Bjørn Lomborg

Bjørn Lomborg (Danish: [ˈpjɶɐ̯ˀn ˈlɔmˌpɒˀ]; born 6 January 1965) is a Danish author and president of the think tank, Copenhagen Consensus Center. He is former director of the Danish government's Environmental Assessment Institute (EAI) in Copenhagen. He became internationally known for his best-selling and controversial book, The Skeptical Environmentalist (2001), in which he argues that many of the costly measures and actions adopted by scientists and policy makers to meet the challenges of global warming will ultimately have minimal impact on the world's rising temperature.[1]

Bjørn Lomborg
Bjørn Lomborg
Bjørn Lomborg
Born (1965-01-06) 6 January 1965 (age 57)
Frederiksberg, Denmark
OccupationAuthor, visiting professor, think tank director
SubjectPolitical science, environmental economics

In 2002, Lomborg and the Environmental Assessment Institute founded the Copenhagen Consensus, a project-based conference where prominent economists sought to establish priorities for advancing global welfare using methods based on the theory of welfare economics.

In 2009, Business Insider cited Lomborg as one of "The 10 Most-Respected Global Warming Skeptics".[2] While Lomborg campaigned against the Kyoto Protocol and other measures to cut carbon emissions in the short-term, he argued for adaptation to short-term temperature rises, and for spending money on research and development for longer-term environmental solutions. He states that his issue is not with the reality of climate change, but rather with the economic and political approaches being taken (or not taken) to meet the challenges of that climate change. He advocates for focusing attention and resources on what he perceives as far more pressing world problems, such as AIDS, malaria and malnutrition.[3][4] In his critique of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Lomborg stated: "Global warming is by no means our main environmental threat."[5]

Lomborg's views and work have attracted scrutiny in the scientific community;[6][7][8] he was formally accused of scientific misconduct over The Skeptical Environmentalist, and the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty concluded in an evaluation of the book that "one couldn't prove that Lomborg had deliberately been scientifically dishonest, although he had broken the rules of scientific practice in that he interpreted results beyond the conclusions of the authors he cited."[9]


Lomborg was an undergraduate at the University of Georgia, earned an M.A. degree in political science at the University of Aarhus in 1991, and a PhD degree in political science at the University of Copenhagen in 1994.[citation needed]


Lomborg lectured in statistics in the Department of Political Science at the University of Aarhus as an assistant professor (1994–1996) and associate professor (1997–2005). He left the university in February 2005 and in May of that year became an adjunct professor in Policy-making, Scientific Knowledge and the Role of Experts at the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School.[10]

Early in his career, his professional areas of interest lay in the simulation of strategies in collective action dilemmas, simulation of party behavior in proportional voting systems, and the use of surveys in public administration. In 1996, Lomborg's paper, "Nucleus and Shield: Evolution of Social Structure in the Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma", was published in the academic journal American Sociological Review.[11]

Later, Lomborg's interests shifted to the use of statistics in the environmental arena. In 1998, Lomborg published four essays about the state of the environment in the leading Danish newspaper Politiken, which according to him "resulted in a firestorm debate spanning over 400 articles in major metropolitan newspapers."[12] This led to the Skeptical Environmentalist, whose English translation was published as a work in environmental economics by Cambridge University Press in 2001. He later edited Global Crises, Global Solutions, which presented the first conclusions of the Copenhagen Consensus, published in 2004 by the Cambridge University Press. In 2007, he authored a book entitled Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming.

In March 2002, the newly elected center-right prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, appointed Lomborg to run Denmark's new Environmental Assessment Institute (EAI). On 22 June 2004, Lomborg announced his decision to resign from this post to go back to the University of Aarhus,[13] saying his work at the Institute was done and that he could better serve the public debate from the academic sector.

Copenhagen ConsensusEdit

Lomborg (right) with DeAnne Julius (center) and Stephen Sackur (left), at WTTC Global Summit 2014

Lomborg and the Environmental Assessment Institute founded the Copenhagen Consensus in 2002, which seeks to establish priorities for advancing global welfare using methodologies based on the theory of welfare economics. A panel of prominent economists was assembled to evaluate and rank a series of problems every four years. The project was funded largely by the Danish government and was co-sponsored by The Economist. A book summarizing the conclusions of the economists' first assessment, Global Crises, Global Solutions, edited by Lomborg, was published in October 2004 by Cambridge University Press.

