|Lomborg´s response to criticism
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Lomborg on Lomborg-errors
Lomborg and the media
A common view among those who support Lomborg is that he goes against a large group of self-righteous people who are so sure of their own contentions that they do not accept Lomborg´s right to challenge them. And when this group of people then express harsh criticism of Lomborg, his supporters think that the criticism from this group is unjustified. As one supporter of Lomborg wrote in a Danish debate: ""I don´t think any other person so thoroughly has received and responded to criticism from a large group of people . . . ".
At a first sight, it may appear as if this debater is right. But a closer view will reveal that he is completely wrong.
The reason why some people believe that Lomborg has responded thoroughly, is that Lomborg has produced several lengthy replies.
The first of these was a Danish web book called `Godhedens Pris´ [the cost of goodness], which was a reply to the joint criticism of a group of 18 experts raised in 1999 against Lomborg´s first book in Danish. Lomborg´s reply comprises no less than 185 pages.
After that came his lengthy response in 2002 to the criticism printed that year in Scientific American, which was a 32 page reply, and he also formulated an 11 page response that year to the criticism in the book `Sceptical Questions - Sustainable Answers´.
In 2010, Lomborg wrote a 27 page rebuttal to the criticism raised against him by Howard Friel in the book `The Lomborg Deception´.
So, to those with no special knowledge on the subjects, this amount of rebuttal must seem impressive, just as the lists of notes and references in Lomborg´s books seem impressive to those who do not check the sources. It may be astonishing to some, however, that Lomborg has never ever commented on the most extensive, concrete and precise criticism raised against him, namely that here on Lomborg-errors.
But Lomborg evades all critical questions
Lomborg´s responses contain an awful lot of words, but all these words serve the double purpose to put Lomborg in the center of all attention and to evade all critical questions.
This is often clear if you closely study Lomborg´s appearance on TV. For instance, in 2002, when Lomborg was interviewed on the BBC programme, "HARDTALK", the interviewer, Tim Sebastian, took up the subject why Lomborg, out of all IPCC climate scenarios, picked just the mildest ones. He asked Lomborg why he asserts, with no analysis whatsoever, that only the mildest scenarios will happen and that the dangerous ones won´t happen. But Lomborg evaded the issue by making an emphatic "no, no, no", thus denying the fact that he obviously wrote this in his book. And then he very fast switched the subject to a discussion of cost projections and adaptation versus prevention.
This is typical for Lomborg. He is as slippery as an eel - you cannot take hold of him. He always slips away. Even the very experienced interviewer on BBC HARDTALK could not. Lomborg´s debate technique is more advanced than practically anybody else´s.
A number of scientists, experts and environmentalists have from time to time believed that their overview of the subjects were so extensive and their arguments so solid that they could win over Lomborg in a debate. They never can. In his debate technique, in his body language, and his whole appearance, Lomborg is so clever at manipulating the audience that he nearly never loses. Sometimes the end result is that matters are unsettled, but most often, in the eyes of the audience, Lomborg is the winner. This is so even when Lomborg is dead wrong on every single issue treated in the debate.
I therefore recommend as a main rule that nobody enters into a debate with Lomborg. Even if you are actually completely right in everything you say, Lomborg will prove you wrong in the eyes of the audience. A meaningful debate with that man is not possible.
The first response book
After the publication of Lomborg´s first book in Denmark in 1998, a group of 18 Danish experts made a joint effort to write a counterbook with heavy criticism of nearly all parts of Lomborg´s book (see here). In a response to this, Lomborg and a co-author in May 1999 wrote `Godhedens Pris´ (to be downloaded here), a web book of 185 pages. This amount of pages is, however, due to an enormous amount of very lengthy quotes, which in total make up at least half of the book. It seems as if an effort has been made to make the book as large (and therefore impressive) as possible, in the easiest possible way. As to that part of the text which is not quotes, it is practically useless, because Lomborg again and again uses a lot of words to evade the crucial questions. Practically nowhere in `Godhedens Pris´ are there examples that Lomborg rightfully points out mistakes or misunderstandings made by his critics. So at no point whatsoever has `Godhedens Pris´ led to any experts revising their criticism.
