|The problem: Lomborg
himself does not admit errors
In all what Bjørn Lomborg has
from his first articles published in Danish in January 1998,
there are flaws and errors which have been pointed out to him by
a large number of scientists. But during his whole career, he has
admitted extremely few errors, and has silently corrected just a
few others. Of the few errors that he has acknowledged, most are
very small (cf. the page with links).
When one simply reads Lomborg´s
errors are seldom apparent. Although you often disagree with his
interpretations, you must admit that the text is well-written,
logical and, in most cases, consistent. Most errors can only be
found by comparing the text with other texts. The clue is:
"Check the sources". The errors arise when Lomborg
writes something that is not in complete accordance with what his
sources say. He lies, and he believes that his lies will not be
revealed because nobody bothers to check thousands of references.
That is precisely why we have to do that. Try to make a random
choice of a few references, and check them. Chances are fairly
good that you get a "bingo". But the problem is that
most readers do not have the time to do that.
So, one purpose of Lomborg-errors
to be a service to readers of Lomborg´s books. If you read
something of which you think "That is hard to believe, but I
cannot point out where the flaw is" or "This is a
surprise to me, so I must admit that I will have to revise my
ideas", then try to check if Lomborg-errors has
something to say about this point. There is a good chance that it
will be one of those parts of the book which are already covered
by the error list. And most likely you will find out that you had
become misled by Lomborg in ways which were not apparent to you.
|The need for a review
Another purpose of Lomborg-errors
to compensate for the lack of proper scientific review of
"The skeptical environmentalist". Cambridge University
Press claims that the book was accepted by four referees before
it was published, but it also admits that all four referees have
political interests besides their scientific occupation (see
"The Lomborg-story" here).
case, the alleged referees
have not carried out their work properly, for the book is full of
misleading errors and flaws. To avoid misinformation of the
public, it is necessary that these be pointed out by some kind of
international peer review. Such a process was in a way carried
out when Scientific American in its January 2002 issue printed
four chapters of harsh criticism of Lomborg´s book, followed by
a process on the S. A. web site where Lomborg defended himself,
whereafter the editor of S.A. evaluated and rejected his defense.
Even so, Lomborg practically denies that any actual errors (e.g.
wrong data) were pointed out, and all objections were lost on
A main problem with criticizing
is that although some of the errors are large and obvious, many
of them are not. Instead, there are many of them, and they are
part of a systematic bias. When sentence after sentence is biased
or flawed or not quite correct, the overall impression can become
greatly distorted, even though it is difficult to say exactly
where the crucial errors are. One may say that the text is
permeated with bias and even with dishonesty - i.e. the bias and
the dishonesty is not concentrated in a few places, it is nearly
everywhere in the text. So, to correct the bias in Lomborg´s
text, it is necessary to be able to document the amount of
errors. At the same time, these errors, even if each in itself
may appear rather small, must be so clearcut and indisputable as
Because Lomborg stubbornly denies any
flaw that one may point out, the ongoing debate in public media
has led to no clarification of whether Lomborg is dishonest or
not. Even with hundreds of errors and flaws pointed out, he still
plays the role of the innocent brave young man who dares to
contradict the clergy of environmentalists and chronic
pessimists. Therefore, there remains a need for a place where
documentation can be found for all the allegations against him. Lomborg-errors
serves as this place. It has been established and written by
webmaster Kåre Fog on his own initiative.
Many of the errors listed here have been detected by the
editor of the web site himself. Many others have been found by
other persons and have either been described on print, mentioned
on web sites, or mentioned in unpublished documents. In nearly
all cases, I have made an independent evaluation of the case,
e.g. I have checked references that have allegedly been wrongly
cited by Lomborg. Usually I have confirmed that there was indeed
an error, but in some cases I have rejected the case, either
because the flaw was too small to mention, or because Lomborg´s
error was not unequivocal.
I would like to stress that contributions to
are still more than welcome. Consult the bottom of this page or
the page "correspondence". After a proper check, the
errors will be inserted at the appropriate place in the error
The freedom of expression gives Lomborg
anybody else a right to express any opinion that they may have,
however weakly founded it may appear to others. Such opinions
that differ from the opinion of most scientists cannot be
considered as flaws or errors.
Examples of errors proper, on the other
are statements in clear conflict with the demonstrable truth.
Such errors may be involuntary - the author simply did not know
that he was wrong, e.g. when he trusted a source which later
turned out to be unreliable. Such errors should of course be
corrected, even when it is not fair to blame Lomborg for them.
Other errors, however, may be due to gross negligence or may even
be deliberate. An example of gross negligence is when an author
reads and cites references that support his view, whereas
references which, according to their title or summary, do not
support the view, are not read and not cited. Another kind of
gross negligence is when the original source contains explicit
reservations as to the range within which the data are
applicable, but the data are nevertheless cited as if they were
valid outside of this range. A deliberate error is e.g. when a
piece of text is quoted incorrectly in such a way that the
meaning is changed, or it may be that Lomborg cites erroneous
evidence which Lomborg himself knew was erroneous.
|Types of errors and
Types of expressions that qualify to be
in the Lomborg-errors catalogue are listed either as ERRORS,
with pink, or as (COMMENTS), marked with pink and put in brackets.
An ERROR is a statement that clearly does not agree with the evidence
available. For instance this (TSE p. 233):
"Arsenic has been used as a
weed-killer and is a naturally occurring mineral. " Error: What has been
used is not arsenic as such (the element), but arsenic trioxide.
