Author: Michael Shellenberger

I Was Invited to Testify on Energy Policy. Then Democrats Didn’t Let Me Speak

Today, shortly after giving expert testimony to Congress about energy policy, I had the startling experience of being smeared by sitting members of the United States House of Representatives. The context was a special House Committee hearing to evaluate a Democratic proposal similar to the one proposed by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, which would spend $2 trillion over four years on renewables and other climate programs. Congressional interest in my testimony stems in part from the fact that I advocated for a Democratic energy proposal very similar to Biden’s between 2002 and 2009. Back then, the Obama administration justified the $90 billion it was spending on renewables as an economic stimulus, just as Biden’s campaign is doing today. But then, late in the hearing, Representatives Sean Casten of Illinois and Jared Huffman of California, both Democrats, used the whole of their allotted time to claim that I am not a real environmentalist, that I am not a qualified expert, and that I am motivated by money. Had I been given a chance to respond, …

Why I Believe Climate Change Is Not the End of the World

The following is excerpted, with permission, from Michael Shellenberger’s new book, Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, (HarperCollins 2020), 432 pages. The end is nigh If you scanned the websites of two of the world’s most-read newspapers on October 7th, 2018, you might have feared the end of the world was near. A headline in the New York Times said: “Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040.” Just below the bold headline was a photograph of a six-year-old boy playing with a dead animal’s bones. Said another headline in the Washington Post on the very same day: “The World Has Just Over a Decade to Get Climate Change Under Control, U.N. Scientists Say.” Those stories in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other media outlets around the world were based on a special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is a United Nations body of 195 scientists and other members from around the globe responsible for assessing science related to climate …

On Behalf Of Environmentalists, I Apologize For The Climate Scare

On behalf of environmentalists everywhere, I would like to formally apologize for the climate scare we created over the last 30 years. Climate change is happening. It’s just not the end of the world. It’s not even our most serious environmental problem. I may seem like a strange person to be saying all of this. I have been a climate activist for 20 years and an environmentalist for 30. But as an energy expert asked by Congress to provide objective expert testimony, and invited by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to serve as expert reviewer of its next assessment report, I feel an obligation to apologize for how badly we environmentalists have misled the public. Here are some facts few people know: Humans are not causing a “sixth mass extinction” The Amazon is not “the lungs of the world” Climate change is not making natural disasters worse Fires have declined 25 percent around the world since 2003 The amount of land we use for meat—humankind’s biggest use of land—has declined by an area …

Why Climate Activists Will Go Nuclear—Or Go Extinct

1. In October 2019, the British climate activist group Extinction Rebellion carried out two weeks of civil disobedience in London and other cities around the world. Six thousand activists blocked the five main bridges that cross the River Thames, which flows through London, preventing people from getting to work or home. An Extinction Rebellion spokesperson went on national television and made a series of alarming claims. “Billions of people are going to die.” “Life on Earth is dying.” And, “Governments aren’t addressing it.” Some journalists pushed back. The BBC’s Andrew Neil interviewed a visibly uncomfortable Extinction Rebellion spokesperson in her mid-30s named Zion Lights. “One of your founders, Roger Hallam, said in April, ‘Our children are going to die in the next 10 to 20 years,’” said Neil. “What’s the scientific basis for these claims?” “These claims have been disputed, admittedly,” Lights said. “There are some scientists who are agreeing and some who are saying that they’re simply not true. But the overall issue is that these deaths are going to happen.” “But most scientists …

Social Distancing and Stay-Home Orders Are Likely To Save Millions

A new study by influential researchers at Imperial College, London finds that COVID-19 is more infectious and deadly than scientists had thought.  The new Imperial study finds that had nations done nothing, COVID-19 would have killed 40 million and infected seven billion.  An earlier, March 16th study by Imperial College, predicting millions of deaths, helped inspire UK, US, and other governments around the world to take much stronger actions including stay-at-home orders, last week. Some conservative pandemic skeptics misrepresented the new study as saying something closer to the opposite of what it actually said. “Epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, who created the highly-cited Imperial College London coronavirus model,” wrote the Daily Wire, “offered a massive revision to his model on Wednesday.” What the reporter failed to note was that the revision to the model was based on the nationwide lockdown the UK government imposed, not because researchers had over-estimated the risk. “Our analysis, therefore, suggests that healthcare demand can only be kept within manageable levels,” the Imperial researchers conclude, “through the rapid adoption of public health measures… …

