LOMBORG-ERRORS
 
THE LOMBORG STORY


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Lomborg´s impact
    Lomborg´s book on the environment has been published in several languages. It has been translated into many languages, including Swedish, Icelandic, German, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Korean and Japanese; and it has attracted an unusual amount of attention in the whole of the English-speaking world. Sales have been high.
     Right from the beginning, however, there has been much criticism of Lomborg´s assertions, and so the public has not felt convinced that Lomborg is right. This scepticism has reduced his impact.
    In Denmark, Lomborg was the man behind the creation of the Environmental Assessment Institute. However, especially because of Lomborg's personality, this Institute did not gain general credibility, and none of its recommendations have been implemented, except for better control of particle dust from diesel vehicles, an issue which was already on the agenda. The EAI ceased to exist as a separate institute in 2007.
    However, as a person with great media impact, Lomborg has contributed to the change in Danish policy concerning the environment and especially the climate issue. The new right-wing government in 2001 meant a large backlash for Danish environmentalism, and Lomborg produced the arguments which facilitated this change. It took about five years from then before the Danish prime minister changed his attitude to these issues and began to talk positively about fighting climate change and supporting alternative energy sources.
    The Lomborg case has directly motivated political measures that have severely reduced the authority of the UVVU.
    Lomborg does a great deal of travelling to promote the sales of his book, and participates in a huge number of debate meetings. It is difficult to know to what extent the audience at such meetings have been affected by him. In a Danish newspaper article, one person states that Lomborg made him change his company´s attitude to the use of pesticides in projects in Africa. Presumably, Lomborg´s main impact has been to deepen the polarisation between environmentalists and anti-environmentalists. Those who dislike the precautionary principle become more immovable in their convictions, and environmentalists continue to use the same arguments as before.
    The advance praise of Lomborg´s `The sceptical Environmentalist´ in Britain in June 2001 was printed in the newspapers just before American president G. W. Bush  visited London. It may be that the placement of the advance publicity just then was arranged by groups interested in shooting down the Kyoto protocol (see here on Lomborg-errors: www.Lomborg-errors.dk/MediaBritain.htm ).
    In October 2001 Lomborg spoke to members of the US Congress at a briefing organized by the Cooler Heads Coalition, a Washington DC-based group that campaigns against the Kyoto Protocol. As the Bush administration´s policies on Kyoto were largely formed before then, Lomborg cannot be said to be directly responsible for their convictions. But the administration has most likely been aware of his book before then, and ha may have made it easier for the US Congress to maintain its rejection of the Kyoto protocol.
    Lomborg´s role in relation to the world summit on sustainable development in Johannesburg in 2002 deserves special mention. At that particular point of time, Denmark held the EU presidency, and the Danish prime minister was the head of the EU delegation. The Danish delegation consisted of 70 officials, and Lomborg was not among them. The Environmental Assessment Institute is officially independent of the government, and thus could not participate in an official delegation.
    However, about a week before the start of the world summit, Lomborg had a private meeting with the prime minister. At this meeting, Lomborg criticised the official scientific report prepared for the summit, and gave the minister a copy of an article to be published in New York Times.
    A few days before the start of the summit, Lomborg´s article in New York Times appeared. Here he was presented as the Danish Director of the Environment, and this "Danish director" said that it was best to drop the aims of sustainability and carbon dioxide reduction. This was remarkable, both because official Danish policy is to support the Kyoto agreement, and because the Institute´s board of governors had not been consulted about this. In the article Lomborg wrote that economic development of the poor countries must have top priority, because only if they get richer will they be able to afford to improve the environment. He urged USA to take a lead in downplaying sustainability and stressing development. He argued that for the price the Kyoto protocol would cost USA, all the world´s people could get basic health care, education, family planning, clean water and sewerage.
    The next day Lomborg appeared in Johannesburg, where he participated in a debate programme on the environment that was broadcast by the BBC to about 350m. people around the world. He then returned to Denmark.
