Critical thinking and hard data are cornerstones of all good science. Because environmental sciences are so keenly important to both our biological and economic survival--causes that are often seen to be in conflict--they deserve full scrutiny. With that in mind, the book The Skeptical Environmentalist (Cambridge University Press), by Bj¿rn Lomborg, a statistician and political scientist at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, should be a welcome audit. And yet it isn't.
As the book's subtitle--Measuring the Real State of the World--indicates, Lomborg's intention was to reanalyze environmental data so that the public might make policy decisions based on the truest understanding of what science has determined. His conclusion, which he writes surprised even him, was that contrary to the gloomy predictions of degradation he calls "the litany," everything is getting better. Not that all is rosy, but the future for the environment is less dire than is supposed. Instead Lomborg accuses a pessimistic and dishonest cabal of environmental groups, institutions and the media of distorting scientists' actual findings. (A copy of the book's first chapter can be found at www.lomborg.org)