Lomborg has seen the book manuscript shortly before printing
and has written a 27 page rebuttal, to
be downloaded here.
Friel has responded with this
reply. Here, Friel admits to have made two mistakes, one of
which was pointed out by Lomborg. These mistakes are that Friel has
mistaken "constant concentrations of CO2" for "constant
emissions of CO2", and that he has in one place mistaken
a century for a millenium. But the rest of Lomborg´s objections
are rejected by Friel.
My comments to
are as follows:
1) General comments
"The Lomborg Deception" is, from start to end, one long
criticism of Lomborg´s books. Two of the chapters deal with
Lomborg´s "The Skeptical Environmentalist", and eleven chapters
deal with Lomborg´s "Cool It!" (the American version of the
If Lomborg were truly interested in finding what is "the
real state of the World", he would be very concerned even if just a few
of Friel´s points of criticism were justified. He would apologize
for any misleading statements in his books, and insert proper
corrections in his own list of errors. This is not what se see,
however. Even though much of Friel´s criticism is to the point,
Lomborg does not admit that he has made any mistakes at all. Instead,
he uses a lot of spin to conceal his mistakes. And he writes: "I am
proud of The Skeptical
Environmentalist and Cool It,
wrote in them."
To strenghten the impression that Friel´s criticism
is unjustified, Lomborg uses a lot of derogatory phrases, like
"...he quotes source material out of context . . . and consistently
avoids engaging with the central arguments . . .
Friel also demonstrates a troubling lack of knowledge of basic climate
Friel´s inability to understand source tables
Friel also has a tendency to take quotes out of context
Friel´s tendency to miss (or at least ignore) the point
Often . . he either misundertands og misrepresents the facts
Friel´s tunnel vision
This paragraph is loaded with inaccuracies and false premises"
It is remarkable that some of these accusations against
mimick the criticism that is repeatedly raised against Lomborg himself.
For instance, Lomborg is often criticized for taking quotes out of
context. As often before, he turns such accusations around and directs
them at his critics.
To the unprejudiced reader, all these accusations give
the impression that Friel´s criticism is completely unjustified,
and that Friel has misunderstood everything. This, however, is not how
things are. In some cases, Friel´s criticism is indeed
unjustified or built on misunderstandings, but in most cases, his
criticism is justified. In what follows, I will try to treat
Lomborg´s "rebuttal" one point at a time and clear up, as
as I am able to, what is right and wrong.
2) Specific comments
Page 1 bottom:
Lindzen is a controversial climate scientist who has received much
financial support from the oil industry. His theory on "the iris
effect" is very doubtful. He certainly has not refuted the objections
raised by Schneider and many others. See comment for p. 271 right here in Lomborg-errors.
Friel unfortunately made a simple mistake which has no consequences for
the general argumentation. Lomborg makes as much out of this simple
lapse as he possibly can, using nearly one half page and inserting as
many derogatory terms as he can.
Page 3 top:
Friel postulates that Lomborg fails to document a single claim: ". . .
nor does he provide convincing data later in the book as he promised in
note 14." [Friel p. 50]. This is a drastic postulate, and it would need
documentation. Friel fails to provide that documentation.
Lomborg claims that in the chapter on biodiversity, he clearly
documents and discusses the figure of 0.7 % species loss. He is not
right. He discusses the figure, but it remains extremely dubious and
weakly founded. This is certainly not "clear documentation". See
Page 3 middle:
Friel says that when analyzing current trends, Lomborg ignores such
factors that might alter the trend in the future. This criticism from
Friel is very relevant and to the point. A clear example is in the
discussion of the number of people starving (see below). Friel is right
that Lomborg should have considered if any factors might change the
ongoing positive trend. Lomborg´s comments to this criticism
(extrapolating current trends uncritically into the future) are
completely irrelevant. To use his own term: "he avoids engaging with
the central arguments".
Page 3 bottom to page 5 top:
theme here is the number of people starving.
