"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Taking Lomborg Seriously

The NYTimes is featuring an article today on Bjorn Lomborg's take on climate change.

While the content won't be unfamiliar to most people who follow the issue, let me quote the gist of it:
“Wealth is a more important factor than sea-level rise in protecting you from the sea. You can draw maps showing 100 million people flooded out of their homes from global warming, but look at what’s happened here in New York. It’s the same story in Denmark and Holland — we’ve been gaining land as the sea rises.”


In his new book, he dismisses the Kyoto emissions cuts as a “feel-good” strategy because it sounds virtuous and lets politicians make promises they don’t have to keep. He outlines an alternative “do-good” strategy that would cost less but accomplish more in dealing with climate change as well as more pressing threats like malaria, AIDS, polluted drinking water and malnutrition.


But preparing for the worst in future climate is expensive, which means less money for the most serious threats today — and later this century. You can imagine plenty of worst-case projections that have nothing to do with climate change, as Dr. Lomborg reminded me at the end of our expedition.
I don't think these points can be dismissed as easily as a lot of my fellow climate worry-warts tend to do. My response to this way of thinking is to question the very notion of "wealth", which surely must mean something different on a planet which is full of people than on a planet with open space and natural ecosystems. For instance, the "value" of a free ranging species of bird or butterfly is much higher now that so many of them are in decline, but there's no sensible way to reduce that to dollars.

I realize this is a lot to swallow all at once. Is there another way of looking at it that doesn't require a total rethink of economics?

I think there is. Lomborg suggests putting more emphasis on our "other problems" and less into climate change. The difficulty with this view is that we no longer have the luxury of thinking of our problems as decoupled. Our problems include:
  • increasing superstition and xenophobia, tendency to war
  • decline of the natural environment, especially the oceans
  • immediate limitations on liquid fuel
  • desire for increasing wealth in backward countries
  • dependency on extractive water sources, food security
  • accumulation of trace substances not appearing in nature in the environment
Assuming the Hansen rapid sea level rise scenarios are unlikely (which I'm not sure about), climate change will not kill us. What it will do is this.

Climate change makes addressing almost every one of the principal global issues more difficult to address. There is no case where it makes matters easier.

Lomborg does advocate a carbon tax, so he really isn't the enemy people make him out to be. I am not at all sure the way many people react to him is justified. Based on what I have seen, I think it's reasonable to consider him intellectually serious and honest. I don't think he understands the complexity of our predicament, though.

In a sense I actually agree with Lomborg. "Climate change" is not the problem. Managing the earth is the problem. Success is not in avoiding this or that global calamity. We have to avoid all of them, and they are intertwined.

There is only one big problem, how to get the biosphere into a sustainable condition. Economists are ateached to an essentially nonsustainable concept of perpetual growth, so they are not helping. They have a good point that climate change should not be viewed in isolation.

Update 9/14: Joe Romm's first anti-Lomborg article discussed polar bears, about which I have no opinion. His second anti-Lomborg article addresses sea level rise. It is very clear that Lomborg got this badly wrong, but I still don't see that he did so dishonestly. People are easily confused about things that aren't their core expertise.

Anyway, I specifically excluded sea level rise above when discussing whether Lomborg could be right on his own terms. The confusion about sea level rise is attributable in large measure to systematic understatement on the part of the IPCC. Lomborg is not alone in missing the fine print, and this still is no indication of intellectual dishonesty.

I still think it would be best to engage Lomborg respectfully, rather than trying to tie him to the lawyer's science of the main denialists. Of course, I recommend being
studiously polite even to the slimiest of the opposition, a tactic most of them know well enough. In the case of Lomborg, the respect would be genuine. Based on what I've seen so far, I see a man thinking for himself and advancing his opinions, even in the face of vitriolic opposition. He may be wrong, but that doesn't make him dishonest.

My opinion remains tentative but Romm has not dissauded me from it.


Unknown said...

Michael; I agree with you that Lomborg should not be dismissed lightly. The argument that money could be better spent now dealing with real present problems, rather than speculated against future risks, at least has some merit, whether you agree with the conclusions or not.

But even the short extracts you cite show one or two problems with this, for example:

'Wealth protects better': yeah, if you live in a developed society, adaptation and localised migration are both viable and sensible options. This is sidestepping the problem a bit, as all the projections have the most vulnerable as the poorest, and most of them in poor societies with unstable political and social infrastructures, and limited propects for growth, as they offer no produce of value to the global market; a double-bind.

