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Lomborg: a detailed citation analysis

Posted on 24 April 2015 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from ConservationBytes

There’s been quite a bit of palaver recently about the invasion of Lomborg’s ‘Consensus’ Centre to the University of Western Australia, including inter alia that there was no competitive process for the award of $4 million of taxpayer money from the Commonwealth Government, that Lomborg is a charlatan with a not-terribly-well-hidden anti-climate change agenda, and that he his not an academic and possesses no credibility, so he should have no right to be given an academic appointment at one of Australia’s leading research universities.

On that last point, there’s been much confusion among non-academics about what it means to have no credible academic track record. In my previous post, I reproduced a letter from the Head of UWA’s School of Animal Biology, Professor Sarah Dunlop where she stated that Lomborg had a laughably low h-index of only 3. The Australian, in all their brilliant capacity to report the unvarnished truth, claimed that a certain Professor Ian Hall of Griffith University had instead determined that Lomborg’s h-index was 21 based on Harzing’s Publish or Perish software tool. As I show below, if Professor Hall did indeed conclude this, it shows he knows next to nothing about citation indices.

What is a ‘h-index’ and why does it matter? Below I provide an explainer as well as some rigorous analysis of Lomborg’s track record.

The h-index stands for the Hirsch index, created by Jorge Hirsch of the University of California, San Diego ten years ago. Put simply, it’s the number of academic (peer-reviewed) papers h one has published with citation number ≥ h. As an example, let’s say I have published ten peer-reviewed journal articles (‘papers’) in my life to date. In descending order, they have been cited by different authors (of other peer-reviewed journal articles) 256, 150, 10, 4, 3, 3, 3, 2, 1, 0 times. Even though I have a total of 432 citations from those 10 papers, giving a mean of 43.2 citations per paper, this is driven largely by only 2 papers. As such, my h-index would be 4 (I have 4 papers with at least 4 citations). For me to increase my h-index to 5, I would need at least one more citation for the paper currently sitting at 4 citations, and at least 2 more citations from one of my other papers that currently only have 3 or fewer citations.

You can see the advantages of using such an index – it’s not influenced to the same degree by wild outliers and it resists artificial inflation by auto-citation (citing your previous papers in your latest ones). The disadvantage of the h-index is that even if you die, it can still increase as time progresses, such that the older you get, the higher your h-index. Some have proposed correcting for this by dividing the h-index by the number of years since your first publication (called the ‘m-index’). This essentially indicates your ‘speed’ of accumulating citations. As a general rule, if your m-index is over 1, you’re an active, publishing researcher. If your m-index is greater than 2, you’re doing very well.

But what can you count as a ‘paper’? This is in fact the crux of the bullshit floating around the web on this particular issue with respect to Lomborg. As a general rule, the two main services to calculate the h-index – Scopus (Elsevier) and Web of Science (Thomson Reuters) – are perhaps a little conservative (i.e., they don’t necessarily count all your works or all the citations to them). This is because they have very stringent rules for what counts as a ‘paper’ – they have to be recognised and accredited, peer-reviewed academic journals (i.e., books, magazine and newspaper articles are disallowed), and in the case of Web of Science, have to be ISI-indexed journals.

lomborg h-index

Lomborg only has a Scopus profile (you need a subscription to see this), which gives an h-index = 3 based on 31 articles and a total of 71 citations (see adjacent screenshot). He hasn’t set up a public ResearcherID, which would give his Web of Science h-index, but I took the liberty of combing through all of his Web of Science-listed articles and came up with the exact same h-index (3), based on 25 articles and 54 total citations.

Google Scholar is the new kid on the block to calculate researcher citation profiles, but to use this, each individual researcher needs to set up a Google Scholar profile (you can see mine here). Every academic should do this because it’s free to use and browse. If one doesn’t do this (and Lomborg hasn’t), then you have to search for individual publications on Google Scholar.

Herein lies the problem for those who submit that Lomborg’s h-index is 21. Software tools like Harzing’s Publish or Perish are merely Google Scholar aggregators; in other words, they merely act as a front end for the Google Scholar search engine. They are not individual profiles. In fact, ever since Google Scholar introduced profiles a few years ago,Publish or Perish has become entirely obsolete. Why? Because it aggregates everything – including all the inappropriate stuff – and vastly overestimates one’s h-index. Further, it doesn’t distinguish duplicates entries, makes no differentiation between peer-reviewed or non-peer-reviewed articles, and it counts any mention of the author’s name, even if isn’t one of their own articles! In other words, it’s utterly flawed.

So, in the absence of a Google Scholar profile for Lomborg, I combed through his Google Scholar entries and dumped all the duplicates, I ignored all the magazine and newspaper articles (e.g., you can’t count opinion editorials in The Wall Street Journal as evidence of an academic track record), I cut out all non-articles (things Lomborg hadn’t actually written), omitted any website diatribes (e.g., blog posts and the like) and calculated his citation profile.

Based on my analysis, Lomborg’s Google Scholar h-index is 4 for his peer-reviewed articles. If I was being particularly generous and included all of Lomborg’s books, which have by far the most citations, then his h-index climbs to 9. However, none of his books is peer-reviewed, and in the case of his most infamous book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, it has been entirely discredited. As such, any reasonable academic selection committee would omit any metrics based on opinion-based books.

So, the best-case scenario is that Lomborg’s h-index is no more than 4. Given his appointment to Level D (Associate Professor) at a world-class university, the suggestion that he earned it on academic merit is not only laughable, it’s completely fraudulent. There is no way that his academic credentials had anything to do with the appointment.

CJA Bradshaw


I suppose I should have contextualised what an h-index of 3 or 4 means.

Even a fresh-out-of-the-PhD postdoc with an h-index of only 3 or 4 would have trouble finding a job. As a rule of thumb, the h-index of a Level D appointment should be in the 20-30 range (this would vary among disciplines). Despite this variation, Lomborg’s h-index is so far off the mark that even accounting for uncertainty and difference of opinion, it’s nowhere near a senior academic appointment.

Guidelines are guidelines, and no one is going to commit to a particular h-index as a minimum. Instead, an applicant’s h-index is usually benchmarked against others in the field and/or school of appointment. All one has to do is search for academics of the same or similar academic appointment level on Google Scholar as a point of comparison.

