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Wednesday, 22 August, 2001, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
Dr Lomborg, you've got to be kidding
Hut caught in hurricane
Hurricane Mitch, which hit Honduras in 1999, was blamed by some on global warming
Don't worry about climate change, the world will get along just fine. That, in a nutshell, is the thrust of a controversial new book by academic Bjorn Lomborg.

In the second of a three-part series focusing on claims made in the book, Dr Lomborg's critics hit back at some of his most provocative pronouncements.

Bjorn Lomborg: Acid rain does not kill forests and forest cover across the world has increased

David Bellamy, president of Conservation Foundation:
Acid rain does kill forests and people around the world, and it's still doing so in the most polluted places, such as Russia. Sulphur dioxide, which causes acid rain, is a fertiliser and can certainly increase the growth of forests and crops - but only in moderation.

United Nations figures state that 25% of the annual release of carbon dioxide comes from forest destruction, so I find Lomborg's assertion that forest cover across the world has increased hard to believe.

It's true that forests are being planted at an increasing rate, but all too often it's the wrong sort of growth - it's eucalyptus and pine, which are "fast buck" trees - grown for profit - that cause immense destruction to river catchments.


The world's species are not disappearing at an alarming rate

Stuart Chapman, UK head of species programme for WWF:
The global extinction crisis is worse than most people would even care to believe. A report last year by the World Conservation Union found mankind is causing extinctions at 50 times the natural rate.

Some unquestionable examples include:

  • the catastrophic decline in African black rhino, which has gone from an estimated high of 65,000 to about 2,000 today;
  • and the Philippine sea eagle, which lives in old growth forest in the Philippines. The destruction of its habitat has seen the population fall from 6,000 to between 350 and 600.


    The Kyoto protocol is an expensive waste of money

    John Elkington, chairman of Sustainability:
    Bjorn Lomborg argues that the Kyoto Protocol will make no difference. He is right and wrong. Even if fully implemented, the protocol would do dangerously little to reverse the climate change trends which Lomborg admits are real.

    But, at the same time, the Kyoto Protocol has been surprisingly successful in placing climate change on the political agenda.

    Counter-intuitively, the Bush administration's decision to dismiss the protocol is proving an unintended spur to corporate thinking. US business leaders are having to think through whether to hold the Bush line when their advisors tell them climate change is real - and there are first-mover advantages for corporate pioneers.


    Acid rain does not kill forests

    Jenny Jones, Green Party London Assembly member:
    Bjorn Lomborg quotes scientific studies selectively and reaches the wrong conclusion. The fact that acid rain kills forests was conclusively, scientifically established more than a decade ago.

    Indisputable evidence that acid rain does kill forests can be found in the Black Triangle - with its brown coal belt - at the intersection of Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland. Between 1972 and 1989, during the worst sulphur dioxide excesses, 50% of the coniferous forests in the Ore Mountains within the Triangle disappeared with disastrous consequences on the local soil, and water supply.

    Most of the acid rain damage which the UK produces is exported to Scandinavia and affects its lakes more than its forests.


    Higher estimates of temperature rises are "plainly unlikely"

    From Charles Secrett, executive director of Friends of the Earth:
    Climate sceptics once denied that climate change was happening. Today, they admit that something probably should have been done but claim it is now too late to do anything but adapt to the consequences.

    Lomborg estimates the cost of climate change using an economic model which has been described as "almost worthless" by experts. He claims the higher estimates of possible temperature rises made by the authoritative UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are "plainly unlikely", although the IPCC says that climate change will probably happen at a faster rate than was previously believed.

    He claims climate change "probably will not increase storminess", although the IPCC's latest report basically concludes the opposite. He is too fast and loose with his facts. Contrarians like Lomborg can only delay the inevitable and hence make matters worse.


    Bjorn Lomborg will be fielding questions this Sunday, 26 August, on Talking Point on Air, the phone-in programme of the BBC World Service and BBC News Online.
    Add your comments here.

    Tomorrow: BBC News Online's environment correspondent Alex Kirby gives his verdict on Dr Lomborg's book.

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