'Feel-good' Kyoto: the argument against Kyoto is equally applied to every other global problem which is not being handled by the collective political will. Politicians always prefer promises to actions. likewise, there's no suggestions that any of the needed do-good actions will be undertaken at all, never mind if some money is spent dealing with the one which won't go away, whatever other problems you solve.

'Preparing for the worst is expensive'; the economist's world-view - always a question of cost and benefit. I'm currently working on an idea that we should be looking at the question in terms of resources rather than dollars; value as determined by what we have now and which resources we want to use, against those we will have in the future and how much we will need them.

As you say, though, decoupling the major social issues is artificial at best; they all feed into one another. I am sure a theoretical scenario of responses to social investment is possible, if someone has the will to do it.

Dennis's thoughts on the 'perfect storm' at samadhisoft are interesting in respect to what you are talking about here.


EliRabett said...

Define wealth, or try to.

Dano said...

I think MT's bolded 'managing earth is the problem' is my problem with BL - his supercilious denunciation of the findings of those who do the work over his aren't-I-smart-and-good-looking findings. And his blinkered 'nothing is seriously wrong because I don't see anything seriously wrong' stance. Oh, and he's a confirmation bias enabler's dream.

Trouble is, he knows how to write and appeal to his audience, which is what is lacking in those who do the work (generally, and IMHO, present company usually excepted).



Unknown said...

and... I was thinking of you when I wrote this:
your observations, as always, are welcomed.

Michael Tobis said...


"present company usually excepted?" Do I detect a muted criticism? I am interested in having my communication misfires identified.

Anyway, I must say I dislike your dismissal of Lomborg.

If we just mock people's style when we disagree with their conclusions we aren't being especially fair. Arguments ad hominem aren't in a literal sense progressive.

Perhaps it takes a certain arrogance to hold any original opinions in public. More people, not fewer, should be arrogant in that sort of way.

While I find Lomborg's ideas threatening to some extent, I am unable to dismiss them with the same ease that attaches so readily to, say, the likes of the Idsos or Pat Michaels. A serious challenge needs to be met with substance, not with emotional reaction.

Which brings us back to the perpetual problem of what, if anything, economists actually know.

Hank Roberts said...

It reminded me of this, which I think is the back-story to all the nonsense.


Dano said...

Anyway, I must say I dislike your dismissal of Lomborg...If we just mock people's style when we disagree with their conclusions we aren't being especially fair. Arguments ad hominem aren't in a literal sense progressive.

I'm in a time crunch on several fronts, which is partial excuse for my curt comments of late, but really - ad hom?

Being trained in ecology and an old weatherman from before The Internets/easy data availability, I disagree deeply with Lomborg's assessments of the state of the world's biota & atmospheric trends.

He dismisses the findings of those who do the work because he doesn't particularly like them; does he offer counterfactuals or data of his own? Well, kinda - he offers the ones he likes, but let us note the paucity of studies, models, journal articles etc from the denialists. .

Much ink has been spilled over Lomborg's errors. There's no need for me to recount them. His solutions? Same old non-starter solutions: feed the poor (note the stampede to do so)! Lift the African's economy (investment capital flooding ports on both sides of the Equator, no>)! Free markets (despite the obvious flaws in the argumentation)!

These solutions merely seek to promote useless debate and delay implementation by society - more clever than taking pictures of USHCN sites. Sure, my view is society is ill-equipped to deal with such scalar problems, but that doesn't mean efforts aren't to be made, and thus the problem with delaying effort.

The major issue is that Lomborg can write to his (loud, vociferous) audience to appeal to their confirmation bias, and his work is cited as proof rather than polemic. When scientists can get to that level, I'll be happy [which I think is a similar subtext of yours, BTW].

WRT 'usually excepted', I read your blog for a reason and no one is right 100% of the time. I choose to be mostly positive here to drive discussion forward (present thread possibly excepted), and if it's useful to offer constructive criticism, I'm unafraid to do so. Keep up the good work.



Michael Tobis said...


"his aren't-I-smart-and-good-looking findings" strike me as an ad hominem attack.

As for your claim of his dismissing the hard work of thers, I'd like to know more.

I do not think that applies to IPCC WG 1, whose findings he accepts. I know of actual scientists who also pretty much accept the WG 1 process who essentially agree with Lomborg - that increasing wealth is the answer and not the problem.

