Apocalypse never?

I guess the current entertainment in the climate world relates to Michael Shellenberger’s new book, Apocolypse Never, which is due to come out next month and is already doing well on Amazon. In a somewhat amusing twist, Michael wrote a Forbes article to promote his book, which was fairly quickly removed for reasons that are not entirely clear. What was slightly more amusing was the article itself, which Michael chose to frame as an apology, on behalf of environmentalists, for the climate scare. This is now being framed as a reformed climate activist condemning alarmism.

The problem is that nothing I’ve seen being presented by Michael Shellenberger in this context, is particularly different to what I’ve seen him present before. One of the chapters in his book is called Greed saved the Whales, not Greenpeace. The title would suggest that it’s just a variant of what he presented in his 2015 TED talk about how to save nature, that I discussed in this post. The basic argument is essentially that we didn’t save the whales, we simply stopped needing them. Not only is it somewhat disturbing to think that we shouldn’t explicitly try to save nature, the argument is apparently also wrong.

Michael Shellenberger is also an author of the Ecomodernist Manifesto, which Eli dissects quite nicely here. When he and Ted Nordhaus came to the UK to promote this in 2015, they invited Owen Paterson and Matt Ridley to join them at the launch event. Neither are typically regarded as Environmentalists, and Owen Paterson even used the event to bash what he calls the green blob .

If you go back even further, Shellenberger’s 2004 book with Ted Nordhaus is called The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World. There’s a 2007 book called Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. There’s even a recent paper on the origin and evolution of post-environmentalism that focuses on the Breakthrough Insitute, formed by Shellenberger and Nordhaus in 2003. Shellenberger did leave the Breakthrough Institute a few years ago, though.

If Michael Shellenberger was ever what would be regarded as a climate activist and ever an environmentalist, as is commonly understood, it doesn’t seem like it was recently. Apologising on behalf of environmentalists, for the climate scare, would then seem a rather bizarre thing to do. On the other hand, it’s very clever. It certainly gets the media’s attention. It also seems to make some people think that – if Shellenberger is changing his mind – maybe the climate scare is overblown. Not many seem to be actually considering whether or not he really is a reformed climate activist. Essentially, he’s managed to undermine a movement he’s trying to challenge, by apologising on their behalf, while also getting lots of coverage for his book.

Although this all seems rather cynical, and disingenuous, you do have to give Shellenberger credit for his ability to get media attention. If this wasn’t such a serious topic, it might even be quite funny.

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198 Responses to Apocalypse never?

  1. Just to add a couple of things. I am very uncomfortable with some of the rhetoric coming out of the climate movement. There is no evidence that climate change is a human extinction event. There is virtually no chance that climate change means that children in the UK will not grow up. It’s serious enough without exaggerating.

    On other note, when Shellenberger’s article was removed by Forbes, it was defended by WUWT, the GWPF, and Marc Morano (to name but a few name). I tweeted that this probably tells you all you needed to know. According to the comments on another climate blog, this is akin to the anti-semitisim of the early 20th century. The online climate wars are still alive and are as bizarre as they’ve always been, unfortunately.

  2. Zeke Hausfather says:

    For what its worth, Shellenberger left Breakthrough about four years back and is not on friendly terms with the organization. He has really gone off the deep end in recent years, launching a laughable campaign for governor of California, appearing on Tucker Carlson’s show as an expert on homelessness, etc.

  3. Zeke,
    Thanks. I was aware that he had left. I will put an update into the post.

  4. Tom Dayton says:

    I read his Forbes letter, and despite its brevity manages to cram in Gish Galloping, straw people, irrelevancies, misleading statements, and outright lies.

  5. Tom Dayton says:

    Zeke, if you are comfortable doing so, will you please give a bit of background and context on Breakthrough Institute? I’m a huge fan of your personal work, and I’m glad Breakthrough is supporting you doing that, but I’m confused by the mismatch between that and my (granted, poorly informed) impression of Breakthrough. Perhaps my impression of Breakthrough is unduly tainted by Shellenberger’s rhetoric?

  6. Rachel M says:

    Thanks for writing this. I’d never heard of him before but was sent the article today and wondered who he was. The article doesn’t contain any references and I don’t really have the time to fact check it. I’m not really up to date with what’s going on online in climate discussions. It’s enough for me to see all levels of government and all major political parties here on board with taking action. I wish things could move faster but I feel we’re making slow progress in the right direction. I have not heard anyone say that children in the UK will not grow up due to climate change.

  7. Rachel,
    Thanks. I agree; I think we are making progress. Slow, but going in the right direction.

    Rupert Read gave a talk to some school children and asked them to consider that they might not grow up. He was roundly criticised on Twitter by Richard Betts, and others.

  8. dikranmarsupial says:

    Isn’t there something between “fine, no problem” and “climate apocalypse” somewhere? ;o)

  9. Joshua says:

    I’m sometimes inclined to give something of the benefit of the doubt to some of Michael’s arguments. It’s kind of like RPJr.. There’s sometimes a bit of a there, there, not like a lot of “skeptics” where there’s never a there, there. I mean I find his tribalisric approach counterproductive just as I do with RPJr., and he fails at accountability for the divisive nature of his own input – in the same way as Roger.

    But I read through his Forbes article and I was surprised to read him claim that he only started being public with criticisms of the “climate scare” in the last year or so.


    I mean what?

    Seriously. What?

    What goes on in a person’s brain to make a claim like that?

  10. Tom Dayton says:

    Even Shellenberger’s use of the term “scare” is inexcusably monolithic and self-serving for personal fame and fortune, no better than “catastrophe.” My foundational notion of climate change effects comes from the IPCC report, augmented by whatever snippets I have time to read, from the ongoing huge volume of research that is detailed, varied, empirically based, and nuanced.

  11. jacksmith4tx says:

    No, humans are not going to go extinct but a lot of other species might given how we are teraforming the planet. Just the exponential growth of ocean dead zones and deadly algae blooms due to radical changes in the chemical composition of aquatic habitats is proof enough to see the trouble ahead.
    Shellenberger likes to slander environmentalist and climate science as members of religious cult.

    And Then There’s Nuclear (aTTN)!
    “Moody’s issued a credit negative rating on Wednesday for Georgia Power’s resequencing of construction activities for its Plant Vogtle expansion project.
    Georgia Power on June 23 announced changes to the timing of a structural integrity test and integrated leak rate testing. Moody’s said the late-stage changes to the planning activities signal “that challenges with the project continue, increasing the likelihood of additional cost overruns and further schedule delays.”
    Vogtle Unit 3 is expected in-service in May 2021, with Unit 4 coming online the following year, according to Georgia Power and Southern Nuclear Company’s “aggressive” site work plan.”

    “The expansion is more than a decade in the making, originally anticipated to come online in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
    Vogtle’s units must meet November 2021 and November 2022 in-service dates for regulators and an independent monitor of the construction, Vogtle Monitoring Group, assessed Units 3 and 4 as “highly unlikely” to meet those goals, based on its reviews of the project.”