In 2006, Lomborg became director of the newly established Copenhagen Consensus Center, a Danish government-funded institute intended to build on the mandate of the EAI, and expand on the original Copenhagen Consensus conference.[14] Denmark withdrew its funding in 2012 and the Center faced imminent closure.[15][16] Lomborg left the country and reconstituted the Center as a non-profit organization in the United States.[17][18] The Center was based out of a "Neighborhood Parcel Shipping Center" in Lowell, Massachusetts, though Lomborg himself was based in Prague in the Czech Republic.[19] In 2015, Lomborg described the center's funding as "a little more than $1m a year ... from private donations",[16] of which Lomborg himself was paid $775,000 in 2012.[19]

In April 2015, it was announced that an alliance between the Copenhagen Consensus Center and the University of Western Australia would see the establishment of the Australian Consensus Centre, a new policy research center at the UWA Business School. The University described the Center's goals as a "focus on applying an economic lens to proposals to achieve good for Australia, the region and the world, prioritizing those initiatives which produce the most social value per dollar spent.".[20] This appointment came under intense scrutiny, particularly when leaked documents revealed that the Australian government had approached UWA and offered to fund the Consensus Centre, information subsequently confirmed by a senior UWA lecturer.[21] Reports indicated that Prime Minister Tony Abbott's office was directly responsible for Lomborg's elevation.[22] $4 million of the total funding for the Center was to be provided by the Australian federal government,[16] with UWA not contributing any funding for the centre.[23]

On 8 May 2015, UWA cancelled the contract for hosting the Australian Consensus Centre as "the proposed centre was untenable and lacked academic support".[24][25] The Australian federal education minister, Christopher Pyne, said that he would find another university to host the ACC.

In July 2015, Flinders University senior management began quietly canvassing its staff about a plan to host the renamed Lomborg Consensus Centre at the University, likely in the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences. A week later the story was broken on Twitter by the NTEU (National Tertiary Education Union)[26] and Scott Ludlam.[27] The story appeared the next day in The Australian,[28] but described as "academic conversations" with no mention of Bjorn Lomborg's involvement and portrayed as a grassroots desire for the Centre by the University.[29] The following week, a story appeared in The Guardian quoting two Flinders University academics and an internal document demonstrating staff's withering rejection of the idea.[30] Flinders staff and students vowed to fight against the establishment of any Centre or any partnership with Lomborg,[31] citing his lack of scientific credibility, his lack of academic legitimacy and the political nature of the process of establishing the Centre with the Abbott federal government. The Australian Youth Climate Coalition and launched a national campaign to support staff and students in their rejection of Lomborg.[32]

On 21 October 2015, education minister Simon Birmingham told a senate committee the offered funding had been withdrawn.[33] It was subsequently unclear whether the Australian Government would honour its original commitment and transfer the funds directly to the Centre to cover the costs incurred.

Several of Bjørn Lomborg's articles in newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal and The Daily Telegraph have been checked by Climate Feedback, a worldwide network of scientists who collectively assess the credibility of influential climate change media coverage. The Climate Feedback reviewers assessed that the scientific credibility ranged between "low" and "very low". The Climate Feedback reviewers come to the conclusion that in one case Lomborg "practices cherry-picking",[8] in a second case he "had reached his conclusions through cherry-picking from a small subset of the evidence, misrepresenting the results of existing studies, and relying on flawed reasoning",[34] in a third case "[his] article [is in] blatant disagreement with available scientific evidence, while the author does not offer adequate evidence to support his statements",[35] and, in a fourth case, "The author, Bjorn Lomborg, cherry-picks this specific piece of research and uses it in support of a broad argument against the value of climate policy. He also misrepresents the Paris Agreement to downplay its potential to curb future climate change."[36]

As of 2020, Lomborg is a visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank.[37]

The Skeptical EnvironmentalistEdit

In 2001, he attained significant attention by publishing The Skeptical Environmentalist, a controversial book whose main thesis is that many of the most-publicized claims and predictions on environmental issues are wrong.

In the chapter on climate change in The Skeptical Environmentalist, he states: "This chapter accepts the reality of man-made global warming but questions the way in which future scenarios have been arrived at and finds that forecasts of climate change of 6 degrees by the end of the century are not plausible".[38] Cost–benefit analyses, calculated by the Copenhagen Consensus, ranked climate mitigation initiatives lowest on a list of international development initiatives when first done in 2004.[39] In a 2010 interview with the New Statesman, Lomborg summarized his position on climate change: "Global warming is real – it is man-made and it is an important problem. But it is not the end of the world."[40]

Formal accusations of scientific dishonestyEdit

After the publication of The Skeptical Environmentalist, Lomborg was formally accused of scientific dishonesty by a group of environmental scientists, who brought a total of three complaints against him to the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD), a body under Denmark's Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MSTI). Lomborg was asked whether he regarded the book as a "debate" publication, and thereby not under the purview of the DCSD, or as a scientific work; he chose the latter, clearing the way for the inquiry that followed.[9] The charges claimed that The Skeptical Environmentalist contained deliberately misleading data and flawed conclusions. Due to the similarity of the complaints, the DCSD decided to proceed on the three cases under one investigation.

