Comments On Bjørn Lomborg’s New Book “Cool It”

Bjorn Lomborg new book “Cool Its” continues his effort to communicate that a broader perspective on environmental issues is needed if effective policy action is to be undertaken to reduce threats to society and the environment through an effective mix of mitigation and adaptation. This is a theme we also have emphasized in the publications

Kabat, P., Claussen, M., Dirmeyer, P.A., J.H.C. Gash, L. Bravo de Guenni, M. Meybeck, R.A. Pielke Sr., C.J. Vorosmarty, R.W.A. Hutjes, and S. Lutkemeier, Editors, 2004: Vegetation, water, humans and the climate: A new perspective on an interactive system. Springer, Berlin, Global Change – The IGBP Series, 566 pp –

see

Pielke, R.A. Sr., 2004: Introduction. Chapter E.1 In: Vegetation, Water, Humans and the Climate: A New Perspective on an Interactive System. P. Kabat et al., Eds., Global Change -The IGBP Series, Springer, 483-484;

Pielke, R.A. Sr., G. Petschel-Held, P. Kabat, B. Bass, M.F. Hutchinson, V. Gupta, R.A. Pielke Jr., M. Claussen, and D.S. Ojima, 2004: Predictability and uncertainty. Chapter E.2 In: Vegetation, Water, Humans and the Climate: A New Perspective on an Interactive System. Global Change – The IGBP Series, P. Kabat et al., Eds., Springer, 485-490.

Pielke, R.A. Sr., and T.J. Stohlgren, 2004: Contrast between predictive and vulnerability approaches. Chapter E.3 In: Vegetation, Water, Humans and the Climate: A New Perspective on an Interactive System. Global Change – The IGBP Series, P. Kabat et al., Eds., Springer, 491-495;

Bravo de Guenni, L., R.E. Schulze, R.A. Pielke Sr., and M.F. Hutchinson, 2004: The vulnerability approach. Chapter E.5 In: Vegetation, Water, Humans and the Climate: A New Perspective on an Interactive System. Global Change – The IGBP Series, P. Kabat et al., Eds., Springer, 499-514;

Pielke, R.A. Sr., C.J. Vorosmarty, J. Brunner, C. Revenga, B. Fekete, P. Green, Y. Kura, and K. Thompson, 2004: Case studies. Chapter E.6 In: Vegetation, Water, Humans and the Climate: A New Perspective on an Interactive System. Global Change – The IGBP Series, P. Kabat et al., Eds., Springer, 515-536;

Pielke, R.A. Sr., and L. Bravo de Guenni, 2004: Conclusions. Chapter E.7 In: Vegetation, Water, Humans and the Climate: A New Perspective on an Interactive System. Global Change – The IGBP Series, P. Kabat et al., Eds., Springer, 537-538;

and in

Pielke, R.A. Sr., 2004: Discussion Forum: A broader perspective on climate change is needed. IGBP Newsletter, 59, 16-19.

This need to provide policymakers with a complete assessment of risks that society and the enviromment face is complemented effectively by the book by Roger A. Pielke Jr. The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics.

Bjorn Lomborg’s and Roger Pielke Jr.’s books are worth reading!

Lomborg, however, accepts the claims that the 2003 European heat wave was associated with global warming, and then contrasts deaths from heat and cold waves.
This is exemplified by the discussion in Discovery Magazine where it is written

“The heat wave in Europe in early August 2003 was a catastrophe of heartbreaking proportions. With more than 3,500 dead in Paris alone, France suffered nearly 15,000 fatalities from the heat wave. Another 7,000 died in Germany, 8,000 in Spain and Italy, and 2,000 in the United Kingdom: The total death toll ran to more than 35,000. Understandably, this event has become a psychologically powerful metaphor for the frightening vision of a warmer future and our immediate need to prevent it.

The green group Earth Policy Institute, which first totaled the deaths, tells us that as “awareness of the scale of this tragedy spreads, it is likely to generate pressure to reduce carbon emissions. For many of the millions who suffered through these record heat waves and the relatives of the tens of thousands who died, cutting carbon emissions is becoming a pressing personal issue.â€?

The case he presents in his books regarding the heat waves is that

“While 35,000 dead is a terrifyingly large number, all deaths should in principle be treated with equal concern. Yet this is not happening. When 2,000 people died from heat in the United Kingdom, it produced a public outcry that is still heard. However, the BBC recently ran a very quiet story telling us that deaths caused by cold weather in England and Wales for the past years have hovered around 25,000 each winter, casually adding that the winters of 1998-2000 saw about 47,000 cold deaths each year. The story then goes on to discuss how the government should make the cost of winter fuel economically bearable and how the majority of deaths are caused by strokes and heart attacks.

It is remarkable that a single heat-death episode of 35,000 from many countries can get everyone up in arms, whereas cold deaths of 25,000 to 50,000 a year in just a single country pass almost unnoticed. Of course, we want to help avoid another 2,000 dying from heat in the United Kingdom. But presumably we also want to avoid many more dying from cold.”

This is a persuasive argument. However, it assumes that the European heat wave was due to global warming. In

Chase, T.N., K. Wolter, R.A. Pielke Sr., and Ichtiaque Rasool, 2006: Was the 2003 European summer heat wave unusual in a global context? Geophys. Res. Lett., 33, L23709, doi:10.1029/2006GL027470

(as Bjorn also mentions in his book), we showed that this heat wave, within the global context, was not an unprecedented event, and such large extremes in weather, both warm and cold, occur every year.

Recently, William Connelly tested our claim and confirmed our conclusions [we will provide the link to his comment as soon as this is permitted by the AGU (i.e. published)]. He did conclude that the 2003 heat wave as measured by the near surface temperature was more unusual than the 1000-500mb depth-averaged temperature anomaly. However, he obtained the same conclusion that we did with respect to the 1000-500mb depth-averaged temperature anomaly.

In our reply to his comment

Chase, T.N., K. Wolter, R.A. Pielke Sr., and Ichtiaque Rasool, 2007: Reply to comments : Connelly, W.M., Comment on Chase et al., 2006: Was the 2003 European summer heat wave unusual in a global context? Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L02704, doi:10.1029/2007GL031574.

we state that

“….the effects of increasing anthropogenic CO2 on atmospheric temperature are expected to extend vertically through the troposphere, at least climatologically (Trenberth et al., 2007; CCSP Report, 2006). Assuming the near-surface temperature measurements are spatially representative, the conclusion that the heat wave was a shallow phenomenon in terms of its unusualness argues against the point of view that it was a direct manifestation of the effects of increased atmospheric CO2.”

Thus, Bjorn Lomborg’s book, which emphasizes that a broader view on environmental risk is needed, is supported even more since this heat wave was not even due to global warming, but was closely related to the lack of surface evaporation which would have reduced somewhat the extreme high temperatures near the surface. This lack of moisture was due to antecedent dry conditions, as well as the landscape type where people live (e.g. urban centers!), not global warming.

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