August 20, 2002
Is the Skeptic All Wet?
The Skeptical Environmentalist
Reviewed by Peter H. Gleick
A recent book challenges some of the fundamental understandings of the environmental science community and argues that instead of deteriorating, the world’s most critical environmental conditions are improving. The Skeptical Environmentalist, by Danish statistician Bjørn Lomborg, is only the latest in a line of similar books, following on the heels of Gregg Easterbrook’s A Moment on the Earth: The Coming Age of Environmental Optimism, which followed Julian Lincoln Simon’s The Ultimate Resource and others.
Most of the ideas in Lomborg’s book are not new, and those that are new are not correct. Some environmentalists, environmental scientists, and media do indeed overstate bad news or selectively focus on new or remaining problems rather than the considerable progress that has been made in some areas. And, of course, there is a comparable cohort equally guilty of ignoring, understating, and misrepresenting the environmental problems we face. Healthy skepticism is good—it challenges us to rethink our assumptions and arguments and to re-examine data and priorities. These are important points that are worthy of debate and discussion. If they had been the focus of Lomborg’s book, it would have been worthwhile. […]
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