Ecologists vs. Economists:

In a column discussing the debate over Bjorn Lomborg's Cool It (which I reviewed here), John Tierney notes that some of Lomborg's sharpest critics have not been the best prognosticators themselves:

Yes, Dr. Lomborg thinks like an economist instead of a climate scientist, and he doesn't have a degree in climatology. Critics say his lack of climatological expertise makes him an unreliable guide for foreseeing the consequences of a warmer world, but I think these critics are ignoring history. They claim to be taking in the big picture, to be foreseeing great trends over the next century, but they're missing one of the most valuable lessons from the past half century: when it comes to getting the big picture right, when it comes to preparing for environmental catastrophes, economists have a better track record than the scientists who specialize in analyzing environmental trends.

Tierney notes that one of the experts who attacked Lomborg's Skeptical Environmentalist in the pages of Scientific American, John Holdren, conveniently ignored his own prior arguments on resource scarcity.

He reviewed Dr. Lomborg's chapter on energy, which reviewed the history of energy scares and predicted there would be not dire shortages and dramatic price increases in the future. Dr. Holdren began his critique by complaining that Dr. Lomborg was "asking the wrong question" because environmentalists had known for decades that there was no danger of energy being in short supply. This struck me as as odd bit of revisionist history, given both the "energy crisis" rhetoric of the 1970s and Dr. Holdren's own bet that resources would become more scarce. Then, in the rest of the critique, Dr. Holdren faulted Dr. Lomborg for not paying enough attention to the reasons that there could be future problems with energy supplies.

I and others found Holdren's criticism particularly amusing because Scientific American itself had recently published articles forecasting the imminent depletion of energy supplies. When challenged on this point, SciAm's editor tried to explain that the articles were about the depletion of "affordable" energy, not energy supplies themselves — yet this is the precise argument that Lomborg addressed in his book.

[NOTE: Error in quote fixed.]