  12. I wonder how many climate-action-delayism boxes MS’s book will tick from the paper: Lamb WF et al. (2020). Discourses of climate delay. Global Sustainability 3, e17, 1–5. https://doi.org/ 10.1017/sus.2020.13

    Graphic tweeted by Prof. Julia Steinberger with icons added …

    I know he loves ‘technological optimism’ (flying pigs), and ‘appeals to social justice’, but why stop there?

  13. Clive Best says:

    Michael Shellenberger also advocates Nuclear as being the only realistic low carbon energy to maintain a modern society.

    In that respect he is correct.

  14. izen says:

    “…advocates Nuclear as being the only realistic low carbon energy to maintain a modern society.
    In that respect he is correct.”

    Only if the definition of ‘modern society’ is something almost identical to the economic system and societal structures that have evolved over the last two decades. And there are no technical advances.
    His own enthusiasm for techno-fixes and the historical record of rapid economic and social change would seem to contradict the static BAU assumption behind this assertion.

  15. jacksmith4tx says:

    Are you sure? Setting aside the inequality and security issues of nuclear power, what does technology want? When you step way back is there a historical arc or a Manifest Destiny that technology and science is taking us? I think the energy networks are just lagging the communication networks. Away from massive centralized, single point of failure power plants and towards global decentralized micro and nano grids. This doesn’t mean wind or solar will be the dominate source of energy in 50 or 100 years but what ever it is will be small, distributed and nearly pollution free.
    My fall back position is if we do have a climate/environmental crisis then science will use technology to geoengineer the antidote.

  16. Willard says:

    > In that respect he is correct.

    Not really:

  17. Ben McMillan says:

    Another stat from this year’s BP statistical review: in 2019 non-hydro renewables overtook nuclear in terms of total electricity generation worldwide.

  18. ‘In that respect he is correct.”

    Of coirse he is. But no one here wants to hear of it. My faith in the utter stupidity do nothingness of humanity once again confirmed. Really sad that one, humanity that is,

  19. Christopher Clack and VCE’s work in Colorado is showing that the transition to clean energy can be faster and cheaper than previously expected. Getting to 80% clean seems relatively straightforward. The last 20% is harder (and I suspect, smart demand management and energy storage of different types and at different scales will crack this last 20%).

    Odd that Clive is such a strong advocate for a solution to a problem he doesn’t believe is a problem (dangerous global warming). Is this trolling or cognitive dissonace or just ‘dazed and confused’? And who cares, frankly.

  20. Willard says:

    > Of coirse he is.

    Except that he’s not:

    A new nuclear plant proposed to be built on England’s east coast will cost £20bn, according to planning documents that reveal the higher-than-expected price of the project for the first time.

    France’s EDF and Chinese state-owned CGN, the developers of the proposed plant at Sizewell in Suffolk, had previously indicated that the power station could be built for 20 per cent less than Hinkley Point C.

    Britain’s first new nuclear plant in a generation is under construction in Somerset. This implied a cost of about £18bn for the Suffolk plant, called Sizewell C, after EDF last year said the price tag for Hinkley Point had risen to as much as £22.5bn.


  21. David B Benson says:

    The future of the power grid:
    More flexibility, more competition.

  22. “Except that he’s not”

    Who cares what they cost if they solve the problem. The technologies are there for cookie cutter pocket reactors (say 100-500 MW), we’ve known this since the 1950’s.

    You pointing to 1970’s technologies, e. g. one off reactors, is not a solution. And it never was.

    Do nothing is not an option, but it is if you abandon really big batteries. 😦

  23. Willard says:

    > Who cares what they cost if they solve the problem.

    There’s a difference between saying:

    [Nuke Realist] Nukes would solve the problem.

    [Nuke Nut] Only nukes can solve the problem.

    [Nuke Pragmatist] Nukes is part of our toolkit and we need all the tools we got.

    The first claim is hard to verify, the second claim is obviously false, so all we got left is what I take to be a truism.

    A Marshallian plan to power the Western world with nukes is past us. Too late now. Some places will need them, but it’s too risky, too expensive, too slow to go bullish on nukes.

  24. You actually do not know what you are talking about. Who gives a frick about the so-called Western world, for example. A Marshallian plan … is an abject strawperson. 😦
    The rest of the world is building reactors as we TALK about building reactors …

  25. Willard says:

    > You actually do not know what you are talking about.

    No need to go nuclear about going nuclear, Everett:


    In return, please note that either you despair about humanity or you defer to its technological triumphs by dropping links. Can’t do both.

  26. There are doers and then there are thinkers. The doers actually do think, the thinkers are not doers and never will be. As in actually build material things.

    And get this once and for all, I do not despair about humanity, I laugh at, and in the face of, humanity. There is a very subtle differences between those two positions.

    As to your opinion about me dropping links, another abject strawperson. You should stop doing so. TIA

  27. Willard says:

    > I do not despair about humanity,

    Of course you don’t, Everett:

    My faith in the utter stupidity do nothingness of humanity once again confirmed. Really sad that one, humanity that is,

    Besides those who go on blogs to brag about doing things, there are those who are in write-only mode, and there are those who read. The claim on the table is that nuclear is the only realistic low carbon energy to maintain a modern society. This leads to the Nuke Nut option, which is silly.

    And since I have no idea what position you hold, you should keep your “strawperson!” to yourself.

  28. John Mashey says:

    It is silly to simply reject nuclear as part of the toolkit, especially if somebody can actually make one of the Gen IV reactor designs work, economically, deployably.
    But the nuclear industry lost 10-20 years in R&D and cost-volume curves matter.
    Following was inspired by Shellenberger & Nordhaus proclaiming “Breakthoughs” in 2008 ago, without evidence I could find that they had much experience actually creating them.

  29. verytallguy says:

    His twitter feed is hilarious, where he claims his status as an IPPC “expert reviewer”(1), and lauds Quillette as “the most important English-language magazine in the world right now “(2)

    He main actual expertise seems to be in self aggrandisment and faux victimhood.

    (1) this is a self appointed position, requiring no other expertise than being able to fill in a form.

    (2) Quillette employs Toby Young.

  30. I am not an anti-nuclear dogmatist, and have always thought that in UK nuclear has a role around its current 20% fo quite a while yet.

    It just seems there is a lot going against it on political and economic grounds. The cost of Hinckley C electricity is already looking very steep. Lots of claims for small modular, but can that industry really be matured in time for the urgent decarbonisation we need? And where does the standard economics of ‘economics of scale’ go with smaller reactors. No doubt someone will scream the answer.

    Then there is the issue of proliferation. Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan stealing Urenco’s centrifuge designs to enable Pakistan to get the bomb may seem an outlier to nuclear power advocates, but illustrates the challenges, especially with a weakened international orders where both USA and Russia might resume testing and other countries might think ‘sod the NPT’. Rolling our nuclear power globally strikes me as a complete fantasy in the few decades we have to avoid at least 2⁰C.

    In UK we are in hock to China for funding one reactor and designing / delivering others, because – even the 5th or is it 6th or whatever most rich country in the world – we cannot apparently raise the money and resources to build them. Now, with the situation in Hong Kong escalating by the day, Tory MPs are now lining up to kick out Huawei, agree to the citizenship pledge and probably rethink some aspects of the nuclear deal. The Government may lose a vote on Huawei despite an 80 seat majority.

