Climate Change

'Climate Change Is Real, But It's Not the End of the World': Michael Shellenberger

In his new book, Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, Shellenberger argues that science doesn't support doomsayers' claims.

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If there's one consistent message coming from activists and politicians pushing the Green New Deal and massive new subsidies for renewable energy it's that if we don't take radical action now, life on Earth as we know it will soon be irreversibly destroyed. Greta Thunberg, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.), and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden all have claimed that we have less than a dozen years left in which to save the planet.

The findings of the scientists studying global warming don't support such alarmist claims, according to the new book Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All. Author Michael Shellenberger argues that deforestation and deaths from extreme weather are actually declining, and concerns about environmental damage from plastics are fundamentally misplaced.

Shellenberger, who began his career as an advocate for more government spending on wind and solar, was eventually disillusioned after witnessing the failure of subsidies to fix the inherent drawbacks of renewables. Named a "Hero of the Environment" by Time magazine in 2008, he is an "expert reviewer" for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose 2018 report has been widely misinterpreted as saying we had just 12 years to stave off catastrophic climate change. Shellenberger also appeared in the 2013 documentary Pandora's Promise, which was shown at Sundance, and featured several prominent environmentalists who have come around to the virtues of nuclear power. 

Nick Gillespie interviewed Shellenberger over Zoom about Apocalypse Never and why he believes that environmentalism has become a replacement for religion in an increasingly secular world.

Edited by John Osterhoudt

Photo credit: Climate Emergency Sign, John Englart / CC Flickr; Biden with Bear, Michael Forster Rothbart/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Shellenberger on stage, James Arthur Photography/James Arthur/Newscom; Bailout the Planet sign, Stefan Boness/Ipon/SIPA/Newscom

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  1. “environmentalism has become a replacement for religion in an increasingly secular world”

    If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths. There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.

    -Michael Crichton 2003

      1. Michael Crichton nailed it square on the head.

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      2. Yes, nice post, nice find, and thanks for the link which I will save for later.

        1. Mike Crichton had a book to sell too, but riding on the long coattails of Climate of Fear doesn’t make
          Apocalypse Never any better

          Potboilers happen, and both are polemics of the sort that shivel under scientific scrutiny.

          The fisking has begun:

          http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2020/07/shellenbergers-op-ad/

          1. Here to peddle more bullshit for a ‘scientific theory’ which has yet to produce one successful prediction?
            Here to claim Crichton was ‘just an author pitching a book’, in spite or his claims being far more accurate than the catastrophists?
            Come back when you have *ONE* successful prediction by the watermellons.
            Until then, stuff it up your ass.

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      1. How fucking DARE you!

    1. Even if that sustainability goal has a carrying population of 0.5 billion instead of 10.0 billion. Hey, we’re making a sustainability omelette here.

    2. And if that’s not enough for you, anti-racism is the new-new religion. And they seem to have a more effective inquisition. Environmental heretics mostly just get mocked or ignored. Anti-racist heretics are going to be burned at the stake pretty soon if things keep going they way they are.

      1. Excepting the government or acts of force, fraud or coercion, I’m “racist-neutral”.

        1. Whatever happened to tolerance? Didn’t that used to be a liberal value? I find racism (by the old fashioned definition) rather distasteful. But if someone holds some bigoted opinions or would rather hang out with one race over another, it’s no skin off my nose.

          1. Are you sure? A sign I saw outside a church yesterday said “White Silence is Violence.”

            1. Hey, I can make up new definitions for words too!

      2. And if that’s not enough for you, anti-racism is the new-new religion. And they seem to have a more effective inquisition.

        It’s more appealing because environmentalism asks you to make actual sacrifices to your standard of living and to actively make things more difficult for yourself.

        Anti-racism, on the other hand, only requires you to perform some rites of penance, after which you are licensed to take all your bottled up rage at life and direct it at an evil person. Which is way more satisfying.

    3. Carbon credits are indulgences to be purchased. The government funded wind farms, Solyndras, and solar arrays are the cathedrals of environmentalism, paid for by the ‘donations’ of the faithful.