Lomborg can't be held responsible for those who gleefully quote him.

Most of them will gleefully quote anything halfway credible that even vaguely fits their agenda.

I haven't looked in great detail, but from what I have seen so far Lomborg is serious, intelligent and sincere. Wrong, nevertheless, I think, but deserving fair and respectful treatment.

I'd appreciate someon pointing out unreasonable behavior on Lomborg's part if there is any that is worthy of note.

Anonymous said...

Re: Lomborg -- it always seemed to me there were glaring contradictions in his past reasoning. Similarly with Cato and Economist, places with parallel pro-growth positions as solutions. (The Economist seems to have stepped away from Lomborg in the past couple of years. Could have been effect of Knut the polar bear.)

One contradiction, which you sum up -- why feed Africa OR work on climate and energy issues? Who determined that this an 'OR' problem?

Another contradiction -- Lomborg agrees climate change is happening and regrettable. When The Economist championed him, for instance, did they collectively drive over to the Land Rover factory in Birmingham, and beg them to stop cranking out 12 mpg Rovers destined for The City (or Wall St.) because the profligate fossil fuel guzzling was making Lomborg's arguments look bad? Lomborg, like most on the pro growth end, seems to turn a blind eye to the quirky, psychology-infused nature of consumerism and energy use. People with Land Rovers would chop their carbon emissions in half simply by buying Saab 9-3's instead. Could he have included that message? (I see he's for carbon tax, but it seems that detail was little highlighted earlier, and I'd give him more credibility if he were more insistent.)

Finally -- what always puzzled me about a key argument of the Skeptical Environmentalist, summed as "wealthy economies are cleaner, thus one should pursue wealth rather than environmental policy." This seemed like saying 'if you eat a lot of candy, you'll have to brush your teeth -- leading to result of better teeth."

Since Lomborg seems to revel in the cleaner environments of the West, a sign of affluence, there is a remarkable economic puzzle embedded in his position...if cleaner environments are so valuable in retrospect, are environmentalists historically paid enough? If they aren't paid in proportion to their value, why then are they doing it? (That's a real head-scratcher.)

Anonymous said...


"his aren't-I-smart-and-good-looking findings" strike me as an ad hominem attack.

I'd agree if that was all I said.

However, I think Climate Progress says it best:

"Lomborg’s work is a target-rich environment.".

I particularly like the metaphor used in this Salon review:

"The place is somewhere in Turkey, 5,200 years ago. Noah has just gotten word about an upcoming episode of abrupt climate change, and he and his family are hard at work building an ark. The plan is to take on board mating pairs of every living thing of all flesh, every creeping thing of the ground, in order, as God put it, to keep them alive.

Up walks a man who introduces himself as an adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School. He says, "Noah, you have to stop. We've run the numbers and they don't add up. I agree that there may be a few days of rain, but if you really want to help future generations, don't build the ark. Grow the economy!""

That's rather how I see it too.





Preben S said...

"If The Uncertainties Are Not small, Standard Cost–Benefit Analysis As Applied To The Economics Of Climate Change Becomes Incoherent"

There is another review of "Cool It" by Partha Dasgupta at:

Magnus said...

Sorry for the late comment but I think much of the ”hate” for BL is because of his old work where he completely ignored criticism that was confronted with him on point where he where so clearly wrong also he must have seen it. And about the part that BL misunderstands the WG1 I find it really hard to believe because he have made the same error before when it got out and I know many have tried to tell him that his wrong, yet it keeps on going...

Anonymous said...

All my cards on the table, I come from an economic perspective.

One issue facing this whole discussion is an old debate of whose field supercedes the others.

As an economist, I'm sitting here viewing the scientific view which essentially boils down to "Noooo, you just don't understand science". Add your own mental image of headshaking at the poor ignorant economists.

At the same time, the economists are saying, "No, no, no, you just don't understand economics". (No doubt the mathmaticians think we're both idiots)

I once had a teacher who became tired of all my discussions regressing to economic puzzles. She said "everything isn't about economics". It took me several years to realize the response was "no, but economics is about everything".

For those who are perhaps tunnel-visioned in the science, I recommend some deeper and broader reading into economics.

I consider myself both a science nerd and an econ nerd, BTW. Economics is not about money, numbers, graphs, and the stock market, so much as it is about human beings and what they do in the face of incentives- and also weighing trade-offs for marginal benefit.