    We used to think that getting out of fossil fuels means we would be immune from the political and ethical machinations associated with gulf states. Frying pan, fire, comes to mind.

    Meanwhile, the doers are getting on with it, having negotiated a great deal with our nearby sun to provide limitless energy, useable at multiple scales …


  31. David B Benson says:

    Richard Erskine — I earlier providing a link to BNC Discussion Forum which may well contain the answers to your questions.

  32. “… the Ecomodernist Manifesto, which Eli dissects quite nicely here, …”?

    This paragraph is the most ridiculous strawman I’ve ever seen:

    Ecomodernism postulates movement of population to large cities, industrialization of agriculture and the isolation of areas for nature. There is no room for enjoyment of hunting and fishing, botanizing and birdwatching. There is no understanding of the ecological services that nature offers us and without which we could not survive. No backyards to grill in and mow, but all must move into the megopolis. No place for wild pollinators. It is not that we do not know where that vision leads, and we even have examples today of nations that are essentially single cities such as Singapore moving in that direction.

  33. Mike,
    It might be an exaggeration, but it doesn’t seem all that far off what seems to be being proposed in the ecomodernist manifesto.

  34. Rachel M, I’m surprised that anyone following climate and energy would not’f heard of him. He’s the world’s leading proponent of nuclear energy. You should watch a few of his very well argued TED talks.

  35. As far as nuclear goes, I’m all in favour when it would be the optimal energy source. However, my understanding is that serious people who are pro-nuclear recognise that you can get a long way with renewables and hydro. Maybe even 80% of the way. Sure, use nuclear to fill the gaps, but it’s not clear that it has to be the dominant source. The issue is that what do you do in places that are still really developing. Maybe nuclear will be an ideal source in a generation’s time, but do we really have the ability (manpower and money) to use nuclear everywhere? If it’s possible, that would of course be fine, but it seems to me that there are many countries where wind/solar/hydro could play a big role in their development, at least for the short- to medium-term.

  36. Zeke H says Shellenberger has gone off the deep end.

    Tom Dayton accuses him of misleading statements and outright lies.

    Can either of you give actual examples?

  37. Sardonicism
    I am pretty sure that I have mentioned this before, my so-called method of writing at times (such as this one, well heck, a majority of the time), several times, but perhaps not in the last 1-2 years. At some time in the past, I stumbled upon this word and went “damn, even my writing style shows zero originality,”

    Oh and that 1st comment definitely needed some more tuning, a bit rushed, doing other things at that time.

    I guess it is nice to just talk and accomplish absolutely nothing, or to even induce the backfire affect amongst others.

    Physically speaking, not metaphorically speaking, do you take a dump on yourselves or do you take a dump on others?

    People appear to be fine with NIMBY, but that backyard is the only backyard humanity has, and yes humanity is taking all kinds if dumps in the only backyard we have.

    As to so-called developing nations …

    So while you all NIMBY nooks others not in your particular backyard are not NIMBY on nooks. Besides, why should you and yours really care what others who are not you and yours do over there in their backyards anyways. The West either rapes them for their natural resources or the West rapes them for doing their own thing. West continues to rape the rest of the world: News at 11:00. Perhaps you should stop acting like you own the entire backyard yes? TIA

  38. Clive Best says:

    @jacksmith4tx & others

    There is a fundamental difference between information (digital) networks and energy (analogue) networks. I agree that climate change is a problem that needs a solution. Suppose that solution means we have to electrify transport and heating. That means even after energy saving measures, that demand for electricity will double.

    Does anyone seriously think that wind and solar alone could provide sufficient power ?
    Only those with have vested interests in the renewable industry do. Can you imagine how international trade could work on wind and solar? Perhaps you imagine replacing diesel powered container shipping with sailing ships?

    A large baseload of nuclear power means that you can also begin solve these basic problems. At night you can produce hydrogen through electrolysis and methane etc.

  39. Clive Best says:

    Not much wind and solar in UK right now. Mostly Gas and Nuclear.


  40. Clive,
    I think that’s a bit of a strawman. I don’t think anyone is proposing wind and solar as the entire solution and that we’ll have wind and solar powered planes and ships. At the end of the day, what ultimately matters is how much we emit in total. The way we do this can vary from sector, to sector, or from region to region. If we can limit emissions in some sectors through renewables, then maybe we cabn use nuclear in other sectors/regions. Maybe some sectors keep emitting, but we develop negative emissions techonologies to deal with these emissions. There doesn’t have to be a one-size-fits-all solution.

  41. mrkenfabian says:

    Shellenberger seems to be making out he is a better grade of Environmentalist who just happens to want no constraints on fossil fuel use – to maximise economic growth – until we are all rich enough for global warming not to matter and we all agree to switch to nuclear. Which makes him very popular with climate science denying supporters of fossil fuels – who don’t really care about nuclear in the presence of abundant fossil fuels but like the anti-environmentalist rhetoric and the continued framing of the issue as about what fringe extremists want rather than about the consistent, persistent very serious expert advice.

    Seems to me Shellenberger blames Environmentalists for people being alarmed about climate change and blames Environmentalists for not agreeing with him about how to fix the problem. And the potential for inaction in that incompatible combination, a difficult and unpopular fix for a problem you don’t think is serious – by everyone else apart from Environmentalists – looks stark to me.

    Nuclear is in Limbo as long as mainstream-right politics remains thoroughly threaded through with climate science denial; they don’t care and passing the issue over to Environmentalists in a “you care so much, you fix it” manner – then complaining that the solutions are not the ones they would use – was and is disingenuous. If it were ever up to Environmentalists it is because those who sat in the seats of power and responsibility did not care and would not step up.

    When mainstream-right politics abandons Doubt, Deny, Delay politicking nuclear-for-climate activism will be able to mobilise latent support for nuclear – and, by emphasising the seriousness of global warming – commit to promoting it instead of complaining that Environmentalists do not.

    Expecting Environmentalists to do it for them… when nuclear’s best friends cannot even bring themselves to admit global warming is a problem? No wonder they like what Michael Shellenberger says about how it is all the fault of Environmentalists.

  42. Dave_Geologist says:

    From your excellent whaling link ATTP:

    Industries using low impact technologies aren’t necessarily low impact industries.

    Indeed. Ask the mammoths. Or wolves. Or the giant wombat. Or ground sloths. Or the moa. Or the dodo. Or European lions, cave bears and aurochs. Or Neanderthals and Denisovans.

  43. Dave_Geologist says:

    Clive, the past is not the future. Isn’t there a saying about it not even being a good guide?

    Offshore wind power cheaper than new nuclear

    And even onshore: SUPER BATTERY PLAN TO BOOST UK’S BIGGEST ONSHORE WINDFARM. Used to cycle out that way when I was a teenager. God, it was windy! And some steep climbs and scary descents with dodgy brakes, especially if the Eaglesham Cross traffic lights went red as I approached. There’s even a hill called Windy Yet. At least I’m sure that’s what it was called on my AA map, although I think it’s the one called Ballageich on the modern OS map. It has the cool elevation of 333m. Perhaps when I get bored I’ll look for all the 666’s!