SkS Addendum

Lomborg's highest-cited papers deal with game theory and not climate science.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 58:

  1. British Petroleum has a 'Statistical Review of World Energy' which lists current oil reserves at 1.7 trillion barrels.  At todays reduced price ($56/barrel), that is worth almost 100 trillion US dollars.  And all of it under existential threat by websites such as this one.  One has to wonder if some of that 'cheddar' doesn't find its way into bogus appointments such as Lomborgs.

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  2. It would be interesting to know the h-index of some other prominent climate researchers that are somewhat close to Lomborg's age. 

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  3. Thank you for an excellent article.  I wish that there was some solid evidence that the tide was turning against the fossil fuel industry and their paid deniers.  Reading the science, global warming is guaranteed to be extremely dangerous and yet the vast majority of the lay public don't realize what's coming.  Our country and many others like Australia are doing very little.  Even Europe is making much less progress than it appears on the surface. According to a University of Leeds study, the UK has lowered its carbon footprint only 7% below 1990, not the 29% claimed by government due primarily to the embodied footprint of imported goods.  It's so discouraging.  We all need to be carbon neutral now or as soon as humanly possible.  The idea that we can emit another 500 billion tons of carbon and still avoid catastrophe is absolutely insane.  I'm a retired psychiatrist, so I can diagnose insanity when I see it.

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  4. The idea that we can emit another 500 billion tons of carbon and still avoid catastrophe is absolutely insane.

    I don't think it's as insane as you might think. It's certainly not going to be painless, that's for sure, but I believe it's widely accepted that this can be accomplished and keep us at least near the 2C limit.

    See the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project. These are definitely not insane folks. 

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  5. Rob H: It would be interesting to know the h-index of some other prominent climate researchers that are somewhat close to Lomborg's age.

    There are quite a few regular contributors to Skeptical Science who have H-scores above Lomborg's, some considerably higher. You can check out most scientists' H scores on Google Scholar. As the article notes, Lomborg doesn't have a profile there.

    Considering that Lomborg is 50 and has been in some kind of academic or quasi-academic research job for twenty years, his peer-reviewed publication record is really quite mediocre.

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  6. For convenience, I redid Bradshaw's analysis.  Here then are all of Bjorn Lomborg's academic papers, in reverse order of citation numbers:

    1. Nucleus and Shield (Game Theory) 141
    2. Game Theory vs Multiple Agents (Game Theory) 26
    3. Need for Economists to Set Global Priorities (Economics/ Environment) 9
    4. Environmental Sociology and Its Future (Economics/ Environment) 7
    5. Limits to Growth  (Economics/ Environment) 4
    6. Simulating Multiparty Systems (Game Theory) 3
    7. Response to Yohe et al (Economics/ Environment) 0

    Given that his first paper (Game Theory vs Multiple Agents) was published in 1995, that is a lamentable publication record.  Two things to note.  First, all of his game theory publications preceded 2000, when he clearly switched track from an academic career that was rapidly going nowhere.  The second is that if we exclude his game theory articles, his Google Scholar h-index is zero.  So, he has been given 4 million dollars without any competitive application process (ie, as a purely political decision) to set up an academic center in a field in which his h-index is zero, and in which he has only 4 academic papers.

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  7. Andy... Ah, gotcha. I was tripping myself up because I kept trying to look up RB Alley, who also doesn't have a profile on Google Scholar. But I found Kerry Emanuel who, though he's 10 years older, has an h-index of 74. Or there's Jason Box, who is younger than Lomborg (not sure exactly how much), and has an h-index of 35.

    That puts it more into perspective.

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  8. For interest, the author of the OP has an h index of about 48 (obtained by counting the papers in his link above).

    Obviously as you get a higher h index it is harder to get enough citations to raise your score.

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  9. Rob Honeycutt @7, why restrict it to very well known scientists.  From the SkS crew we have Gavin Cawley with 26, Kevin Cowtan with 22, John Abraham with 17.  Obviously the list is not exhaustive.  Of particular interest, it excludes John Cook with 7 and he hasn't even completed his PhD yet.  We even have Dana Nuccutelli who matches Lomborg's H index of 4, albeit with more papers (15 vs 7) , more citations (228 vs 190), is more active (h index of 4 since 2010 vs 0 for Lomborg), and walks all over Lomborg in number and quality of popular articles.  Perhaps he should apply for 4 million dollars from the aussie government for his own consensus center?  He certainly deserves it more than Lomborg.

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  10. It's worth noting also that Dana wrote his papers in his spare time, not as part of his employment.

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  11. Thanks Corey for your good explanation of h-index.

    Is said index realy representative of one's academic credentials? How about quality of cited work? We certainly have plainty of contararians whose work has been 'discredited'. However in order to discredit an article, you need to right another article where you have to cite the non-credible piece. Does such 'discrediting' citation count towards h-index? If so, h-index is not a good credibility measure.

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  12. "we were surprised and disappointed to see the critics' letter being quoted in an issue of Time magazine (2 September 2002)... in which the authors repeated their charge that the book had not been peer-reviewed despite the assurances to the contrary that they had by then received by the press... It has become part of the anti-Lomborg folklore that this book bypassed the usual Cambridge peer-review process... This is a charge that is repeated in many of the public and private attacks in the press, and it is unfounded."


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  13. thomaswfuller3 @12, are we playing a game of selective quotations?  Here's my move:

    "CUP surely carries an immense responsibility for the misinformation and public confusion that Lomborg’s book generated. Just referring to a standard referee procedure, as CUP’s employee Harrison (2004) does, is inadequate.

    Referee procedures once in a while may fail in adequately judging the scientific quality of a manuscript. It is likely that the reviewers of CUP were impressed by the broad perspective, smooth writing style and amount of detail and never bothered to systematically check the latter. The overwhelming collection of unusually critical reviews by experts (as mentioned in this paper) could have been regarded by CUP as
    an improved, ex post review procedure, and in response the publication decision might have been rectified. Nevertheless, the book is anyway sure to go down in history as an unreliable source of information and argumentation, being one of the most severely criticized texts issued ever by a prestigious academic publisher. Not particularly something to be proud of, neither by Lomborg or CUP.

    To close, the following brief statement perhaps best summarizes the Lomborg case:

    ‘‘The greatest regret I have about it all is the time wasted by scientists correcting the misinformation you created’’ (E.O. Wilson in a letter addressed to Lomborg (Harvey 2002))."