In many places in his text, what Lomborg writes is practically nonsense. I have described an example of such nonsense here. That example is rather typical for him, and not the worst. Other parts of the text are so absurd nonsense that it is insane [I must make an excuse here for my wording, but I can find no other words which aptly describe the situation].
Of course, Lomborg´s view on this is completely opposite. When the original Danish criticism written by the 18 experts was later transformed into an English version, Lomborg wrote in a comment to this: " . . . it is claimed that I just don´t reply to the critique leveled at me. . . But I have to wonder. I actually replied to each and every claim in their original Danish book with a 185-page reply, available on the internet. . . . Moreover, I am aghast that they have chosen to get their text translated without even commenting on their many documented errors. However, I hope that the small sample of inaccuracies, errors, blunders, misquotes and misrepresentations will indicate why I find [their book] to contain such questionable skepticism. "
Thus, the views are as opposite as they can possibly be. In the view of me and the 17 other experts, all of Lomborg´s response is completely useluess nonsense. It is a complete lie that the 18 experts have made many documented errors. They have hardly made any at all. Lomborg, on the other hand, has made an extraordinary amount of documented errors, but refuses to admit just a single one.
And indeed, it is a ridiculous postulate that 18 experts, many of which are the leading Danish experts in their field, were altogether wrong, whereas Lomborg, who had only studied the subject for about one year, was completely right in practically all details within an enormous range of complicated subjects. Of course, this is simply impossible.
In my view, Lomborg lies deliberately, as a cover up for his dishonest agenda.
Thus, a meaningful debate between the parties is simply not possible.
The response to Scientific American
When Scientific American published a harsh 12 page criticism of Lomborg´s first English book in January 2002, Lomborg wrote a 32 page response, which was published on the internet (to be seen here). Subsequently, John Rennie and John Holdren wrote a 20 page response to Lomborg´s response (to be seen here).
We know that Lomborg had difficulties in countering all the criticism. On 18th December 2001, i.e. about a month before the January issue of Scientific American was published, he wrote an email to a long list of email addresses, appealing for help. He wrote inter alia: "Naturally, I plan to write a rebuttal to be put on my web-site. However, I would also love your input to the issues - maybe you can contest some of the arguments in the SA pieces, alone or together with other academics. Perhaps you have good ideas to counter a specific argument. Perhaps you know of someone else that might be ideal to talk to or get to write a counter-piece."
When it was written, however, Lomborg´s response did not at all reflect this uncertainty as to how he should counter all the attacks. Remarkably, Lomborg admits one error in his book - this is very unusual for him. But apart from that, he refuses to acknowledge any criticism. Instead he points out many places where the criticism against his book is overstated or wrong. So, instead of his initial situation - a man having a great problem countering an overwhelming amount of thrashing - he has turned himself into a cocksure young rebellion attacking all opposing authorities and refusing completely to have done anything wrong. Such a transformation is typical for Lomborg. His lengthy response has many very long quotations which take up much of the space of his 32 pages, thereby probably making the response of a more impressive size than it would have been if it had contained only his own arguments.
In their 20 page reply, there are a few cases where the authors of the Scientific American articles acknowledge that the criticism was only partially correct, and probably a little overstated. But apart from that, they generally refuse completely to accept Lomborg´s arguments.
In his response, Lomborg starts to criticise the title of the whole theme in Scientific American. The title reads: "Science defends itself against The Skeptical Environmentalist". Lomborg´s comment is: "This statement is potentially the most surprising of all - that the following critique should be science defending itself against my book. . . . My book clearly makes a claim to science and to be factually based. I openly state the facts and my sources, and thus anybody is free to point out where these are faulty or incorrect and of course, such errors will then be posted on my web site. "
In contrast, John Holdren writes in his response to the response as follows: "The practice of science . . . is governed by an unwritten code of conduct that includes such elements as mastering the relevant fundamental concepts before venturing into print in the professional or public arena, learning and observing proper practices for presenting ranges of respectable opinion and uncertainty, avoiding the selection of data to fit pre-conceived conclusions, reading the references one cites and representing their content accurately and fairly, and acknowledging and correcting the errors that have crept into one´s work (some of which are, of course, inevitable) after they are discovered by oneself or by others." Thus, Holdren states five unwritten rules that a scientist must obey. He is right in doing this. When one or several of these rules are violated, the product is not science, because the quality check built into the scientific process is missing. Lomborg grossly violates all five principles again and again, page after page after page. Thus, by these criteria, his publication is not science. On the contrary, it is an attack on science, because it undermines the scientific endeavour.