Lomborg has a figure (page 24 in TSE) showing that the number of people
starving declines regularly and steadily from
1970 to 2030.
However, things have turned out very differently, as seen in the latest
FAO report, The
the World 2009. The figure to the right
is copied from that report and it shows that the downward trend
described by Lomborg stopped already about 1996, five years before his
book was published. The curve has been bent and now turns rather
This is true not only for the total number of persons, but also for the
percentage of persons that are undernourished - this has risen since
Lomborg was so cocksure when he wrote in 2001 that the numbers would
continue to fall, but obviously he did not understand the underlying
forces which could turn the trend. This is the main point of criticism
stated by Friel, and he was right, even though he could have stated
this point even more clearly.
Instead of attacking Friel, Lomborg should express regret that his
positive projections for the future did not come true.
Besides this main point, there are som details to be
Lomborg postulates that all the numbers in the passage on
starving people have the same source, a single table from a 1996 FAO
report. This is directly untrue, as stated here in Lomborg-errors. Friel, too, has
noticed that the data originate from two references, not one. And when
he checks the latest of these, he correctly notices that the source is
not so optimistic about the trend as Lomborg is. If Lomborg had
listened to what was actually said in this report, he would not have
been so cocksure.
Lomborg has been criticized for the many times when he has quoted a
text out of context so that the meaning is distorted or reversed. He
now returns this criticism and accuses Friel of doing the same. That
accusation is not quite fair.
The example deals with the number of illiterate people. Lomborg´s
original text on this point is a little ambigouous, and one may easily
misunderstand the meaning of the figures, unless one reads the text
very carefully. Friel has indeed misunderstood the text; but this is an
understandable mistake, not an attempt at deliberate misleading such as
in several of the cases when Lomborg has quoted texts out of context.
Friel´s mistake is even more understandable because
Lomborg´s use of the reference is flawed. It is no wonder that
Friel has not been able to find Lomborg´s figures in the source,
because Lomborg´s treatment of the data source is beyond good
practice. See here (page 81)
Page 5 bottom to mid of page 7:
This again deals with the number of people starving, and
the comments made above apply even more here. Friel says that
malnutrition numbers increased in the second half of the 1990s, which
demonstrates that Lomborg´s assessment of `remarkable
progress´ was at best premature. As is readily seen from the
figure inserted above (taken from the 2009 FAO report), Friel was even
more right on this point than he was aware of. There is certainly no
`remarkable progress´ - there is a remarkable backlash. Lomborg
has indeed studied the 2009 report, according to his footnote on page
6, but even so he denies the obvious. He refuses to realize that he was
wrong, and instead finds some minor details on which he believes he can
In doing this, the claims that the latest figure on the
percentage of malnourished people is 16 %, and this is from 2004-6. But
we know he is aware of the report from 2009, in which the percentage
has recently risen to probably 19 %. Why does he conceal that? Of
course, 19 % is still a little better than the 20 % figure from 1992,
but Lomborg has a very weak point if he tries to convince us that this
is `remarkable progress´.
Concerning the situation in Africa, Lomborg accuses Friel
of disregarding the percentage figures. But unjustly. Friel does deal
with the percentage figures on his page 55 and again on page 57. What
more, the apparent decline in the percentage figures is partially due
to Lomborg´s manipulation of the data, by splicing two
incongruent data sets, as explained in Lomborg-errors here.
Page 7 bottom:
The text here deals with David Pimentel and estimates of erosion rates.
Concerning Pimentel, Friel uses this person´s prominence as an
(pp. 62 and 63). Maybe he shouldn´t. Even prominent persons may
err. And there are indications that Pimentel did indeed paint the
picture in too dark colours (see here
in Lomborg-errors, pp. 21-27).
Concerning erosion rates, Lomborg´s text is indeed somewhat
flawed (see here in
Lomborg-errors, p. 105). And Friel refers on page 64 to the fact the
Pimentel brings 11 documented sources as reference for his erosion
estimates. It would require more scrutiny to decide if these sources
can be taken as valid documentation for the erosion estimates.
