Lomborg and Shellenberger & Nordhaus Redux

Looks like I’m not the only one who sees a scary similarity between the messages in their respective books, Cool It and Break Through.

The San Francisco Chronicle just ran a double review by Robert Collier, a visiting scholar at the Center for Environmental Public Policy at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. The review ends pointedly:

[T]he arguments of Nordhaus and Shellenberger attain an intellectual pretense that could almost pass for brilliant if their urgings weren’t so patently empty. The closing chapter calls for “greatness,” but, like the rest of the book, it offers little in the way of substantive proposals to back up its rhetorical thunder.

Perhaps that’s for their next book. Or perhaps real solutions, rather than pretentious sniping, are not the authors’ purpose. Nordhaus and Shellenberger, like Lomborg, will get plenty of attention in Washington from those who want to preserve the status quo. But for those who recognize the urgent need to transform the national and world economies and save the planet as we know it, they are ultimately irrelevant.


Yes, I suppose I am biased because the author takes up my “delayer” language and cites this blog in a follow-on blog post:

In my review of ‘Break Through’, I made clear that Nordhaus and Shellenberger are not global warming deniers. As I mentioned, they are part of a new breed of anti-environmentalist pundits who accept the scientific evidence for global warming. They could be described as global warming delayers — that is, they oppose government regulatory action such as stricter auto fuel-economy standards, and they propose long-term strategies that would delay any near-term action to reduce emissions….

It would be a mistake to conclude that ‘Break Through’ represents a substantive, useful contribution to public dialogue about what to do next on global warming. Their book devotes only one sole paragraph — yes, one — to details of their energy R&D proposal. The vast majority of the book is essentially a long hit piece, a rambling, disjointed screed against major environmental groups and former Vice President Al Gore. This may be good entertainment for conservatives and political junkies who enjoy that sort of ideological contact sport, but it’s a waste of time for anyone else.

For those with patience for more detail on why the ideas of Nordhaus and Shellenberger don’t stand up to scrutiny, I suggest commentary on the Climate Progress blog here, here, here and here by Joseph Romm, a top Energy Department official during the Clinton administration.

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5 Responses to Lomborg and Shellenberger & Nordhaus Redux

  1. John says:

    “Pretentious sniping.” I think that phrase encapsulates what S&N and Lomborg are doing, and why it’s so lame.

  2. David says:

    OK, I’m no climatologist, but because of my background in science I sometimes try to educate myself on issues that are not in my field. So far, I’ve spent a good chunk of an evening browsing around to find out what S&N actually argue, as well as the counteraguments of their detractors. In this, I found the views of S&N, even when reported by those who obviously disagree, to be not crazy. Now, every scientific field had its quacks. My field physics has more than its fair share. But we physicists can dispell quackery in a few short paragraphs. Whether anyone finds those paragraphs or believes them is another issue. Now, I tried very hard to find a real expert lay out the obvious factual problems in S&N. I didn’t find it. I suspect that their claims, if wrong, are not wrong in any easy or obvious way. In any other science, this would certainly warrant furhter investigation and substantive discussion.

    So here is what puzzles me: Why is this discussion so hard to find? Why is everyone so quick to change the subject and suddenly start talking about politics instead of statistics? Why all the truly unprofessional namecalling? Are there any scientists actually following along?

  3. Paul K says:

    Your recent posts show the theory that unknown technologies must be developed to stop AGW is wrong because the technology is already here.
    I think Robert Collier is also wrong to call Nordhaus and Shellenberger part of a new breed of anti-environmentalists. They are environmentalists, who as you have pointed out are not the same as AGW advocates. Some environmentalists may resent the climate change emphasis.

  4. Dano says:

    Why all the truly unprofessional namecalling? Are there any scientists actually following along?

    Aaaa-men David.

    Folks have their identities wrapped up in the environmentalism fight. S&N has said the fight isn’t winning any more. Perhaps the identity-wrapped think S&N are calling them losers.

    IOW: don’t take it so personally, folks. Get over yourselves and change tactics.



  5. Reviews of Nordhaus & Shellenberger’s latest “Break Through” have failed to recognize that the book is not only utterly ignorant about the history of environmentalism but that it is a compendium of public polls called “psychographics” which they have elevated to an undeserved status they call Truth. But N&S conceal the real source materials for their book, pretending that they have developed their own infallible analysis of global problems. Essentially the book is a fraud, an attempt by two rank amateurs with no hand-on environmental experience, to promote their polling company Environics and get more gullible clients on board. Anyone wanting an in-depth analysis of this book by an activist with four decades of experience under her belt can go to my web site (