Sharon Begley uses her platform as Newsweek's science columnist to advance the debate about global warming this week by highlighting "The Lomborg Deception" by Howard Friel, a book debunking famed skeptic Bjorn Lomborg.
Begley's - and Newsweek's - shift to being a liberal opinion magazine has been bad for their business section but one must give credit to Begley today for showing her work. She reviews Friel's point by point analysis of the voluminous footnotes in Lomborg's two major works and gives readers a fair picture of where Lomborg overreached.
Lomborg opens Cool It with a long discussion on polar bears, arguing that no more than two (of 20) groups are declining in population, that their numbers are not falling overall, and, in places where they are, that it is not a result of global (or Arctic) warming. In fact, polar-bear populations in warming regions are rising, he argues, suggesting that a warmer world will be beneficial to the bears. As Friel shows, Lomborg sourced that to a blog post and to a study that never mentioned polar bears. But he ignored the clear message of the most authoritative assessment of the bears' population trends, namely, research by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It found that bear populations are indeed declining where the Arctic is warming. In fact, concluded the IUCN, polar-bear populations "have declined significantly" where spring temperatures have risen dramatically. It also offered an explanation for Lomborg's claim that numbers are falling most where temps are getting colder: that area happens to be where there is unregulated hunting.
She also goes on to give Lomborg equal time to respond to this and other charges, as well as calling out Friel for nitpicking and unreadability.
Begley's column is ultimately even-handed and advances understanding of the debate about climate change and that's worth noting.