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 Wednesday, 8 January, 2003, 17:00 GMT
Danish panel criticises Lomborg
Lomborg: In demand
Bjorn Lomborg, the man the Greens love to hate, has been rebuked by an important panel of Danish scientists.

They say his best-selling book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, violates "the standards of good scientific practice".

The Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD) has, in simple words, accused him of bending the facts to suit his arguments.

Dr Lomborg's 2001 publication purported to expose the green movement's exaggerated and doom-laden view of the state of the planet.

He put forward an alternative vision, quoting the scientific "facts" to show the environment was actually doing much better and, in many instances, had improved markedly in recent years.

'Deluge of inaccuracies'

The book has been translated into a dozen languages and made its author an international star - he is a frequent contributor to TV and radio broadcasts around the world.

He maintains that western Greens have become obsessed with species loss and global warming and have ignored more pressing issues such as poverty in the developing world and access to basic health, water and sanitation services.

But his interpretation of data to support his line brought howls of protest from environmentalists - and criticism from researchers who felt he had abused their work.

The DCSD was asked to review the book after complaints from four scientists, including Jeff Harvey, a former editor of the scientific journal Nature and currently a senior scientist at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology.

He said: "It is unfortunate that I and many others felt it necessary to take Lomborg and his book to task for the veritable deluge of inaccuracies it contains, but Lomborg has veered well across the line that divides controversial, if not competent, science from unrepentant incompetence."

He added: "Scientists must be held accountable for serious transgressions that are committed without responsibility, and this judgement goes at least some way to underlining Lomborg's dishonesty."

No 'smoking gun'

The ruling carries no penalty, but opponents of the Liberal-Conservative government in Lomborg's native Denmark said it justified their view that he should no longer be director of the national Environmental Assessment Institute.

His appointment to the agency, which monitors the use by state agencies of public funds aimed at cutting pollution, was heavily criticised by the opposition.

Lomborg, a past member of Greenpeace, acknowledged that he may not always have quoted every available source in his book, but said the panel failed to provide any examples of alleged unfairness.

He challenged the panel to come up with specific examples - "a smoking gun".

Debate starter

Lomborg said the DCSD had been unfair in the way it handled the whole affair.

"In spite of the fact that the DCSD received a copy of my response, they refer to none of my arguments. In fact the only thing that the DCSD does is to repeat [my opponents' arguments] over six pages, while only allowing my arguments one line. This seems to reflect an extremely biased procedure."

He added: "My initial response when I read the conclusion of the DCSD was one of surprise and discomfort. But when reading through the complete ruling I found it to be... inexplicable in its negligence to take a position on the complaints of the plaintiffs... [and] undocumented by ruling the book to be systematically biased without documenting this with a single example."

The panel, which operates under the aegis of the country's national academy of sciences, accepts "the book does not present the appearance of a scientific work but precisely that of a provocative debate-generating publication".

See also:

23 May 02 | Archive
22 May 02 | Science/Nature
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