Lomborg writes in his defense that if anybody points out that his facts are faulty or incorrect, he will of course acknowledge this and post the errors on his web site. We now know for sure that this is a gross lie. Lomborg has never commented on any of the more than 500 errors pointed out here on Lomborg-errors, and never acknowledged a single one of these. The reason for this is obvious: if he actually acknowledged these undefendable errors, the whole conclusion of his books would have to be changed.
Such a behaviour is, of course, completely incompatible with being scientific. Any honest scientist would be shameful if just a single clear error had crept into his text, and would feel very humuliated if scores of errors were pointed out. If, as in Lomborg´s case, many hundred errors had been pointed out, he would feel dishonoured and leave the scene. A normal person would be ashamed by just a single error, and would rush to correct it. Obviously, in this respect, Lomborg is not a normal person, and although he makes a claim to science, his product is clearly not science.
When a person refuses to correct practically any errors he has made, a meaningful debate with him is simply not possible.
The response to other criticisms raised in the start of 2002
When Lomborg´s first English book appeared, it was thrashed or very critically reviewed by many scientists in various media. Several of these critiques were included in the complaint to the Danish Committees for Scientific Dishonesty. However, the only ones to which Lomborg has ever responded, are those in Scientific American and Nature. He has ignored all the other critiques.
Of course, when a person ignores the criticism, a meaningful debate with him is simply not possible.
The response to the complaint lodged at the Danish Committees for Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD)
In the spring of 2002, three complaints about Lomborg´s book `The Skeptical Environmentalist´ were sent to DCSD. First a complaint from me (Kåre Fog), then one by Henrik Stiesdal & Mette Hertz, and, as the third, a complaint by Stuart Pimm & Jeff Harvey (more details here). The DCSD has a standard procedure as follows: the complaint is received (1). It is sent to the accused person, who then writes his defense (2). The defense is sent to the plaintiff for comments (3), and these comments are then sent to the accused for his final comments (4). There is a strict time limit in this process, but no limit to the size of the letters. After that, the correspondence is closed, and the committee makes its decision on the basis of the four documents.
The first of these complaints was the one most directly dealing with concrete, factual errors in Lomborg´s book. For that reason, and because it is the one that I know best, I will focus on that. In my complaint, I advance a long series of very concrete examples where Lomborg´s text is erroneous, and where there is much evidence that the errors are deliberate. Even though all these examples are very precisely documented, with all relevant references, and with photocopies of important sources attached, Lomborg completely denies that there is any error at all.
As an example, I write that contrary to Lomborg´s assertions, there is no documented relationship between economic growth and the rate of deforestation. In his response Lomborg writes that in one study, there is a positive correlation; he acknowledges that this correlation is too small to be significant, but then uses a lot of words to explain that this does not matter. To him a positive correlation is a documented relationship, even if it is not significant, and even if there exist other studies that do not support such a relationship. It is astonishing that a person teaching statistics can write that it does not matter if a trend is significant.
In general, it is astonishing and scandalous that even when one puts documented gross errors just in front of Lomborg´s nose, he refuses to see them. In several cases treated by me, the dishonesty is so unambiguous that you will never ever see more clearcut examples in any allegedly scientfic text ever published. It is scandalous that Lomborg is not clearly called out on this in the verdict from DCSD. The explanation why he is not, is probably that the amount of opposing arguments and controversial data is so huge that the persons evaluating the complaint obviously have given up altogether to find out what is right and what is wrong.
In any case, the whole process clearly showed me that a meaningful debate with Lomborg is simply not possible.
