In This Review

The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World
The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World
By Bjorn Lomborg
Cambridge University Press, 2001, 515 pp.

This statistics-ridden but lively book examines the "litany" of environmentalists and their followers -- who included the author, a Danish statistician, before he researched their alarms. It covers an extraordinary range of material, including the global availability of food, energy, and water; resource exhaustion; forest depletion; biodiversity; and global warming. The author targets the environmental warnings published routinely in nontechnical publications and issued by nongovernmental organizations (such as Greenpeace and the Worldwatch Institute) and even by international institutions. After tracking down the scientific bases for these claims, Lomborg finds that some were simply fabricated. But more often he finds discrepancies between the popular accounts and the scientific findings that allegedly provide their basis; indeed, popular versions ignored the uncertainties emphasized in the scientific papers or converted mere conjectures into alleged hard facts. The book has provoked highly critical, even petulant, responses by some scientists in the environmental camp, who charge the author either did not pursue sources thoroughly or misrepresented them. But its occasionally tendentious examination of sources pales in comparison with the errors of Lomborg's targets.