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The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  600 ratings  ·  65 reviews
Bjorn Lomborg, a former member of Greenpeace, challenges widely held beliefs that the world environmental situation is getting worse and worse in his new book, The Skeptical Environmentalist. Using statistical information from internationally recognized research institutes, Lomborg systematically examines a range of major environmental issues that feature prominently in he ...more
Paperback, 540 pages
Published September 10th 2001 by Cambridge University Press (first published 1998)
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Danish Professor Bjorn Lomborg was an active member of Greenpeace when he came across an article claiming the environment was nowhere near in bad of shape as as the environmental movement was claiming. Convinced this was nothing more than right-wing propaganda, Lomborg bought the author's book and assigned his class the job of debunking it.

To his great surprise, Lomborg discovered that science really did support most of the man's arguments - so much progress has been made that the planet is act
Jun 06, 2008 Willy rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: no one or everyone depending on the day
Shelves: environment
The cover of The Skeptical Environmentalist looks promising, a stunning sandstone canyon with lovely pine trees dotting an outcropping. Above the title “a brilliant a powerful book” proclaims Matt Ridley author of Genome. This would lead the casual reader to believe that Ridley is an impartial scientist. These two elements are representative of the problems with this book. Using a pristine setting and an expert quote reminiscent of the slight of hand, a magician’s trick, Lomborg lures the skepti ...more
Robert Beveridge
Bjorn Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist (Cambridge University Press, 2001)

I have watched the unfolding controversy over The Skeptical Environmentalist with a cynical amusement not at the combatants, but at myself, for still having some shred of belief that reason, logic, and critical analysis has any place in modern reviews, especially those submitted by readers to You would think that by now I'd know better. More fool you (and me, the biggest fool of all.)

It is blisteringly ob
This book is infuriatingly inaccurate. Lomborg (a statistician not a scientist!) takes on many of today's environmental issues and dismisses them almost out of hand with a judicious misapplication of shady statistics and a pervasive tone of condescension and arrogance.

The logic and conclusions in the book are fatally flawed and the references are selectively chosen to support his outrageously naive claims that everything's fine with the world.

If the realities of today's environmental crises pa
The fundamental problem with this book is that the author is a statistician, not a scientist. And when writing this book, there is no evidence he even tried to consult or talk to the scientists he comes down on in his book. He has taken numerical data out of context and ran statistical tests on them. It’s no wonder the scientific community openly criticized his work as unscientific and misleading.

Of course many of his ideas are interesting and important: environmental problems are exaggerated b
Lomborg, the anti-environmentalist that all greenies love to hate, actually makes some very interesting arguments backed by a lot of "facts," (debunked later almost universally). If you are an environmentalist, this is a must read - it shows what the "other side" can use as arguments against your cause. A very intelligent read, even if you disagree with his views and some of his unscientific leaps of faith. He is a much better statistician than scientist.
Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership
One of Cambridge Sustainability's Top 50 Books for Sustainability, as voted for by our alumni network of over 3,000 senior leaders from around the world. To find out more, click here.

The Skeptical Environmentalist is an unapologetic and highly controversial challenge to many of the prevailing views on the nature and extent of the so-called environmental crisis we face. The subtitle of the book - 'The Real State of the World' - is an implicit criticism of the Worldwatch Institute's State of the W
Jun 30, 2008 Jerzy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: green
This has the potential to be an interesting read, and I totally agree with the author's alleged premise -- that environmentalism should be based on the real state of the world, not on panicky unfounded fears. So I'm glad he started this conversation.

But this is definitely not the final word, not by a long shot. He is a statistician, not a scientist, and there are so many places where he misinterprets important things that he must either be too naive or too dishonest for me to trust him. For exam
Nov 16, 2008 Robert rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Al Gore
Dan suggested I read this a few years ago, only just got round to it. Lomborg is unrelentingly upbeat about the state of the world and the progress that is generally being made tackling everything from pollution to starvation. He makes the point several times that even if the trend is in the right direction it doesn't mean that we're doing well enough. Despite this he's drawn a lot of vitriol for this book. The central point is that we need to weigh up the costs and benefits associated with solv ...more
This book deals with the statistics, thus the subtitle. The latest dire threat I hear about from alarmist types has to do with population, since more and more say man did not destroy the earth with climate change.
In this book, with voluminous footnotes for reference, we can see that global population is not increasing in a Malthusian fashion but is leveling its growth rate. Go to US Census site and see for yourself.
That is the point of this book-be skeptical and look for yourself.
This is somethi
Matt Greenhall
This was a good read. I saved fact checking for after I'd finished. The ideas sound good, but are super dubious. I'd recommend plucking something interesting out of the Table of Contents and fact checking his sources as you read it. The few things I checked weren't even close to supporting what he was trying to prove.
I picked up this book unaware of the controversy behind it, hoping that it would indeed provide a "non-partisan stock taking exercise" of the state of the environment. Indeed it starts off well, describing how statistics are frequently misrepresented to support authors' points of view, and how this approach should be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately once one begins to read further it quickly becomes clear that Lomborg is presenting data not in an impartial manner, but in order to back up his ...more
Sep 21, 2007 Betsey rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who are dumb enough to believe fox news
Shelves: non-fiction, crap
this book is shameless crap. If you want to read it, please prepare to be annoyed. My doctoral seminar wrote and published a critique of the environmental health aspects of this book. go us!
Jun 05, 2008 Daniel rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: marcelo
Marcelo this is an interesting book. Recently a bit controversial but in general it is correct. Things are getting indeed better.
this book should called "the Naive Optimist" or "the Polyanna Statistician" or perhaps "the Unqualified Critic of Environmental Science."
An interesting book which uses statistics rather than science to investigate questions concerning the environment. Lomborg is, at times, guilty of his own rhetoric in terms of jumping to conclusions and reading to much in to a set of figures, but he is a mathematician rather than a scientist. It's very useful to see some of the figures around global warming and how they are used by the media and from a political standpoint. Right or wrong Lomborg attempts to break apart complex issues and allows ...more
I have always considered myself to be an environmentalist since I was a child and my parents taught me not to litter or be wasteful, to be kind to animals, and to respect and appreciate nature. These are values I've maintained and am trying to pass on to my children. So, like many others, I have become increasingly worried about the condition of our planet with the constant bombardment of sound-bites bearing line after line of ever more distressing news almost on a daily basis.