      Greta, the Joan of Arc, should suffer the same fate.

      1. Shellenberger himself has showed how fracking is completely dependent on public research and public subsidy. Is that an indulgence too, or are you just being silly with your metaphors?

        1. “Shellenberger himself has showed how fracking is completely dependent on public research and public subsidy.”
          You.
          Are.
          Again.
          Full.
          Of.
          Shit.
          Fracking began just about the time when the second well was drilled in Pennsylvania.
          You can bet the oil industry takes advantage of all the research funded by any source at all, including anything to do with advancing the techniques involved in fracking, but only to fucking lefty ignoramuses like you does that mean it is ‘completely dependent’.

    4. No it’s not. You just don’t want to have to change anything about your life so you believe in fairly tales about an environment that can never change no matter what we do to it. Climate scientists have no similar motivation to treat their field of study as a religion. It’s just a smear. It was when the late MC said it and it still is today. It’s a characterization without reference to any actual claims by scientists. It’s denial lobby fodder meant to make people hostile to any notion of progress.

      1. There are environmental concerns and problems, just as there is prejudice and acts of racism. Are they of pandemic proportions? Depends upon whom you ask and how much they want to believe. A bit like aliens.

        Regardless, racism and environmentalism, while both may be related in some “truth,” are largely at this time vehicles for a much broader agenda. Such as yours, to make the world “fair” and equal and to protect you from discomfort.

      2. Climate scientists have no similar motivation to treat their field of study as a religion.

        Then why do they treat Lindzen, Curry, and Lomborg as heretics, you lying leftard?

        -jcr

    5. Great quote. Thanks for sharing; absolutely right.

  2. Greta Thunberg, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.), and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden all have claimed that we have less than a dozen years left in which to save the planet.

    To “save the planet” or “save the *plan*”?

    1. Technically Joe Biden is telling the truth. If he doesn’t get any environmental legislation passed in the next 12 years, he won’t save anything because he’ll be dead.

    2. “Plannette.” It’s like a plan, but smaller.

      1. Pluto is a plannette

  3. Yes, the climate changes. It always has. How that undeniable fact turned into an excuse to try and destroy civilization and most of the human race remains a mystery.

    1. Humans should have stopped burning biomass to help prevent climate change and save the woolly mammoth!

      1. totes on Prometheus.

    2. ” How that undeniable fact turned into an excuse to try and destroy civilization ..”

      The apocalyptic is strong in this one.

    3. But it hasn’t changed to this extent in the entire time modern humans have existed. Do you really still not understand the most basic claim of climate science? Do you really think all this time and effort has been spent when the scientists could have just asked old common-sense John whether climate, in fact, changes?

      1. “But it hasn’t changed to this extent in the entire time modern humans have existed….”

        You.
        Are.
        Again.
        Full.
        Of.
        Shit.
        Read “Ancestral Journeys” (Jean Manco); the movements of cultures around Europe, Asia and, yes, the New World were driven quite often by changes far in excess of what the watermelons are claiming we will see, and the watermelons have a perfect record of accurate predictions: ZERO.
        You really ought to STFU; you’re knowledge seems to be limited to knowing where your ass is and little else.

        1. It’s raining today where I live so there is no Sahara Desert.

          Europe is not the globe, much as they may have thought they were at various times.

          1. “Europe is not the globe, much as they may have thought they were at various times.”

            Which, of course, has zero to do with the claim you, as a fucking lefty ignoramus made, nor my rebuttal.
            Fuck off and die.

  4. The whole premise of climate change as an existential threat to human life (much less the planet) is laughable.
    Americans have been moving from colder climates to warmer climates for decades, voluntarily. Now the warmer climate is moving to them. Climate change saves money.
    Our caveman ancestors adapted to much more significant climate change (the end of the last Ice Age) and flourished, despite having only Stone Age technology (except in Atlantis). Surely we can adapt now, in the age of air conditioning.

  5. For the religious; Man cannot do better than God at caring for the earth.
    For the others; man cannot do better than nature at caring for earth.

    Now, go find something else to worry about. May I suggest personal freedoms?

