The Skeptical Environmentalist | Bjørn Lomborg

Summary of: The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World
By: Bjørn Lomborg


The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World by Bjørn Lomborg dispels a wide range of misconceptions and fears related to environmental decline and resource constraints. It explains how the world has improved significantly in terms of energy, resources, food availability, and overall human development. Lomborg also critiques the role of environmentalists and the media in perpetuating these misconceptions. In the book, we gain an insight into long-term trends, the need to view problems from a relative perspective, and the role of economic development in environmental progress.

The Truth About Environmental Misconceptions

In a world filled with environmental misconceptions, it is critical to understand the facts before allocating resources and efforts. Environmentalists and doomsayers skew our world-view with exaggerated claims, promoting non-existent problems while ignoring real issues. These groups often owe their existence and funding to the ongoing threat of environmental issues, and the media fuels this fear-based campaign. However, long-term trends show that mankind’s lot has vastly improved. Poverty has been reduced significantly, people are living longer, and food resources have increased. Environmental development often stems from economic development, and a higher income provides the luxury to care about the environment. Proper trend analysis is needed to assess substantial developments accurately. Environmental problems must be examined on a relative basis, viewed in relation to other issues and using humans as a point of reference. By using this framework, we can understand why the premise that economic growth necessarily undermines the environment is a fallacy.

Human Prosperity

This passage highlights the extraordinary rise in human prosperity over the last half-century. The world’s population has dramatically increased, yet living standards have improved, and people are living longer and healthier lives. Moreover, people have more to eat and are wealthier than ever before. Despite the common belief that the economy harms the environment, the two can coexist without destruction, and the myth of overpopulation is just that – a myth. Although Africa lags behind, the world is enjoying unprecedented human prosperity characterized by progress in all important areas of human activity.

Is the world on the brink of crises?

Despite the current prosperity, fears exist that the world is on the verge of multiple crises. The issues range from the scarcity of resources due to population growth, to pollution and deforestation. However, studies by the FAO, IFPRI, USDA, and the World Bank show that concerns about agriculture, forestry and energy are not validated. In fact, food is becoming cheaper and an increasing number of people can consume more and better food. Forest cover has not changed significantly since World War II, and although there is a decline in tropical forests, it is much less than what is often estimated. Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind truly have limitless potential. Moreover, other vital non-energy resources such as iron, copper, zinc, potassium and nitrogen are also plentiful. The issue of water availability is one of management instead of scarcity, and pollution has decreased dramatically in the developed world. The only major concern at present is indoor air pollution from radon gas, cigarette smoke, formaldehyde, and asbestos. In conclusion, the world is not on the brink of crises but needs to focus on tackling indoor air pollution.

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