Lomborg´s response to Lomborg-errors
Lomborg has a link to Lomborg-errors on his web site, but apart from that, he has never ever made any comments on Lomborg-errors. On his web site he writes that he "published a web-book of 180 pages painstakingly going through each argument in Fog's book . . . However, with limited time, Lomborg cannot reply to every new claim from Fog. " Now, the `book´ referred to was not `mine´, and the web-book of 180 pages is from 1999 and thus cannot possibly be a rebuttal on Lomborg-errors, which was started only in 2004. So, in essence, Lomborg´s whole defense against the claims of more than 500 errors advanced on my web site is that he "cannot reply to every new claim from Fog".
I have more details on Lomborg´s comments to my criticism here.
Thus, it is correct to state that Lomborg has simply never made any attempts to defend himself against the claims on Lomborg-errors.
When Lomborg is such a coward to stay away, it implies that he is not able to defend himself. When he does not admit that, a meaningful debate with him would hardly be possible, even if he some day were to comment on the criticism.
There has been some attempts by others to defend Lomborg against my accusations, however. This is especially the criticism forwarded by the retired Dutch scientist Arthur Rörsch in several media, most notably in the following journal article:
Arthur Rörsch, Thomas Frello, Ray Soper & Adriaan de Lange (2005): On the opposition against the book The Skeptical Environmentalist by B. Lomborg. Journal of Information Ethics 14(1): 16-28.
However, in a subsequent paper, I refuted the claims made in the first article:
Kåre Fog (2005): The real nature of the opposition against B. Lomborg. Journal of Information Ethics 14(2): 66-76.
Lomborg´s response to criticism of the Copenhagen Consensus conferences
I have advanced the criticism that in the Copenhagen Consensus conferences, Lomborg manipulates the outcome by using different rates of discount for different projects. At one occasion, in a debate in a Danish newspaper, Lomborg has responded to my criticism. See a translation of the debate here. The essence of the debate is that Lomborg lies and completely denies to have cheated in the way that he actually has cheated. There is no agreement between what Lomborg postulates and what I postulate. There is no movement towards consensus on anything. Under such circumstances, a meaningful debate is simply not possible.
Lomborg´s defence against Howard Friel
In 2010, Howard Friel published the book `The Lomborg Deception´, which is one long criticism of Lomborg´s books, especially `Cool It!´.
Lomborg wrote a 27 page rebuttal, and Friel replied with 20 page rebuttal of the rebuttal. More details can be read here.
My evaluation is that in those issues that are discussed by both persons, neither Lomborg nor Friel is correct in all details, but that Friel is right on many more points than is Lomborg. Furthermore, Lomborg completely avoids to defend himself against those chapters where Friel has made the strongest, harshest and most thorough criticism of Lomborg. In general, Friel´s criticism is very much justified. However, many persons will only see Lomborg´s rebuttal and not know that most of the postulates there are wrong and have been corrected by Friel.
In his rebuttal, Lomborg takes care to insert a lot of derogatory phrases about Friel. To the unprejudiced reader, all this derogation gives the impression that Friel´s criticism is completely unjustified, and that Friel has misunderstood everything.
Overall, Friel rightfully points out a lot of errors and misleading statements in Lomborg´s books. But Lomborg does not admit a single one of these errors, and instead launches a harsh attack on Friel, painting af very negative picture of Friel´s person. It is obvious that under such circumstances, a meaningful debate is simply not possible.
Lomborg´s political agenda
Lomborg´s nearly complete refusal to acknowledge any criticism at all is peculiar, unsympathetic and unacceptable. No person making a claim to science can be allowed to behave like that. But why does he do that?
I do not believe that Lomborg is unable to see the errors. Considering that many errors are evidently deliberate, it is obvious that the reason that Lomborg does not admit any errors is that he does not want to admit them. If he did acknowledge them, he would have to change the conclusions of his books and the conclusions of the Copenhagen Consensus conferences. And he will, of course, not do that, because he has a political agenda.