    1. For the political: These laws of nature once served a purpose, but have become obsolete. Congress should revisit and repeal those that no longer serve a purpose, and examine the remaining ones for any improvements that might be made.

      1. Progressivism is the explicit rejection of nature and attempt to combat or corrupt all natural processes

    2. Saying the earth needs to be cared for is like saying a hungry grizzly bear needs help crossing the street….um, ok go knock yourself out. I’ll watch from a safe distance.

  6. Nukes! Nukes! Nukes!

    1. #HALF LIVES MATTER

      Nick recycled this article, so I’m recycling my comment.

      1. somehow twice as funny. physics!

  7. Takes me back to the days when Reason used to toe this same line before Ron Bailey became a doomsayer clinging to talismans and hiding under his bed because he might get the sniffles.

    1. Ron Bailey
      Science Correspondent, Reason magazine
      Er, aren’t those ther days when Ron was on board with Mike Schellenberger at The Breakthrough Institute?

      Here’s his blurb there

      https://thebreakthrough.org/people/ron-bailey

      Ronald Bailey is the award-winning science correspondent for Reason magazine… He is the author of The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the Twenty-First Century .

      Of course that was before he learned some basic atmospheric science and vey reasonably changed his mind instead of continuing to spout the contrarian gospel.

      Go thou and do likewise.

      1. Of course this was before YOU learned that something claiming to be ‘science’ ought to be able to deliver at least ONE predicted, specific, verifiable result.
        Which, obviously, you never have.
        Fuck off, watermelon.

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  9. This is moving forward I suppose, on kind of the conservative overton window. I hope people have given up on the “somehow this research enriches scientists” who publish results supporting global warming. Whereas in practice the scientists getting money from exxon are the ones making actual literal money by publishing on behalf of mega corps. It will take a few years and some destruction of places like downtown miami before the window moves again I suppose.

    1. Or maybe he’s right and it’s not a looming disaster, but something we can deal with through a normal process of adaptation.

      Also, government grants fund a whole lot more studies than oil companies do. The incentives do exist to create a kind of academic feedback loop. I’m not saying that means it’s all lies. But there are incentives to publish certain kinds of research over others.

    2. Whereas in practice the scientists getting money from exxon are the ones making actual literal money by publishing on behalf of mega corps.

      Even by the estimates in a political hit-piece, companies like Exxon are spending at best several million a year, (“hundreds of millions” industry-wide over decades) including advertising and lobbying campaigns (the bulk of their spending). One full-time employee at professional salaries is going to cost you at least $250k/year. There is no crowd of scientists making ‘actual literal money by publishing on behalf of mega corps.’

      Government spending on just studies, not including the subsequent propagandizing, is on the order of tens of billions a year. Whole departments have been created in both government and academia, whole subsidized industries formed from whole cloth.

      No one thinks scientists are getting rich. Many have noticed that all over academia researchers have learned that your grant proposal needs to have the words “climate change” in the title, because scientists gotta eat, too.

    3. John Human
      July.9.2020 at 1:47 pm
      “This is moving forward I suppose, on kind of the conservative overton window.”

      John watermelln; got a single, accurate, verifiable result from one of your religious predictions?
      I thought not.
      Fuck off, watermelon

  10. Climate change is such bullshit, but, hey, anything to redistribute the wealth into the socialists’ bank accounts offshore.
    After all, stealing other people’s money in the name of a fake crisis never gets old.

    1. So how do you explain 1) that increasing the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere doesn’t cause more of a greenhouse effect and 2) that this is the case despite measurements showing that it does?

      1. How do you explain that all that arm-waving has yet to produce ONE accurate prediction?

        1. By the fact that it has and you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.

  11. I smell a cancellation.

  12. As long as environmentalists deny fourth or fifth generation nuclear power plants as a viable option I won’t take them seriously. Also, we’re almost at peak human, and why should all the developed nations have all the fun? The madness of denying developing nations oil, gas, electricity and such is cruel and inhumane. Over 3 million women and children die from smoke inhalation from cooking on wood fires, so really….duh. Lastly, what’s worse, a tiny little bit of warming or another (small) ice age?