Winning the War on Coronavirus

A report released by Imperial College London researchers on Monday shook the world. The report gave a glimpse into the coronavirus’s battle plan. It was to kill over two million Americans and at least a half-million Brits.  Thanks to the wartime mobilization by the people of both nations, we can feel confident that we have thwarted its plan. There is very little chance that, after the lockdowns and social distancing occurring around the world, coronavirus is still on track to infect and kill as many people. But we are only at the very beginning of what will be a long, difficult, and deadly war, and things are changing quickly. To balance saving lives with minimizing social disruption, Imperial College scientists foresee societies engaging in several, weeks-long waves of social distancing between now and the fall of 2021. By then, most experts expect we will have a vaccine. We could get one sooner, but few believe we will have proven a vaccine’s safety and effectiveness sooner than 12 months. The events of recent days and past epidemics, …

Buying Fentanyl on the Streets of San Francisco—An Interview with Heather Mac Donald

Heather Mac Donald has written one of the most important essays on homelessness in recent memory for City Journal. In it, she argues that we’ve misunderstood the homelessness problem as a problem of poverty when it is, in reality, a problem of family breakdown and the erosion of social norms. While I don’t agree with all of what she’s written, I admire her fieldwork. She interviewed homeless people in San Francisco and even bought fentanyl, the synthetic opiate that resulted in over 17,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States last year, to investigate how easy it was. Such fieldwork is rarer than it should be among journalists and advocates alike. I thought her contribution to the growing debate over homelessness, particularly in California but nationally and globally as well, was so important, I requested a telephone interview for Quillette. It has been edited for length. Quillette: What’s a nice lady like you doing buying fentanyl from drug dealers on the streets of San Francisco? Heather Mac Donald: I wanted to test how easy it …

Channelling the Malthusian Roots of Climate Extremism

In a prank orchestrated by a fringe group called Lyndon LaRouche PAC, a woman stood up at a town hall event hosted by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) on Thursday night, and declared that humankind needed to eat babies to prevent climate change. Speaking with an accent reminiscent of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat character, the woman said, “We’re not going to be here much longer, because of a climate crisis. We only have a few months left. I love that you support the Green [New] Deal, but it’s not going to get rid of fossil fuel. It’s not going to solve the problem fast enough.” She added that Americans should “start eating babies” and “bomb Russia” as preliminary steps to save the planet. Ocasio-Cortez reacted passively, and later tweeted that the woman may suffer from a mental condition. But it was a prank, which might have been obvious to anyone familiar with Jonathan Swift’s famous 1729 satirical essay, A Modest Proposal—in which he argued that the problem of poverty in Ireland might be alleviated if the …

The Bigotry of Environmental Pessimism

Democratic Presidential candidates and the New York Times rightly condemned the use of inflammatory words like “invasion” by President Donald Trump and Fox News hosts to describe the desperate people coming from Latin America to seek a better life in the U.S. Such language is irresponsible and may very well have contributed to the motivation of a man suspected to have killed 13 Americans, eight Mexicans, and one German in El Paso last week. In a manifesto he posted online before the attack, the suspect also used the word “invasion.” While they are at it, they should condemn the inflammatory rhetoric used by environmentalists, which also may have contributed to the motivations of the El Paso shooting suspect. The suspect justified his mass shooting of people in a Walmart by arguing that “our lifestyle is destroying the environment of our country.” The suspect writes, “y’all are just too stubborn to change your lifestyle. So the next logical step is to decrease the number of people in America using resources. If we can get rid of …

Why We Should Embrace Our Age of Nuclear

The age of humans may soon be known as the age of nuclear. For two decades, scientists have debated whether we are living in a new geological epoch. They appear to have decided that we are and that the invention of nuclear energy should mark its beginning. Twenty-nine of the 34 members of the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) voted this week to declare the invention and testing of nuclear weapons as the beginning of the Anthropocene or geological age of humans. The two other main contenders for demarcating the start of the epoch were the rise of agriculture, which radically altered landscapes, and the birth of the industrial revolution, which has accelerated climate change. The 1945 explosion of nuclear weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the radioactive fallout from outdoor nuclear weapons testing, which continued until 1963, is physically embedded in glacial ice and earth sedimentation. Advocates for the invention of nuclear as the best way to mark the beginning of the human age note that, unlike anything done by hunter-gatherers, agriculturalists, or industrialists, nuclear …