    Not much good for anything else. Everything that’s not a Hill or a Knowe has Flow, Moss or Loch in its name. Sometimes two out of three. Oh, except for the Laird’s Seat, which is a seat in the same sense as Arthur’s Seat. And it’s surrounded by wind turbines so the Laird might not fancy the view nowadays. None around Arthur’s Seat I presume.

    Well OK, there are some forestry plantations (hence: Whitelees Forest). But I suspect it’s like the Caithness Flow Country (which also has a lot of turbines). You have to plough the peat into ridges a few feet high to make a dry spot to plant the seedling, which probably releases so much CO2 and CH4 that the trees won’t pay back for decades if ever.

  44. Dave_Geologist says:

    Cool – nostalgia rules! I found a 360° on YouTube: Eaglesham…Ballageich Hill 360 view.

    Clockwise, start is looking west. The big city about a minute in with mountains in the background is Glasgow. Must have been parky judging by the snow on them! Ah, listen for the comment at the end 🙂 . I’m pretty sure the triangular one is Schiehallion, famously used by Maskell to estimate the mass of the Earth from gravity measurements (deflection of a plumb-bob from vertical). Less famously, I helped repair the Schiehallion path in the mid-2000s as a volunteer for the John Muir Trust. Still have the T-Shirt (literally 🙂 – that was your payment, along with free board in a bunkhouse). As a labourer of course, the actual laying is a skilled job. That was parky too, early to get it ready for the tourist season.

    For the weather buffs, there’s a temperature inversion in the Clyde Valley (OK I got that from the cheat-sheet). There’s another wind farm in the distance about two-and-a-half minutes in. The large town from two minutes is East Kilbride, population about 80,000. The wind farm is from about three minutes. See, you don’t have to put them in the middle of nowhere. Although it does help if the middle of nowhere comes right to the edge of town 😉 . East Kilbride’s nickname was Polo Mint City, because it had lots of roundabouts and the big ones on dual carriageways had a hole in the middle with a sunken mini-roundabout accessed by slip roads and tunnels to segregate cyclists and pedestrians from cars. Imagine, cycle-friendly design in the 1950s!

    Its other nickname was The Windy City, for obvious reasons. I spent part of my childhood there and I was literally blown off my feet once, and blown backwards once on wet grass like a skater. I kid you not. Both times emerging from downwind of a tower block into the narrow gap before the next tower block. Just as well the 1968 Glasgow Gale happened at night. My school had overflow classrooms in wooden huts and when I arrived next morning it was closed, with broken windows and damaged walls twenty feet up, caused by the shattered remains of the huts as they blew around like matchsticks. Yes, I know, just another day at the office for those living in Tornado Alley. But you have shelters.

  45. Ben McMillan says:

    Recent evolution of the UK electricity mix is here:


    Of course, looking at any moment in time, you might see wind+solar not generating much, or being the largest generation source by far:


    What you can see is that you could add quite a lot more wind and solar to the UK mix before you get much curtailment. And so the dramatic decrease in carbon emissions/intensity of the UK grid is likely to continue for quite some time as more wind gets added.

  46. Spyder says:

    Ummm, Shellenberger was the Time Magazine 2008 Hero of the Environment, and was invited by IPCC to be the Expert Reviewer of its next Assessment Report! That’s good enough for me as far as climate activist credentials go! Pass the popcorn!

  47. dikranmarsupial says:

    invited by IPCC to be the Expert Reviewer of its next Assessment Report! ”

    citation required.

  48. Spyder,
    You’re easily pleased then. As far as I’m aware, there really is no such thing as “invited by the IPCC to be an expert reviewer”. Anyone can submit an application to be an expert reviewer. It may not be that it’s then automatically accepted, but the bar is – I think – fairly low. Christopher Monckton, for example.

    Might also be worth reading the “hero of the environment” article, which was awarded to them partly because of an essay called “The Death of Environmentalism”. It wasn’t exactly awarded because they were regarded as part of the mainstream environmental/climate activist movement.

  49. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Ummm, Shellenberger was the Time Magazine 2008 Hero of the Environment, … That’s good enough for me as far as climate activist credentials go! ”

    Shellenberger wasn’t on the list as an activist (and was only there in partnership with Nordhaus).

  50. verytallguy says:


    Hi Michael.

  51. Willard says:

    Here’s how Tony has been invited to be an expert reviewer:

    Each prospective Expert Reviewer is required to complete the registration form below. Prospective reviewers are asked to indicate the chapter(s) that they are interested in reviewing, provide supporting information on their relevant expertise, and confirm their expertise through a statement of self-declaration. Following completion of the registration process, each Expert Reviewer will receive an email from the WGI Technical Support Unit on 16 December 2011 with an individual username and password. Username and password will be specific to each expert and may not be shared.

    Register here:


    Note that if you have no publications to list, you’ll probably be rejected. Publications in any form can be used as long as they are traceable and relevant to the chapter you check to review. I checked chapter 2 Observations: Atmosphere and Surface

    My lucky number is 1029: […]


  52. izen says:

    “Perhaps you imagine replacing diesel powered container shipping with sailing ships?”

    The problem with scoffing at ideas like that, is that somewhere they are already in development.

    There are several projects under development to reintroduce wind power to large container ships, and even for cruise ships. The one closest to commercial use is the Neoline which uses giant sails and the manufacturer claims it will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 90% compared to other roll-on, roll-off ferries.”

    “The global shipping industry is experiencing a wind-powered revival. Metal cylinders now spin from the decks of a half-dozen cargo ships, easing the burden on diesel engines and curbing fuel consumption. Devices like giant towing kites, vertical suction wings, and telescoping masts are well underway, while canvas sails flutter once more on smaller vessels. “

  53. Willard says:

    A word from our doers:

    A Belfast-based consortium has been awarded a £33m government grant to develop a zero-emissions ferry.

    The group is led by Artemis Technologies which began as a spin-off from an America’s Cup sailing team.

    The project also involves Bombardier, Belfast Harbour and the local universities. The grant will help fund the project for the next four years.

    The world’s shipping industries are a significant source of pollution and have been difficult to decarbonise.

    The Belfast project aims to develop environmentally friendly, high-speed ferries, capable of carrying up to 350 passengers.

    It is based on a concept known as electric hydrofoil propulsion.


    The artist’s impressions may be a bit over dramatic, however:

  54. izen says:

    To expand nuclear generation, or wind and solar+storage to a level where they can supply most of the increased needs of a post-hydrocarbon society will need massive government backing, money and price support.
    What is notable is the enthusiasm for that investment and support for one option, and the distaste for government support for the other, depending on which ‘tribe’ the advocate has allegiance.
    Theneoliberal economic arguments against government expenditure are aligned against both.

  55. Ben McMillan says:

    Frankly, the faster diesel-powered shipping goes away through almost any means, the better.

    It is responsible for a huge amount of sulfur and other non-CO2 pollutant emissions, with a health impact even worse that the climate impact. Like with cars, you can improve things a bit with better fuel and better emissions control systems, but this doesn’t always work well and is tricky to police in international waters. E.g. to prevent sulfur emissions into the air, some ships dump it into the ocean instead.