It is easy to say that any particular action creates a benefit. The bigger question is what is the cost of the action foregone. For those who keep asking "why must we choose AIDS or global warming", you simply cannot yet understand the concept of trade-offs and still as those questions. If there are 10 major problems, we may have 20 units of resource. We can distribute 2 per problem, but some solutions require a quantum start-up cost. If it takes 4 units of resources to begin to solve problem 1, an equal proportion means every solution will fail. We must make priorities.

The second major economic issue I see with scientists who argue against Lomborg: the old missunderstanding that growth comes at the expense of resources. While this may be true on the short run, it is not true in the long run. Definitions of what even constitutes a resource change over time. When elephants were an illegal resource, populations dropped to endangered levels. When elephant hunting was managed- there was a profit in maintaining the resource, in countries that managed elephant hunting, the populations increased exponentially. Coal and oil will eventually no longer be a resource. We will at some point be in a predominantly nuclear and/or hydrogen based energy economy.

My third observation is the sciences fetish that the world be a human zoo. There is no rule that every species must survive, or that there is some extrensic benefit in the world existing in an aquarium state. I see many who politically prefer adorable populations of poor natives in other countries for them to visit, and feel good about donating a pittance to. I would prefer to see Nike and Nokia diplomacy. Our living age has seen the largest mass exodus from poverty this planet has ever seen.

The revolution in living standards in China and India are the closest thing to a non-supernatural miracle. I believe "growth" encompasses more of the same for other countries which still badly need development. And that growth will happen faster and cleaner because they will leapfrog through industrial phases in the same way they leapfrogged straight to the cellular phone.

The panda may not always be with us. I admit I have acertain "twinge" in my heart when I think about whole species disappearing, but I also recognize that this feeling is largely irrational. If the obscure beetle species does in fact have a value, that means it has a value to someone. There is no universal value without someone to serve as the valuer.

I am a science nerd who is skeptical that our climate is doing anything statistically abnormal, or that we are the cause of it. That may change. What I am much more confident of is that progress is defined by humans and is provided by humans. The human historically trend long-term has been a move from collectivised mandates to individual liberty and privacy. Away from disease and harsh living to luxury and health. Away from filth and imminent harm to cleanliness and safety. It doesn't always happen smoothly- as evidenced by the industrial revolution. But just like the stock market, the "human growth and betterment" market has consistently moved up over the medium to long term scale.

Think about living the lifestyle of your grandparents. Polio. The betterment of mankind comes from removing the limitations of innovation, not imposing them.

Michael Tobis said...

"I am a science nerd who is skeptical that our climate is doing anything statistically abnormal, or that we are the cause of it."

I believe you, and I find that deeply troubling. Since there is no serious doubt on the matter among experts, you are apparently listening to the wrong people.

"At the same time, the economists are saying, "No, no, no, you just don't understand economics". "

If what you have said constitutes understanding economics, I understand it just fine. Although you have made your points clearly, you haven;t done so in a way that is in the least surprising. I understand and disagree.

If you agree to stick around I will take up your points in earnest in a top level article soon, say, next week. Unfortunately blogger is not set up to highlight most-recent-comments so likely nobody will notice this exchange on a rather old article.

I am openminded enough to reconsider my opinions but you should understand that I am not unaware of the arguments you are making. Just say you'll check in next week and I'll have more of an answer for you.

Anonymous said...

Yeah. I bookmarked this to keep up with it.

I'm open minded.
If you can, there's a few things specifically I'd like to hear you mention if you know anything about them:


1. This graph. I've seen another one somewhere that is I think 8 different reconstructions of the earth's temp over a much larger period. I can't find that right now. The point I get from it is we really have no idea. And... the earths temp has changed enormously during human history.

2.CO2 is a teeny tiny part of our atmosphere. If you map out a football field, the 70 yard line is nitrogen. The little white line marking the end zone is much larger than CO2 make-up. An ENORMOUS increase in CO2 would still be a tiny, tiny amount.

3. CO2 isn't even the primary gas in global greenhouse effect. Water vapor is something like 80% of the effect if my memory is correct.

4. My understanding of the earth is that it dramatically adapts. If more sunlight comes in, more water evaporates increasing reflective cloud cover, reflecting light back out. The "ozone hole" allows increased sunlight to strike the atmosphere creating more ozone. Increased warmth and humidity will create a greener earth which will cool it again. I spent countless hours playing Sim-Earth back in the day, and I hope I didn't completely miss the point.