    1. “As long as environmentalists deny fourth or fifth generation nuclear power plants as a viable option I won’t take them seriously…”

      Exactly.
      If the watermelons were seriously worried about ‘THE END OF THE WORLD!!!!!’, an attempt at reducing carbon with nukes would be something they’d embrace, given that any harm from a nuke would be local rather than global.
      They do not; they are not serious about their claims. They are lefties with no other harbor remaining to them.

    2. So if people disagree with you about the policy for dealing with the problem, you’re just going to go ahead and deny the problem exists, for that reason alone? That’s childishness. Make the case for nuclear. If we’re lucky we’ll get something you thought of yourself or at least that references some credible research.

      Oh and be sure not to explain that you’re coming from a libertarian perspective (nuclear couldn’t possibly exist in an unsubsidized market—though I’d argue that no energy infrastructure could).

      1. “So if people disagree with you about the policy for dealing with the problem, you’re just going to go ahead and deny the problem exists, for that reason alone?”
        The watermelons claiming it to be so don’t seem to agree with your PANIC!!, asshole, so why should we?

        “Oh and be sure not to explain that you’re coming from a libertarian perspective (nuclear couldn’t possibly exist in an unsubsidized market—though I’d argue that no energy infrastructure could).”
        So *IF* you’re right, nuclear power is just as good as any other?

        1. I’m cool with nuclear. But I never claimed to believe in a political ideology that disallows public subsidy of energy production.

          1. Started drinking early today I see; more idiotic responses than normal for this time of day.
            Fuck off and lie, you pathetic drunk.

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  14. Unscrupulous men have always used the weather as a way to frighten the peons, the Roman priest and the nazi did the very same thing to try and push people into submission….Man is nothing more than one of the present species that adapts to climate as the earth, a living planet continues to evolve because of it’s highly complex nature…We humans have much to learn if we can survive and adapt but Ma Nature is fickled and not your friend, she will have her own way and you can sit and watch, possibly die or take what she gives you and survive…We are moving into space because it has been decreed Earth is becoming unsafe and I guess Space and a new beginning are much safer……We are a absurd species but built to try…..

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  17. Greta Thunberg unloaded on the world in an op-ed claiming that fossil fuels “are literally” killing mankind, and that they are a threat to “our very existence” as she said that her “climate crisis” agenda is not just about the environment, but about fighting the “colonial, racist, and patriarchal systems of oppression.”

    For several years now, the climate alarmists have at least been more and more honest about their goals, and they have little to do with environmentalism or reversing climate change.

    For many, it’s about a new world order based on economic justice (aka: socialism), perhaps with some other SJW buzzwords:

    (OTTMAR EDENHOFER, UN IPCC OFFICIAL): Basically it’s a big mistake to discuss climate policy separately from the major themes of globalization. The climate summit in Cancun at the end of the month is not a climate conference, but one of the largest economic conferences since the Second World War… First of all, developed countries have basically expropriated the atmosphere of the world community. But one must say clearly that we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy. Obviously, the owners of coal and oil will not be enthusiastic about this. One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore, with problems such as deforestation or the ozone hole.

    Christiana Figueres, leader of the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change: “This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model, for the first time in human history.”

    Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti The Green New Deal “wasn’t originally a climate thing at all … we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”

    Emma Brindal, a climate justice campaigner coordinator for Friends of the Earth: “A climate change response must have at its heart a redistribution of wealth and resources.”

    Daphne Muller, green-progressive-liberal writer for Salon: “This moment requires we the people to rethink democracy as a global mechanism for enacting policy for and by the planet.”

    Gus Hall, former leader of the Communist Party USA: “Human society cannot basically stop the destruction of the environment under capitalism. Socialism is the only structure that makes it possible.”

    David Brower, a founder of the Sierra Club: “The goal now is a socialist, redistributionist society, which is nature’s proper steward and society’s only hope.”

