The Australian Youth Climate Coalition and launched a national campaign to support staff and students in their rejection of Lomborg.[29]

On 21 October 2015 education minister Simon Birmingham told a senate committee the offered funding had been withdrawn.[30] It was subsequently unclear whether the Australian Government would honour its original commitment and transfer the funds directly to the Centre to cover the costs incurred, in particular given Lomborg's unique expertise and contribution.

The Skeptical Environmentalist

Main article: The Skeptical Environmentalist

In 2001, he attained significant attention by publishing The Skeptical Environmentalist, a controversial book whose main thesis is that many of the most-publicized claims and predictions on environmental issues are wrong.

In the chapter on climate change in The Skeptical Environmentalist, he states: "This chapter accepts the reality of man-made global warming but questions the way in which future scenarios have been arrived at and finds that forecasts of climate change of 6 degrees by the end of the century are not plausible".[31] Cost–benefit analyses, calculated by the Copenhagen Consensus, ranked climate mitigation initiatives lowest on a list of international development initiatives when first done in 2004.[32] In a 2010 interview with the New Statesman, Lomborg summarized his position on climate change: "Global warming is real – it is man-made and it is an important problem. But it is not the end of the world."[33]

Formal accusations of scientific dishonesty

After the publication of The Skeptical Environmentalist, Lomborg was formally accused of scientific dishonesty by a group of environmental scientists, who brought a total of three complaints against him to the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD), a body under Denmark's Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MSTI). Lomborg was asked whether he regarded the book as a "debate" publication, and thereby not under the purview of the DCSD, or as a scientific work; he chose the latter, clearing the way for the inquiry that followed.[34] The charges claimed that The Skeptical Environmentalist contained deliberately misleading data and flawed conclusions. Due to the similarity of the complaints, the DCSD decided to proceed on the three cases under one investigation.

In January 2003, the DCSD released a ruling that sent a mixed message, finding the book to be scientifically dishonest through misrepresentation of scientific facts, but Lomborg himself not guilty due to his lack of expertise in the fields in question.[35] That February, Lomborg filed a complaint against the decision with the MSTI, which had oversight over the DCSD. In December, 2003, the Ministry annulled the DCSD decision, citing procedural errors, including lack of documentation of errors in the book, and asked the DCSD to re-examine the case. In March 2004, the DCSD formally decided not to act further on the complaints, reasoning that renewed scrutiny would, in all likelihood, result in the same conclusion.[34][36]

Response of the academic community

The original DCSD decision about Lomborg provoked a petition[37] signed by 287 Danish academics, primarily social scientists, who criticised the DCSD for evaluating the book as a work of science, whereas the petitioners considered it clearly an opinion piece by a non-scientist.[38][39] The Danish Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation then asked the Danish Research Agency (DRA) to form an independent working group to review DCSD practices.[40] In response to this, another group of Danish scientists collected over 600 signatures, primarily from the medical and natural sciences community, to support the continued existence of the DCSD and presented their petition to the DRA.[38]


The alumni network of the Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership (CPSL) voted The Skeptical Environmentalist among its list of the top 50 sustainability books.[41]

Continued debate and criticism

The rulings of the Danish authorities in 2003–2004 left Lomborg's critics frustrated. Lomborg claimed vindication as a result of MSTI's decision to set aside the original finding of DCSD.

The Lomborg Deception, a book by Howard Friel, claims to offer a "careful analysis" of the ways in which Lomborg has "selectively used (and sometimes distorted) the available evidence",[42] and that the sources Lomborg provides in the footnotes do not support—and in some cases are in direct contradiction to—Lomborg's assertions in the text of the book;[43] Lomborg has denied these claims in a public response.[44] Lomborg has provided a 27-page argument-by-argument response.[45] Friel has written a reply to this response,[46] in which he admits two errors, but otherwise in general rejects Lomborg's arguments.

A group of scientists published an article in 2005 in the Journal of Information Ethics,[47] in which they concluded that most criticism against Lomborg was unjustified, and that the scientific community misused their authority to suppress Lomborg.

The claim that the accusations against Lomborg were unjustified was challenged in the next issue of Journal of Information Ethics[48] by Kåre Fog, one of the original plaintiffs. Fog reasserted his contention that, despite the ministry's decision, most of the accusations against Lomborg were valid. He also rejected what he called "the Galileo hypothesis", which he describes as the conception that Lomborg is just a brave young man confronting old-fashioned opposition. Fog and other scientists have continued to criticize Lomborg for what one called "a history of misrepresenting" climate science.[49][50]

In April 2015 Lomborg gained further attention as a climate contrarian when he issued a call for all subsidies to be removed from fossil fuels on the basis that "a disproportionate share of the subsidies goes to the middle class and the rich"...making fossil fuel so "inexpensive that consumption increases, thus exacerbating global warming".[51]

In 2014 the government of Australia offered the University of Western Australia $4 million to establish a “consensus centre” with Lomborg as director. The university accepted the offer, setting off a firestorm of opposition from its faculty and students and from climate scientists around the world. In April 2015 the university reversed itself and rejected the offer. The government continued to seek a sponsor for the proposed institution.[52] On 21 October 2015 the offered funding was withdrawn.[30] (For further details see the "Copenhagen Consensus" sub-section of the "Career" section, above.)

