Bjorn Lomborg: 7 myths about climate change

November 2, 2021
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As the COP26 summit meets over the next couple of weeks in Glasgow, we can all expect to be bombarded with disaster scenarios, replete with stories about our species’ imminent demise. Over the last couple of days, we have had Boris Johnson warning that it is “one minute to midnight” and Prince Charles claiming that this is “literally our last chance saloon”. And of course, Greta Thunberg has already made a few appearances of her own, accusing politicians of “pretending to take our future seriously” and saying that COP26 will “lead us nowhere”.

Bjorn Lomborg takes a different view. His latest book, ‘False Alarm: how climate change panic costs us trillions, hurts the poor, and fails to fix the planet’ sets out his argument that, although climate change is a real problem and is mostly man-made, the panic and alarmism is counter-productive. He spoke to Freddie Sayers:

The UN estimates we will live much longer — possibly up to about 100 years by the end of the century — we’ll all be literate, we’ll have much higher education, all these other things. So it’s important to recognise global warming is not the end of the world. It’s not the reason why kids should say, “why should I bother going to school?” It’s a problem among many other problems that we need to fix.
- Bjorn Lomborg, UnHerdTV

Lomborg challenges seven common myths about climate change:

Myth 1. “Small islands are doomed by rising sea levels”

We constantly hear Micronesia, the Maldives or Seychelles or something is going to be flooded and they’re only like a metre or two metres above sea level…What happens is most of these islands are coral islands, so they have actually occurred because they break off dead coral when there’s storms and wash it ashore. That accretes to the island and makes the island higher. At the same time, of course, a sea level rise makes the island lower. But it turns out that at least for now, and probably in the foreseeable future, the accretion is higher than the sea level rise. 
- Bjorn Lomborg, UnHerdTV

Myth 2: “Extreme weather events are killing more people”

If you take a graph of how many people die from climate related disasters, we have good data for that for the last 100 years. In the 1920s, about half a million people died each and every year from climate disasters. A lot of them were floods and droughts, especially in China and India that you’ve never heard of. What’s happened since then is that it’s declined dramatically. So in the 2010s, we were down to 18,000 deaths, so about 96% reduction in deaths. And last year, it was down to 14,000 or so in 2020. And in 2021, we don’t obviously have the whole year yet, but it looks like 2021 is set to be even lower at about 6000. 
- Bjorn Lomborg, UnHerdTV

Myth 3: “Climate lockdowns are a good solution” 

The first thing to realise is despite the fact that we shut down the entire world in 2020, we still emitted almost as much. We probably cut our emissions about 6% globally. That’s because we still have to heat our homes. We sat at home and Zoomed instead and used electricity in that way. So when you shut down one thing you end up doing something else. And so yes, you can cut your emissions a little bit. But it turns out that it’s really hard to shut down dramatically. For example, when China was most shut down, it still emitted 84% of its normal emissions.
- Bjorn Lomborg, UnHerdTV

Myth 4: “Electric cars don’t harm the environment”

Electric cars are being sold as net zero. But what they actually are is that they’re zero when they’re driving. But much of the energy that you tank up your car, unless you live in Norway, is basically fossil fuel. And of course, most of the battery is produced in China or somewhere else where it emitted a lot of co2 typically from coal fired power plants.
- Bjorn Lomborg, UnHerdTV

Myth 5: “Polar bears are going extinct on melting ice caps”

First of all, remember the polar bears lived through the last time there was probably no ice in the Arctic, which was five to eight thousand years ago. So clearly, it’s not the end of the world for them. But also, and we need to recognise we’re still seeing a trending upwards of polar bears…We’ve probably gone from somewhere between five and ten thousand polar bears, up till today, where we have about 25,000 polar bears
- Bjorn Lomborg, UnHerdTV

Myth 6: “Stop eating meat to save the planet”

The reality is that going meat free is only going to do a little bit for climate. We often hear that, ‘Oh, it’s 50% of your food intake’, and you only hear the 50% so you can apparently reduce 50%. But it’s only 50% of your food emissions. So the reality is, when you look at the total impact it’s about 4%.
- Bjorn Lomborg, UnHerdTV

Myth 7: “Wildfires are getting worse, and proof of climate change”

We’ve actually seen that wildfire has been declining in amount of burnt area pretty much every year since 1900…Overall, Australia for instance had one of its lowest burns ever. It used to burn in the early 1900s about 12% of the area of Australia every year. It went down to about 6-8%, typically in the early 2000s. In 2019/20 it burned a little less than 4%.
- Bjorn Lomborg, UnHerdTV

Our thanks to Bjorn for a lively and informative discussion.


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