In January 2003, the DCSD released a ruling that sent a mixed message, finding the book to be scientifically dishonest through misrepresentation of scientific facts, but Lomborg himself not guilty due to his lack of expertise in the fields in question.[41] That February, Lomborg filed a complaint against the decision with the MSTI, which had oversight over the DCSD. In December, 2003, the Ministry annulled the DCSD decision, citing procedural errors, including lack of documentation of errors in the book, and asked the DCSD to re-examine the case. In March 2004, the DCSD formally decided not to act further on the complaints, reasoning that renewed scrutiny would, in all likelihood, result in the same conclusion.[9][42]

Response of the academic communityEdit

The original DCSD decision about Lomborg provoked a petition[43] signed by 287 Danish academics, primarily social scientists, who criticised the DCSD for evaluating the book as a work of science, whereas the petitioners considered it clearly an opinion piece by a non-scientist.[44][45] The Danish Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation then asked the Danish Research Agency (DRA) to form an independent working group to review DCSD practices.[46] In response to this, another group of Danish scientists collected over 600 signatures, primarily from the medical and natural sciences community, to support the continued existence of the DCSD and presented their petition to the DRA.[44]

Continued debate and criticismEdit

The rulings of the Danish authorities in 2003–2004 left Lomborg's critics frustrated. Lomborg claimed vindication as a result of MSTI's decision to set aside the original finding of DCSD.

Arthur Rörsch, Thomas Frello, Ray Soper and Adriaan De Lange published an article in March 2005 in the Journal of Information Ethics,[47] in which they concluded that most criticism against Lomborg was unjustified, and that the scientific community misused its authority to suppress Lomborg.

The claim that the accusations against Lomborg were unjustified was challenged in the next issue (September 2005) of Journal of Information Ethics[48] by Kåre Fog, one of the original plaintiffs. Fog reasserted his contention that, despite the ministry's decision, most of the accusations against Lomborg were valid. He also rejected what he called "the Galileo hypothesis", which he describes as the conception that Lomborg is a brave young man confronting old-fashioned opposition. Fog and other scientists have continued to criticize Lomborg for what one called "a history of misrepresenting" climate science.[49][50]

The Lomborg Deception, a 2010 Yale University Press book by Howard Friel, analyzed the ways in which Lomborg has "selectively used (and sometimes distorted) the available evidence",[7] and alleged that the sources Lomborg provided in the footnotes did not support—and, in some cases directly contradicted, Lomborg's assertions in the text of the book.[51] Lomborg denied those claims in a 27-page argument-by-argument response.[52] Friel wrote a reply to that response, in which he admitted two errors but otherwise rejected Lomborg's arguments.[53]

In 2014, the Australian Government offered the University of Western Australia $4 million to establish a "consensus centre", with Lomborg as director. The university accepted the offer, setting off a firestorm of opposition from its faculty and students, and from climate scientists around the world. In April 2015, the university reversed the decision and rejected the offer. The government continued to seek a sponsor for the proposed institution.[54] On 21 October 2015, the offered funding was withdrawn.[33] (For further details see the "Copenhagen Consensus" sub-section of the "Career" section, above.)

Lomborg's approach has evolved in a direction more compatible with taking action to restrain climate change. In April 2015, he gained attention when he issued a call for all subsidies to be removed from fossil fuels, on the basis that "a disproportionate share of the subsidies goes to the middle class and the rich", making fossil fuel so "inexpensive that consumption increases, thus exacerbating global warming".[55] In publications such as The Wall Street Journal, he argued that the most productive use of resources would be a massive increase in funding for research to make renewable energy economically competitive with fossil fuels.[56]

In 2020, Lomborg wrote that studies of the European Green Deal "show enormous costs of 1-2 trillion euros ($1.5 trillion-$3 trillion) per year by 2050 just for Europe. This cost exceeds what governments across the EU today spend on health, education and environment, yet it will only reduce global climate damages by less than one-tenth of its cost."[57]

Personal lifeEdit

Lomborg is gay and a vegetarian.[58] As a public figure he has been a participant in information campaigns in Denmark about homosexuality, and states that "Being a public gay is to my view a civic responsibility. It's important to show that the width of the gay world cannot be described by a tired stereotype, but goes from leather gays on parade-wagons to suit-and-tie yuppies on the direction floor, as well as everything in between".[59]

Recognition and awardsEdit

Discussions in the mediaEdit

After the release of The Skeptical Environmentalist in 2001, Lomborg was subjected to intense scrutiny and criticism in the media, where his scientific qualifications and integrity were both attacked and defended. The verdict of the Danish Committees for Scientific Dishonesty fueled this debate and brought it into the spotlight of international mass media. By the end of 2003 Lomborg had become an international celebrity, with frequent appearances on radio, television and print media around the world. He is also a regular contributor to Project Syndicate since 2005.