    The benefit of electrifying cars is also mostly reducing health impacts of local pollution, climate is just a nice side effect.

    Luckily shipping is a pretty small component of transport emissions. And ships are big and heavy (low power-to-weight ratio), so there are lots of options: planes are way more difficult.

  56. The numbers to add perspective to this conversation are easily available from the International Energy Outlook of the DOE’s EIA.


  57. The book does a good job of contrasting claims by McKibben, Oppenheimer and the like with the Schmidtt and IPCC.

    I see much commenting but little reference to the actual book, nor the substance of the apology.

  58. TE,
    Why would one comment on the substance of the apology when it’s rather bizarre that he thought he was in a position to make one in the first place?

  59. dikranmarsupial says:

    “nor the substance of the apology.”

    There wasn’t any substance, the apology was cheesy rhetoric, presumably intended to provoke interest and book sales.

    Now if he had a good argument, he made a mistake in wrapping it up in cheesy rhetoric, which will reduce the interest in anybody likely to want to engage with a good argument, rather than just feed cognitive biases (which is what cheesy rhetoric does).

  60. verytallguy says:


    “the substance of the apology”

    Great Poe.

  61. It’s normal for people to have opinions about books they haven’t read.

  62. TE,

    It’s normal for people to have opinions about books they haven’t read.

    Yes, how else would you decide whether to read a book, or not.

  63. dikranmarsupial says:

    “It’s normal for people to have opinions about books they haven’t read.”

    It’s normal for people to have opinions about cheesy rhetoric. I dislike it, especially if it is from someone that thinks they have a cogent argument.

  64. dikranmarsupial says:

    I would agree though that Environmental Alarmism is a bad thing, but there isn’t actually very much of it, and what there is gets criticised by climatologists (Wadhams, some statements made by XR etc.). Of course it depends on how you define alarmist, I use something like “someone who exaggerates a danger and so causes needless worry or panic.”, rather than “someone who says alarming things”. “Alarmism” in the latter definition is not at all a bad thing, if we don’t appreciate the dangers, we may not avoid them.

  65. Brandon Gates says:

    > Of course it depends on how you define alarmism

    One definition of alarmism has already been set forth by AT: “There is no evidence that climate change is a human extinction event.” Shellenberger is of course all too happy to adopt that more conservative assessment, then points to a YouGov poll bearing the headline International poll: most expect to feel impact of climate change, many think it will make us extinct.

    It turns out YouGov is also perhaps alarmist about alarmism. Toward the *bottom* of the article is the chart containing the extinction question. It’s dead last on the list of major other AGW concerns, and significantly dead last amongst US/European citizens:

    Considering that polls which ask citizens open-ended questions about their major concerns typically find AGW near the bottom of the heap further weakens Shellenberger’s argument that envriobogeypersons are causing widespread alarmist panic on the issue.

    Presuming he’s leading with his best arguments leads me to believe it will be even less underwhelming, and thus wildly popular.

  66. izen says:

    To be fair to cargo ships, they may burn the dirtiest sulphur fuels, but as a means of moving a tonne of materiel over a distance they are by far the most efficient method.
    Aircraft are the least.
    One side effect of COVID19 has been to reveal just what is necessary, and what we can do without.
    Ships carrying bulk quantities of food, which is the delivered by train and lorry is essential.
    Millions of people flying in and out of every country every week is not.

  67. Willard says:

    Welcome back, BG!

    I see Turbulent One posting screenshots but I have not seen him going on the Tweeter to meet mt:

  68. Clive Best says:


    When I was 5 years old my family travelled by the P&O “liner” Stratheden from Columbo to London Tilbury Docks via Cape Town with 1000 passengers on board. At that time the Suez canal was closed and I think it took about a month.

    Now you can fly ~100 people there in 8 hours.

    I don’t pretend to know the answer as to which trip harms the climate more.

  69. izen says:

    the first information I found is this-

    A fully loaded cargo ship can average 20 nautical miles per hour and can travel 576 miles per gallon of fuel per ton of cargo. A fully loaded freight plane can average 560 nautical miles per hour and travel 4.5 miles per gallon of fuel per ton of cargo.

    So it looks like ships have at least a 100:1 advantage over aircraft in CO2 footprint, and a x50 advantage in speed.
    You would have to find a reason for getting there quickly a 100 times better than taking the time to make the journey.
    Just because it is POSSIBLE to get from Columbo to London in 8 hours does not mean it is a necessity as 3 months of grounded flights would seem to indicate.

  70. Brandon Gates says:

    Good to be back, W!

    I agree with mt’s count but I can’t officially comment over there.

    This has irked me since the beginning. I think Shellenberger’s pimping of not only denser bull$h!t factories, but MOAR of them per capita, flies out of the realm of likely error and past dangerously wrong:

    * Factories and modern farming are the keys to human liberation and environmental progress
    * The most important thing for saving the environment is producing more food, particularly meat, on less land
    * We should want cities, farms, and power plants to have higher, not lower, power densities
    * Vegetarianism reduces one’s emissions by less than 4 per cent
    * “Free-range” beef would require 20 times more land and produce 300 per cent more emissions

    Salami slicing the veggie lovers is an especially precious touch. It should be possible to see how free market inefficiencies snowball uphill from there, but more due diligence may be required.

    I might add a category “overstating a consensus” on the subject of butNo ExtinctionVI if only for the lulz.

  71. izen says:

    Oops, that is aircraft have a 253x speed advantage.
    How much does time cost ?

  72. izen says:

    G’dmit, still wrong,
    Aircraft have a 23x speed advantage…

  73. izen says:

    Also the shortest flight time I can find from Columbo to London is 13hr 40min.
    Concorde is no longer in operation…

  74. Brandon Gates says:

    Will someone remind Clive that the Suez Canal reopened some fair amount of time ago. Asking for a friend.

  75. Ben McMillan says:

    Think this probably marks the point where things were really starting to heat up:

    Also, as a partial history of ecomodernism and the BTI:


  76. Jeffh says:

    Ken, Shellenberger is doing what Bjorn Lomborg did. Nothing makes a better story than a horse that changes midstream. In his so-called apology, he starts off by railing on about all of the progressive things he did over 20 years ago. This is done in an attempt to convince the reader that his roots are progressive. Lomborg did the same thing when he claimed to have been a member of Greenpeace, that he is a vegan who rides a bicycle etc. This strategy is aimed at self-legitimization before dropping the bombshell: that the right wing neoliberals who advocate business-as-usual policies and deregulation were correct all along. Lomborg did it. Shellenberger is doing it. Note how his apology went viral across the denialosphere and in the right wing media. That is his true constituency and he will milk it for all of its worth. I won’t waste time here deconstructing some of his appallingly incorrect claims, such as threats to biodiversity and extinctions. He has not got a clue what he is talking about, but then again neither does Lomborg.

    What someone did or may have done in the past is wholly irrelevant to what they are saying now. Still, Lomborg and Shellenberger know that their credibility is largely dependent on their claims of being reformed progressives. Look how much mileage Patrick Moore has gotten by simply claiming (erroneously as it turns out, but facts are irrelevant to those in denial) that he co-founded Greenpeace almost 50 years ago. No doubt Lomborg and Shellenberger have learned from Moore how to package their anti-environmental beliefs. Sadly, it works. I am seriously considering working with one of my PhD students on a manuscript that addresses the ‘progressive-turned-realist’ strategy of Moore, Lomborg and Shellenberger. I think that it merits discussion.