Page 8 top to page 10 top:
This deals with the situation in Africa regarding erosion and
According to Lomborg, various sources on the subject are in conflict.
It cannot be true both that IFPRI projects an annual growth in yield of
1.7 percent, and that yields will be reduced by half in 40 years due to
To support his contention, Lomborg brings a curve demonstrating that
cereal yield in Africa has grown at a fairly steady rate of 1 % per
year, or 50 % in 40 years. This curve is a correct representation of
the data source. But it may also illustrate how both contentions could
be partially right. If cereal yields had grown annually by 1.7 percent,
would have grown by a factor of nearly 2 in 40 years. Actually, they
have grown only by a factor of 1.5 in 40 years, as Lomborg´s
curve illustrates. That is, the yields after 40 years are 25 % lower
than expected by IFPRI. This could possibly be because of erosion.
Considering that IFPRI is already aware that
erosion may be a problem and may therefore have reduced the intitially
expected growth rate to a slightly lower value of 1.7 %, then the
opposing views may be more or less reconciled.
Page 10 center:
Lomborg asks that if Friel really had problems finding the references
in Cool It, why didn´t Friel instead consult the British version
of Cool It, which is better supplied with notes and references.
It seems that Friel simply overlooked that there existed another
version of the book, and Friel would indeed have been helped if he had
been aware of that.
That said, it must also be said that is quite unusual to publish a book
simultaneously in USA and Britain with the same author and the same
title, but with different contents. It is not so strange that Friel
overlooked that there exist two different books with the same title. To
call that `tunnel vision´ is unduly derogatory.
Page 10 bottom to page 11 top:
Friel writes in his book on page 69 that Lomborg argues that climate
change will have few (if any) harmful impacts. In his rebuttal, Lomborg
remonstrates with him, pointing out that he wrote at the start of Cool
It: "Global warming . . . will have a serious impact on humans and the
environment toward the end of this century."
This issue is obfuscated by Lomborg´s peculiar way of writing.
Lomborg´s writing aims at two different targets: Some
messages are meant to be technically correct, and other messages are
meant to affect the unconscious. Typically, he puts a phrase at start
which is correct, but very short. Then, he uses a lot of space on
evidence that points in the opposite direction, and at the end he has
again a short phrase which is correct and gives the main stream
contention. The start and end phrases makes him immune to criticism, at
the same time as the vast majority of the text conveys the opposite
message. What the reader remembers is that which is told in the main
part of the text, between the start and end phrases.
So Friel is right that Lomborg conveys the message that climate
any) harmful impacts. But Lomborg thinks that
he is immune to this criticism because of the small phrases at start
This way of constructing a text is an example of what is designated
Page 11 top:
Friel is right in criticizing Lomborg for using the term `standard
future scenario´. IPCC states explicitly that there is no
standard scenario. Also, it is wrong to call any of the IPCC scenarios
for `business as usual´. In the paper that Lomborg refers to (Dai
et al. 2001) there is a scenario which they call `business
as usual´; firstly, this is not
identical to any of the IPCC scenarios. And second, it is a bad name,
because actually it is not `business as usual´ - for
instance, in that scenario, the developing world will gradually
increase their efforts to combat pollution of the air with
Page 11 center to
page 14 top:
The issue here is the number of deaths due to heat and cold.
First a detail: The 2003 heat wave in Europe was indeed unusual, so on
this point, Friel is right and Lomborg is wrong. See here (comment to page 16) in
Then about the main point. Lomborg claims that while global warming
will indeed increase the number of heat deaths, it will decrease the
number of cold deaths by an even larger number. Friel rejects that
contention, and his rejection may be justified. The references that
Lomborg uses to substantiate his contention are flawed because they
assume a large decrease in cold deaths which is rather hypothetical.
