Panel: Skeptical Environmentalist Perverted Message

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, January 8, 2003 (ENS) - An official Danish scientific ethics panel has ruled that Bjorn Lomborg "perverted the scientific message" in his book "The Sceptical Environmentalist," which disputes the seriousness of many key environmental problems. The decision is an embarrassment for the Danish government, which last year installed Lomborg as head of a new Environmental Assessment Institute (IMV).

Part of Denmark's Committees on Scientific Dishonesty, the panel decided to examine Lomborg's book after receiving several complaints. It has cleared him of the most serious charge of misleading readers deliberately or through gross negligence, but nevertheless finds the book to be "clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice."

Lomborg

Bjorn Lomborg authored the controversial book. (Photo courtesy Bjorn Lomborg)
A key challenge for the committee was whether, in fact, the book could be regarded as a work of science and therefore within its jurisdiction.

A working party remained split over the issue for a long time, but concluded that "subject to the proviso that the book is to be evaluated as science, there has been a perversion of the scientific message in the form of systematically biased representation."

The ruling has sparked a media storm in Denmark, with the credibility both of Lomborg's institute and of the government being called into question. Most Members of Parliament want an inquiry into all the work carried out by the IMV since it was set up a year ago, it is being reported.

Lomborg was unbowed yesterday, arguing that the scientific committee had failed to document any examples of bias. Neither had it taken a position on accusations of bias levelled by others. The decision was therefore "inexplicable," he said.

A spokesperson at Lomborg's office told reporters he does not intend to resign his position at IMV.

"The Skeptical Environmentalist" challenges beliefs that the global environment is progressively getting worse. Lomborg maintains that the global environment has actually improved and criticizes environmental organizations that make "selective and misleading use of scientific data to influence decisions about the allocation of limited resources."

In Chapter 1, Lomborg recognizes the hostility of the Danish government to his attitude. "It is not surprising, albeit a little depressing, that several environmental pundits, and indeed the Danish Secretary of the Environment, have tried to claim that I am probably just a right wing radical - or at least a messenger boy for the right. But of course, such an argument is blatantly irrelevant. My claim is that things are improving and this is necessarily a discussion which has to be based on facts."

"The Skeptical Environmentalist" is a "useful corrective to the more alarmist accounts favored by green activists and the media," Lomborg says.

Lomborg is an associate professor of statistics in the Department of Politital Science at Denmark's University of Aarhus. In 1998 he published four articles about the state of the environment in a Danish newspaper, which generated over 400 articles in major metropolitan newspapers debating his views. The articles led to the publication of "The Skeptical Environmentalist" in 2001, which has now been published in English, Danish, Swedish, Icelandic, German, and Portugese.

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