5. Completely non-scientific, strictly political. I find it an interesting coincedence that the solutions of politicians like Al Gore are the same ones they've been usin for the past 60 years, before global warming was the reason for these policies.

5. Also non-scientific, I'm sure I read somewhere that many of the IPCC signatories are non-scientists, and several of them are clearly eco-activist appointees. Also, I have heard that several signatories felt their conclusions had been completely misrepresented and have sued to have their names removed. Also, wasn't there a petition from actual scientists in climate and related disciplines of over 17,000 names who said they were against GW theory?

I want to be clear that I am pointing out like everyone else I'm only as good as all this secondary data I hear and see. I don't claim to have magical knowledge or to have done climate research.

I've seen Al Gore's movie, I've read Michael Chrichton's book (along with several of his sources), I've been exposed to the media articles and magazine, TV, newspaper drone etc., I've read Lomborg's book... there's no counting how much web material on both sides.

From my (what I consider to be) scientific, objectivist, economic, point of view- Chrichton, Lomborg and several of the scientists in the anti-GW movies sound like the sane ones to me.

Michael Tobis said...

I'm not all that interested in rehashing all those points. You could find the scientific point of view (that is, the view held by most of the most informed people) on all those issues easily enough if you looked.

I'm interested in applying some skepticism to economics. I believe its foundations are far weaker than those of climate science, and would be happy to find someone who could intelligently hold the contrary.

I am not interested in questions as buckshot. So as not to avoid your argument entirely, let's take look at the big picture, not the sniping. Here is my version of what is going on.

Anonymous said...

I'll back up half a step and we'll avoid getting into the specifics.

In response to your 4 main points, I will only summarize my current beliefs so that all my cards are on the table (we don't need to debate these):

1. The earth is getting warmer.
Maybe. I'm still not so sure we have one "measure" of the earths temperature. And warmer compared to when?

2. People are causing this.
Very unlikely- though possible.I think we vastly overestimate our effect on the planet. Cosmic forces (orbit radius, magnetic poles, the sun, etc.) make our input microscopic by comparison.

3. If GHG emissions continue, the warming will continue and indeed accelerate.
(A) If... I have no reason to believe we can project emissions. We have poorly predicted technological changes. (B) Even granting, I don't believe B follows from A.

4. This will be a problem and we ought to do something about it.
Granting all of the above, I don't know that it will be a problem (this is at least in poor economic language). [ I will expand only a little on this point. It is very easy to say a person (Hitler), a policy (Civil rights Act), or whatever did some amount of good, or some amount of bad. The economic question is the trade-off]

Having established where I sit, my primary economic interest is in widespread economic education (i.e. what the layman knows/believes). This is my area of research. Thus, I am interested in communicating the basic concepts of economics and conveying them to anyone in simple everyday terms, or rapidly conveying the necessary lingo.

If you have economics based questions, I can give you my best answers. More cards on the table: I am unapologetically a free-market proponent, a capitalist, and a free world trader. My economic perspective is libertarian in nature, and classically liberal.

Whether Lomborg is wrong by degrees about the science; I can try to defend the basic economic ideas of priority, quantum costs, the role of wealth, (what wealth actually is), incentives, time preference, discounting, economic growth... or whatever points catch your fancy.

Michael Tobis said...

OK, it's been a busy week. I'll write another economics article soon. Meanwhile you might want to consider taking on "tidal"'s comment here.

Anonymous said...

An old post but...

2.CO2 is a teeny tiny part of our atmosphere. If you map out a football field, the 70 yard line is nitrogen. The little white line marking the end zone is much larger than CO2 make-up. An ENORMOUS increase in CO2 would still be a tiny, tiny amount.

Without much respect... this is a common but still rubbish argument... let me just inject you with this poison... don't worry it will only be a tiny percentage of your blood. Or how about you try and argue that to the judge for a blood alcohol test.

3. CO2 isn't even the primary gas in global greenhouse effect. Water vapor is something like 80% of the effect if my memory is correct.

And who said it wasn't?
Once upon a time there was a blue green planet that was in a dynamic equilibrium... fluxes of reactive gases into the atmosphere were balanced by fluxes leaving the atmosphere. Water entering the atmosphere returned as rain... CO2 from respiration was later fixed by plants...

And then, we started to burn all that carbon. This has the effect of amplifying one of the warming factors (CO2) which in turn enables more water to enter the atmosphere. Please read more widely and critically.

