Climate change is real but it's not the end of the world. It is not even our most serious environmental problem.
Michael Shellenberger has been fighting for a greener planet for decades. He helped save the world's last unprotected redwoods. He co-created the predecessor to today's Green New Deal. And he led a successful effort by climate scientists and activists to keep nuclear plants operating, preventing a spike of emissions.
But in 2019, as some claimed "billions of people are going to die," contributing to rising anxiety, including among adolescents, Shellenberger decided that, as a lifelong environmental activist, leading energy expert, and father of a teenage daughter, he needed to speak out to separate science from fiction.
Despite decades of news media attention, many remain ignorant of basic facts. Carbon emissions peaked and have been declining in most developed nations for over a decade. Deaths from extreme weather, even in poor nations, declined 80 percent over the last four decades. And the risk of Earth warming to very high temperatures is increasingly unlikely thanks to slowing population growth and abundant natural gas.
Curiously, the people who are the most alarmist about the problems also tend to oppose the obvious solutions.
What's really behind the rise of apocalyptic environmentalism? There are powerful financial interests. There are desires for status and power. But most of all there is a desire among supposedly secular people for transcendence. This spiritual impulse can be natural and healthy. But in preaching fear without love, and guilt without redemption, the new religion is failing to satisfy our deepest psychological and existential needs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Michael Shellenberger is a Time magazine "Hero of the Environment"; the winner of the 2008 Green Book Award from the Stevens Institute of Technology's Center for Science Writings; and an invited expert reviewer of the next Assessment Report for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He has written on energy and the environment for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Nature Energy, and other publications for two decades. He is the founder and president of Environmental Progress, an independent, nonpartisan research organization based in Berkeley, California.
“We must protect the planet, but how? Some strands of the environmental movement have locked themselves into a narrative of sin and doom that is counterproductive, anti-human, and not terribly scientific. Shellenberger advocates a more constructive environmentalism that faces our wicked problems and shows what we have to do to solve them.” — Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of Enlightenment Now
"If there is one thing that we have learned from the coronavirus pandemic, it is that strong passions and polarized politics lead to distortions of science, bad policy, and potentially vast, needless suffering. Are we making the same mistakes with environmental policies? I have long known Michael Shellenberger to be a bold, innovative, and nonpartisan pragmatist. He is a lover of the natural world whose main moral commitment is to figure out what will actually work to safeguard it. If you share that mission, you must read Apocalypse Never.” — Jonathan Haidt, author of Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
"The painfully slow global response to human-caused climate change is usually blamed on the political right’s climate change denial and love affair with fossil fuels. But in this engaging and well-researched treatise, Michael Shellenberger exposes the environmental movement’s hypocrisy in painting climate change in apocalyptic terms while steadfastly working against nuclear power, the one green energy source whose implementation could feasibly avoid the worst climate risks. Disinformation from the left has replaced deception from the right as the greatest obstacle to mitigating climate change." — Kerry Emanuel, professor of atmospheric science, MIT
"The trouble with end-of-the-world environmental scenarios is that they hide evidence-based diagnoses and exile practical solutions. Love it or hate it, Apocalypse Never asks us to consider whether the apocalyptic headline of the day gets us any closer to a future in which nature and people prosper.” — Peter Kareiva, director of the Institute for the Environment and Sustainability, UCLA, and former chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy