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February 10, 2007

So This is Interesting

Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics

Bjorn Lomborg writing in The Guardian 7 February 2007:

Imagine if the director of the CIA published a new assessment of Iran, saying: "I hope this report will shock people, governments into taking more serious action."

We wrote here on Prometheus 25 January 2007:

Imagine, by contrast, if the Director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, another organization with an agenda to be "policy neutral," were reported in the media to say of the agency’s latest assessment on Iran, "I hope that the report will shock people, governments into taking more serious action."

Not a huge deal, and maybe just a simple coincidence, but we academics tend to notice and be a bit prickly about such things . . .

Posted on February 10, 2007 01:32 PM



I would like to think that if Lomborg was reading this blog that he would participate in the discussions.

It would be very unfortunate if he was plagiarizing you. On this particular issue, at least, you are both on the same team and should not be working against each other, or stepping on each others toes!

In another post, you recently wrote:

"Charles- Thanks for your comments, one correction -- Lomborg is sounding many of the same themes as us, not vice versa ;-)"

That got me to thinking about the chapter on global warming in the 'Skeptical Environmentalist'. That is were I was first exposed to the idea that CO2 mitigation would likely be a very inefficient way to deal with problems associated with climate change, and that adaptation would be a much more cost efficient and effective policy. Lomborg published that book in 1998. Did you hold similar ideas at that time?

In your Nature Commentary: 'Lifting the taboo on adaptation' (very good, by the way), you begin by pointing out that adaptation was seriously considered as an important option for climate change policies in the late 1980's. I am wondering how this idea got shoved aside, and if there are others who have been quietly caring the torch?

Again, I really hope that the wording in Lomborg's article is a strange coincidence and not something more sinister. It would be just the thing to distract people from the important message that both you and he share!

Posted by: Jim Clarke [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 10, 2007 03:43 PM

Jim- Thanks.

Thank earlier comment was in jest poking back at whomever it was trying to elicit a reaction by association . . .

Lomborg's TSE came out 2001 I think, and I don't think his views (then at least) were that similar to mine. On my earlier work on adaptation, see:

Pielke, Jr., R. A., 1998. Rethinking the Role of Adaptation in Climate Policy. Global Environmental Change, 8(2), 159-170.

The current focus of this post is a different matter altogether however -- it is curious ...


Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. at February 10, 2007 04:06 PM

Roger, I'd relax: the use of the CIA as an example like this is hadly unknown. A quick google gave me tens of thousands of hits for "imagine director CIA" used in more or less this way. At least both of you accurately quoted the original comment.

Posted by: Charlie (Colorado) [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 10, 2007 04:10 PM

Charlie- Thanks -- how many entries in your Google search came up with CIA, Iran, Rajendra Pachauri? ;-)

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 10, 2007 08:48 PM


If you are interested in some literature on adaptation from the late 1980s through the mid-1990s, you should go to Of course, since that’s my website – a poor one at that – it is selective about its references.

In addition to NAS (1992) referred to in Roger’s paper, you should also look at the following:

1. Ausubel, J.H. 1991. Does climate still matter? Nature 350:649-65. A masterpiece, in my opinion.

2. IPCC Response Strategies Report. 1990. Climate Change: The IPCC Response Strategies.
Washington, D.C. Island Press. [This is excellent on adaptation.]

3. If you can get it: National Action Plan for Global Climate Change, Department of State Publication No.10026, Office of Global Change, December 1992.

The second item is the segment of the IPCC’s First Assessment Report devoted to both adaptation and mitigation, the product of something called the Response Strategies Working Group (RSWG). I had a large hand in writing that report. [Among other things, I was the rapporteur for the Resource Use and Management Subgroup of the RSWG.] In any case, I’m probably the only one who ever refers to it nowadays. A good part of what has been discovered about adaptation in the past few years was already in that report, in my opinion.]

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Western Europeans saw adaptation as a competitor to mitigation. If I remember correctly, after the IPCC’s First Assessment Report, they almost killed any work by the IPCC on adaptation (except possibly for coastal zone management, I think) by trying to reorganize adaptation out of existence. We (the US) prevented that eventuality. To cut a long story short, adaptation was separated from mitigation and attached to the IPCC’s Impacts Work Group (as part of Work Group II). One result: today some people clamor for integrating adaptation and mitigation! [Although, there is some intellectual justification for attaching it to impacts.]

After the change in US administration in 1993, support in the US turned cooler. Only in the early 2000s did interest revive, particularly after the Delhi Declaration.


Nice paper, and some thing like this is long overdue in Nature. Congratulations.

I note, however, that the bit about malaria could be misinterpreted in that someone may conclude that the contribution of climate change to total malaria risk in 2080 would be 7%. Actually it would be 3.5% (because, as your paper notes, the malaria risk from other factors would double).

Posted by: Indur Goklany at February 10, 2007 10:25 PM

By the way this post about "stealing" intellectual property reminds me in Boldrin/Levine's brilliant book "Against Intellectual Monopoly" (

Posted by: SteffenH at February 11, 2007 01:16 PM


Thank you very much! I have bookmarked your site into my favorites. It looks like I have a lot of reading to do.

It is becoming obvious to me that the mainstream focus on CO2 mitigation did not get this way from a logical assessment of the situation. It appears that the current world view on the best policies was created by political forces with other motivations besides dealing with climate change.

I have an idea. Why don't we declare the views expressed in Rogers Nature article as the new consensus. We just keep refering to it as the consensus view on climate change policy; send some faxes to the big media outlets and let them do the rest! Hey... its worked before!

Posted by: Jim Clarke [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 11, 2007 08:51 PM

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