    J van den Bergh, Journal of Integrated Environmental Sciences, 2010 (Download)

    Despite the claim that the Skeptial Environmentalist was peer reviewed, it was not a peer reviewed article, and therefore it should not have been included in Lomborg's h index.  It certainly should not have been included multiple times, as must be done to achieve a h index of 21 for Lomborg.

    As to claims that CUP are peer reviewed in any sensible way, that is a proposition I have held in doubt since they began publishing Intelligent Design Creationist tracts.  Until such time as there is an open review of the CUP review process to ensure that their reviewers were  relevantly expert, and were not chosen for a predisposition to pass the book under review, I consider their claims to have properly reviewed such a travesty of a book to be moot.


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    Moderator Response:

    Edited to correct line spacing.

  14. As well as the h-index, perhaps climate scientist credentials should also be determined by a SCL index, (Safe CO2 Level Index) as well, in which they are required to clearly state, with supporting scientific evidence, the CO2 level that they deem as "safe", while not adversely impacting the planet. Also, as a part of the index, they should be required to justify the economic and political approach needed in order to limit CO2 emissions to the level that they propose.

    It seems to me that deniers and skeptics are never challenged to state, in their view,  a "safe" level of CO2, and exactly how much more of the known fossil fuel reserves that we should burn. All they do is sow seeds of doubt and create confusion with the projections and evidence. In other words they run interference. Those who claim to be climate scientists should be made to nail their colours to the mast, so to speak. At least then it will be obvious who they are and where they stand. The trouble with Lomborg and his ilk is that they never clearly state what CO2 level they think is "safe". All they suggest is that it'll all be Ok, it's natural, or that there will be negligible warming, all with little real scientific evidence. All the while, we continue to increase our burning of fossil fuels and hence pump even more CO2 into the atmosphere.

    In other words deniers and skeptics should always be asked how much, when do we stop, and how? Perhaps, these are also good questions for bona fide climate scientists to answer as well.

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  15. mancan18,

    My MBA education helps me understand another unacceptable aspect of Lomborg's stories and the tales told by many like him.

    Economic assessments evaluating the cost today to avoid creating more CO2 and comparing those costs (or lost opportunity to benefit), with evaluations of the future costs of the results of increased amounts of excess CO2 are fundamentally flawed.

    The most fundamantal flaw is the presumption that it is legitimate to compare the benefit that would have to be given up by some people among the currrent generation of humanity to avoid creating costs that would be faced by others, particularly future generations of humanity.

    The evaluations done by the likes of Lomborg and Stern (including the US government agencies and so many other 'economic investigators'), are based on the falacy of being able to apply the method of financial evaluations a business entity would make to compare its 'project options' to matters of global humanity. Such overall evaluations of benefit and cost through time are only valid when the same actual people will experience all that is being evaluated. That is not even a valid way of judging the acceptability of a business pursuit that will allow a few to profit or benefit through an action that has negative consequences for others.

    The real evaluation of legitimacy or merit of any human activity is the creation of benefit for others, particularly for future generations. I consider any activity that does not create benefit for humanity into the future to be 'entertainment', an important aspect of life that must be harmless (however, any perception of harm to unacceptable beliefs of some by the enlightenment that can be delivered through entertainment and art is not real harm, it is a benefit).

    Any activity that creates costs for others must have those benefiting do more to provide benefit to those who face the costs than the costs those others face. And the evaluation of the cost the others face and the benefit they receive must be performed by the ones facing the costs, not by the ones wanting the benefit from the activity that will result in the costs to others.

    In addition to the above obvious fundamental flaw of the economic evaluations many perform and report related to excess CO2 and climate change, the way the evaluation is performed can be biased in favour of those among a current generation who want to get away with benefiting from activity that all of humanity cannot develop to enjoy if they wished far into the future. In fact, many of the evaluations will discount future costs using the business Net-Present-Value method of comparing future costs or benefits to current day costs or benefits. That evaluation makes sense for a business comparing its project options, especially if it will borrow money to finance the project, but it is totally inappropriate for comparing costs faced by future generations to the benefits of a current generation. With Net-Present-Value it is possible to discount costs more than 20 years in the future into irrelevance.

    Of course, in addition to all of the above, many of the economic evalutions accidentally or deliberately overstate the lost benefit to the most fortunate in the current generation and understate the future costs.

    So in addition to the science being deliberately attacked and misrepresented by those who want to maximize their personal life's benefits any damaging unacceptable way they can get away with, the economics of the matter are also being significantly misrepresented in efforts to justify the benefits being pursued by the same unacceptable group of people.

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  16. mancan18:

    As well as the h-index, perhaps climate scientist credentials should also be determined by a SCL index, (Safe CO2 Level Index) as well, in which they are required to clearly state, with supporting scientific evidence, the CO2 level that they deem as "safe", while not adversely impacting the planet. Also, as a part of the index, they should be required to justify the economic and political approach needed in order to limit CO2 emissions to the level that they propose.

    I wouldn't support that, it's too much like a test of ideological commitment even if the post is to head up a "policy research center." The real issue is getting a rough metric of their relevant research expertise and experience.

    The most important factor here is whether the person being given a department to oversee actually has the academic chops to serve as a credible head based on their active involvement in the field. The problem here is that it appears someone's being given the position because of the flavor of their sideline critiques.

    Just as you wouldn't pick a new coach to head your team simply because they yelled the words you wanted to hear from their spot in the bleachers, you don't set up an expensive new "policy research center" on the back of somebody who's barely done any legitimate research, and of apparently low quality at that. You want somebody with an outstanding record of participation in forming our understanding of the issue. Setting up an arbitary "what should we do?" test right off the bat is not really much better than picking people based on their propensity to boo the other team.

    If you desire a true research center for generating policy solutions, having them outline their existing idea as a test of fitness seems like filtering for what you want to hear rather than allowing the solutions to arise from any genuine developments in the research.

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  17. You might notice that you are attacking the man rather than the work. I thought Skeptical Science didn't do that.

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    Moderator Response:

    Peter, to which 'you are you making reference?

  18. WheelsOC, I know a SCL index would clearly indicate where you/they stand, but that is the whole point. It seems climate deniers can make all sorts of outrageous claims, yet never have to justify their stance, scientifically, and are able to remain non-commital about what they think should be a "safe" level that we allow the CO2 level to rise to.

