Friel´s book "The
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|Review of the book
Howard Friel´s book "The Lomborg Deception" has fourteen chapters over 205 pages, plus 53 pages of references and index. There is a foreword by Thomas E. Lovejoy, specialist in biodiversity.
In the foreword, Lovejoy writes: "In this work, Howard Friel does what nobody has done before, namely to systematically examine Lomborg´s work citation by citation. " It is unfortunate that neither Lovejoy nor Friel knew about Lomborg-errors and knew how many of Lomborg´s citations have been systematically checked here. Also, a Systematic check of a number of endnotes in Cool It has been performed by Chris Goodall, see here.
Howard Friel is an independent scholar and author. On page 18 of the book, he writes what led him to study Lomborg. He had already written books about the Times´s coverage of major foreign policy issues, and was now planning to write about how two large US newspapers had covered global warming. In that context, he read Lomborg´s `Cool It´, and realized that there were many troubles with this book. When briefly comparing Lomborg´s major claims to the prevailing scientific consensus on global warming, it soon turned out that this opened for a lot of work to unravel Lomborg´s alleged scholarship. That work led to the publishing of `The Lomborg Deception´. The title agrees with the contents of the book. Friel has very little positive to say about Lomborg. As stated at the start of the book: "The aim is to show that Lomborg´s Theorem is grounded in highly questionable data and analysis, and that there is little if any factual or analytic basis for the theorem."
Although Friel´s book has 205 text pages, it certainly covers only a small part of what Lomborg has written. As to `The Skeptical Environmentalist´, Friel mainly discusses parts of chapter 1, with some offshoots to other chapters. The main subject is `Cool It´. Here, Friel treats only the American version of the book, which is rather different from the British version, and much shorter. He mainly treats chapters 1 and 3 of Cool It. The book concentrates on what is called "Lomborg´s theorem", viz. the claim that man-made global warming is no serious problem. It explicitly avoids discussing what is called "Lomborg´s corollary", that is the economic and political conclusions drawn by Lomborg on the basis of the theorem. Thus, the book mainly deals with data and facts provided by the natural sciences, and does not discuss economic issues.
One main impression of "The Lomborg Deception" is that it is well written and easily readable without being superficial. The author is obviously used to present his subject in a semi-journalistic way which can be interesting to read for the general public. Thus, it is very different from what is presented here in Lomborg-errors. The focus in Lomborg-errors is on documentation, and this documentation is piled up in large amounts of text which is not readable as a piece of prose. People may use Lomborg-errors to look up specific subjects and check if Lomborg has manipulated his presentation of those subjects. "The Lomborg Deception", on the other hand, may be read from start to end as if it were a piece of prose, and it gives the reader the feeling of how pervasively Lomborg has manipulated all parts of his texts.
In all chapters, Lomborg is accused of sloppiness or manipulation, but is that justified? Lomborg has written a lengthy rebuttal in a very angry tone loaded with lots of derogatory terms about Friel, claiming that Friel is not right in a single point. Friel has rejected the accusations and admits only two minor lapses (see links here). My own evaluation (here) is that Friel has erred on some points, mostly points of minor importance, but that the main part of Friel´s criticism of Lomborg is certainly justified, especially in some chapters which are not dealt with in Lomborg´s rebuttal.
Going into more detail, let me first comment on Friel´s treatment of The Skeptical Environmentalist. The subject here is Lomborg´s introductory chapter, in which he discusses some general principles and outlines the themes of the rest of his book. Friel´s main theme is that the many claims made by Lomborg are not supported by Lomborg´s notes and references. I partially disagree with Friel´s way of presentation here. One would not expect full documentation in the first chapter for claims that are dealt with much more thoroughly in later chapters. Lomborg´s chapter 1 is atypical, and the criticism of that chapter does not adequately address the problems with the book in general. Friel writes on his page 50: "Lomborg presents these assertions without endnotes or otherwise citing any data, nor does he provide convincing data later in the book as he promised in note 14." This is a harsh statement. To support it, Friel would have had to present at least some documentation that he had studied the whole rest of the book and been unable to find any convincing data on any of the subjects dealt with in chapter 1. That might have been possible - much of the data in Lomborg´s book is indeed unconvincing - but that would have been an enormous amount of work, and Friel does only little to present such evidence.
In the rest of his book, Friel deals with `Cool It´. First he discusses the chapter on polar bears, and does that very well, with a lot of data and documentation. Next he deals with rising temperatures and the question of heat- and cold-related deaths. Here he concludes that Lomborg "provides little to no evidence . . that supports this position." I agree. The path by which Friel reaches this conclusion is somewhat different from mine, but our paths end at the same conclusion.
Next issue is "Melting glaciers". Friel points out quite well how Lomborg tries to let the melting away of glaciers appear as a late effect of coming out of the Litlle Ice Age. But there are a few points where Friel´s argumentation does not always hold, which Lomborg of course immediately has utilized to slate Friel. That is a shame, because there are strong reasons to criticize Lomborg heavily here. A main problem here seems to be that Lomborg is so good at `spin´ - his text is as difficult to get hold on as a slippery piece of soap. Lomborg conveys an extremely misleading impression to his audience, even though it is hard to point out exactly how this misleading comes about. Friel might have made his good points stand out more clearly if he had directly called the text `spin´ and treated it as such.
