Friday, September 11, 2015

Bjorn Lomborg demonstrates why universities should steer clear of him

Hat tip:  Greg Laden

Australia's do-nothing-on-climate government attempted to foist luckwarmist Lomborg on University of Western Australia, with a sweetener of a $4 million to take him. UWA's administration bent the knee so enthusiastically that they faceplanted, with the actual academics rising up successfully against having this guy join them.

While there are countless reasons why Lomborg doesn't belong at a university, his cover-up of how his "consensus" analysis deliberately underplays the impact of climate emissions shows the lack of honesty that should stop any university from associating with him. It's not just underplaying, it's how he covers up what he's done.

Here's the exchange in Danish newspapers (emphasis added, some typos corrected):

Kare Fog, a critic of Lomborg:
....Lomborg will presumably refer to his Copenhagen Consensus conference, where it is shown with - seemingly - matter-of-fact cost/benefit calculations that it pays better to solve other problems than global warming..... 
[The audience members] do not know that the figures have arisen by discounting calculations and that Lomborg has cheated in these calculations. He has used one discount rate for climate projects, and another discount rate for the remaining projects. 
 If he had used the same rate for all projects, an endeavour for the climate would have appeared much higher on the ranking list; it would have obtained a more favourable cost/benefit ratio than the endeavours against tuberculosis, malaria, child diseases and heart diseases....

Lomborg responding some days later:
Kåre Fog writes...that we in Copenhagen Consensus have "cheated with the calculations", because we have used one rate of interest for climate projects and another rate of interest for the remaining projects. 
This is simply wrong. Indeed, our Nobel laureates have stressed the importance of using the same rate of interest for all projects (which naturally is also the only fair approach), and this yields that solely CO2 cuts are an extraordinarily poor way of helping future generations....

Fog responds again:
....There really have been used different rates of interest. This appears from the papers in the Copenhagen consensus conference, and it has also been confirmed to me by one of the climate economists of the conference, Richard Tol.... Jamison´s text on diseases and in Horton´s text on malnutrition they will see that there has been used a discount rate of 3 percent (as prescribed by Lomborg) (the rate of discount is easily found by searching for the word "discount" in the text). But if they enter the climate papers, they will see that Yohe et al. has a discount rate of 4 to 5 percent, and Green has a discount rate of 4 percent.... 
[Green's] climate project gives a benefit/cost ratio of approximately 16 when he uses 4 percent, but if he uses 3 percent, like in the health projects, this yields a ratio of no less than 28.5.... 
So what does Lomborg do to ensure that the climate projects do not look so favorable? He has them evaluated at a more unfavorable rate of interest....

And then Lomborg again:
...KF claims that the health paper uses only a low rate of interest of 3%. This is wrong; on page 60 it clearly apears that the paper also evaluates a high 6 percent rate of interest.....all papers were asked to evaluate all projects at both 3 percent and 6 percent. In some fields, for instance the climate models, this is extraordinarily cumbersome, and therefore the climate economists chose one rate of interest "in the middle" and made a qualitative evaluation of the estimates at higher and lower rates of interest.
....all the papers have presented, as well as it is possible, costs and benefits for a range between 3 and 6 percent rate....the Nobel laureates insist on thereafter prioritizing all solutions at the same, consistent rate of interest.

Finally, the last from Fog:
....It is a rather large detective work to unravel how the calculations have been made, and especially it is unclear - remarkably unclear - how Lomborg has arrived from the particular cost/benefit calculations to the final ranking list.  
....It is actually true that all other projects than the climate projects have applied a rate of discount of three percent. In addition one has also worked out what the result would be with six percent, but the result of these supplementary calculations has not been used to rank the projects ...[Lomborg] has compared the profitability of non-climate-projects with a rate of three percent and of climate-projects with a rate of four-to-five percent. 
If the climate- and non-climate projects had been calculated with the same rate of interest, investment in climate technology would rank higher than vitamin A supplementation....Thus it must also be maintained that the project calculations are not comparable and that the ranking in Copenhagen Consensus is not worth the paper it is printed on.  
 I have actually waited for a long time when Lomborg would include this detail about the extra six percent as his next step in the process of confusing people....

None of this would have come out if Fog hadn't been as tenacious and knowledgeable, and if the Danish paper hadn't been willing to let the dialog happen. I expect in the vast majority of situations, Lomborg's initial denial would've been the end of it. He's another Benny Peiser, saying something he knows to be wrong when it's possible that the audience doesn't know.

My question for a university dean pondering whether to take the money and have Lomborg on campus is this:  does Lomborg's second response demonstrate whether his first response is honest? That first response demonstrates the quality of work you should expect. Then decide whether the money to take him in is enough.