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Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming
Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming
Bjørn Lomborg
Alfred A. Knopf, 2007
253 pp., $21.00

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Pete Geddes


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The Skeptical Environmentalist returns.

Our friend the Reverend Paul Heyne was an unusual economist. He was an ordained minister in the Lutheran Church and earned a Ph.D. in ethics and social thought from the University of Chicago. His best-known work, The Economic Way of Thinking, went through nine editions between 1973 and Heyne's death in 2000. His approach puts people before profits. Paul became a celebrity (by academic standards) in Eastern Europe after the revolutions of 1989, and The Economic Way of Thinking sold 200,000 copies in Russia after the Soviet Union collapsed.

I had the pleasure of meeting with Paul at the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment's (FREE's) programs on environmental policy analysis. Paul understood that all policy questions require choosing among competing values. The environment is no exception. Paul taught us that good intentions alone are insufficient to guide our decision-making. Consider climate change. Are we willing to give up inexpensive fossil fuel energy? Does climate change demand drastic and dramatic action now? If so, what are the costs and how do they compare to the benefits? These are the questions that drive Bjørn Lomborg's new book Cool It.

 Paul would be comfortable with the themes that Lomborg explores in Cool It. We have limited resources and face many opportunities to use them productively, for ourselves and for others. Here's a simple truth: The resources expended to combat climate change are not available for other beneficial projects, such as eradicating malaria, killer of 2 million people each year, 90 percent of whom are children under five. Those who believe climate change trumps all else ignore the reality that we face tradeoffs among competing values.

Lomborg burst onto the environmental stage in 2001 with his book The Skeptical Environmentalist. (In 2004, Time magazine named him one of the world's 100 most influential people.) In that book, Lomborg examined the "Litany," i.e., persistent pending claims of eco-catastrophes. ...

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