    Now I'm no climate scientist, I'm a mathematician, but from all the articles from bona bona fide climate scientists that I've read and evidence and adverse effects that I have gone through particularly the paleoclimate evidence, I think it is about time we were seriously trying to reduce emissions, because further increases, particularly at current and increasing rates, are leading us into some pretty adverse territory and the unknown. Waiting for certainty, as the climate deniers seem to advocate, although it is not a valid scientific position to take, is most likely bite us in ways that we probably haven't imaged yet. Because, sure as eggs, the Earth's climate system, although we are gaining a greater understanding of its processes, will still have some surprises for us that we probably won't like.

    At the moment all we have are indications, and what we do know for certain is that over the last century or so; CO2 levels have increased 40% due to burning fossil fuels and other human activity; average global temperatures have risen about 0.8 degrees celsius; the ocean level has risen about 20 cm; polar ice is slowly retreating; storms seem to be intensifying; seasons seem to be slightly out of kilter; the tropical and temperate climate zones seem to be slowly advancing towards the poles while the polar zone seems to be contracting slightly; and some species are thriving while others go extinct; and none of this appears to be from natural causes, like the sun increasing its activity; and all of this is happening at rates unknown in the paleoclimate record and will most certainly have some fairly serious economic and social impacts, despite Lomborg's assurance that it's all Ok. I for one think we should reduce the use of and stop using fossil fuels. Hopefully Paris will provide a political framework, but I don't have too much faith that it will happen.

    It is time to expose the political nature of the climate deniers arguments and have them justify their position scientifically and economically rather than climate scientists having to defend themselves all the time from their mostly scientifically (and economically) inane arguments. Perhaps, then there will be proper scientific debates and research centres like Lomberg's government funded centre will become a centre for serious scientific (and economic) discussion rather than some sophisticated marketing exercise. I tend to suspect that Lomberg's centre will only attract like minded people and not be truly representive of the greater climate change debate.

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  19. Lomborg's book The Skeptical Environmentalist was most emphatically not peer-reviewed. If it had been peer-reviewed, they would have demanded rewrites to correct his numerous errors and misconceptions and his dead-end citations. Some of his chapters fell into my area of expertise. They were pitifully erroneous on different levels (actual factual errors, misunderstandings of facts and ideas, incorrect citations, misrepresentation of definitions and current knowledge). He wasn't quite as bad as the "evolution is just a theory" level of ignorance, but he certainly was still wading around in the ignorance pool even if not standing in the deep end.

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  20. Peter Lloyd, you're wrong. This is entirely about Lomborg's work. It is about his publications, how much they have been cited, how relevant they are to the debate. It is about how misleading and how damaging his work has been. The comment just above is about the miserable lack of knowledge demonstrated in chapters of Lomborgs book in which Daniel has expertise. The comment above that one says nothing about the person and is somewhat off topic. The previous one (16) states that Lomborg leans a certain way in the debate considered and was likely chosen because of that. How does it attack the person? Lomborg advertises his convictions loud enough that stating them here is hardly a personal attack. The previous comment (15) argues the merits of the entire premise behind Lomborg's argument and others similar in reasoning. Above that we are a little more on topic, which is Lomborg's true qualifications for the position he was awarded. These are a rather objective matter, especially when considered through the normal means used to assess such qualifications. One can be whoefully unqualified for something and still be a nice person. Stating that they are not qualified does not constitute a personnal attack. Your statement has no basis whatsoever.

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  21. Peter Lloyd @17, Lomborg has just been granted 4 million dollars by a government that claims to be in a budgetary crisis.  That crisis has been sufficient to justify, in the governments opinion, the defunding of a Climate Science advisory body, to introduce massive cuts to Australia's premier research body (CSIRO), and to try to introduce cuts to university funding in general.  Further, the grant was not initiated by a university, or by application to Australia's academic grants body (the Australian Research Council).  It was not even initiated by the Minister of Education.  Rather, it was initiated in the Prime Ministers office.

    Given that the grant was an endrun around normal methods to ensure research quality, it is reasonable to ask what sort of research quality can we expect.  The h index gives an indirect measure of research quality, and by that indirect measure it is shown that Lomborg's "research" is effectively non-existent (only 7 papers to show for almost 20 years research) and of very low quality (h-index of 4, h-index of climate related papers of 0).  On this basis, and given the political nature of the grant, it is reasonable to conclude that Lomborg is being given the money for what he says, not for how he backs it up.

    Pointing that out is not playing the man.

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  22. mancan18, there is no problem with being wrong in science.  By the nature of what they do, scientists must be wrong a good percentage of the time.  If not, they are not properly exploring the issues.  What is not acceptable in a scientist is being wrong in uninteresting ways - ie, in a way that can be refuted by current knowledge, that does not require further research to show that you are wrong.  If that is the case in a given paper, it will generate very few responses, and no citations (other then self citations) and consequently have a very low citation number.  

    The advantage of the h index is that you can publish a thousand papers each with 2 citations and it will not lift your h index above 2.  Therefore being consistently wrong in uninteresting ways will not generate a high h index.  And being consistently wrong in interesting ways means you are a productive scientist.

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  23. I have to be heretic once again: Admitting that most commenters here are better informed, write better than I, and are more rigorous in their arguments, it still seems Bjorn Lomborg makes a valuable contribution to the discussion. This means that science minded people have to be more open to sincere alternative arguments. Not denying that Lomborg has compromised motivations due to the funding of his institute, who does not have funding issues? The whole excessive concern with h-rating is an indication with the lack of a good index by which to gage value of communications. There is value in communications other than scientifically sanctioned papers. We just don’t have a good way of appreciating these. Science is too linear, by necessity. The arguments about climate change are global, even on the scientific side. That is why the models are so hard to pin down. When we consider economic, social, urban architecture (the dumb car city), political, market, and infrastructural inertia, and so many other issues which Lomborg tires to get at, we can see value that he brings to the table.

    So, yes, he is an asset to a faculty. How much, we will have to see, and he will have to determine.

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  24. We don't have to see him determine anything.

    What does one mean by 'science is too linear'? What does one mean by 'open minded'? What is a 'sincere alternative argument'?

    Who pays for these Universities and why do they exist again?

    Science is only method... madness is everything else!