4. My understanding of the earth is that it dramatically adapts.

This is mere assertion... bordering on the wishful. And even suppose the planet can "adapt" what do you mean? The rate of change exceeds the capability of adaption in the sense of natural selection. Animals and plants are going to go extinct... I guess that's a kind of adaption...

A greener earth is not going to cool the planet... green absorbs heat. That's what those pigments are for... to absorb energy.

I like that you put Sim Earth up against the climate models of say NASA or the Hadley Centre. They must feel really ripped off.

Lomborg has been (innocently?) wrong on so many things it defies belief that he still gets airplay... but then he is a celebrity not a scientist.


Richard Mercer said...

and now a really old post, two and a half years later..

"The panda may not always be with us. I admit I have a certain "twinge" in my heart when I think about whole species disappearing, but I also recognize that this feeling is largely irrational. If the obscure beetle species does in fact have a value, that means it has a value to someone. There is no universal value without someone to serve as the valuer."

If you think it is all about what someone "values", I think you're missing something. This reminds me of people who equate taking care of the environment with conserving the oppurtunity for "sportsmen" to hunt game animals. "Well sure I love wildlife, I'm a hunter". The point being that they can only imagine nature having any value if humans can enjoy or exploit it.
I am not making a statement about hunting. Don't we hear politicians say this every election cycle? Like being a hunter makes them an environmentalist. What it tells me about them is that they are missing the big picture and don't understand that it's not about cute polar bears, pandas, etc but whether the ecosystem they are part of will survive. I have never been able to understand why this seems so illusive a concept to so many people. Good luck to the beetles.

"yeah, if you live in a developed society, adaptation and localised migration are both viable and sensible options."

I would think it would cut both ways. The developed world has more to lose in the sense that they have more invested in infrastructure, port cities, etc that might be vulnerable to a changing climate, rising seas etc. We see something akin to this in areas such as telecommunications, energy grids, roads, etc, where countries like India with villages unconnected to the grid in any meaningful way, have advantages in choosing renewables like solar, or fiber optics, rather than DSL communications lines, right from the start. We in the west have more vested interest in things staying the same.

A little OT but it reminds me of a quote I heard, "a conservative is someone who thinks nothing should ever happen for the first time"
I forget who its attributed to.

Richard Mercer said...

Michael didn't feel like rehashing some of the points below, but I will. I'm just a layman, but some of these are easy.

1. "And... the earths temp has changed enormously during human history."

There weren't 6 billion people, modern industrialization, potentially failing ecosystems, oil spills, nuclear accidents, and the burning of coal, which I think of as natures carbon capture and sequestration. Humans are now putting 65 million years of sequestered carbon back into the atmosphere and carbon cycle, in a few hundred years, which has probably never happened on this planet.

2. "CO2 is a teeny tiny part of our atmosphere."

And the major constituents of the atmosphere are neutral in terms of the greenhouse effect. We know that a single volcano can cool the climate for months or more due to aerosol emissions. Man's annual 29 gigatons of emissions dwarfs the carbon emissions of 20 megatons or so from a typical volcanic eruption.

3. "CO2 isn't even the primary gas in global greenhouse effect. Water vapor is something like 80% of the effect if my memory is correct."

Water vapour acts as a feed back mechanism, amplifying the effects of CO2, or any warming for that matter. It is not a cause of global warming, but amplifys it, as more water evaporates at higher temperatures.

5. "Completely non-scientific, strictly political. I find it an interesting coincedence that the solutions of politicians like Al Gore are the same ones they've been usin for the past 60 years, before global warming was the reason for these policies."

I don't understand whats confusing about that. Many people have been concerned that the envirnoment is in trouble, and fossil fuels are part of much of the other problems, as is deforestation, etc. We wouldn't be worried about the sea of plastics in the Pacific Ocean, and now found in the Atlantic as well, if they were bioplastics, like the hemp based plastic car bodies that Henry Ford created in the 1930s. There are many many unintended consequences of fossil fuel use.
How is it political that the same people are still concerned about the environment? I don't think the science is political, but the public discourse about it is. And that isn't the doing of scientists.

Read: "Climate Cover-Up" by James Hoggan.

Read "Censoring Science: the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming" by Mark Bowen

Read: "Boiling Point" by Ross Gelbspan

And after May 25 2010
Read: "Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming" by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway

Then you might have a different idea about who is politicizing the issue.