Personal life

Lomborg is gay and a vegetarian.[53] As a public figure he has been a participant in information campaigns in Denmark about homosexuality, and states that "Being a public gay is to my view a civic responsibility. It's important to show that the width of the gay world cannot be described by a tired stereotype, but goes from leather gays on parade-wagons to suit-and-tie yuppies on the direction floor, as well as everything in between".[54]

Recognitions and awards

Discussions in the media

After the release of The Skeptical Environmentalist in 2001, Lomborg was subjected to intense scrutiny and criticism in the media, where his scientific qualifications and integrity were both attacked and defended. The verdict of the Danish Committees for Scientific Dishonesty fueled this debate and brought it into the spotlight of international mass media. By the end of 2003 Lomborg had become an international celebrity, with frequent appearances on radio, television and print media around the world.


Documentary film

Main article: Cool It (film)

Bjørn Lomborg released a documentary feature film, Cool It, on 12 November 2010 in the US.[71][72] The film in part explicitly challenged Al Gore's 2006 Oscar-winning environmental awareness documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, and was frequently presented by the media in that light, as in the Wall Street Journal headline, "Controversial ‘Cool It’ Documentary Takes on 'An Inconvenient Truth'."[73][74] Reviews were generally favorable, with a media critic collective rating of 51% from Rotten Tomatoes[75] and 61% from Metacritic.[76] The Atlantic review described it as "An urgent, intelligent, and entertaining account of the climate policy debate, with a strong focus on cost-effective solutions."[77]

See also


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  2. Weisenthal, Joe (30 July 2009). "The 10 Most-Respected Global Warming Skeptics". Business Insider. Retrieved 24 April 2015.
  3. Lomborg, Bjorn (17 October 2007). "Sucked dry". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 April 2015.
  4. Lomborg, Bjorn (15 December 2009). "Time for a Smarter Approach to Global Warming". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 24 April 2015.
  5. Lomborg, Bjørn (2012). "Wrongheaded in Rio". Project Syndicate.
  6. "Foreign Policys 100 Top Global Thinkers includes 17 TED speakers | TED Blog". Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  7. "Appointment of Bjørn Lomborg". Copenhagen Business School. 3 June 2005. Retrieved 24 April 2015.
  8. Lomborg, Bjørn (1996). "Nucleus and Shield: The Evolution of Social Structure in the Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma". American Sociological Review. American Sociological Review, Vol. 61, No. 2. 61 (2): 278–307. doi:10.2307/2096335. JSTOR 2096335.
  9. Bjørn Lomborg Biography, Retrieved 26 February 2006.
  10. Fog, Kåre. "The functioning of the Environmental Assessment Institute". p. 15. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  11. "Our story". Copenhagen Consensus Center. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
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  13. 1 2 3 Taylor, Lenore (16 April 2015). "Abbott government gives $4m to help climate contrarian set up Australian centre". Retrieved 30 July 2015.
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  19. Massola, James; Knott, Matthew (23 April 2015). "Prime Minister Tony Abbott's office the origin for controversial Bjorn Lomborg centre decision". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
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  32. "Copenhagen Consensus: The Results" (PDF). Copenhagen Consensus Center. Retrieved 21 November 2014. "Optimal carbon tax," "The Kyoto Protocol," and "Value-at-risk carbon tax" ranked 15, 16, and 17 on a ranked list of 17 evaluated projects, with a collective Project Rating of Bad.
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  45. Archived 19 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
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  69. Bjørn Lomborg: $100bn a year needed to fight climate change in The Guardian, 30 August 2010 "Although Pachauri once compared Lomborg to Hitler, he has now given an unlikely endorsement to the new book, Smart Solutions to Climate Change."
  70. Resisting Climate Reality April 7, 2011 Bill McKibben
  71. "Cool It" movie seeks climate solutions: Lomborg, Reuters
  73. Kaufman, Anthony (10 November 2010). "Controversial 'Cool It' Documentary Takes on 'An Inconvenient Truth'". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
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  77. Crook, Clive (6 October 2010). "Bjorn Lomborg's Movie: Is Quiet the New Loud?". The Atlantic.

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