But after reading
Temo che l'unica cosa che il saggio insegni sia che la statistica e' uno strumento troppo malleabile (nelle mani degli uni come degli altri). Pero' il testo e'utile ad individuare tanti luoghi comuni degli ambientalisti non sostenuti dal necessario rigore, cosi' come alcune vere e proprie fesserie. Peccato che anche l'A. in alcune occasioni si macchi di "data squeezing" e soprattuto di "data picking".
Che molti dei mali del mondo siano imputabili alla poverta', inoltre, non riduce ipso facto - s
This book takes a skeptical look at all of the environmental doomsday prophecies and find that none of them are based on fact or measurable data. When you actually look at the facts and measurable data, you see that most of the world is in better shape than its ever been. More people have food, live longer and healthier, and have more leisure time. Crop yields are increasing, the amount of drinkable water is increasing, and pollution levels in most cities are decreasing. Lomborg is careful to po ...more
Riddled with errors and misrepresentations, The Skeptical Environmentalist is probably the definitive work of the Cornucopian and techno-optimist genre since Julian Simon died. While I by all means agree with Lomborg (and most other sane people) that technological progress will be necessary to solve environmental problems, this does not amount to some amazing revelation. Lomborg's main goal appears to be self-promotion, positioning himself at some median between the Greenpeace-niks and the villa ...more
A very long book that took me a long time because of its textbook fashion, but I’m glad I finished because it indeed made me a more skeptical environmentalist. Lomborg make a very good point that the world has gotten better in the last hundred years in many ways because countries have gotten richer and when they do they can actually afford the money to pay for a clean environment. Because of this model he criticizes policies for developing companies in which we impose tight expensive regulations ...more
Slightly dated but a great book. You can follow the author on Facebook ( where he does post updates on various figures (mostly focused on global warming). This book is a more technical book (that is, tables/figures/math) in family with Diamandis' "Abundance", Zubrin's "Merchants of Despair" and Matt Ridleys' "Rational Optimist". Bjorn discusses various environmental and health issues (pesticides, feeding the world, saving the rainforests, global warming, etc ...more
Antonio Nunez
Worthy causes, whether religious, political or moral tend to see themselves as above the duty to provide evidence to substantiate both their claims about reality and the suitability of their proposed measures to improve said reality. To their believers, the state of the world is obvious (usually bad), and they are genuinely astonished to find that most people are unconcerned about the grave issues that drive them. Their natural reaction is to become even more feverish about their respective caus ...more
Kent Anderson
This is an important book, and it is written and illustrated in an especially clear manner. The data speak. If you have a mind open to clear evaluations of the data around environmental issues, and are not dogmatic to the point of having blinders on, you will likely enjoy this book. If you are a dogmatist, well, I don't know how you'll react, but chances are you'll feel threatened because the arguments derived from the data are optimistic and realistic, not your standard environmental scare-fest ...more
Stephanie "Jedigal"
Dec 11, 2008 Stephanie "Jedigal" marked it as to-read
Well, I started this in December 2007 and got through 9 of 25 chapters before the 1st in a chain of another books distracted me. So now, April 08, I'm re-reading before going forward, since this is full of information and I need the background. I've decided to record info as I go along.

** The Litany
It is commonly believed that "the world is in trouble, things are going from bad to worse, with no end in sight". The question the author asks, and answers in thi
Everyone should read this book.

Lomborg attacks what he calls the "litany" of the environmental movement with a well-researched argument and notations up the wazoo. The world, as it turns out, is not as in bad a shape as environmentalists claim. A lot of their claims are completely overblown, and others are downright dangerous to take at face value.

Organic farming, for instance: if every crop in the world was held to those standards, eliminating pesticides, there's no way we could feed the popula
Jacob J
I liked this book quite well. I enjoyed all the charts and despite SteveP's assessment that it is awful and "universally vilified," I thought it was quite reasonable. I didn't find it be particularly radical. For example, Lomborg accepts man-made global warming and mostly creates controversy by suggesting that what we are doing about it is stupid. Hardly the standard right wing position on global warming. Even if you ignore the controversial aspects of the book, it contains a whole bunch of non- ...more
David R.
A spectacular and courageous evaluation of climate and other data. Lomborg is unmistakeably of the environmentalist camp but a very honest one, willing to seek the facts with statistics and reason. The book is better footnoted than most with hundreds of pages of references and hundreds of charts and statistical output.
Sharon Eudy Neufeld
At last, a statistician analyzes the true state of our environment and how it compares to the last several centuries. How do we determine how to spend our limited dollars? Lomborg shows how to calculate cost per life saved when spending money for clean air, clean water, universal vaccinations, organic produce and many other scenarios. As a former member of GreenPeace he began this journey to prove opponents wrong but as an intellectually honest academic he has followed the data wherever it went. ...more
Laura Hayes
A very insightful and thought-provoking book. It is very dense reading, with highly referenced supporting documentation. The first few chapters are slow to read, but worth slogging through.
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