As world leaders scramble to address global warming, sceptical environmentalist Bjoern Lomborg finds himself increasingly alone in his claim that climate change poses no imminent threat to the planet.
Lomborg, author of the best-selling book "The Sceptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World," acknowledges that the climate is warming but insists greenhouse gases "are not the priority over all priorities."
AdvertisementThe 42-year-old Dane, who once headed Denmark's Environmental Assessment Institute, has for years been speaking out against the increasingly mainstream concern that global warming is causing sea levels to rise and changing weather patterns in a way that will soon wreak havoc on world ecosystems and all of humankind.
"There are other global challenges to address this century like the battle against AIDS, malaria, malnutrition and poverty," he told AFP.
Lomborg's "Sceptical Environmentalist," which appeared in Danish in 1998 and in English three years later, blasts the growing "hysteria" around climate change and has drawn the ire of virtually the entire scientific community.
"The polar bear, which is close to extinction, has become an icon in the warming debate, when it would be enough to simply stop hunting hundreds (of the animals) each year," said Lomborg, who currently works as an assistant applied statistics professor at the Copenhagen Business School.
He acknowledges that reducing greenhouse gas emissions could prevent damages of 4,820 billion dollars by the end of the century. However, he insists the measures to do so would cost anywhere between 4,575 and 37,632 billion dollars during the same period.
Lomborg figured on Time Magazine's list of the world's most influential people in 2004 and was ranked as the world's 14th most influential academic by the respected US magazine Foreign Policy and the British monthly Prospect a year later.
In his latest book, "Cool It," published this year, the Dane violently attacks the Kyoto Protocol on climate change for being "too expensive and inefficient" and calls on world leaders to "keep their cool" and to avoid "a state of panic that will prevent them from making rational decisions."
Lomborg's claims fly in the face of the UN-sponsored climate change conference on the Indonesian island of Bali, where more than 180 nations will attempt this month to lay the groundwork for a new emissions-reducing pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires at the end of 2012.
"I don't refute global warming. It is real but has been exaggerated by many. We must stop this climate obsession and address other more urgent problems," he said.
"Reducing CO2 emissions will not make the world a better place to live," he said, insisting that "even if we do achieve the fixed (emission reduction) objectives, we will only slow global warming by two years by the end of the century."
"That's very little for a lot of money," Lomborg said, calling instead for "research into alternative and cheap technologies and energy development to reduce the dependence on fossil fuel pollutants."
"One could also get a lot more for one's money by investing in the fight against AIDS, malaria and famine," he said, insisting that "for every person saved from malaria by hitting the brakes on global warming you could save 36,000 through third world health policies."
Few environmental warriors make the blond-haired Dane fly off the handle like former US vice president Al Gore, who won this year's Nobel Peace Prize with the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
"It is ironic that the prize is being given to someone who spent a good portion of his career considerably exaggerating the conclusions of United Nations' experts" on global warming, he said.
Lomborg also slams Gore's "excesses" in his celebrated film "An Inconvenient Truth," including his claims that sea levels could rise six metres (20 feet) if nothing is done to cool the planet.
"The UN panel talks of 30 centimetres (one foot)," he said.
Lomborg is worshipped as a hero by some, but has become increasingly vilified on the international stage.
Environmental writers and activists in Oxford, England, have for instance created an anti-Lomborg website aimed at exposing what they say are flaws in his analyses.
Among detailed criticisms of his articles and theories, the website also features a picture of Lomborg after he was "pied" at a British bookstore.
Another of his detractors, Tim Flannery, a professor at Macquarie University in Sydney, recently wrote in the Washington Post that "Cool It" was "a stealth attack on humanity's future."