Climate Change Debate: Bjørn Lomborg and Andrew Revkin | Lex Fridman Podcast #339 | Summary and Q&A

November 18, 2022
Lex Fridman Podcast
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Climate Change Debate: Bjørn Lomborg and Andrew Revkin | Lex Fridman Podcast #339


In a conversation between economist Bjorn Lomborg and climate scientist Andrew Revkin, they discuss the need to move away from extreme beliefs on climate change and focus on practical and effective solutions.

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Key Insights

  • 🌍 The world is heavily dependent on fossil fuels, and making them more expensive is seen as morally wrong by some. There is a spectrum of belief on climate change, from dismissive to alarmed, even among those with basic science literacy.
  • 💬 Conversations about climate change should be nuanced and respectful, with a focus on talking with each other rather than at each other. Encouraging conversation can bring different perspectives and insights to the table.
  • 📚 Bjorn Lomborg is the president of the Copenhagen Consensus Think Tank and Andrew Revkin is a respected journalist on climate change. Both have written extensively on the topic and hold valuable insights.
  • 🔍 The climate change debate has evolved over time, with various extremes of belief. Defining the center is difficult, but it is necessary to consider different perspectives and engage in productive discussions.
  • 🌡️ Climate change is an uncomfortable collision between old energy norms and growing awareness of how the planet works. Adding invisible gases to the atmosphere will eventually change everything, and the effects are already happening.
  • 🍺 CO2 is the main greenhouse gas, and its presence in the atmosphere is changing everything. The conversation should focus on the long-term effects rather than straying into extreme end-of-the-world scenarios.
  • 💡 There are more effective ways to address climate change than simply cutting CO2 emissions, such as reducing vulnerability and improving regulations. Zoning, housing rules, and better design can have significant impacts.
  • 🚗 Electric cars can contribute to reducing carbon emissions, but they are not always the most effective or affordable solution. The focus should be on finding the most cost-effective ways to reduce emissions and improve energy systems.
  • ⚖️ The viewpoints of economists, climate scientists, and journalists differ, but they all have valuable contributions to the conversation. Economists focus on the cost and effectiveness of solutions, climate scientists provide essential scientific data, and journalists help communicate the information to the public.


people all around the world their lives are basically dependent on fossil fuels and so the idea that we're going to get people off by making it so expensive that it becomes impossible for them to live good lives is almost morally reprehensible people who have the most basic science literacy like who know the most about greenhouse effect they're at ... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: Why is it important to move away from extreme beliefs on climate change and focus on practical solutions?

It is important to move away from extreme beliefs on climate change and focus on practical solutions because extreme beliefs often hinder productive discussions and actions. By taking a more rational and nuanced approach, we can find effective solutions that address the issue without sacrificing the progress and well-being in other areas of human development.

Q: What are some examples of practical and cost-effective solutions to climate change?

Some practical and cost-effective solutions to climate change include improving housing regulations and zoning to reduce vulnerability to climate hazards, investing in renewable energy technologies, promoting energy efficiency in households and industries, and implementing sustainable land-use practices. These measures can have significant positive impacts on both mitigating climate change and improving overall sustainability.

Q: How can the focus on extreme beliefs impede progress in addressing climate change?

When the focus is solely on extreme beliefs, the conversation becomes polarized and unproductive, making it difficult to find common ground and implement effective solutions. Extreme beliefs often lead to a narrow-minded approach that ignores other important factors and potential solutions. By moving away from extreme beliefs and fostering nuanced discussions, we can make progress in addressing climate change in a more balanced and effective manner.

Q: How can individuals contribute to addressing climate change in their daily lives?

Individuals can contribute to addressing climate change in their daily lives by adopting sustainable practices such as reducing energy consumption, using public transportation or carpooling, consuming less meat, practicing recycling and waste reduction, supporting renewable energy sources, and advocating for impactful policies and initiatives. Our individual actions, when combined, can have a significant collective impact in mitigating climate change and promoting sustainability.


