Bjorn Lomborg is back with a new book on global warming, Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming. I review the book today on NRO here. I generally liked the book, though I think Lomborg's account understates the degree of uncertainty in climate forecasts. Uncertainty is not, in itself, an excuse for inaction, but it does complicate climate policy. Addressing climate policy is not a simple technocratic exercise in easily solved by cost-benefit analysis. Nonetheless, Lomborg provides a useful survey and critique of current climate policy. Here are some excerpts from the review:
Lomborg remains stubbornly optimistic about humanity’s future as he argues we must “cool our conversation, rein in the exaggerations, and start focusing where we can do the most good.” For Lomborg, this also means cooling the push for binding limits on greenhouse-gas emissions.
Lomborg readily accepts that human activity has increased atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and that this, in turn, has contributed to global warming over the past several decades. Such claims are “beyond debate.” “What is debatable,” he explains, “is whether hysteria and headlong spending on extravagant CO2-cutting programs at an unprecedented price is the only possible response.” In Lomborg’s view, the dominant climate-policy prescription — draconian emission controls — would likely do more harm than good, particularly in the near term, so other options must be considered. Lomborg explains that “policies addressing societal factors rather than climate policies will help much more and much faster. “Doing too little about climate change is definitely wrong,” he counsels, wisely adding that “so is doing too much.” . . .
At times Lomborg’s discussion seems a bit technocratic, and he understates the degree of uncertainty inherent in climate-change policy. Estimates of future emissions and energy use patterns decades hence are highly suspect. So too are climate projections that are based on such uncertain inputs. This does not mean that climate-change concerns should be dismissed, but it does counsel against pretending cost-benefit analyses can be conducted with any degree of precision. . . .
Despite these flaws, Cool It is a highly valuable contribution to the climate-policy literature. In clear and concise prose, Lomborg diagnoses the problems plaguing contemporary climate policy, injecting a needed tonic of realism and common sense into the climate debate. And for that very reason, it is sure to make Lomborg’s critics hot-under-the-collar.