Lomborg Frenzy Takes Hold in Denmark

COPHENHAGEN, Denmark, January 9, 2003 (ENS) - Controversy surrounding author Bjorn Lomborg continued to rage in Denmark today following Tuesday's ruling by an official scientific ethics panel that he had "perverted the scientific message" in his 2001 book "The Sceptical Environmentalist."

Lomborg contends in the book that claims made by environmentalists about global warming, energy, overpopulation, species loss, deforestation, water scarcity, and a host of other issues are exaggerations that are not supported by a proper analysis of environmental data.

Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Environment Minister Hans Christian Schmidt said they stand by last year's appointment of Lomborg as head of a new Environmental Assessment Institute (IMV).

Lomborg

Bjorn Lomborg (Photo courtesy Bjorn Lomborg)
They said the government had complete confidence in the work of the institute despite the finding by a panel of the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty that Lomborg's book was "clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice."

Rasmussen said that Lomborg's job would not be a matter for discussion when the IMV board meets next Monday to discuss its response to the furore. However, the Prime Minister said he is considering calling for an investigation by "independent experts" of reports previously published by the institute in order to prevent critics from dismissing its work in the future.

In its short life, IMV has produced several controversial reports, for example urging maximum use of the Kyoto climate protocol's flexible mechanisms in place of domestic greenhouse gas emission cuts.

In another report, Lomborg's institute criticised a new deposit system on one-way drinks containers introduced by the government to boost recycling, arguing that they imposed excessive socio-economic costs for "dubious" environmental benefits.

The IMV has also challenged WWF, the conservation group, over its series of reports assessing the ecological footprint of the world economy as substantially exceeding the earth's carrying capacity.

IMV board chairman Ole Kristensen said Lomborg, a political scientist with a background in statistics, had been employed not only because of his book but also on the basis of his previous work, and there was no reason to doubt that his professional qualifications were in order. In any case, Kristensen added, the ethics panel was wrong to treat "The Sceptical Environmentalist" as a strictly scientific work when it was clearly intended to challenge received opinion and provoke debate.

On Tuesday, Lomborg rebutted the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD) in a statement that calls the panel's ruling "completely unfounded."

"The main conclusion by DCSD finds that my book is 'clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice' because of systematically biased selection of data and arguments," wrote Lomborg. "But since the DCSD has neglected to take their position on the technical scientific disputes their conclusions are completely unfounded."

"The DCSD does not give a single example to demonstrate their claim of a biased choice of data and arguments," Lomborg wrote. "Consequently, I don't understand this ruling. It equals an accusation without defining the crime."

In its January 2002 issue, "Scientific American" published the feature "Misleading Math about the Earth," in which four environmental experts Stephen Schneider, John Holdren, John Bongaarts and Thomas Lovejoy criticized arguments of the "The Skeptical Environmentalist" on global warming, energy, overpopulation and biodiversity. Lovejoy

Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, a tropical and conservation biologist, has been adviser to three U.S. Presidents and is chief biodiversity advisor to the president of the World Bank. (Photo courtesy California Biodiversity News)

Lomborg is particularly angered by the way the DCSD treated the complaints put forth in the "Scientific American" article. "This is a one year old discussion, which I participated in at that time by writing a 34 page response. But in spite of the fact that the DCSD received a copy of my response, they refer to none of my arguments. In fact the only thing that the DCSD does is to repeat the "Scientific American" arguments over six pages, while only allowing my arguments 1 line. This seems to reflect an extremely biased procedure. On top of that the DCSD has failed to evaluate the scientific points in dispute outlined in "Scientific American" article."

Hans Henrik Brydensholt, a High Court judge who is chairman of the DCSD, gave weight to the complaints outlined by the four scientists writing in "Scientific American."

Brydensholt wrote in the panel's ruling, "On the basis of the material adduced by the complainants, and particularly the assessment in "Scientific American," DCSD deems it to have been adequately substantiated that the defendant, who has himself insisted on presenting his publication in scientific form and not allowing the book to assume the appearance of a provocative debate-generating paper, based on customary scientific standards and in light of his systematic onesidedness in the choice of data and line of argument, has clearly acted at variance with good scientific practice."

The DCSD ruling, in English, is online at: http://www.forsk.dk/uvvu/nyt/udtaldebat/bl_decision.htm

The "Scientific American" controversy is detailed here:

The Skeptical Environmentalist is published by Cambridge University Press, 2001

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