The Guardian reports on an “apparent U-turn” by Bjorn Lomborg, the “skeptical environmentalist,” on the issue of global climate change. (See also here.) The stories report that Lomborg has a new book, due out this fall, in which he calls global warming “one of the chief concerns facing the world today” and urges adoption of a carbon tax to finance $100 billion in R&D for climate-friendly technologies, and $50 billion in climate adaptation. Tyler Cowen notes the story with a post titled “Lomborg v. Lomborg,” and TNR‘s Bradford Plumer calls Lomborg’s new position “a pretty striking about-face,” and suggests it may be a cynical ploy to sell books.
Yet Lomborg’s new position is not much of “U-turn,” striking or otherwise. Lomborg has acknowledged the reality of human-induced warming in all of his books, while discounting some of the more apocalyptic scenarios. In his 2007 book Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming (which I reviewed here), he declared that climate change was a “problem” and recommended a strikingly similar response. Specifically, he called for the imposition of a carbon tax and urged a global commitment to financing climate-friendly R&D to the tune of $25 billion per year. His new proposal is more ambitious – a larger tax to fund even more research – but otherwise is much the same. So, too, is his overall message: Climate change is one of many problems the world faces, must compete with other priorities, and should be addressed in a cost-effective manner. Perhaps what’s really changed is not Lomborg’s perspective, but the degree to which commentators actually pay attention to what he writes.