Neither this, nor the element arsenic, is a mineral. It has not
been used as a weed-killer, but as a wood preservative.
A FLAW is a misleading statement which does not fully agree
with the facts. For instance this (TSE p. 233):
"Aflatoxin is the most
pesticide known . ." Flaw: Aflatoxin, which is produced by fungi, not by
humans, is not usually designated a pesticide, and even in the
special context here it seems unjustified to use the word
is given when Lomborg´s
text is not
directly at variance with the facts, but is nevertheless
misleading, or avoids to mention relevant facts, for instance
like this (TSE p. 243):
"Third, the incidence of breast cancer has been increasing
while concentrations of DDT, DDE and PCB in the
have fallen." Comment:
In the light of what is explained in the general comments on
synthetic estrogens and breast cancer on Lomborg-errors, there is
nothing strange about this. The present incidence rate of breast
cancer may reflect pollution levels as long as maybe 50 years
Furthermore, the catalogue also includes a few
which have the designation REMARK.
notes which do not imply some sort of criticism of
Lomborg, but just stress a point of some importance. This may be
that on a particular issue, Lomborg is actually right.
Those items that are counted when making up the total
of "errors" are only the FLAWS and ERRORS.
The others - that is REMARKS and COMMENTS -
are put in brackets to indicate
that they are not included in the counts.
Errors can be of different kinds, e.g.
ERROR OF QUOTATION: Quotations that distort the meaning of the original
ERROR OF REFERENCE: E.g. when the reference cannot be found in the
ERROR OF BIAS:
E.g. selectivity in presentation of data
ERROR OF OMISSION:
This heading does not include simple omission of
relevant information or references; but it includes gross
negligence of information which should absolutely have been
This term is mainly used for concluding statements at
the end of a chapter in which an overall conclusion is formulated
which is simply completely wrong.
ERRORS OF OTHER TYPES: Any other kind of statement in clear conflict with the
Likewise, flaws can be of the same types,
e.g. FLAW OF OMISSION.
There are also many cases when the
manipulation does not mislead about the state of the environment, but
rather about the participants of the environmental debate. A general
feature is that Lomborg tries to let his
stand in an unfavorable light. A main message in Lomborg´s text
is that you cannot trust the environmentalists - they hide what
is inconvenient to their message (therefore, Lomborg is
criticizing them of just that sin which he commits himself all
The criticism of what his opponents say and do is
sometimes justified. But Lomborg seems to have an agenda that all opponents should be put in an
unfavorable light, which means that if there is no basis for just
criticism, Lomborg invents some unjustified criticism by various types
of manipulation. Such cases of manipulation are also important
and should also be pointed out. Therefore, the error lists
include these cases under the heading (GROUNDLESS
DEROGATION). This heading is put in brackets to
indicate that such cases are
not counted as flaws that mislead about factual matters. But if
Lomborg´s text clearly is contrary to what his opponents actually
said, then the heading will be GROUNDLESS DEROGATION in red
colour, and this will be counted as an error like other erroneous
The importance of groundless derogations is described
more detailed on this page.
Some flaws and errors are obviously involuntary, like
mentioned above concerning arsenic, which just reveals that
Lomborg knows too little about the subject. However, this type of
errors are rather few. Most errors seem to be a part of the
general bias in the text, and many are evidently deliberate. To prove that an error is deliberate is hard, because it
requires that one know what Lomborg thought or knew when he wrote
his text. However, in a number of cases it is possible to state
beyond reasonable doubt that the error was indeed deliberate. This
when an unequivocal error has already long ago
been pointed out to Lomborg, so that he knows that his text is
erroneous, but in spite of this, he perseveres. In such cases,
the intention to mislead is marked with red or pink colour in the
text, like "deliberately
misleading" or "intentional
Accidental errors are mainly of two types: 1) Cases
Lomborg is not aware of the terminology or the facts in the field
that he is dealing with. This includes cases where new evidence
existed before Lomborg finished his book, but where Lomborg was
evidently not aware of it. 2) Errors of reference, e.g. a
reference is missing in the list. Altogether, there are not many
of these kinds of error.
On the other hand, some errors are clearly deliberate.
will typically be marked "The text is deliberately
In addition, some errors are very likely to be
These will typically be marked "The text seems to be deliberately misleading.". Certain
other cases are counted in the same category, e.g. those marked
with "gross negligence" or
The majority of all flaws and errors fall into neither
these groups. There are several hundreds of these, and their bias
is always to the optimistic side. The likelihood that by mere
chance several hundred accidental errors all should tend to the
same side, is practically nil. Thus, we can be pretty sure that
in most of these cases the bias is deliberate. But as we cannot
know for sure why Lomborg e.g has cited papers that support his
views, but not papers that contradict his views, we cannot proof
his intent to mislead.
|Submission of alleged
errors and flaws
If you have found an error or flaw in
Lomborg´s book, you are kindly requested to submit it to the
editor of this web site. This can most easily be done by sending
an email. The email must state precisely what part of Lomborg´s
book is concerned, e.g. "The legend to figure 24 on p.
61". The error must be defined precisely, and, if possible,
phrased in a way similar to the errors that are already included
in the list. If it is necessary for the judgment of the error, a
copy of relevant text in other sources should be appended. If
this exceeds about 2 MB, it will have to be sent by snail mail
(see correspondence for details).