Climate Change

Ted Nordhaus: How Bad Is Climate Change?

Breakthrough Institute co-founder Ted Nordhaus on climate science and climate change anxiety.


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How bad is climate change?

People are freaked out by climate change, especially young people. Scientists for Nature conducted a survey of 10,000 16- to 25-year-olds in 2021 and found that 59 percent of them were extremely worried or very worried about climate change, and large majorities reported that climate change made them feel sad, anxious, and/or afraid. On Earth Day this year, President Joe Biden shared a picture on X (formerly Twitter) of himself standing next to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) with the caption, "Young Americans know that the climate crisis is the existential threat of our time. They deserve leaders who believe them."

Today's guest says it's time to stop catastrophizing. Ted Nordhaus is the co-founder and executive director of the environmental nonprofit The Breakthrough Institute. He recently published an essay in The New Atlantis titled "Did Exxon Make it Rain Today?" which argues that while climate change is a real phenomenon affected by human activity, "we're actually safer than ever before." He says a deliberate campaign of fearmongering and exaggeration about the effects of climate change has misled the public and damaged the credibility and effectiveness of the environmentalist movement. 

Sources referenced in this conversation:

  1. "Did Exxon Make It Rain Today?" by Ted Nordhaus
  2. Global deaths from climate-related disasters
  3. Number of tropical cyclones globally, 1980–2023
  4. "Glacier Park's Glaciers Have Shrunk, But They Haven't Disappeared," by Aaron Bolton
  5. Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis by the National Snow and Ice Data Center
  6. Antarctic Daily Image Update by the National Snow and Ice Data Center
  7. Carbon Brief: "Explainer: Nine 'tipping points' that could be triggered by climate change"
  8. United Nations 2023 climate change report
  9. "Climate Change: Global Sea Level," by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  10. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)'s Summary for Policymakers
  11. How many people die from air pollution? by Our World in Data
  12. CO2 emissions per country


  • 00:00:00—Introduction
  • 00:02:50—The Evolution of the Climate Change Narrative
  • 00:05:23—The Political and Social Impact of Climate Change Rhetoric
  • 00:14:57—Analyzing the Science and Misconceptions of Climate Change
  • 00:23:46—The Economic and Societal Resilience to Climate Extremes
  • 00:35:30—A Rational Perspective on Climate Change Anxiety
  • 00:42:55—Human Migration Toward Climate Risks
  • 00:44:50—Revisiting Predictions From An Inconvenient Truth
  • 00:50:03—Addressing the Fear of Climate Tipping Points
  • 00:55:39—Human Ingenuity and Climate Resilience
  • 01:02:35—Carbon Emissions and Economic Growth
  • 01:10:36—The Climate Movement and Public Perception
  • 01:19:02—A Vision for a Focused Environmental Movement