NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

An Environmentalist Debunks the Litany

August 8, 2001

A litany of unfounded statements made by such environmental organizations as Worldwatch Institute, the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace are the target of Bjorn Lomborg, author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist" (Cambridge University Press, September 2001). Lomborg dissects and refutes the gloomy prognostications put out by such groups -- which he refers to as the "Litany."

What makes Lomborg's observations remarkable is that he is an environmentalist who once belonged to Greenpeace. He is also a political scientist and professor of statistics at the University of Aarhus in Denmark. Also, he read and attempted to refute the work of the late resource economist Julian Simon, but failed.

Here are a few nuggets from his book aimed at holding environmentalist groups accountable to reality:

  • Whereas the Worldwatch Institute claims the world's forests have "declined significantly in both area and quality in recent decades," the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization documents that global forest cover has, in fact, increased -- to 30.89 percent of global land cover in 1994 from 30.04 in 1950.
  • In its report for 2000, the Institute lamented "record rates of population growth, soaring oil prices, debilitating levels of international debt and extensive damage to forests" from acid rain -- but Lomborg cites figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the European Environment Agency to debunk each of those assertions.
  • As for predictions that the world faces a population explosion which will lead to mass starvation, Lomborg points out that although the world population has doubled since 1961, calorie intake has increased by 24 percent as a whole and by 38 percent in developing countries.
  • With regard to global warming, Lomborg contends that the Kyoto targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions would impose vast costs for little result.

Source: Nicholas Wade, "From an Unlikely Quarter, Eco-Optimism," New York Times, August 7, 2001.

 

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