  77. Jeff,
    Yes, I did make the Lomborg assocation in a Tweet.

  78. Ben McMillan says:

    “People should travel just as much, but do it by boat, not plane” has to be one of the sillier straw-men around.

    I’d be optimistic about ‘eco-modernist’ solutions to air travel (fuel cells using hydrogen from carbon free energy! electric planes doing Indiana-Jones style short hops!) but the airline industry have gone into full not-even-trying mode and chosen bio-fuel as their saviour.

    Keep in mind that about half the forcing is non-CO2 related: dumping water high in the stratosphere and contrails etc. Bio-fuel doesn’t help you there, even if you are OK with the land-use issues.

  79. verytallguy says:

    Speaking of Apocalypse (ok, it’s a lame pretence to being on topic, I know), the ever- excellent Science of Doom is active again, perhaps making the most of being locked down.

    Series on modelling of rainfall starts here


  80. AndyM says:

    I can’t judge a book by its author? Does this mean I have to give “Mein Kampf” a go?

  81. Dave_Geologist says:

    TE, Google the term “False Flag”.

  82. vtg,
    Thanks. It’s good to see that SoD is active again.

  83. Dave_Geologist says:

    vtg, I must admit I stopped going there when it had an overnight conversion to luckwarmerism. Along the lines of “OK, I’ve just spent a year or two prodding and poking climate models, and goddammit they were right and not only that, my own analyses tell me ECS is 1.5 to 3 °C and probably around the middle; but my gut feel tells me it’s at the bottom end of the range”. Perhaps a slightly unfair paraphrase, but not very unfair from memory. Around the same time a scientist who’d often engaged, Andrew Dessler I think, got piled onto with personal abuse and scientific ignorance by some escapees from WattsCurryland. Even the crowing about how the coward ran away was straight from that benighted country. It was so bad and so sudden I assumed the site had been hacked.

    Then it morphed into Curry’s blog with a string of “but the uncertainty”, “but the modulz” and impossible requirements, and I gave up. Is it worth going back? If it’s still off the rails it would make an interesting counterpoint to S&L because it really did build a deserved reputation for doing it by the book. And a parallel with the divergent paths taken by some of the BEST team and sponsors when they didn’t get the answer they expected, or at least wanted.

  84. Dave,
    I think what SoD presents is excellent, but the comment threads can be a little sub-optimal (to be fair, that’s true for most climate blogs, including mine at times). I do remember the thread with Andrew Dessler, where David Young did his standard “I’m an expert at turbulence and understand climate models better than climate modellers” act.

  85. verytallguy says:


    I think SoD has always been “sceptical” in the true sense of the word.

    Even if you don’t agree with him, his analysis is always interesting, and he’ll engage in the comments constructively if you have a point to make.

  86. Dave_Geologist says:

    Thanks ATTP and vtg. Maybe I was just so pissed off at that thread it affected my judgement. I protect my blood pressure by not visiting WattsCurryland and not being on Twitter. And I think it was the holiday season so I had more distractions anyway. Not that that matters to me (I’m retired), but friends and family are more active then 🙂 .

    I did enjoy it, in some respects the physics was dealt with more clearly than on SkeptikalScience (TBF spreading it out over many posts leading up to the “reveal” makes room for that). I’ll go back. Since there was a long hiatus at least I won’t have missed much.

  87. Jeffh says:

    Thanks for the heads-up on your Twitter post, Ken.

    Note how Lomborg didn’t raise a peep of objection when the right wing think tanks were shouting his name from the rooftops. He actually embraced it. Similarly, don’t expect Shellenberger to criticize the same climate-science denying groups that are spreading his latest admission. Don’t be surprised if he ends up as a keynote speaker at Heartland workshops and at other think tanks. He likes the limelight and he has found his new niche.

    I have been highly sceptical of the so-called ‘eco-modernist’ manifesto that came out four years ago and in which Shellenberger was a prominent signatory. The manifesto essentially defends several tenets of neoclassical economic theory, such as the possibility of unlimited economic growth and technology as a cure-all for environmental problems. These memes are well past their sell-by date given what we know about the human fingerprint across the biosphere.

    In his admission, Shellenberger claims that a mass extinction event is not underway. That is pure poppycock. A number of studies have shown that genetic diversity of species in well-studied taxa has decreased by 60% or more since 1970. Many more studies show precipitous declines in the abundance of amphibians, birds, mammals, fish, insects and other vertebrate and invertebrate groups. I am studying means by which the collapse of insect populations can be stopped and reversed. Shellenberger has no relevant expertise in the field of population ecology or environmental science and really needs to stay in his lane.

  88. Willard says:

  89. I can’t judge a book by its author? Does this mean I have to give “Mein Kampf” a go?

    If you wish to be informed about Mein Kampf, then yes, reading it is a prerequisite.
    You may have an opinion about Mein Kampf but like mine, it is worthless because we haven’t read it.

    Similarly, most of the opinions here about Apocalypse Never are worthless because there’s little evidence anyone has actually read it.

  90. TE,
    What you’re suggesting would make sense if there had been no promoting of it. Since there has, it doesn’t.

    Seriously, people promote their books in the hope of getting people to read them. The promotion is specifically intended to influence people’s views of the book. The whole point is to get people to judge the book, at least in the sense of whether or not they regard it as something worth reading.

  91. Willard says:

    Turbulent One plays a common move:

  92. Brandon Gates says:

    Is it kosher to judge a book by its sponsors?

  93. Brandon Gates says:

    TE, it’s better to read the reviews of Mein Kampf. Ask me how I know.

    As for the current work, I’ve only had to read his own marketing collateral to decide that it’s better to stick to the synopses.

  94. Joshua says:

    TE –

    > Similarly, most of the opinions here about Apocalypse Never are worthless because there’s little evidence anyone has actually read it.

    Do you think that’s in the book (have you read it?) differs significantly from what Michael has had to say over the years?

    If Al Gore wrote a book about climate change and said it proves that “skeptics” are wrong, and listed the arguments he made in the book, do you think you’d make no judgements about the arguments contained therein until after you’d read the book?

    I have to he honest, I kinda think you would make judgements of the book before you’d read it.

  95. Willard says:

    All these arguments are fine:

    (1) Knowing Mike, I don’t expect him to change his tune.

    (2) Since Mike blocked me, I won’t read his book.

    (3) Considering that the BTI playbook traditionally belongs to the Lomborg Collective, I’ll let others to pay due diligence to Mike’s new pamphlet [1].

    (4) Since Mike has been 0.5 out of 10 in the main claims he himself has chosen (v. mt’s tweet) I won’t waste my time with another “but nukes” screed.

    They’re too useful heuristics to play X-does-not-imply-Y games with Teddie.


    [1] No idea why thy Wiki’s “pamphlet” in French redirects to “parody.”