Then we pass on to the subject of "Rising sea levels". Here, Friel´s criticism is much to the point.
The following chapters, on Greenland and on Antarctica, are some of the best in Friel´s book. He aptly describes how Lomborg distorts the evidence and greatly underestimates the effects of global warming.
Friel justly points out how Lomborg `chokes´ the reader´s willingness to check his references by overloading a note with a lot of references most of which contradict Lomborg´s claim. A minor objection against Friel is that he is overly critical towards Lomborg´s presentation of these references, demanding references to precise pages in papers that are only 2-3 pages long.
In Cool It, Lomborg has about two small pages (in the American version) on Antarctica. These two pages are so densely packed with misleading statements, manipulations and false representation of references that it takes Friel no less than 15 pages to debunk the whole mess. But luckily, as a reader, I do not feel bored; rather, I feel that I get a lot of more correct information.
The next chapter on extreme weather events is OK. This is a controversial subject, also among scientists, because the statistical analysis of erratic events is not straightforward and often impossible. Here, Friel´s discussion remains somewhat more superficial, which may be clever, considering the difficulty of the subject.
Friel´s treatment of health issues and malaria seems OK.
There is a very short discussion of "Water shortages". This chapter has only little information, and that little has been heavily criticized by Lomborg (but unjustly). This issue could have deserved a more thorough treatment.
At the end of the book, Friel has a chapter titled "How wrong was Lomborg?" The theme here is: What information has appeared after Lomborg wrote his books? Friel states that already now, it is evident that Lomborg was wrong on the following subjects:
Polar bears are now classified as more threatened.
The melting away of Polar Sea ice proceeds much faster than anticipated.
The World´s glaciers are melting ever faster.
The Antarctic mainland is not cooling.
There is continued break up of ice sheets at the Antarctic Peninsula.
The projected sea level rise is adjusted upward.
The number of starving people in the World has increased, not decreased.
The CO2 concentration of the atmosphere is rising faster than even in the worst IPCC scenarios
On all these subjects, Friel, and not Lomborg, seems to be right. I would like to add, however, that Friel could have stated some of his points much more strongly. For instance, it could be told even more directly and clearly how wrong Lomborg was on the malnutrition issue, and how biased he is on the subject of water shortages. Also, there are many cases presented here in Lomborg-errors where Lomborg manipulates and cheats much more grossly and cynically than in the examples dealt with by Friel.
Friel writes (p. 202) that the wide accept of Lomborg´s claims has "contributed to an enormously damaging delay in the reduction of greenhouse emissions." This observation is very much to the point. One may wonder why Lomborg will risk his reputation e.g. by claiming that the recent melt-away of much ice in the Polar Sea was just an intermittent episode. By saying that he runs a very high risk of being proven wrong in a few years from now. So why does he take that risk? The answer is: because he wants to delay all efforts to reduce oil consumption for as long as possible. The aim is not to maintain the present trend in oil consumption for ever - that will not be possible. The aim is to maintain the trend for as long as possible - simply because Lonmborg´s secret agenda most probably is to support the interest of the stakeholders in the oil industry, and the interest of these stakeholders is to keep business-as-usual going for as long as possible, because the longer the consumption goes on, the greater is the return on their investments.
Friel says (p. 204): "One can convincingly maintain that Lomborg´s books are an assault on science . . ". I agree completely.
Friel has two rather general chapters on the Lomborg phenomenon, viz. his chapters 1 and 13. He says (p. 6): "one might wonder how Lomborg´s work managed to evade serious scrutiny by the major publishing houses . . " Yes indeed. And he tells how reviewer after reviewer at the large, prestigious papers and economic journals accepted Lomborg´s claims completely uncritically and made statements like TSE is " a superbly documented and readable book" or "a massive, meticulously presented argument that extends over 500 pages, supported by nearly 3,000 footnotes and 182 tables and diagrams." Evidently, these reviewers were duped by the very technical appearance of Lomborg´s books and were completely unable to see that most of this technical appearance is bluff and manipulation. Friel continues this theme in his chapter 13. He remarks for instance how the person reviewing Cool It for `the Wall Street Journal´ took Lomborg´s factual assertions at face value without consulting the IPCC report for comparison. And the person writing for `Foreign Affairs´ conveyed Lomborg´s analysis as if it were a well-supported dissent from the scientific consensus. Friel writes how such media falsely present Lomborg as a centrist person, presenting "facts" and "calm analysis." In other words, these reviewers are willing victims of Lomborg´s bluff.
Friel does not discuss how come that such media persons are unable to see through Lomborg´s bluff. On this subject, you may study this page on Lomborg-errors.
Lomborg writes at the end of his rebuttal against Friel that "Friel may claim that I cheat my readers . . . The proposition that I duped my publishers . . . to "deceive" the public might be laughable if it were not so offensive."
But this is just the main point: Friel thinks that he has done much to document that indeed Lomborg cheats, dupes and deceives. I agree.