The sceptical environmentalist

Green Lifestyle magazine

Those sceptical of climate change can be as hard core as they come, however as Bjørn Lomberg found, a critical mind helps create solutions to difficult problems.


Bjørn Lomborg

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Bjørn Lomberg has copped his share of flack over the last decade. In his first book in 2001, The Skeptical Environmentalist, Bjørn argued that while global warming was real, the situation was not as dire as activists portrayed. Understandably he came under a lot of criticism, to the extent of heading to court for “falsification of the facts”.

Refining his argument to focus on finding the best ways to deal with climate change, he went on to publish another book in 2007 Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalists Guide to Global Warming, which later became a film (to be released in Australia in February) taking his more recent positive, proactive viewpoint. But it hasn’t made him any less controversial.

We asked Bjørn to explain how his view had changed, but his response was that, “actually, I don’t think I’ve shifted. I’ve constantly been saying that global warming is real... I’ve been trying to find better ways to tackle global warming, and in the last five years or so, we’ve found a good way to do that – that if we spend money on research and development it essentially makes future green technologies better”.

“Part of the reason people think I’ve shifted is I think because the conversation has shifted. If I said ‘Kyoto doesn’t work’ ten years ago, it would have been like cursing in the church. Now, people recognise that Kyoto didn’t work. So I say let’s not waste another 10 or 20 years.”

“This is not about more wind turbines, it’s about investing in innovation.” Bjørn says that it’s currently only those who are well-meaning in developed countries who are investing in green technologies, but once they become sufficiently cheap, well-meaning people in developing countries like India and China are also going to invest, “and even not so well-meaning people simply because they’re cheaper.”

Being an academic, Bjørn says it was an incredible experience to make a film, admitting that his idea of making a good film beforehand would have been for him to sit down in front of a camera and read his book, “but people told me that that’s not actually how you make a good film!” Working with two-time Sundance winner Ondi Timoner and Ralph Winter, producer of the X-Men and Fantastic Four films, Bjørn says he was impressed with how it’s possible to, “make an argument that’s pretty involved into a watchable, gripping and engaging film”.

Bjørn admits that his macro approach to problem solving “isn’t an easy sell”, but he is winning people over with his arguments. In fact, he says both he and Rambit Pechowry from the IPCC were recently surprised at a Nobel meeting in Germany when they realised that they actually agreed on a lot of their social, political and even personal views. Both being vegetarians for ethical, not environmental, reasons, Bjørn has even been invited to visit Pechowry in his home country of India to share good vegetarian food with his anticipated nemesis.

Cool It was released on DVD nationally in Australia in February. For more info visit www.umbrellaent.com.au