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  25. Tom Curtis

    I am not saying that being wrong in science is a problem. Its not. In fact it normally leads to better understanding and a science that is more robust. I am also not saying that the h index is not an important measure to determine the credentials of professional academics. I was being devil's advocate in suggesting a SLC (safe level of carbon dioxide) index for those who enter the climate change argument. While the h index should be enough amongst professional academics to assess credentials, it does not help those outside academia in assessing credentials. Some form of SLC index would at least inform outsiders about the merits and positions of the various advocates. Or perhaps some CSC (Climate Science Credibility) credential based on the Consensus Project might be more useful in assessing climate scientists. Again I am being devil's advocate. Amongst climate science commentators, there is a huge difference in climate science credentials between the likes of Andrew Bolt, Richard Lindzen, Ian Plimer, Bob Carter, David Karoly, James Hansen, Judith Curry, Al Gore, Tim Flannery, Bjorn Lomborg and the various scientists who regularly contribute to sites like SkS. Unfortunately, for outsiders, there is a lot of noise which is hard to penetrate and creates doubt that allows any politically motivated denier to drive a truck through the arguments. There needs to be a simpler measure for the wider public to make an assessment as to the quality of what is being claimed. After all, those who believe the level of CO2 is not the key issue in the whole debate probably should not be given any credibity in the discussion. Because at the moment, we are right on track to release the CO2 that was naturally sequestored in the Earth's crust over millions of years in a little over 300 years putting CO2 levels not seen since the dinosaurs. Now anyone suggesting that this is a good thing needs to have their arguments closely scrutinised.  

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  26. PluviAL @23, Bjorn Lomborg can only have made a valuable contribution to the debate if the accusations against him are false.  Accusations such as those by J van den Bergh (quoted by me above).  Or this accusation made by Dan Wenny in Natural Area's Journal, 2002:

    "Many of you are no doubt familiar with the claim that a significant proportion of earth's species will likely go extinct in the near future as a result of habitat loss and other effects of economic development unless action is taken.  Lomborg's strategy of rebutal is simple: (1) start with a false comparision; (2) distort the data and selectively compile evidence to knock down the straw man; (3) use questionable sources, citations out of context, and irrelevant examples while ignoring most of the scientific literature." 

    The charges are serious, and amount to a claim that Lomborg mounts his case by a process of scientific misconduct, not too dissimilar to that found among the writtings of creationists.  A review in Nature by Jeff Pimm and Stuart Harvey was harsher, saying that in the Sceptical Environmentalist "the text employs the strategy of those who, for example, argue that gay men aren't dying of AIDS, that Jews weren't singled out by the Nazis for extermination, and so on." (Quoted from wikipedia)

    I have not read the book, so I do not know that the claims made against it are valid.  I do know that they were made by people with firmly established reputations of quality researh in their fields.  I also know that they claims were validated by the body established by the Danish government to adjudicate cases of scientific misconduct.  (That that adjudication was overturned by a political body, ie, the science ministry carries little weight with me - particularly considering that the purported grounds of overturning the adjudication effectively damn the Sceptical Environmentalist in any case.)

    I also know that Lomborg is certainly guilty of the one most basic tactic of creationists, and AGW deniers, and the rest of the whole pseudo-scientific crowd - of taking his case to non-experts before taking it to experts.  I view that as a tacit acknowledgement that the people who knew enough to assess his argument would find it bad.

    That being the case, no government should appoint him to any academic position except as a result of normal, armslength selection proceedures.  And if they do, it is because they do not want research on the topic, but a ready supply of press releases.

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  27. Pffft. Much ado about nothing. Lomborg's work is of such low quality and significance that, without the eagerness to prop him up and create baseless "controversy" he would have gone compeely unnoticed. In one of his earlier brushes with serious scrutiny (i.e. by official bodies), he was found to be "not even wrong." In other words, the work was so poor that one could not establish an intention to mislead with any certainty. Not much of a contributor to Human knowledge. I won't cite, this is sonmething that has alreadybeen discussed here on several occasions over the years.

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  28. A scientifically rigorous method of evaluating the merit or contribution of individuals is appealig. However, the measure of the contribution of anyone in humanity (in science, business, politics or any other field of endeavour), needs to be how 'helpful' their contribution was toward the development of a lasting better future for all of humanity. And it is clear that the only lasting future for humanity is through learning how all of humanity can be a sustainable part of the robust diversity of life on this amazing planet (or any other planet that humanity succeeds in reaching).

    With that in mind, a better test of the legitimacy of a contribution would be how it adds to the advancement of humanity toward that lasting better future for all life. Anyone who simply was unaware of the 'unhelpfulness' of their efforts would have their misguided contributions given a zero value (giving the benefit of the doubt that the individual simply lacked awareness or understanding). And 'unhelpful contributions', including contributions that would mislead less aware or less informed people would be given a negative value, with the magnitude of the negative assessment being related to the degree that the individual should have 'known better' or been able to be informed enough to better understand the 'unhelpful nature' of the claim they tried to make.

    A more common sense approach would be to simply focus on identifying who has been 'unhelpful' and have laws in place to formally remove deliberately unhelpful people from positions of significant influence in humanity (in science or business or politics or any other human endeavour), regardless of the momentary popularity or profitability of what they are trying to get away with.

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  29. mancan18, nothing you said really addresses the issue I brought up. In fact it seems more like doubling down (reasserting what's been challenged without providing a new argument or rebuttal).

    The problem with your solution is that it leans too far into the realm of purity tests. What you're essentially coming back with is that we need purity tests. In reality, that's detrimental to the credibility of research centers.

    To put it another way, think of the anti-evolutionists. They often have "research centers" designed around religious Apologetics, and one of the mechanisms they use to ensure that their "researchers" stay on the straight and narrow ideological path is to implement a Statement of Faith. Potential Apologists have to agree to a set of beliefs from which they aren't allowed to deviate while remaining attached to the Apologetics outfit. This behavior has long been pointed to as a black mark against their claims of credibility by the scientific community.

    By asking for a similar pre-screening test about an individual researcher's beliefs upfront, you are implicitly pushing for something that would harm your hypothetical research center's credibility the same way. It essentially functions as a restriction of academic freedom imposed on anybody you'd like to hire.

    It's one thing to reject candidates who brazenly dismiss the reality of gravity. It's another thing to test candidates based on their existing commitment to a preconceived political plan of action and specific metrics like "safe levels of carbon." The latter is absolutely not something you want to do if you're setting up an institution with the express purpose of finding good solutions through research. You want to attract researchers based on their being productive, engaged people who are passionate about the question, not based on how wedded they are to particular policy viewpoints ahead of time.

