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Lomborg talking nonsense (again) on global warming

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Danish author Bjorn Lomborg (degree in political science) gave a typically spirited defence of global warming in last weekend’s Sunday Times, describing it as a “joy“. He’s missing the point.

Many of his assertions in his most famous book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, have been repeatedly questioned by the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty*, Howard Friel, Scientific American and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

It’s a pity that he doesn’t just go away quietly or come over to the enlightened side of the debate. Nevertheless, controversy sells lots of books, as even James Delingpole has sadly proven.

Lomborg is often quite a charming and convincing speaker and writer, who often raises legitimate challenges about the relative costs of curing diseases that kill millions today in comparison to the money spent on dealing with our environmental challenges. There are difficult choices.

I’m sure we’d like him if we met him in a bar, unlike the four horsemen of the climate apocalypse. He’s Danish, and they make Carlsberg. I hear it’s probably the best beer in the world. However, Lomborg’s environmental perspectives and insights are probably some of the worst.

He rather misses the point. Or several points, to be honest.

If he is right (and it is a massively contentious ‘if’ that has to ignore the overwhelming scientific consensus) and manmade global warming is relatively benign, he still does not address some fundamental issues of burning finite fossil fuels.

The main argument about our environment is not really about ‘global warming’, as this sounds jolly pleasant living on a cold wet island in the North Sea. The main issue is unpredictable and/or runaway climate change, in an only lightly understood system, our complex, non-linear, highly connected climate.

Making any statements with certainty about the climate – saying it will all be fine until about 2070 – is reckless and ignores the impact of tipping points. Something tips if the combined effect of many small changes pushes a system beyond its ability to cope, and chaos will ensue.

The tipping point where snow becomes an avalanche is 38 degrees (a fact that inspired the excellent eponymous organisation). 37 degrees is just fine. Run away at 37.9 degrees.

Whether Bjorn is either dead, has kids or not by 2070, many of our children will be. Deforesting at the rate we do, and defrosting the polar caps at the rate we are, certainly plays havoc with micro-climates and regional climate patterns, and these effects are cumulative. They affect the whole system and us all.

Pollution from air particulates caused by burning fossil fuels kills 1.3 million people a year globally, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), and costs the UK an estimated £20 billion annually. That’s 8.5 times the level of the UK subsidy for renewables. Lomborg does not seem to factor that into his oft-mentioned cost benefit analyses; nor does he understand that air pollution is no respecter of national borders.

Burning fossil fuels may be a sign of economic growth in some regions as Lomborg stresses, but it is also the harbinger of respiratory-related illnesses and death. Just ask the people of China.

It’s also often the sign of hefty profits being reaped for developed world corporations and investors, with very little going back to local populations, other than pollution and ruined health.

Our relentless attack on wildlife’s natural habitat has pushed many species to, and some into, extinction. This is not only irresponsible and reckless. It also seems unwise, some would say unethical, to randomly end the existence of entire species.

Every living creature suffers from a degraded environment: dirtier air, toxic land and dead seas  (or in the case of the Aral Sea, a vanishing sea).

He also makes the bizarre argument that while more people may die from the effects of warming death from the cold will fall (WHO estimates that 150,000 deaths and 5m illnesses are related to global warming). There is no evidence to support the latter assertion.

Anything that is finite also runs out eventually. It’s finite, after all. Unless our economy learns to wean itself off burning fossils, we’re in for a bumpy few decades economically. As we point out, the tree-hugging US Department of Defence, Oil & Gas Journal and OPEC are far less sanguine than Lomborg.

We are clearly testing the resilience of our planet to breaking point. Even if global warming were not to wreak havoc on our society, our economy and our ecology, as Lomborg claims, it is manifestly wrong to argue that the burning of fossil fuels is essentially harmless, or a joyous thing.

Lomborg limits himself to a narrow debate about ‘global warming’, in a ‘look over here at this, just this, not over there at that’ attempt to distract us from what is really going on to our planet. He even presents himself as one who reasonably accepts that humans are probably responsible for the warming. This narrow analysis avoids a central truth about our planet’s systems.

The climate, the flora and fauna of which we are part, is interconnected and interdependent. When this sceptical environmentalist recognises that simple fact and uses his skills and intelligence to move the argument forward, we would all benefit.

Alternatively, he could just shut up and stick to political science – the study of the state, government, and politics. This is not climatology.

* The DCHS accused Lomborg of scientific dishonesty, including fabricating data, discarding unwanted results, misleading use of statistics, plagiarism and distorted interpretations of own and others results. While the book was found to be dishonest, Lomborg himself was found innocent, as he wasn’t qualified in subjects in question.

Lomborg subsequently fought back and had the decision invalidated, but mainly due to a lack of specific errors and lack of agreed definitions on good scientific practice, objective scientific dishonesty and that it was unclear whether the book was a scientific publication. This is damming in its own right.

Further reading:

Extreme weather is not a ‘pub bore’s forecast’

Pick-and-mix dogma is unethical and intellectually dishonest

Ditch energy subsides for a better world, says IMF report

Government ‘must listen’ to chief scientific adviser on climate change

Climate sceptics are our generation’s slavery apologists

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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