Author: Michael Shellenberger

Why Renewables Can’t Save the Planet

When I was a boy, my parents would sometimes take my sister and me camping in the desert. A lot of people think deserts are empty, but my parents taught us to see the wildlife all around us, including hawks, eagles, and tortoises. After college, I moved to California to work on environmental campaigns. I helped save the state’s last ancient redwood forest and blocked a proposed radioactive waste repository set for the desert. In 2002, shortly after I turned 30, I decided I wanted to dedicate myself to addressing climate change. I was worried that global warming would end up destroying many of the natural environments that people had worked so hard to protect. I thought the solutions were pretty straightforward: solar panels on every roof, electric cars in every driveway, etc. The main obstacles, I believed, were political. And so I helped organize a coalition of America’s largest labor unions and environmental groups. Our proposal was for a $300 billion dollar investment in renewables. We would not only prevent climate change but also …

Danger’s Deliverance

We encounter dangerous things and seek to get rid of them, often for good reason. But what about when doing so makes the world more dangerous? Consider, for example: Parents who refuse to vaccinate create disease epidemics that harm children, including their own; School programs that teach children to “just say no” to alcohol and drugs backfire by undermining the distinction between use and abuse; Universities that encourage “trigger warnings” to protect supposedly fragile students may make them more fragile and vulnerable to anxiety and depression; Nations fearing the dangers of nuclear power turn to energy sources that result in premature deaths from air pollution; Efforts to prevent nations like North Korea and Iran from getting nuclear weapons have given those nations greater motivation to acquire one. While these behaviors are very different from one another, they stem from a view of danger as something to be eliminated rather than utilized. This is a problem because what makes things dangerous can also give them their power to save lives. Why do we struggle to see the positive …