    In the end, it would be coutnerproductive to your goal of making the most credible and trusted source of information for the general public. Such a research center would be tainted by the perception of being packed with partisans and ideologues rather than picking the top scientists based purely on their capabilities.

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  30. As expected, your response is far better than my effort. No doubt you are right in every respect except this: People want to hear alternatives, especially politicians, and others of us on the outside. I have read both his books, and not being a very critical reader, I was somewhat convinced.

    You see my method contrary to bozzza's argument is not really madness, it is open mindedness. OK, Lomborg’s arguments are soft, and maybe even systematically disingenuous, after all he is a game theory student. However, we still need to hear what he is trying to get at, something motivates him and his supporters, and it is not just money.

    We can illustrate the linearity trap which the conventional science community is subject to by observing the long time it took to consider today’s conventional tectonic plate theory, which is substantially defective even today. The theory was proposed decades before it was seriously considered. The best scientists of the time were still working with various version of the shrinking continents theory, which is really absurd in retrospect. It took so long to consider it because the stiff scientific method, and its propagation process, is linear. This means that only accepted lines of inquiry are accepted, and that anyone who steps outside the bounds is castigated, with threat to their credibility and thus their livelihood. Is that any less negatively motivating than what Lomborg exposes himself to? I do appreciate your sincere statement that erroneous offers are valualbe, but it is not practiced enough

    Consider this: You are to bet civilization’s future on the outcome of one sumo match. One side is the current champ and favorite at 44 lbs. On the other is the challenger he weighs in at 174,000 lbs. but everyone knows he is slow, except for you. You know he is cunning and can move fast if he chooses. Who will you bet on? Well, conventional science still puts our lot on the little champ, earth flux. The big guy is insolation and gravity effects from the sun and moon, which can express themselves through ice loads and other climate loads on the continents. The mechanics for expression are far better than core convection. If this is right, in the future it will be as absurd to look back on current theory as this fight, or the shrinking earth theory. Each day more information comes up favoring the big guy, and the consequences of the of the resolution are urgent and tremendous, yet it is still ridiculed by main line science and largely ignored. That’s a fault resulting from the linearity of the method, and its propagation process.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] You are now skating on the thin ice of sloganeering which is prohibited by the SkS Comments Policy.

    Please note that posting comments here at SkS is a privilege, not a right.  This privilege can be rescinded if the posting individual treats adherence to the Comments Policy as optional, rather than the mandatory condition of participating in this online forum.

    Please take the time to review the policy and ensure future comments are in full compliance with it.  Thanks for your understanding and compliance in this matter.

  31. Pluvial, we are discussing science here, politicians and non scientists might like to hear about "alternatives". However, in science, any alternative must be based on accepted science. Lomborg's "aternatives" are not based on science but on ideology.

    Also where did you get this from:

    The best scientists of the time were still working with various version of the shrinking continents theory.

    Continetal drift theory did not involve "shrinking continents", it was not accepted at first because no-one could come up with a method for the continets to move till plate techtonics was discovered and described.

    Your last paragraph is just gibberish I'm afraid. Stop pretending to be knowledgeable about science when it is obvious you don't have a clue.

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  32. PluviAL@30 said: "something motivates... [Lomborg] and his supporters, and it is not just money."   You claim open-mindedness.  Open your mind to the possibility that it is, in fact, just money.  Even consider the possibility that Lomborg, himself, may not know it.  He is skeptical, he says so, and money flows his way.  Why wouldn't he continue down that path that has worked so well for him?  According to this article, "Lomborg operates by attaching himself to these centres as an adjunct professor... rather than a staff member. This offers the freedom to command remuneration well above a professorial salary – such as the US$775,000 he was paid in 2012 by... [his U.S. based Copenhagen Consensus Center] and the US$200,484 paid... in 2013."

    As regards Lomborgs economic arguments, I'm reading 'Climate Shock' by economists Wagner and Weitzman.  Once CO2 rises to 560ppm (this is almost certain by 2050 or so),  the probability of hitting 1.5C to 4.5C is 66% (IPCC estimate).  But that probability has a positively skewed distribution with a high end 'fat tail'.  Assuming a 6C rise means mass extinction (very likely) and profound disruption to the global economy (also very likely), then there is already a small (0.04%) chance of hitting 6C already, at todays 400ppm CO2.  But, by mid-century, at 560ppm, that probability increases a hundred-fold, to 4%.  That's a 1-in-25 chance, higher odds than of hitting 'snake eyes' when rolling two dice.  And that level of risk is already 'dialed in' because we can't 'decarbon' the economy fast enough to avoid it.   A game-theorist should understand 'Pascals Wager': why risk a 'wait-n-see' on carbon, if the punishment is eternal damnation?  As the authors state "The appropriate price on carbon is one that will make us comfortable enough to know that we will never get to anything close to 6C."

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  33. Pluvial, what in the world are you talking about? Game theory is a mathematical construct, it has noting to do with "playing games" as the expression is understood in every day language. The rest of your post is barely intelligible. If you have something of substance tosay about the topic, go ahead. If it's about something else, go to the appropriate thread and formulate it in a way that is leads to constructive discussion.

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  34. Just to add a point on plate techtonics (though I know it's off-topic)...

    Part of the challenge there was coming up with solid evidence of plate techtonics. The idea was fantastic, but for a very long time it wasn't accepted merely because there was little data that supported it. It took many decades to pull together the data that was sufficient to convince the scientific community.

    And that is how it's supposed to work. When the evidence is there, scientific consensus can actually move fairly rapidly.

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  35. Very true Rob. And yet, even back in the beginning of the theory, those who had expertise and insight knew that there was simply no better explanation. In fact, all others fell far short of the mark. Arthur Holmes was one these insightful experts. End of off-topic.

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  36. WheelsOC @29

    I agree with you that it would be difficult to create some index to assess climate researchers and commentators, because what ever method you used would be modifiable by others to suit their purpose which, in the end, would make the index next to useless. It's a bit like the many so called fancy sounding pseudo scientific climate research centres that have come into existence to deny AGW, that, in reality, are little more than sophisticated marketing centres rather than serious scientific research institutions. It seems, from the article, that the h index is also open to interpretation, but at least academics do have some understanding as to its meaning. Also, it seems, that academics are able to assess the relative merit of research and comments made by their peers, and as such do not need an index of assessment other than the research they have done and the statements that they make.