  96. Jeffh says:

    I read Lomborg’s The Skeptical Environmentalist and co-reviewed it for Nature with Stuart Pimm. The book is quite abominable, but it clearly wasn’t aimed at scientists in the various fields Lomborg covers superficially and with what appears to be directed conclusions (e.g. blatant cherry-picking. The chapter on biodiversity was especially risible.The hardest part for me was having to pay for it so that I could do the review (I did not want to promote Lomborg). As Kare Fog and others have shown, Lomborg’s book contains more errors than pages. Shellenberger is also clearly targeting his book at a general audience. Scientists will undoubtedly take it apart, but by then it is too late. The damage will be done and Shellenberger can then spend the rest of his career writing op-eds for the Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, The Australian, etc. and appear with conservative pundits like Tucker Carlson on Fox.

    In his pre-publication promotion/admission ‘apology’ article he already makes bold claims e.g. that there is not a major extinction event underway, that whaling was stopped because alternatives were found to whale oil etc. I am more than willing to read his book and respond to those sections that fall within my expertise. The broad statements Shellenberger made above are wrong, if indeed these are his conclusions. I am sure that experts in other fields will deconstruct the rest of it. However, those who buy his book probably just want to reinforce their pre-determined views, just as they did with books by Gregg Easterbrook, Lomborg and other supposedly ‘reformed’ environmentalists.

  97. Willard says:

    Welcome to the Contrarian Matrix, Michael!

  98. mrkenfabian says:

    MS – “Why are the people who are the most alarmist about climate change opposed to nuclear energy? Because this isn’t about climate change. It about getting CONTROL over the society.”

    Whereas the people who already have the greatest control over society don’t care enough to use the climate problem as grounds to promote nuclear as solution. If they wanted to fix the climate problem with nuclear they would not be trying so desperately hard to downplay the seriousness of the problem. And they would not have to wait until the majority of Environmentalists become nuclear supporters to have clear climate policies that support it, directly (subsidy and regulatory support) and indirectly (like carbon pricing). I saw anti-nuclear sentiment softening, then the Right doubled down on denial. Then came Fukushima. Then came low cost wind and then low cost solar. We are waiting on low cost storage – but no-one is going to build much of it until it is really needed, ie the commitment to W&S will come first. I suspect those early solar thermal plants with storage invested in something there was no market or market mechanism to extract value from storage, yet.

    I still think abrogation of responsibility by those with far greater power and influence remains a bigger issue for every kind of climate policy – RE and/or Nuclear – than political environmentalism’s preferring RE over nuclear; Environmentalists only stands so tall because the podium was vacant and only seem so loud because others have gone mute.

    Blame shifting to Environmentalism has been – after alarmist economic fear of having to go stone age, or just have to put up with higher power bills in 3 person, 6 bed households, with 8 bathrooms, 5 cars and a heated pool without FF’s – one of the most successful memes of Doubt, Deny, Delay politicking. Pure FUD in my opinion.

    Lukewarmers/ecomodernists package it slightly – but only slightly – differently, but it is the same 3D’er theme as the outright deniers.

  99. Willard says:

    A word from Mike’s publisher:

  100. Rational troll says:

    Is Shellenberger actually an environmentalist? I mean It doesn’t really seem like he does anything other than lobby for the nuclear industry.

  101. Jeffh says:

    On the Beck interview, Shellenberger makes the outrageous claim that many environmentalists want to deprive poor nations in the south the chance to industrialize their economies. Actually, it is the ruling elites who are the main culprits. After all, who is running the global economy? Environmentalists? No, it is a relatively small number of obscenely wealthy males who do that. Shellenberger’s attempt to scapegoat the environmental movement is both disingenuous and pathetic.

    Anyone who knows what influential politicians and planners like Henry Kissinger, George Kennan and others have said and written over the past 70 years would realize that developed nations promote policies of plunder by which a disparity of wealth between the north and south is deliberately maintained. There is plenty of literature to prove it: books like Looting Africa: The Economics of Exploitation, The Looting Machine, To Cook a Continent and Divided Planet: The Ecology of Rich and Poor along with the works of Jason Hickel and Mark Curtis are just a few of the many. They highlight the fact that western planners are well aware that our industrialized societies are profoundly unsustainable and require resources from less developed countries to remain affluent and dominant. Enabling the mass industrialization and development of less developed countries would conflict with overconsumption in the north.

    As I wrote yesterday, Shellenberger’s descent to the dark side is now complete. That he appears on Glenn Beck’s program spewing his nonsense is telling.

  102. izen says:

    “They are explicitly promoting climate delay. Explicitly to people who think climate change is a “hoax”.

    So the publishers at least recognise that it is not intended, or capable of turning alarmists into mainstreamers, but it might turn climate ‘Truthers’ into tepid lukewarmers.
    It is interesting that they think there is a niche audience large enough to make money, in people who will buy a book that confirms their errors than a book that educates and informs.

  103. Chubbs says:

    If the talking points supporting your position are dead wrong what are the odds that your path forward is headed in the right direction

  104. Ben McMillan says:

    You would think this would be party-time for eco-modernists: technological progress and deployment now permits massive decarbonisation of electricity and transport at costs competitive with fossil alternatives.

    Sure, their chosen technology has stumbled from one disappointment to another, and you can’t really blame a tsunami, putting all the carbon at one end of the steel pressure vessel, or fake-parts scandals on hippies, but apart from that they got exactly what they wanted. Why so angry, Mike?

    Not just a fake environmentalist, but also a fake eco-modernist.

  105. izen says:

    @-Ben McM
    “You would think this would be party-time for eco-modernists:”

    Some us who are more cynical, or paranoid, have long tagged eco-modernism as a front for vested economic interests in defending the status quo – BAU.
    Even their chosen techno-fix of nuclear might be seen as an opportunity to indulge in hippy-bashing rather than a serious suggestion given its lamentable history.

    There are also unexamined implications in their enthusiasm for high density mega-cities. These are not socially stable unless they have a very conformist population coerced by authoritarian rule.
    There are two real world examples of how very high density city living works out in the real world. One is the Singapore model. If there is plenty of money and a level of social control and surpression of dissent among the indentured labour that supports it, a very pleasant environment can be established for the upper elite.
    The other is the mega-cities of South America and India where there is a largely ungoverned slum or favela.
    Neither indicate that the problems of arcologies are addressed, or any where near solved by the eco-modernist agenda.

  106. verytallguy says:

    Schellenberger seems to be going the full Messiah complex on Twitter. Very amusing but also a bit weird.

  107. Willard says:

    Nuke Mike has been welcome by the trolling industry:

  108. Jeff,

    As I wrote yesterday, Shellenberger’s descent to the dark side is now complete. That he appears on Glenn Beck’s program spewing his nonsense is telling.

    He’s also been on the Heartland Institute podcast and on Alex Epstein’s podcast. Alex Epstein wrote “The moral case for fossil fuels”. I stopped listening to the Heartland Institute podcast when Shellenberger thanked them for what they were doing.

  109. verytallguy says:

    Compassion Willard.

    Just try to find some compassion.