Lomborg´s political agenda was evident when he sent out his email with an appeal to help him defend himself against the Scientific American. According to Jeff Harvey (in his letter to DCSD), several of the individuals to which Lomborg personally wrote (e.g. Dr. David Wojick) are spokespersons for corporate-funded groups such as the `Greening Earth Society´ - which, in spite of its deliberately misleading name, is a coal industry lobby group. These groups continually disseminate misleading material to the public and policymakers to persuade them not to protect the environment. It is also important that when Lomborg made his book tour in USA in the autumn of 2001, the industry-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute, one of the leading right-wing opponents of all efforts to reduce fossil fuel emissions, rolled out the red carpet for Lomborg when he visited Washington. And the Cooler Heads Coalition, a lobby organisation for the fossil fuel industry, sponsored by CEI, hosted a congressional and media briefing for Lomborg at the U.S. capitol.
Obviously, when Lomborg is supported by such organisations, he cannot change his conclusions and admit his errors. He has only one option: to stick to his political agenda and be dishonest.
Under these circumstances, a meaningful debate is simply not possible.
Lomborg´s need to be a center of attention
There is much to indicate that Lomborg loves to be the center of media attention and that his whole agenda depends on his being the focus of the media again and again. In Denmark, at least, he creates a new reason why he should get a lot of media exposition every few months.
If harsh criticism is raised against him, this is turned around to mean that he is unfairly prosecuted and should have a chance to defend himself in public, whereas the critics are usually not given a chance to explain their reasons. So every criticism is a jumping-off point for Lomborg to present further misinformation.
Under these circumstances, a meaningful debate is simply not possible.
The importance of making enough errors
There is a strange phenomenon that if you make sufficiently many errors that are sufficiently gross, you will not be called out on it.
At the start of 2010, the American Enterprise Institute, which is funded partially by the oil industry, offered scientists large payments if they could write articles pointing out errors in the IPCC report (link). So we know that there has been an economic incentive to find such errors. In spite of that, no errors at all have been found in the workgroup I report, and only a few, probably 4 to 6 errors, have been found in the workgroup II report. The most grave error was that IPCC had cited a WWF report which in turn cited a scientist claiming that the glaciers of Himalya would have melted away already in 2035. Another so-called error was that IPCC had written something about the drying out of forests in Brazil which was correct, but without citing an authoritative source for the claim.
The lobby organisations managed to blow these problems completely out of proportion and to have the media worldmedia treat this as a major scandal, undermining the authority of the IPCC (which, of course, was the intention from start). The head of IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri, publicly acknowledged the errors. This honesty did not help. On the contrary, it was used as a basis for thrashing him even harder.
Thus we see that there were about 5 errors in one of the IPCC reports, a very complicated and technical text with 500 pages and many many references. Of course there were. The number of errors found is actually below what would be expected for a text like that (see here). Nobody can write such a text without making one small error on average per 100 pages. Actually it is remarkable that even though scientists were offered money to find errors, there were found no more than that.
With Lomborg, on the other hand, things are opposite. I have up to now scrutinized about 500 text pages in his books. Here I have found and documented about 500 flaws and errors, some of which are much more severe than those made by IPCC. That is more than one error per page, or more than 100 times as many as those made by the IPCC. Contrary to Pachauri, Lomborg has chosen to deny or ignore all these errors. So what is the consequence for him? Nothing! He is not called out on it. A main reason for this is that the same industry lobby organisations that manipulate the media to thrash IPCC also manipulate the same media to write positively about Lomborg. In a strange way, this is easy, because the number of errors made by Lomborg is so huge that nobody is able to grasp it. If you have five trees, you can see that they are trees. But if you have 500 trees, you cannot see the trees for the forest. And all Lomborg´s works are a massive jungle of deliberately misleading errors.
This shows that the media coverage worldwide is completely out of proportions. Lobbyism works, and journalists worldwide are subject to the influence from lobby groups to an extent so enormous that it is a huge scandal.
Lomborg is dishonest, and as long as he gets away with his humbug as easily as now, he will continue. Critical journalism in relation to Lomborg is practically non-existent. Under such circumstances, a meaningful debate is simply not possible.