The circumstance that today more elderly people die in winter than in
summer cannot be used as a proof that if the winters were not so cold,
fewer people would die overall in the future. This is explained in
detail in Lomborg-errors here.
have no method to project by how much mortality
will decrease if the winters become milder. Furthermore, this
discussion focuses too much on the conditions in the cold parts of the
northern hemisphere. There is too little focus on the extra heat deaths
that will occur in the tropics and subtropics. This is partially
because the literature that Lomborg refers to is written on the basis
of a special ideological basis in which the value of a human life is
much less in the developing countries than in the developed countries.
Thus, Friel´s criticism of the main point is relevant, and
Lomborg `consistently avoids engaging with the central arguments´
- to use his own words.
Next, there are again som smaller details.
One detail is that Lomborg writes on page 15 of Cool It about the
number of deaths in Athens. Friel has not understood that the figures
in Lomborg´s reference have been multiplied in order to give the
total number of deaths in the whole of Athens with its 3.1 million
inhabitants. Lomborg does actually indicate this in his notes, so
Friel´s criticism is not justified on this point.
Lomborg has a text on page 17 of his book starting with the words "In
Europe as a whole . . . " Friel criticizes that the end note to that
passage does not contain a reference to the figures that are presented
there. Contrary to what Lomborg postulates, Friel is right on this
Page 14 to page 15
The issue is here why glaciers are dwindling all over the globe. Is it
because we are coming out of the Little Ice Age, or because of global
warming, or because of both at the same time?
Friel criticizes that although Lomborg in some paragraphs states that
both causes apply, there are other paragraphs which are written in a
way as if the dwindling was only due to coming out of the Little Ice
On this point, Friel´s criticism is justified. Lomborg does just
that. It seems to be some kind of `spin´, just like it was
described above for page 10 bottom. Here it was said: "Typically,
start which is correct, but very
short. Then, he uses a lot of space on evidence that points in the
opposite direction, and at the end he has again a short phrase which is
correct and gives the main stream contention." This is nearly the same
as happens here. I have made a detailed count of lines in
Lomborg´s text, stating how many lines deal with one cause, and
how many deal with another cause. The result can be read here and it is
evident that Friel is right: Lomborg uses so much space to tell that
glacier retreat is due to natural fluctuations that the whole text
becomes greatly biased. Furthermore, the fact that the retreat of many
glaciers stopped during the relatively cool years 1950 - 1970 and then
was resumed when temperatures rose after 1970, indicates that we are
not seeing a delayed effect of coming out of the Little Ice Age. What
we are seeing now, from 1970 onwards, may be wholly due to global
Page 15 and 16:
The next issue is the melting snow on Kilimanjaro.
Lomborg writes on page 56 in Cool It: ". . . Kilimanjaro has not lost
its ice on account of increasing temperatures, which have remained
rather stable below freezing, but because of a regional shift around
1880 toward drier climates." Friel points out that Kilimanjaro is known
to be an exceptional case, and that most other glaciers in the world
are dwindling because of global warming. But Lomborg inserts a sentence
that suggests that the problem with Kilimanjaro is also the problem of
the receding glaciers in general; thereby, Lomborg imparts a wrong
impression on his audience. Again, this is a question of whether
Lomborg conveys a false impression by indirect methods which appeal to
the unconscious mind of the reader. This question cannot be answered
definitely, but Friel may very well be right that Lomborg tried to do
There is more to be said, however. It is true that a study by Kaser et
al. (2004) concluded that glacier retreat on Kilimanjaro is due to a
drier climate, but this conclusion may be wrong. The climate has not
become drier during the last c. 50 years. Actually, there is evidence
that about half of the disappearance of ice on Kilimanjaro is due to
surface melting because of warmer temperatures. This is explained here in Lomborg-errors. So
when Lomborg writes definitely that ". . . Kilimanjaro has
not lost its ice on account of increasing temperatures . . ", he may
simply be wrong.