    However, to those outside academia, all this is very confusing. Assessing what has merit and what doesn't is very difficult for the lay person or merely interested to assess. Having some index would be helpful, although it would be difficult to create a consensus about an index of credibility. In the CC/AGW debate it is not so clear cut, so the realities of that debate are taking much longer to penetrate the public conscience. It took about 100 years for continental drift theory to become widely accepted in the public conscious. Unfortunately, we don't have the same 100 year time frame to create a public consensus in the climate change debate so that it becomes widely accepted in the public mind so that proper public policy can be implemented to alleviate the worst impacts of AGW and CC. It might be easier for the public, if there was actually some easily assessible CC CV so that the relative merits of the various arguments can be more readily assessed. In Australia, there will be many outside science/economic circles who are cheering the appointment of Bjorn Lomborg to lead this 4 million dollar government funded research centre because it suits their politcal point of view.

    In Australia we don't need more commentators advocating non-action. The sad part about all this is that that 4 million dollars would probably be better spent searching for alternative methods of energy generation. In fact, the efforts to find alternative, more sustainable, less emitting forms of energy, considering the time frame needed, amounts to little more than tokenism. I find it incredible that the Blue Horizon platform that blew up in the Gulf of Mexico and messed up the coast line, cost 5 billion dollars. It had to drill through a kilometre of water and a kilometre of rock to get to the oil, an amazing technology showing it can be done. However, the Australian government has allocated less than half the cost of the Blue Horizon platform to alleviate carbon dioxide emissions and create alternative energies. It seems to be the same with all greenhouse gas emitters. They fund token efforts. They should be leading the charge in finding alternative energy technologies, not funding deniers in some mickey mouse pseudo-scientific so called research institute. All I have seen so far is mere tokenism and mere tokenism is not going to reduce CO2 emissions. It will take public action from an informed public, not more denial. I do not have much faith that mankind will do what is necessary.

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  37. mancan18:

    I agree with you that it would be difficult to create some index to assess climate researchers and commentators, because what ever method you used would be modifiable by others to suit their purpose which, in the end, would make the index next to useless.

    That's not what I've been saying. I thought it was quite clear.

    Setting up a screening process to only let in researchers with a pre-existing and narrowly selected point of view is counterproductive to the goal of establishing a credible research center, regardless of your criteria for the viewpoint screening. If it's credibility you're after, then you do not want to establish an ideological filter ahead of time, period. The only appropriate filtering would be to winnow out those researchers who are clearly out of touch with the evidence, the data, and the best available sciencce. That's about simple qualifications, not a nebulous purity test based on agreement with a statement of faith about climate policy.

    Everything else you're saying is just expressing frustration with the popularity of think-tanks that only serve denialist interests and doesn't address the point.

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  38. ...certainly are a lot of comments about Herr Lomborg, hereon.  Australia supports more climate deniers than (seems) most other nation-state "entities" (John's associates and most of y'all herein from "down under" notwithstanding), but will Lomborg, in the end, really matter?  Deniers are all about the status of their wallet, that status always more important than anything else...even their children's future.  ...Don't think that can be changed.  We've stated the inevitable...let's proceed to arrange our lives and the lives of those over whom we have effect and let the climate Devil take the hindmost.  After all, six billion less humans on the planet would put us about where survival for the remaining billion would be virtually assured.  Jared Diamond, essentially asserts that human societies collapse when faced with insurmountable survival will hand wringing about the likes of Lomborg, et al? really change that? 

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  39. The comparisons made by Bradshaw don't seem to take any account of the h-index in different disciplines.  It is all very well contrasting Lomborg with Nuccitelli or Cook or whomsoever but such comparisons are largely meaningless.  Why is there no comparison of Lomborg with others in the same field?  It is claimed that the h-index has a strong discipline biasand that comparisons should be made after normalisation via  h/(h)d where h is the individual's h-index and (h)d ther average h-index for the discipline.  Was that done?  If so I obviously missed it.  Overall this seems a comparison of grapes with car tyres.  Not one of the better articles in SkS 

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Fixed as requested

  40. ryland... The issue here is that Lomborg's publishing record on climate – the subject matter of the center he's being funded to lead – is nearly non-existent. 

    Perhaps his h-index is more in line with those publishing on game theory (the subject of a couple of his papers), but I would doubt that's even the case. 

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  41. I was under the impression that Lomborg fully accepts both the science of climate change and that humans are responsible at least in part.  I thought his field was not climate science per se but how humans could best adapt to climate change and the cost benefits of various approaches.  I can't see how this is reprehensible or in any way undermines what climate scientists promulgate.  In fact it seems to complement their efforts as he is saying the effects of climate change are going to be manifested so how can we best deal with them.. I cannot understand why there is such antipathy for an appointment that has little to do with the science of climate change and a lot to do with how best to cope with it.

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  42. ryland @39, first, Lomborg purports to be an expert on environmental issues including global warming.  Ergo Cook and Dana are in the same field as his purported area of expertise.  However, his actual area of expertise (in as much as he has one) is game theory.  Therefore for comparison I did a google scholar search for game theory and here are the first to authors registered on Google Scholar from that search:

    Robert Gibbons h index = 42

    C Camerer h index = 94

    So exactly was your point?

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  43. Tom @42...


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  44. ryland @ 41,

    the opposition is to the fact that he is a pro-nuclear campaigner being given tax payer dollars to assume a position of status at one of Australias proudest universitys and from that pulpit command that the voters of this country lay down and accept the worlds nuclear waste as a good idea.

    Jest if you must: it's all true.

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  45. ryland @ 41...

    The challenge comes with the "at least in part" aspect of his position. Over the years it's become undeniable that climate change is, in fact, happening. So now the default denial position is that it's happening and humans are responsible "at least in part." This is not much of a shift in position. Lomborg still says that we should continue to burn FF's because not burning it would hurt the poor, which is a position that's not supported by research. 

    Catch that? The shift in position is there to make higher profile climate deniers sound credible, while their position on any kind of action to limit carbon emissions remains completely unchanged.

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  46. WheelsOC

    Perhaps, I have missed the purpose of this thread and should not have posted as what I'm saying is not exactly in line with the discussion. This is about Lomborg's h index, which is an index that is totally independent of his credentials related to CC and what he says. It is also about whether he deserves to be given 4 million dollars by the Australian Government to establish his research centre in Australia and further obfuscate the CC debate.