    A few days later the Danish prime minister held a speech. In its original version it was clearly inspired by Lomborg´s article in the New York Times*. During the review in the EU system some sentences had been removed, but the basic idea - that only when people can support themselves can they start thinking about the environment - was phrased rather similarly to Lomborg´s article. The prime minister did not speak against the official Danish policy of supporting the Kyoto protocol, but he avoided stressing its importance.
    It is hard to say whether, in the end, Lomborg had an impact on the summit. We can only say that he made it easier for the USA to oppose the Kyoto protocol, and we can say that the declaration that came out of the summit stressed Lomborg´s idea of clean drinking water to all people, rather than coping with climate change.
    Lomborg has many newspaper articles in influential newspapers on climate change and related issues. The precise subjects vary, but the conclusions are always the same, viz. that one should not go against what is in the interest of the large oil companies. There exists no evidence that Lomborg is supported by the oil industry, but his actual actions are exactly what the oil industry might want him to do. It is difficult to evaluate the impact of such newspaper articles.
    As to the effects of the Copenhagen Consensus 2004 conference, it seems that the conference has not contributed to impairment of the Kyoto protocol, and it has not prevented that the political awareness of the climate problem in USA is slowly growing.
    According to Lomborg´s own statements, the Copenhagen Consensus conferences have made the Danish government increase its efforts to fight HIV/AIDS, have made the American government grant an extra 1.3 billion dollars for the fight against malaria, have changed the World Bank prioritisations concerning malnutrition and have influenced how Bill Gates spends 3 billion dollars per year.
    The US government is the main contributor to the "Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria". From the inception of this fund in 2001 and up to 2007, the US government has donated a total of 2.5 billion dollars to it. The US is also the main contributor to the "Roll Back Malaria" initiative. By 2004 this initiative seemed to be failing, with malaria being on the rise globally. The paper produced in the Copenhagen Consensus conference 2004 on malaria, in close cooperation with "Roll Back Malaria", was briefly referred to during a hearing before a subcommittee of the US House of Representatives in 2004. This hearing led up to the decision by the Bush administration in 2005 to launch a program of its own: the President's Malaria Initiative, a $1.2 billion, five-year plan to fight malaria in 15 of the hardest-hit countries in Africa. To what extent Lomborg has had an influence on this, is not clear - it was already evident that the efforts against malaria were insufficient and must be increased. Copenhagen Consensus helped the malaria experts to communicate that increased efforts would be profitable, but it is likely that the President´s Malaria Initiative would have appeared in any case.
     There has been an explosive rise in global funding of efforts against AIDS, from $ 250 million in 1996 to $ 10 billion in 2007. In January 2003 President Bush announced his $15 billion initiative to fight HIV and AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean, known as the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). For the increased willingness to fund efforts against AIDS, Bono, the rock-star-turned-activist, has been an important person. He successfully made the case to leaders in the US White House and Congress that fighting AIDS should be a foreign-policy priority, and Bono met Bill Gates at the World Economic Forum in New York in 2002 and made him interested also. To what extent Lomborg has given a further push to a movement that was already underway, is difficult to say.
    Since 2002, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation already has spent several hundred million dollars annually on one of Lomborg´s top priorities, malaria, before Lomborg had an influence on the foundation. In 2009 it spends several hundred million dollars on a malaria vaccine initiative. It is not clear whether Lomborg has persuaded Gates to increase the total grants for improved health in The Third World.
        Unfortunately, the prevalence of AIDS has not changed recently. The background paper by Mills on malaria and AIDS in Copenhagen Consensus 2004 talked of an effect of 28.5 million infections averted within an 8 year period. By now, 4 of the 8 years have passed, and the incidence of infections has not declined. The only measurable effect has been that HIV infected persons survive for longer than before, because of treatment with anti-retroviral drugs (according to this report).
    The total annual number of malaria deaths is about 900.000, of which 90 % occur in Africa. Whether malaria is actually on decline in Africa by now, after this initiative was launched, is very uncertain (WHO malaria report).

*New York Times, 26./8. 2002.

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