Page 16 bottom to page 18 center:
The issue here is melting glaciers in the Himalayas.
On this point, Friel has not had a lucky hand.
First, he accuses Lomborg of `chopping off´ parts of a phrase in
a reference. It is true that Lomborg focuses on one aspect of the
phrase in that reference, but it is not true that Lomborg completely
left out the contents of the latter part of the phrase.
Second, he criticizes Lomborg´s postulate that the Himalayan
glaciers will only run dry "toward the end of the century". He
criticizes that Lomborg´s reference for this statement does not
document that; the reference (Schneeberger et al. 2003) deals with 17
glaciers in the northern hemisphere, but none of these are in Himalaya
proper, although some of them are situated in the vicinity, west or
north of the Himalayas. Lomborg could more probaly have used another of
his references for documentation, viz. Lehmkuhl & Owen (2005), in
which it is stated (p. 91) that by the year 2100 the temperature in the
monsoonal temperate glaciers of China [i.e. Tibet] will rise by
2.1° C and that the glacier area will decrease by 75 %. Friel, on
the other hand, focuses on section 10.6 in the latest IPCC report, WG
II, where it is stated that the glaciers of the Himalayan region may
disappear already by 2035. This, however, has turned out to be a lapse
made by the IPCC. They have cited a non-peer-reviewed article from 1999
in New Scientist, and this has later been claimed to be unreliable. The
IPCC chairman admitted in 2010 that this statement was wrong.
Thus, Friel fails on a number of points here. On the other hand,
Lomborg is not completely right. First, Lomborg postulates that he
gives a reference to document his claim that "as glaciers melt, river
runoff will initially increase". The alleged reference is Singh
et al. (2006), but actually, that reference says nothing about clacier
retreat, and cannot be used as documentation.
Lomborg is also wrong on his main theme, viz. that glacier retreat will
mean lots of melt water in the rivers for the next c. 50 years to come.
As discussed here
(comments to pages 57 - 59) in Lomborg-errors, it is
likely that the increased river flow will last only about two decades
in the Indus and the Ganges, and river flow will be reduced already
from now on in the Brahmaputra. So on the central question - will
glacier melt mean reduced water supplies in the near future - Friel is
probably more right than Lomborg.
Page 18 bottom to page 22 center:
This section deals with water shortages.
Lomborg writes about Friel: "he surprisingly never challenges or even mentions
the main aspect of the chapter, namely that global warming will make
for more water availability .
Lomborg supports his claim with reference to a paper by Arnell et al.
(2004), whereas Friel supports his claims with reference to the latest
Now, the IPCC report (WG II, section 3.5.1) cites two references. One
is Arnell et al. which indicates that global warming will reduce the
number of people living in water-stressed watersheds. The other is
Alcamo et al. (2007) which indicates that global warming
will increase the number of people living in water-stressed watersheds.
No one knows what will actually happen; the conflicting results mean
that we cannot make any cocksure claims. But Lomborg cites only Arnell
et al. and states with no reservation that warming will make for more water
availability. Thus, Lomborg´s text is biased, and it is right of
Friel to criticize it, even though Friel does not hit very precisely
with his criticism.
A minor issue is that Friel has not been able to find the source of one
of Lomborg´s quotes from a UNESCO document (footnote on
page 19). Here, maybe both are to blame. Lomborg has failed to state
that the quote is from the executive summary, which is downloaded from
another URL than the "full document"; and Friel was not smart enough to
detect that Lomborg had this flaw in the reference.
The last part of this section deals with Lomborg´s claim that "we
could bring basic water and sanitation to all of these people within a
decade for about $4 billion annually." Friel criticizes this because
the reference says $10 billion annually. Lomborg explains that the
difference is because he has recalculated the yearly expenditure as an
annuity, using a discount rate of 5 %. The question is if this
recalculation is justified and is presented properly in Lomborg´s
text. My conclusion, as explained for page 111 here, is that it is not. So Lomborg
has indeed made a kind of error here, which means that Friel´s
criticism is justified.
