Scared Silly About Global Warming

Bjorn Lomborg, Author - the Skeptical Environmentalist

By Bjorn Lomborg

The continuous presentation of scary stories about global warming in the popular media makes us unnecessarily frightened. Even worse, it terrifies our kids.

Al Gore famously depicted how a sea-level rise of 20 feet (six meters) would almost completely flood Florida, New York, Holland, Bangladesh, and Shanghai, even though the United Nations estimates that sea levels will rise 20 times less than that, and do no such thing.

When confronted with these exaggerations, some of us say that they are for a good cause, and surely there is no harm done if the result is that we focus even more on tackling climate change. A similar argument was used when George W. Bush’s administration overstated the terror threat from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

But this argument is astonishingly wrong. Such exaggerations do plenty of harm. Worrying excessively about global warming means that we worry less about other things, where we could do so much more good.

We focus, for example, on global warming’s impact on malaria ― which will be to put slightly more people at risk in 100 years ― instead of tackling the half-billion people suffering from malaria today with prevention and treatment policies that are much cheaper and dramatically more effective than carbon reduction would be.

Exaggeration also wears out the public’s willingness to tackle global warming. If the planet is doomed, people wonder, why do anything? A record 54 percent of American voters now believe the news media make global warming appear worse than it really is.

A majority of people now believes ― incorrectly ― that global warming is not even caused by humans. In the United Kingdom, 40 percent believe that global warming is exaggerated and 60 percent doubt that it is manmade.

But the worst cost of exaggeration, I believe, is the unnecessary alarm that it causes ― particularly among children. Recently, I discussed climate change with a group of Danish teenagers. One of them worried that global warming would cause the planet to “explode” ― and all the others had similar fears.

In the U.S., the ABC television network recently reported that psychologists are starting to see more neuroses in people anxious about climate change. An article in the Washington Post cited nine-year-old Alyssa, who cries about the possibility of mass animal extinctions from global warming.

In her words: “I don’t like global warming because it kills animals, and I like animals.” From a child who is yet to lose all her baby teeth: “I worry about [global warming] because I don’t want to die.”

The newspaper also reported that parents are searching for “productive” outlets for their eight-year-olds’ obsessions with dying polar bears. They might be better off educating them and letting them know that, contrary to common belief, the global polar bear population has doubled and perhaps even quadrupled over the past half-century, to about 22,000.

Read the rest at The Korea Times.

  • Neil F.

    Bjorn Lomborg, now this is a guy that I can respect. Even though he believes in AGW, he recognizes the fear tacticts used by many of the supporters of AGW. And I agree with him that there are many things that are not focused upon because of all the alarmism.
    It is an undisputed fact that the climate changes. It always has, and always will. It makes more sense to prepare for changes, and attempt to advance the technology to better predict those changes, than to make draconian alterations to society out of fear.
    It might suprise some of you to know that I am not completely against alternative energies such as solar and wind. I think if you want to put solar panels on your roof, or have a wind turbine in your backyard, or if you wat to hook up a generator to a treadmill, whatever, I have no problem with that. But to have the government mandate these things on a massive scale is unacceptable. And for us to make such changes because of alarmism and fear is simpley idiotic.
    I am not afraid of change, I just think that changes should come from forethought and planning, not from kneejerk reactions to fear.
    And I think Bjorn would agree with that.

    Que Rob as to why I’m a moron for thinking that…..and…….GO!

  • Lone Wolf

    You got it exactly right Neil. The government can help, it only needs to get out of the way.

  • Neil F.

    “In climate research and modeling, we should recognize that
    we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and
    therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not
    possible.” (TAR, p.774.)
    http://www.friendsofscience.org/assets/documents/FoS_Computer%20Climate%20Models.pdf

  • Neil F.

    Lone Wolf:
    Amen!
    I wish the government would read the actual IPCC assessment reports instead of the summaries for policy makers.

  • Neil F.

    “What does it all mean? Well, we have cooled recently. But those things can happen. The 12+ falt period is getting long enough to become statistically relevant, but looking at the RSS data set just doesn’t give us a large enough data set to compare likelihood. Longer term periods definitely show that we have warmed over a lengthier period of time – that’s not really in dispute. However, any claims of acceleration in warming are simply false, as can be shown by the fact that ALL trend line measures are declining. If warming were accelerating, we would see slopes increasing.”
    http://digitaldiatribes.wordpress.com/2009/06/05/june-2009-update-on-global-and-regional-temperature-rss/

  • Neil F.

    “The earth’s overall temperature in the last several years has either remained steady or slightly decreased — depending on which side of the issue is interpreting the data. No one is maintaining that the world is getting warmer and warmer every single year, which was the initial prediction.”
    http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/06/after_global_warming.html

  • Neil F.

    One question for proponents of AGW. Why is there STILL more ice in the Arctic? According to the AGW theory, warming should be accellerating. It is not. In fact, it must be much cooler in the Arctic this year because as reported by the NSIDC the ice that is there now is “young, thin” ice. So even if temperatures were exactly the same as they were in 2007 the ice level would be much lower because the “young, thin” ice would have melted more rapidly than the “old, thick” ice.
    http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/images/daily_images/N_timeseries.png

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