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Bjørn Lomborg on Bangladesh

Published 10th November 2009 - 23 comments - 1067 views -

At the weekend here, Benno Hansen posted  "A history of skepticism: Bjørn Lomborg". By using the pejorative adjective "denier" in his second sentence to describe his subject, Benno signalled that his was a sceptical take on the work of the Danish author and academic.  

Yesterday (a coincidence, surely?), Bjørn Lomborg stuck back, as it were, with an article in the Wall Street Journal titled "Global Warming as Seen From Bangladesh". As always with Lomborg, the focus is on the reality of the world we live in and the plight of the vast majority of mankind with whom we share our planet. This snippet deserves serious consideration:

"Getting basic sanitation and safe drinking water to the three billion people around the world who do not have it now would cost nearly $4 billion a year. By contrast, cuts in global carbon emissions that aim to limit global temperature increases to less than two degrees Celsius over the next century would cost $40 trillion a year by 2100. These cuts will do nothing to increase the number of people with access to clean drinking water and sanitation."

When global warming was explained to Momota Begum, who lives in abject poverty, she said: "When my kids haven't got enough to eat, I don't think global warming will be an issue I will be thinking about." Such is reality. 

Category: Climate Heroes, | Tags: bjørn lomborg, bangladesh, clean drinking water, sanitation,


hemant anant jain on 10th November 2009:

Mr. Lomborg makes an argument which is far removed from reality.
The reality is that water, food and climate change are related issues.
Because of climate change bangladesh and India and other sounthern countries are facing problems with agriculture. And flooding of rivers. And many other phenomenon like cyclones and rising sea levels.
It seems to me that the best way to tackle these problems, whether one believes there is warming or not, is to devise new sustainable ways of living.
Invest in cleaner, greener energies. I am sure it would create more jobs, help more people and lead to a more positive future.

It is disappointing to see people fight over these issues. Surely, no one of us beleives that cleaner, greener technologies aren’t good?
And if they aren’t effective, they can me made so. Science has progressed enough to help us reach great efficiency.

Eamonn Fitzgerald on 10th November 2009:

But Bjørn Lomborg is not opposed to finding alternative solutions. In May 2008, he convened the second Copenhagen Consensus Center conference, where eight leading economists considered how to allocate a theoretical $75 billion during the next four years to solve 10 of the world’s largest problems. Would it be better, for example, to provide efficient stoves to poor people who are exposed to indoor smoke, or supply middle-aged people in developing countries with cheap pills combining aspirin and cholesterol-reducing statins to prevent heart attacks? The panel’s top four solutions: providing vitamin A and zinc supplements to poor children, liberalizing trade, fortifying salt and staple foods with the micronutrients iodine and iron and expanding childhood immunization. Cutting greenhouse gases came in at the bottom, although another approach to global warming -— R&D spending on low-carbon energy technologies—was a mid-list priority.

Vitezslav Kremlik on 10th November 2009:

1) Let us sponsor research. Don’t make socialist subsidies to production of technology, that is not competitive in the market (subsidies to the the green lobby).
2) It is logical to pay 1 USD to give people water directly. More logical, than to give 10 USD to change climate, which may - or may not -do the same trick.

Adela on 10th November 2009:

And it’s the same in all other poor houses of this world. When basic needs are covered, it’s easy to discuss about climate, but when you are forced to live with a couple of bucks per month global warming is no longer a priority.

If I step into Momota Begum shoes, I would most likely think the same. Wouldn’t you, too?

Nanne Zwagerman on 10th November 2009:

The creation of niche markets by fixing feed-in tariffs in Denmark and Germany has done far more for driving the cost of renewables down than any government supported research funding. It’s a far more effective and efficient policy. I don’t know whether you should call it socialism, but it works!

Nanne Zwagerman on 10th November 2009:

The calculations of Lomborg’s economists are what they are, however, I do not see why we should put so much stock in econometric models when we’ve just witnessed a vast failure of such models to give accurate predictions.

My issue with Lomborg is this: why is he always talking about the question how to spend our ‘scarce’ money? Why is he not out in the WSJ calling for more money to be spent on sanitation outright, and for all developed countries to abide by their Millenium Development Goals pledge to spend 0.7% of their GDP on development assistance, rather than using the practical and immediate concerns of poor third wold wretches as a stick against climate change policies?

I cannot avoid the impression that his primary concern is to stop effective global action on climate change, rather than to aid effective global action on absolute poverty.

Vitezslav Kremlik on 10th November 2009:


Think about this. In 13th century Europe was poor, struggling with famine, plague, no GDP growth. In the late 19th century it was the richest area in the world with GDP skyrocketing. Europe achieved that without charity or subventions from other continents.

What happened back then? Shouldn’t the Third World do the same?

Jack Johnson on 10th November 2009:

Vitezslav, i saw that you have some sort of MA in History.
really? You sound like a crazy person. You make all sorts of white supremacy comments. Are you nuts? Try and make some sense and honour this platform.
I am amazed by your stupidity.

Nanne Zwagerman on 10th November 2009:

Think about this: in the 13th century, Europe did not occupy any part of the world (in fact, large parts of it were under the control of North African, Turkic and Mongol empires). It did however start to launch a few ultimately futile crusades. In the late 19th Century, Europe directly controlled most of the Earth’s surface. The obvious lesson this history teaches the Third World is: build navies, not land armies.

Gayathri Sharma on 10th November 2009:

Here is a first hand report from Bangladesh by a Bangladeshi writer:

Firstly, for a person trained in political science Mr Lomborg is very ignorant about social issues. So one can only accept what he has to say about scienctific ones with huge dollops of salt.