    Now, if this an esoteric discussion purely about academic credentials amongst academics, then I am happy to take your point. This, unfortunately, is not going to enlighten the wider public about the quality of a CC argument, who these academics are and what they are saying. In fact, in Australia, most CC related comments that make it to the wider public are mostly by non climate scientists writing denier based articles in the Murdoch press or comments made by right wing shock jocks. While Sks does conduct a proper balanced debate based purely on the science, the economics and social impact; this debate does not filter into the public forum because, in Australia, the mostly denier/skeptic comments get a free unchallenged run because those putting up a more balanced position have been hounded out of the public forum with torrents of abuse and trolling. In other words the public do not get a balanced view based on the science. I am not suggesting that some CC credential for CC scientists be used to select scientists for research centres, the h index should be enough.  Also, I would be fairly sure that Lomborg probably doesn't use it or would use any other artificially CC related credential. I would be pretty sure that he would select his academics using his own criteria. What I am saying is that the wider public do need some way to assess the quality of a CC article in the public forum. Unless climate scientists properly engage in the public debate then they will well and truly lose the debate despite what they might be arguing in purely academic circles. In public forums in Australia, it's too easy to be a denier. It should not be.

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  47. ryland @41, the problem with Lomborg is not that he studies how best to tackle global warming, nor even that his proposed solution isn't a solution.  It is that his "research" in support of his conclusions is distinctly second rate, and probably constitutes academic misconduct.  I have quoted other peoples opinion on this here and here, but I have not read his books and must rely on their opinions in that regard.  However, one issue I have looked at is the use of different discount rates in the "Copenhagen Consensus".

    Kare Fog gives the story:

    "4) Inconsistent use of discount rates
    The experts were instructed in advance to use two discount rates, viz. 3% p.a. and 6 % p.a. That is, the benefit/cost ratios are calculated twice, once with the low rate, and once with the high rate. In practice, however, only the results obtained with the low rate (3 %) have been used in the conclusions. So, the high benefit/cost ratios for the many programmes in the fields of health, nutrition and diseases were calculated using a discount rate of 3 %.
    The only exception is in the field of global warming. Here, Yohe et al. use a discount rate of 5 %, gradually declining over 100 years to 4 %, whereas Green uses 4 %.
    Why did the climate specialists not use the prescribed discount rates? As to Yohe et al., the explanation given by the economist Richard Tol here is as follows:
    "On the discount rate: I do not know what the other papers used. We used a consistent discount rate — all calculations, and all reporting was done with the same discount rate. The models that we use would require extensive recalibration for a different discount rate. . . As we used dynamic optimization models fitted to observations, we had to stick to the discount rate we had. As the rest of the Copenhagen Consensus used simpler methods, they should have used our discount rate."

    So Richard Tol thinks that all other specialists should have used the discount rate that gradually declines from 5 % to 4 %, because his group could not easily adapt to the prescribed 3 %, whereas it would have been relatively easy (?) for all others to adapt to his group´s discount rate. In any case, the result is that the disocunt rates are not comparable.

    As to Green, he performed his calculations with a 4 % discount rate, but also included results for a 3 % discount rate.

    Now, when all data for all items were summarized and compared, all other projects were represented by the benefit/cost ratios obtained wit a discount rate of 3 % (the results with a 6 % discount rate were not used in the final evaluation). Only the climate projects were represented with different discount rates. And these rates were higher than those used for other issues. Which is against the usual thinking that the longer the time perspective, the lower must the discount rate be. As the climate issue has the longest time perspective, it should have the lowest discount rate.
    This is especially remarkable in the case of Green´s project. Here there existed a version where a 3 % discount rate was used, but in spite of this, the version included in the final ranking was the one using a 4 % discount rate. And that matters quite a lot. As stated in the previous paragraph, for Green´s project, 4 % yields a benefit/cost ratio of only 16:1, whereas 3 % yields a benefit/cost ratio of 28.5:1. Which would have brought Green´s climate project near the top of the ranking list, above the efforts against tuberculosis, malaria, child diseases and heart diseases. The climate project would have got a priority near the absolute top. But the slight change in discount rate, from 3 % to 4 %, sent the climate project far down along the ranking list, out of the range of projects that are granted money.
    Incidentally, this is the same situation as in the Copenhagen Consensus 2004. There, the discount rate used for the climate issue was 5 %, whereas that used for HIV/AIDS was 3 %.
    So there is an obvious reason why the climate issue always is ranked last. It is systematically treated with a higher discount rate than the other issues.

    It would of course be interesting to hear Lomborg´s comments to this criticism. And indeed, he has been forced to comment upon this in a debate in a local Danish newspaper in February 2009. See here."

    On this, I have verified independently that Tol in fact used a higher discount rate than was used examining other projects considered by the Copenhagen Consensus, and that that materially alters the priority rating of takling global warming as compared to those other projects.

    In the case of Tol's paper, that may just be Tol's fault, although Lomborg ought to acknowledge the problem, something he seems determined not to do.  But in the Green case mentioned above (which I have not independently verified), the choice to use the valuation based on the 4% rather than the 3% discount rate was Lomborg's, and amounts to academic fraud.

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  48. mancan18 @ 46, what is the definition for 'trolling' ?

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  49. Thanks to all for the time and effort taken in answering the points I raised.  Apologies Tom Curtis @47 I couldn't check the Danish newspaper report to which you refer as the link was not operating.  

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  50. Ian Forrester @31, et al 32 to 25, Thumbs up. Thanks for the comments. Sorry if I drift, and not to attack the man here, but, Ian illustrates the point well; there was no consideration of the alternative argument offered. (Shrinking continents/globe was the precursor explanation for mountain building)

    If Lomborg's Present Value, and other arguments are faulty, they need to be addressed; the future of humanity may rest not just on the most precise technical understanding of the science, but the practical politically actionable business of successful action. That means money and political will.

    To attain good results we need good science, good communication, and good strategies. And yes, Lomborg may not be aware of his motivations anymore than those who get upset at my lack of scientific acumen and jump to the conclusion that it makes me wrong. The point of the article is to consider Lomborg's value, and the discussion is stuck on indices and technicalities, unable to broaden the perspective. This may be scientifically defencible, but may be missing the point.

    Finally, JH: I thought you all would know that earth flux is 44 TW and insolation is 174,000 TW, my shorthand sumo-illustration was too cryptic, sorry.

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