In his own bestseller, The Weather Makers:How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth, Tim Flannery presented a carefully documented look at the forces driving climate change and the range of complications that may arise. It is at once scholarly and readable, even-handed and chilling.
But Flannery finds that Lomborg’s approach to science and advocacy is bound less in science than in an ideology of market-economy optimism. Lomborg would have us plan for our climate future in the same way the Bush administration planned for the Iraq war: assume that everything will turn out great and make no contingency arrangements to guard against anything actually going wrong.
Flannery gets caught himself here in some casual bashing. For instance, he says, “Glib, misleading associations mark Lomborg’s style.”
But then Flannery offers this example: “In his (Lomborg’s) chapter on glaciers, he states that since ‘we’re leaving the Little Ice Age’ (which, in fact, we left long ago) it’s not surprising that glaciers are dwindling. Remarkably, he believes that is more good news, because ‘with glacial melting, rivers actually increase their water contents, especially in the summer, providing more water to many of the poorest people in the world.’ ‘It boils down to a stark choice,’ he lectures us. ‘Would we rather have more water available or less?’”
It’s classic Lomborg. He celebrates the increased flow from melting glaciers now without mentioning that once the glacier is gone, its capacity to store water for summertime use will also be gone.
Chris Mooney is right in his recent post, pointing out that we can do ourselves an injury when we get caught up in blistering arguments over the deniers’ wild, narrow, diversionary asides. But serious scientists like Flannery and Naomi Oreskes deserve praise and support for their willingness to step out from the deep cover of academia and challenge hacks like Lomborg in public.