Secondly, it seems Mr Lomborg too suffers from the same ‘disease’ of supremacy demonstrated by those who deny global warming (in this platform at least). Otherwise why would he assume people with no access to technology but at the front line of climate change can’t connect the dots?

In India, even before sustainability became a popular concept in the West, India had the Chipko Movement. As this is a platform for climate change related topics I am sure you all have heard about it. And if you haven’t it’s amazing how the ability to type gives people the right to become “expert” enough to compete in journalistic competitions.

Eamonn Fitzgerald on 10th November 2009:

In his Wall Street Journal article, Bjørn Lomborg did not deny global warming, as Gayathri Sharma implies. And I am puzzled about the allegation that he is “ignorant about social issues” when, in fact, he wrote about poverty. And when it comes to poverty, Bangladesh is being assaulted by it on all sides. Here’s one of the causes that many people would prefer to ignore: “More than 35 million people in Bangladesh, around a quarter of its population, face acute poverty and hunger. Dowry payments of more than 200 times the daily wage and costly medical expenses are major causes of this chronic poverty says research from the University of Bath.”  Major Cause Of Poverty In Bangladesh Is Marriage Dowry

Lucy Setian on 10th November 2009:

Reality has always different points of view. It depends on which side of the abyss do you stand. It is not a denial when you put the human motive in a perspective. We all do have problems. Some don`t have what to work, because of the crisis, other have to take care of a big family, old parents, other have health problems, third live in countries, where the 21 century looks like 14th, but what means that? Everybody does have a problem…does this mean to let the CO2 just continue destroying our children`t life?

hemant anant jain on 10th November 2009:

Eammonn, you should have read the link that Gayathri posted.
Here is another one:

Climate change is as much of a social issue as it is an environmental one. The reality is that water, food and climate change are related issues. I think we need a broader understanding of it and not keep debating on singular aspects.
Mr. Lomborg, in my opinion, makes for very superficial arguments.

Vitezslav Kremlik on 10th November 2009:

About pinkskins:

1) The ultimate measure of wealth is food. If
you do not have enough food, you die. Look at the population cycles in other species.

2) The population increased from cca 0,5 to 7 billion people from the beginning of the industrial revolution. Most of this increase is in the colonies.

3) So don’t tell me we made colonies poorer and robbed them. They have more food now than anytime before. Thanks to colonialism.

4) World is getting rich thanks to inventions. Europe is richest, because it pioneered the inventions.

Jack Johnson on 10th November 2009:

Kremlik, you are a racist idiot. I am a European and I hate to associate with you. There are people like you in UK. They have the BNP.

Vitezslav Kremlik on 10th November 2009:

Jack, cool it down. I am not a racist.

Speaking only badly about the past 5 centuries is pretty one sided, biased and unobjective. Our history teachers taught us we should strive for objectivity.

I have read Jared Diamond books, so I know pretty well, that the European Miracle was caused just by geography. Whites are not a genetically superior race. Nor more intelligent. I am surely not a racist.

But by coincidence the Europeans had the best natural conditions. The result is, they developed fastest. Superior technologies lead to success in conquest. Thanks to conquest these technologies spread to other continents. Now the technologies (such as vaccination or anaesthetics) improve the lives of the once occupied nations.

To distinguish between good and evil is difficult, because often one leads to another.

Eamonn Fitzgerald on 10th November 2009:

Jack, you are out of order here. No name calling, please. Vitezslav is one of the most engaged and informed contributors here. If you wish to challenge his points of view, do so, but to use the title of a book by a famous Dane, “Cool It”.

Vitezslav Kremlik on 10th November 2009:

Ufff, thanks Eamon.

Gayathri Sharma on 10th November 2009:

Major cause of poverty in Bangladesh is dowry!! (A link from medical news today from 2008. This is the height of laziness and also illustrates how much you care about Bangladesh or its poverty.)

I thought this was a platform for serious discussions.

Eamon, please learn to accept that there are many things in the world you have no clue about (nor are you interested in, it seems so by the apology of a link you provided) like Bangladesh and the reason for poverty in the Indian Subcontinent.

Eamonn Fitzgerald on 10th November 2009:

The study you dismiss so lightly was conducted by Dr Peter Davis, of the Centre for Development Studies based in the University of Bath’s Department of Economics & International Development. He has been investigating the issues forcing families in Bangladesh into poverty as part of a long-term study in collaboration with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC), and Data Analysis and Technical Assistance Ltd., Dhaka (DATA).

The fact that the information dates from October 2008 may make it outdated for you, but it does nothing to revoke its validity.
Study reveals marriage dowry as major cause of poverty in Bangladesh

Nanne Zwagerman on 10th November 2009:

As Eamonn said, name-calling is out of order. If you think someone’s comment is wrong, you have to point out why this is so rather than questioning their character. And I note that the rules clearly state this.

Vitezlav’s comments in this thread represent a legitimate point of view (which I largely disagree with) and are not racist.

Benno Hansen on 18th December 2009:

I didn’t write that Lomborg is a denier, I wrote that he used to be. Now, during COP15, he has been advertising green tech.

His career in climate change debate has been one of constant tactical retreats. He has managed to walk the fine line between ludicrous conspiracy theories and boring contrarianism. Always spinning to appear bright. He has moved from the centre of the spiral of issues, denying everything, to simply making biased cost-benefit analysis on the mitigation efforts.

Sorry for answering so late wink

Federico Pistono on 18th December 2009:

I watched the CCN/YouTube debate last night, where Lomborg engaged in discussion with Milton Friedman. I remember his TED talk and other appearances before, and I completely agree with Benno.

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