Tuesday, September 27, 2011

World's leading climate skeptic sees his funding melt away fast

The Independent
Mark Lewis

Bjorn Lomborg made his name by saying
climate change is exaggerated
The world's most high-profile climate change skeptic is set to have his funding scrapped.
Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and bĂȘte noire of climate change activists around the world, has been told that the incoming Danish government will cut off his £1m a year funding.

Mr Lomborg, whose 2001 book suggested the planet should adapt to global warming rather than wasting resources trying to prevent it, has made his name by accusing scientists and others of exaggerating the extent and effects of climate change. 

He was once compared to Adolf Hitler by the head of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri. He also appears to have few friends in power after Helle Thorning-Schmidt became Denmark's first woman Prime Minister after a slim victory for her centre-left coalition in this month's election.

Ida Auken, who is widely tipped as the next Environment Minister in the new administration, told The Independent that Mr Lomborg could no longer expect government funding for his Copenhagen Consensus Centre. 

"The reason he received funding in the first place was ideological," said Ms Auken, environment spokesman for SF, the junior partner in the incoming coalition. "We believe that it is wrong to give funding to specific ideological researchers."

In 2004, Copenhagen Consensus Centre research relegated global warming to near the bottom of the list of the 10 most pressing global problems. 

By 2008 similar analysis moved it halfway up the list, but still below problems related to malnutrition and the need to fight diseases such as malaria and HIV-Aids. 

Ms Auken said Mr Lomborg's research compared areas which cannot be compared, adding: "I don't see... why we should fund research like that.

Mr Lomborg defended the centre's research record. "We are disappointed if the new government does not wish to continue to support the centre which has published volumes of pioneering, world-class economic research and works closely with Nobel laureates and decision-makers to improve funding decisions in areas like development aid."

The centre has received funding from private sources in the past, including the Carlsberg Group and the EU. However, the lion's share of its income comes from the Danish state.

Mr Lomborg said he would not discuss possible motivations for the new government's likely decision. But the centre's staff have been steeling themselves for a funding crisis since it became clear the former, right-leaning government was doomed.

However, the self-styled "skeptical environmentalist" tone seems to have changed. 

The centre's latest book, Smart Solutions to Climate Change, has even received an unlikely endorsement from Mr Pachauri, who wrote: "I would recommend this book as much for the fact that Lomborg supports the view that we have 'long moved on from any mainstream disagreements about the science of climate change', as for the rich diversity of analysis it presents on a range of possible solutions."

Mr Lomborg has denied in the past that the 2010 book represented a volte-face. He was, he says, never a climate-change denier. Rather, he was hostile to governments' "bogus promises" to cut carbon emissions. 

In his own words

"Climate change will not cause massive disruptions or huge death tolls. Actually, for the world in general, the direct impact of climate change in 2050 will mean fewer dead, and not by a small amount."

"We have looked extensively at what we can do about global warming. It turns out that we can do fairly little at fairly high costs." 

"Many other issues are more important than global warming. We need to get our perspective back."

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