Page 22 center to page 24 top:
Friel has criticized Lomborg for citing many newpaper articles rather
than scientific literature. Now, Lomborg turns that criticism around
and says that surprisingly, Friel himself bases his chapter 14 on
newspaper articles. Lomborg is right here; it is indeed a little
surprising that Friel´s references here are newspaper articles.
However, the majority of these newspaper articles refer to scientific
studies which may readily be found from the information given. For
instance, the reference to "Tibetan glaciers melting at a stunning
N. M. Kehrwald et al. (2008): Geophysical research letters, vol. 35,
And the reference to "Emperor penguins marching to extinction" is
S. Jenouvrier & H. Caswell (2009): Proceedings national academy of
sciences USA 106(6): 1844-1847.
So the information given here by Friel is not in general based on
Concerning that Arctic Sea ice is rapidly shrinking, this shrinking has
been rather much sustained, and it is not true that everybody that
believed in the shrinking looked a bit silly. Indications are that the
shrinking will continue.
Concerning the worsening food situation, Lomborg says that Friel makes
no effort to show that this is due to global warming. The incresing
hunger, he says, is not the result of poor harvests, but a result of
high domestic food prices. Here, however, we should remember what
Lomborg himself said about food prices in The Skeptical
Environmentalist, p. 62, where he comments on the steady decline of
food prices up to the year 2000: "Since prices reflect the scarcity of
a product, foodstuffs have actually become less scarce during this
century . . ". So, when things go in Lomborg´s direction, prices
indicate abundance or scarcity. But when the trend is reversed, prices
suddenly no longer indicate abundance or scarcity, according to
Lomborg. This way of reasoning is, of course, not tenable. So by the
standards set by Lomborg in TSE, Friel is right.
Concerning Lomborg´s lengthy response against Scientific American
in 2002, Lomborg forgets to remember that this rebuttal was dealt with
by a counter-rebuttal from Scientific American. Lomborg likes to claim
that he refuted Scientific
American´s criticism. But he didn´t. He only wrote against it. That is not the
In his concluding paragraph, Lomborg writes that the proposition that
he tried to `deceive´ the public might be laughable if it were
not so offensive.
Well, the whole purpose of the Lomborg-errors web site, as stated on
the front page, is to document that indeed, Lomborg tries to deceive
the public. In my own opinion, I have successfully documented that this
is indeed the case on my web site.
Lomborg criticizes that Friel has not at all entered the field of
economic considerations. Concerning this, Friel has the perfect right
to write about what subjects he wants. If he wants to restrict himself
to the facts about global warming, he can do that. On the
Lomborg-errors web site, on the other hand, I have chosen to discuss
the economic aspects just as well as all the other aspects. See for
instance here. In this
discussion it appears that Lomborg´s treatment of the economic
aspects are quite tricky and not very transparent. There is much
squeezing and boosting of figures in order to make them look large or
small, depending on what is favourable to Lomborg´s point of
view. Much of this squeezing and boosting is done with the tool of
discounting, which introduces a fundamental subjectivity into the whole
matter. This makes the discussion of the economic aspects quite
difficult, and it is no wonder that most non-economists refrain from
entering that discussion. Other methods of manipulation lie for
instance in setting the value of human lives. It can be said here that
if anybody has a suspicion that the economic calculations are a jungle
of manipulation, they are probably right.
3) Final remarks
There are several chapters in `The Lomborg Deception´ that
Lomborg has not commented upon. Not surprisingly, some of these
chapters deal with issues where Lomborg is very much wrong. For
instance, Lomborg has severely misleading texts on polar bears and on
ice melt in Greenland and Antarctica. One will be well served by
reading the chapters on these subjects in Friel´s book, or one
may consult the relevant pages in Lomborg-errors on polar bears and ice melt.