    For some others, it’s about the money or power, and they’ll use the “science”, real or imagined, to that end (but still tossing in a few SWJ buzzwords):

    Monika Kopacz, atmospheric scientist: “It is no secret that a lot of climate-change research is subject to opinion, that climate models sometimes disagree even on the signs of the future changes (e.g. drier vs. wetter future climate). The problem is, only sensational exaggeration makes the kind of story that will get politicians’ — and readers’ — attention. So, yes, climate scientists might exaggerate, but in today’s world, this is the only way to assure any political action and thus more federal financing to reduce the scientific uncertainty.”

    Former U.S. Senator Timothy Wirth (D-CO), then representing the Clinton-Gore administration as U.S undersecretary of state for global issues, addressing the same Rio Climate Summit audience, agreed: “We have got to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing in terms of economic policy and environmental policy.”

    Christine Stewart, former Canadian Environment Minister: “No matter if the science is all phoney, there are collateral environmental benefits…. climate change [provides] the greatest chance to bring about justice and equality in the world.”

    Researcher Robert Phalen’s 2010 testimony to the California Air Resources Board: “It benefits us personally to have the public be afraid, even if these risks are trivial.”

    1. Why are deniers the only ones allowed to have policy preferences? It’s pretty likely that global cooperation is needed to fix the problem, so don’t act surprised when not everyone involved is a libertarian who wants to address it with unicorns and lollipops.

      Just to be clear, saying that hypothetically a policy is good even if climate change isn’t real is neither an admission about climate change nor a nefarious conspiracy to steal your bodily fluids. It’s just people with a political agenda same as you and everyone else with a keyboard.

      What me to start cherry picking quotes by deniers? They’re a lot more fucking dumb than the ones you dug up. A US senator brought a snowball to the senate floor to disprove climate science, so let’s just have a quote-off and see which side ends up looking more like fools.

      1. “Why are deniers the only ones allowed to have policy preferences?”

        Doesn’t that spinning make you dizzy?
        The watermelons were claiming this was an existential threat to the existence of mankind; they were lying.
        Now we see it is a cover to pursue the policies which cost the lives of millions upon millions in the last century.
        Fuck off, you lying piece of lefty shit.

        1. Oh good finally someone sensible to talk to.

          1. I rather suspect you just really want someone to make it all better for you, as you once remarked “I just want to live without worrying about how I live.” I raised my own children so they could be successful self supporting adults. Try it, I am not hear to support your little bitch ass.

            1. “…I raised my own children so they could be successful self supporting adults…”

              Tony’s parents didn’t bother to ‘raise’ him. He’s something-going-on-5, and will never become an adult.

      2. Why are deniers

        Fuck you for trivializing the Holocaust, you snotty little piece of shit.

        -jcr

  18. “Climate researchers uncontroversially agree that the average global surface temperature has increased by about 1 degree Celsius since the 19th century. About half of that increase has occurred during the last 30 years. As the planet has warmed, mountain glaciers around the world have been shrinking, Arctic sea ice has been declining, rainstorms have become somewhat fiercer, the area affected by extreme droughts has been expanding, the amount of heat being absorbed by the world’s oceans has been increasing, and the global sea level has been rising.”

    “I have unhappily concluded, based on the balance of the evidence, that climate change is proceeding faster and is worse than I had earlier judged it to be.”

    “Man-made climate change is a global open-access commons problem… Man-made climate change is a global open-access commons problem. It’s time for market-oriented folks to recognize these facts and figure out the best way to handle them.”

    “Will climate change be apocalyptic? Probably not, but the possibility is not zero. So just how lucky do you feel? Frankly, after reviewing the scientific evidence, I’m not feeling nearly as lucky as I once did.”

    -Ronald Bailey
    Reason Magazine

    1. The climate is one thing. The “green new deal” is quite another.

      No, you cannot have what I have worked for.

    2. Oh, good! Jackass has shown up to prove how stupid watermelons are!

      1. Hang in there, Savo.

        As soon as we hit Peak Covid Vaccines, they’ll get to work on a Dunning-Kruger cure.

        1. Are you hoping you’ll get better?

          1. Not at all– common decency demands we focus on arresting your decline into the terminally unpublishable idiotarian realm.

            Cue spitting noises from this poor wight.

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