This conversation between Bjorn Lomborg (an economist), Andrew Revkin (a journalist), and Lex Friedman explores different perspectives on climate change and the need for nuanced conversations on the topic. They discuss the spectrum of belief on climate change, the importance of understanding vulnerabilities, the role of alarmism, the pros and cons of electric cars, and the blind spots of different disciplines. Overall, they emphasize the need to focus on effective solutions and address multiple aspects of the issue.

Questions & Answers

Q: What is the spectrum of belief on climate change?

The spectrum ranges from those who believe climate change is a hoax to those who are alarmed about its catastrophic impacts. However, the majority of people now acknowledge that climate change is real and caused by humans.

Q: What are the blind spots of economists when it comes to climate change?

Economists tend to focus on cost-benefit analysis and may overlook other important factors such as vulnerabilities and the need for comprehensive solutions. They may prioritize certain actions, like transitioning to electric cars, without considering the full picture.

Q: Can electric cars effectively reduce emissions?

Electric cars have the potential to reduce emissions, but their impact is limited and costly. The production of electric car batteries involves materials that have their own environmental concerns, and the emissions reduction benefits may not outweigh the subsidies and other costs.

Q: Is alarmism useful for raising awareness about climate change?

While alarmism can draw attention and initiate conversations, it can also lead to misinformation and distract from effective solutions. It is important to strike a balance between raising concern and providing accurate information to drive action.

Q: How do journalists approach climate change differently from scientists and economists?

Journalists have a role in communicating complex issues to the public and highlighting the social dynamics surrounding climate change. They focus on the salient and certain aspects that resonate with people, rather than solely relying on scientific or economic models.

Q: How does vulnerability play a role in climate change impacts?

Climate change is not solely about CO2 emissions; it also involves vulnerabilities and the risks associated with human settlement patterns and infrastructure. Building resilience and reducing vulnerability are important aspects to consider when addressing climate change impacts.

Q: What are the limitations of climate models and economic models?

Models can provide useful insights, but they often exclude certain factors and fail to capture the full complexity of the real world. Factors such as inertia, social dynamics, and political barriers may not be adequately represented in models, resulting in potential blind spots.

Q: How can the conversation on climate change be more productive?

The conversation should move beyond polarized debates toward understanding the multiple dimensions of climate change. It should prioritize effective and feasible solutions, consider vulnerabilities, and address other pressing issues alongside climate change.

Q: Is it possible to define the center in the climate change debate?

The center in the climate change debate is difficult to define, as it varies depending on perspectives and contexts. However, focusing on evidence-based discussions, exploring various subtopics, and finding areas of common ground can help to move toward a more nuanced understanding.

Q: How can we address climate change while considering other pressing global issues?

It is crucial to recognize that climate change is not the only problem the world faces. The conversation needs to encompass other important issues and prioritize effective solutions that consider the broader impact on human well-being.

Q: What is the role of conversation in addressing climate change?

Conversations can play a vital role in bringing people together, enlightening different perspectives, and finding common ground. They are not about convincing one side or the other but about exploring insights and wisdom from diverse viewpoints to drive meaningful action.


This conversation highlights the need for a nuanced and comprehensive approach to addressing climate change. It emphasizes the importance of understanding vulnerabilities, considering multiple perspectives, and focusing on effective solutions. While alarmism can raise awareness, it should be balanced with accurate information and action-oriented conversations. The blind spots of different disciplines, such as economists' focus on cost-benefit analysis and journalists' emphasis on social dynamics, should be acknowledged. Ultimately, the goal is to foster productive conversations that enlighten and drive collective action.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The conversation revolves around the spectrum of belief on climate change, from dismissive to alarmed, and the need to find a center where nuanced discussions can take place.

  • Lomborg highlights the importance of not getting caught up in end-of-the-world narratives and focusing on practical and cost-effective solutions, like improving housing regulations and zoning to mitigate vulnerability to climate hazards.

  • Revkin emphasizes the need to step back from the polarized climate debate and approach the issue with scientific rigor and consideration of all factors, including the psychology of public perception and the limitations of models and economic analysis.

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