  • Scientific American published criticism of Lomborg's book. Lomborg responded on his own website, quoting the article at such length that Scientific American threatened to sue for copyright infringement. Lomborg eventually removed the rebuttal from his website; it was later published in PDF format on Scientific American's site.[68] The magazine also printed a response to the rebuttal.[69]
  • The Economist defended Lomborg, claiming the panel of experts that had criticised Lomborg in Scientific American was both biased and did not actually counter Lomborg's book. The Economist argued that the panel's opinion had come under no scrutiny at all, and that Lomborg's responses had not been reported.[70]
  • Penn & Teller: Bullshit! — the U.S. Showtime television programme featured an episode entitled "Environmental Hysteria" in which Lomborg criticised what he claimed was environmentalists' refusal to accept a cost-benefit analysis of environmental questions, and stressed the need to prioritise some issues above others.[71]
  • Rolling Stone stated, "Lomborg pulls off the remarkable feat of welding the techno-optimism of the Internet age with a lefty's concern for the fate of the planet."[72]
  • The Union of Concerned Scientists criticised The Skeptical Environmentalist, claiming it to be "seriously flawed and failing to meet basic standards of credible scientific analysis", accusing Lomborg of presenting data in a fraudulent way, using flawed logic and selectively citing non-peer-reviewed literature.[6] The review was conducted by Peter Gleick, Jerry D. Mahlman, Edward O. Wilson, Thomas Lovejoy, Norman Myers, Jeff Harvey, and Stuart Pimm.
  • The New York Times criticised False Alarm, stating "This book proves the aphorism that a little knowledge is dangerous. It's nominally about air pollution. It's really about mind pollution." The review was conducted by Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz.[73]


  • Lomborg, Bjørn, "Nucleus and Shield: Evolution of Social Structure in the Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma", American Sociological Review, 1996.
  • Lomborg, Bjørn, The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World, Cambridge University Press, 2001. ISBN 0521010683
  • Lomborg, Bjørn (ed.), Global Crises, Global Solutions, Copenhagen Consensus, Cambridge University Press, 2004
  • Lomborg, Bjørn (ed.), How to Spend $50 Billion to Make the World a Better Place, Cambridge University Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0-521-68571-9
  • Lomborg, Bjørn (ed.), Solutions for the World's Biggest Problems - Costs and Benefits, Cambridge University Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-521-71597-3, offers an "overview of twenty-three of the world's biggest problems relating to the environment, governance, economics, and health and population. Leading economists provide a short survey of the state-of-the-art analysis and sketch out some policy solutions for which they provide cost-benefit ratios."
  • Lomborg, Bjørn, Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming, 2007, argues against taking immediate and "drastic" action to curb greenhouse gases while simultaneously stating that "Global warming is happening. It's a serious and important problem". He argues that "the cost and benefits of the proposed measures against global warming. ... is the worst way to spend our money. Climate change is a 100-year problem — we should not try to fix it in 10 years."
  • Lomborg, Bjørn, Smart Solutions to Climate Change, Comparing Costs and Benefits, Cambridge University Press, November 2010, ISBN 978-0-521-76342-4.[74][75]
  • Lomborg, Bjørn, The Nobel Laureates Guide to the Smartest Targets for the World 2016–2030, Copenhagen Consensus Center, April 2015. ISBN 978-1940003115
  • Lomborg, Bjørn (editor), Prioritizing Development: A Cost Benefit Analysis of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals Cambridge University Press 2018 ISBN 1108415458
  • Lomborg, Bjørn (2020). False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet. Basic Books. ISBN 9781541647480.

Documentary filmEdit

Bjørn Lomborg released a documentary feature film, Cool It, on 12 November 2010 in the US.[76][77] The film in part explicitly challenged Al Gore's 2006 Oscar-winning environmental awareness documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, and was frequently presented by the media in that light, as in The Wall Street Journal headline, "Controversial 'Cool It' Documentary Takes on 'An Inconvenient Truth'."[78][79] The film received a media critic collective rating of 51% from Rotten Tomatoes[80] and 61% from Metacritic.[81] The Atlantic review by Clive Crook, who describes himself in the article as a "friend" of Lomborg's and having taken "his side in the controversy that followed the publication of the Skeptical Environmentalist--a terrific book", called it "An urgent, intelligent, and entertaining account of the climate policy debate, with a strong focus on cost-effective solutions."[82]

See alsoEdit


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Further readingEdit

External linksEdit