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Bjorn Lomborg

Bjørn Lomborg (born 1965) is a statistician and director of Denmark's Environmental Assessment Institute. In 2001, he attained worldwide notoriety by penning The Skeptical Environmentalist -- a controversial book whose main thesis is that many of the claims and dire predictions of environmentalists are exaggerated.


Bjørn Lomborg earned a Ph.D. at the Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen, 1994. He was an associate professor of statistics in the Department of Political Science at the University of Aarhus. Lomborg is a former Greenpeace activist and is openly gay. In 1998 he published four lengthy articles about the state of our environment in the leading Danish newspaper "Politiken", which "resulted in a firestorm debate spanning over 400 articles in major metropolitan newspapers."

In November 2001 he was selected Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum. In March 2002, the newly elected center-right prime minister appointed Lombork to run Denmark's new Institute for Environmental Assessment[?] (source) (http://www.geotimes.org/april02/geomedia).

Findings of Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty

In 2003, the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD), an official body composed of Danish scientists, issued the following ruling about Lomborg's book:

Objectively speaking, the publication of the work under consideration is deemed to fall within the concept of scientific dishonesty.

In view of the subjective requirements made in terms of intent or gross negligence, however, Bjørn Lomborg's publication cannot fall within the bounds of this characterization. Conversely, the publication is deemed clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice. [1] (http://www.forsk.dk/uvvu/nyt/udtaldebat/bl_decision.htm)

As reason, the committee stated "a systematic onesidedness in the choice of data and line of argument". There was some controversy in the committee over whether the book should be treated as science or advocacy; the charge of scientific dishonesty would have been moot in the latter case. In the end, the book was treated as science mainly because Lombork presented it as such.

Lomborg complains that the DCSD "does not give a single example to demonstrate their claim of a biased choice of data and arguments", nor did they offer Professor Lomborg any chance to respond. [2] (http://uk.cambridge.org/economics/lomborg/websites3.htm)

The Economist defended Lomborg in this way:

The material assembled by the panel consists almost entirely of a synopsis of four articles published by Scientific American last year. (We criticised those articles and the editorial that ran with them in our issue of February 2nd 2002.) The panel seems to regard these pieces as disinterested science, rather than counter-advocacy from committed environmentalists. Incredibly, the complaints of these self-interested parties are blandly accepted at face value. Mr Lomborg's line-by-line replies to the criticisms (see www.lomborg.com) are not reported. On its own behalf, the panel offers not one instance of inaccuracy or distortion in Mr Lomborg's book: not its job, it says. On this basis it finds Mr Lomborg guilty of dishonesty. [3] (http://www.economist.com/printedition/displayStory.cfm?Story_ID=1522706)

One of the people who brought the charges against Lomborg to the DCSD is Jeff Harvey, a former editor of the scientific journal Nature, who is currently a Senior Scientist at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology. Harvey said, "It is unfortunate that I and many others felt it necessary to take Lomborg and his book to task for the veritable deluge of inaccuracies it contains, but Lomborg has veered well across the line that divides controversial, if not competent, science from unrepentant incompetence." He also said, "Lomborg has failed time and again to rectify the egregious distortions he makes, he has based his conclusions on cherry-picking the studies he likes, and he has seriously undermined the public's understanding of important contemporary scientific issues."

Among the supporters of the DCSD's decision regarding Lomborg are the Nobel prizewinning chemist Jens Christian Skou, former University rector Kjeld Møllgård, and professor at Danmarks Technical University Poul Harremoës.

Professional areas of interests

Simulation of strategies in collective action dilemmas; simulation of party behavior in proportional voting systems; use of surveys in public administration; use of statistics in the environmental arena.

References and links:

  • Website of Lomborg: http://www.lomborg.org
  • Bjørn Lomborg: The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World. Cambridge University Press 2001
  • Nichola Wade: "From an Unlikely Quarter, Eco-Optimism". The New York Times, August 7, 2001.
  • Stephen Schneider, John P. Holdren, John Bongaarts, Thosmas Lovejoy: "Misleading Math about the Earth". Scientific American, January 2002

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