A Winning Trifecta for Climate Science and Rationality
Michael Schellenberger had a few road bumps on the way to his current reality check.
First there was Michael Moore’s Planet of the Humans, then came Bjorn Lomborg’s False Alarm, and now Michael Shellenberger’s Apocalypse Never. All three authors sound the common theme that the hyper-green environmental activists who have captured, politicized, and monetized the concern for the environment have, as Lomborg explains, created a false climate alarm which has “costs us trillions, hurts the poor, and fails to fix the planet.” To varying degrees, all three authors come from a strong environmental activist background, which observation makes their public revelations even more noteworthy.
Planet of the Humans, the recent film produced by Michael Moore, caused consternation and a considerable backlash from the green activists and their allied backers by pointing out how traditional energy companies had co-opted the environmental movement by donning a green alter-ego and embracing renewable energy. By doing so, the corporations gained access to government funding/subsidies for wind turbine and commercial solar power installations and created a public relations victory for their vociferous eco-shareholders. Moore’s revelation that the reality of needing to provide 24/7 reliable electricity to consumers ensures that fossil fuel plants will remain the primary energy sources because of the failure of wind or solar to provide power if there is no wind or sufficient sun. Renewables do not displace reliable fossil-fuel power plants. Consumers energy bills do not go down, but go up, when renewables are imposed.
Moore also documented that renewables require large amounts of rare earths, cement, and fossil fuel energy in their production. They are both notoriously inefficient in land use, and impose destruction of large areas of native habitats. Further environmental destruction is due to the fact that the best wind or solar location is often remote from the most needed consumer base, thereby requiring the construction of massive electric transmission lines. “Factories claiming to have gone ‘beyond coal’ again and again turn out to be relying on natural gas.”
The film notes that biomass/wood chip power plants in England now rely on American forests. Rather than just using lumber waste as was first proposed, this has now turned into a major sub-set of the logging industry. Our southern forests are leveled and the trees turned into wood chips. The whole process of logging, processing, and trans-Atlantic shipping is all powered by fossil fuels. The basic premise of using “renewable” lumber as a bio-fuel is that the carbon dioxide released upon its burning will become fertilizer for a new generation of trees and thus the cycle is carbon neutral. The basic fallacy of it is that the time scale of new tree growth greatly exceeds the day-to-day weather cycle. No matter. Just imagine, American lumber keeping England eco-green -- a country well versed in cutting down its own forests.
With his recent book, False Alarm, Bjorn Lomborg continues to straddle the fence on global warming, aka climate change. As the original “skeptical environmentalist,” Bjorn has argued that there are more productive ways to aid humanity than spending billions trying to influence climate change. He has argued for improving sanitation, clean water supplies, basic nutrition, and providing paths out of poverty for the millions living in underdeveloped countries. In this book, he continues to press for a concerted effort to alleviate these ills, rather than accepting the decades of panic driven calls for “fixing the climate.”
He provides numerous references to substantiate his claims that climate change is real but is not the apocalyptic threat so widely advertised. Science, he says, “shows that landfalling hurricanes in the US are not more frequent than in the past. Droughts here have actually become shorter, less frequent, and cover a smaller area. Seventeen times more people currently die from cold than heat, and these people will benefit from moderate warming. In fact, global climate related deaths are an all-time low.”
…the projections of Earth’s imminent demise are based on bad science and even worse economics. In a politicized panic, world leaders have committed to wildly expensive, but largely ineffective policies, that hamper growth and crowd out other pressing investments in a better world, from immunization to education.
And yet, a schizophrenic-like mindset co-inhabits this rational evaluation of climate change and related issues. Section 1 of the book is titled “Climate of Fear,” and evokes memories of Michael Crichton’s 2004 “State of Fear.” A few pages into his introduction, Lomborg states, “Climate change is real, it is caused predominantly by carbon emissions from humans burning fossil fuels….” No question that climate change is real; however, he gives no reference for this unsubstantiated claim of human causation, which is the basic UN position, and the foundation for much green eco-activism. A few lines later, he seems to criticize the same UN:
After a 2019 UN climate science report led to over-the-top claims by activists, one of the scientists wrote: “We risk turning off the public with extremist talk that is not carefully supported by the science.” Media reports that we have to act by 2030 to solve the problem of climate change is the media defining what the science is.
Lomborg points out that this is indeed not science, but “what politics tells us.” He does not clarify what the “problem” is with the climate, though his chapter 6 is titled “You Can’t Fix Climate Change,” and chapter 11 offers “Carbon Tax: The Market-Based Solution.” Chapter 14 “Geoengineering: A Backup Plan” is recognized as “entering uncharted territory,” but “could play a role if we found that we needed fast action to avoid a looming catastrophe.” After calling for consideration of this back-up plan, the chapter continues with an extended discussion of the pluses and minuses of actually implementing it.
The reader will have to evaluate this recent book to get the full import of Lomborg’s latest effort. His most basic premise remains that there are better ways to alleviate human misery than spending taxpayer subsidies than on panic-driven, political non-solutions to a changing climate. Few would argue with that goal.
Michael Shellenberger has green activist credentials going back to his high school years. Yet over the ensuing years, he has had an environmental reality epiphany which now has manifested itself most clearly in his recent book “Apocalypse Never,” and with his starting the ecomodernism movement. The subtitle of the book, “Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All,” echoes the similar conclusions of Moore and Lomborg.
Shellenberger had a few road bumps on the way to his current reality check. Notable was his 2002 support of the “New Apollo Project,” which called for a major global science and economics research program to make carbon-free baseload electricity less costly than electricity from coal by the year 2025 at an expenditure of $150 billion over a decade. The Obama administration adopted many of the renewable energy proposals, but Shellenberger documents that much of the money went to “companies that enriched donors to the Obama campaign” but failed to produce the promised renewable energy advances.
Disillusionment gave way to reality, and in 2017, Shellenberger told The Australian: "Like most people, I started out pretty anti-nuclear. I changed my mind as I realized you can't power a modern economy on solar and wind.... All they do is make the electricity system chaotic and provide greenwash for fossil fuels." He has made numerous efforts to support nuclear power.
His current book skewers many of the claims of eco-environmentalists, including mass extinctions, saving of the whales by Greenpeace, waste plastic fouling the ocean for thousands of years, and increases in extreme weather events.
He reflects upon his early devotion to environmentalism as a manifestation of an “underlying anxiety and unhappiness in my own life that had little to do with climate change or the state of the natural environment.” It became a quasi-religion offering “emotional relief” and “spiritual satisfaction” for those, like him, who may have lost the guidance of traditional spiritual faiths.
Shellenberger concludes with the observation that “the trouble with the new environmental religion is that it has become increasingly apocalyptic, destructive, and self-defeating.”
So here are three environmentalists with different degrees of eco-activism in their past, but all now willing to speak out against the incessant climate propaganda of human-related guilt, the purveyors of anxiety, and the poisoners of childhood joy and wonder. Climate change is the norm; it is not mankind’s original sin. The readers here are encouraged to read the works of these climate realists.
[First published at The American Thinker.]