  110. Willard says:

    Sorry, Very Tall. You’re right. The fight for Freedom could get worse:

    Sooner or later we’ll have to talk about reactionary centrists:

    Taking a political position is a cheap form of political action. But a lot of our thinking about politics is grounded in the idea that positions are more important than what political actors actually do to build and use power. Positional thinking leads reactionary centrists to the conclusion that if only the left and right could meet in the middle, wherever that middle is, we could settle contentious debates.

    For instance, writing in Enlightenment Now, cognitive scientist Steven Pinker posits that if only the left embraced nuclear power, they could compromise with the right on climate solutions. But he doesn’t account for the fact that mainstream environmental groups have been exploring deals like this for years with little to show for it.


  111. Ben McMillan says:

    Izen: sure, but if MS gets to decide who an environmentalist is, why don’t we get to choose what an an ecomodernist is? I mean, like someone upthread, I’ve generally found Zeke H pretty sensible. Maybe ecomodernism can change from the inside, or at least fracture into ineffectual warring parties.

    An ecomodernist’s apology:
    1) You know that rebound effect? Turns out that efficient lighting actually massively reduced energy consumption over the last couple of decades. Sorry. OK, so people did use more light, so there was some rebound, but we kinda accidentally insinuated that energy use might increase. Also, we forgot that a better lit kitchen, or having a warm house rather than a cold drafty one, is a good thing. Our bad, we got a bit too excited about being counterintuitive: turns out efficiency is actually awesome and not rubbish.
    2) And so on. Something about burning down the Amazon for soy maybe not being all that great?

  112. verytallguy says:

    See Willard?

    POTUS shows the way.

    Even though they’re left wing fascists he still feels compassion for them, suffering as they do from their apocalyptic religion.

  113. Willard says:

    Teh Donald, Jair, Viktor, and Recep Tayyip invented nothing, Very Tall:

    Like all movements, left-wing fascism has a somewhat chaotic ancestry. Foremost is what might be called the later Frankfurt school—emphasizing in an uneasy mix the early Marx and the late Hegel and most frequently, if not necessarily properly, identified with the works of Adorno. The characteristics of the Frankfurt school are derived from Adorno’s strong differentiation between mass culture and elite culture, and the massification of society in general. For the first time in the history of Marxism, Adorno addressed a strong attack on mass culture. This estimate of the obscurantist-elitist as- pects of Adomo’s later work does not refer to the demo- cratic socialist analysis offered by Franz Neumann, Max Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse, among others. Nor does it even refer to Adorno’s efforts while in America on The Authoritarian Personality project. But to deny the antipopular and teutonic characteristics of Adorno’s later works, worshipfully introduced in English by British and American scholars who should have known better, is to deny the obvious–and the dangerous.


    The Son of Lobster’s pseudo-POMO or Dinesh’s Big Lie have a strong and compassionate intellectual lineage. It’s the Fishhook Theory all over again.

    Check Bret’s column for more:

  114. verytallguy says:

    Thing is, Willard, all those centrist fascists who voted Trump didn’t really want to.

    The left wing fascists made them do it.

    It is odd, however, that all the actual fascists still do want to vote Trump and aren’t afraid to say so.

    I, for one, will try to feel nothing but compassion for all fascists in my benefience.

    [I’ve never heard of Bret Stephens and you’re not going to make me look. I have a feeling I might regret it.]

  115. izen says:

    Gotta love Patrick Moore’s comment –

    “I think Micheal Shellenberger’s apology for being an alarmist should be accepted. To err is human. I did it myself once”


  116. Willard says:

    The TRUTH is out there:

  117. verytallguy says:

    Willard, it’s odd isn’t it?

    If he wasn’t so sincere with his apology and compassion, his behaviour could be interpreted as deliberately stirring up controversy and choosing a message an audience wants to hear in order to sell more books.

  118. vtg,
    You probably shouldn’t look 🙂 but Ross Clark has a Spectator article suggesting that Forbes deleting Shellenberger’s article is the beginning of the next culture war. Makes me wonder if he’s actually listened to any of Shellenberger’s interviews. A culture war seems to be pretty much what he’s going for.

  119. verytallguy says:


    well, naturally Schellenberger is the victim of a culture war here.

    Censored, censored I tell you, by the Marxist leftwing fascists at Forbes magazine.

    How will the poor man ever find a way to be heard??

  120. Brandon Gates says:

    I couldn’t bear to click on the link of Danger’s Deliverance as again the lede put me off almost before I could finish reading that much.

    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 …

    It’s every conversation I’ve ever had with the social darwinists over at Lucia’s. I never realized how serious they took their Red-Teaming until just now.

  121. izen says:

    So Micheal Shellenberger’s main claim to be an environmental activist seems to rest on his role in setting up the Appolo Alliance, now the Green-Blue Alliance between some American Unions and some of the larger environmental groups in 2002.
    A time when American Unions after Reagan had ceased to have any pretensions of being a radical opposition to big business and become colluding and often corrupt arms of business operations.

    By 2004 he was co-authoring a book declaring environmentalism dead, and in 2007 when establishing the Breakthrough Institute He was explicitly repudiating environmental activism.

    That he STILL ‘apologising’ for being an environmental activist, 16 years later, is rather reminiscent of the ardent religious convert who proclaims the strength of his convictions, not by pointing to any current ‘good works’ but by continually boasting (and often exaggerating) the sinful life he used to lead.
    But then there is always a market amongst the devotees to an ideology for selling exculpatory confessionals of heinous past behaviour.

  122. Joshua says:

    izen –

    > That he STILL ‘apologising’ for being an environmental activist, 16 years later..

    If course, it’s not a heartfelt, authentic apology, or even real . It’s a rhetorical ploy to enable some world class hippie-punching.

  123. Joshua says:

    Hey Brandon. How ya’ doin’?

  124. Brandon Gates says:

    Hey Joshua, I’m enjoying semi-retirement from climateball and using the pandemic as excuse to improve the garden (and hopefully my garden). Thanks for asking, you?

  125. Willard says:

    The master plan has been laid out:

  126. Brandon Gates says:

    In other semi-related news, The Economist is bullish on COVID19 adaptation:

    The world is not experiencing a second wave: it never got over the first. Some 10m people are known to have been infected. Pretty much everywhere has registered cases (Turkmenistan and North Korea have not, though, like Antarctica). For every country such as China, Taiwan and Vietnam, which seems to be able to contain the virus, there are more, in Latin America and South Asia, where it is raging. Others, including the United States, are at risk of losing control or, in much of Africa, in the early phase of their epidemic. Europe is somewhere in between.

    The worst is to come. Based on research in 84 countries, a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reckons that, for each recorded case, 12 go unrecorded and that for every two covid-19 deaths counted, a third is misattributed to other causes. Without a medical breakthrough, it says, the total number of cases will climb to 200m-600m by spring 2021. At that point, between 1.4m and 3.7m people will have died. Even then, well over 90% of the world’s population will still be vulnerable to infection—more if immunity turns out to be transient.

    We’ve also “had to adapt” to the same order of magnitude of indoor and outdoor pollution deaths per year.

    Here in California, Governor Gav is rolling back reopening in the worst-hit counties, which also happen to coincide with the concentrations of Shellenberger’s buddies: Orange, LA and especially Santa Clara counties. Ooh, and Marin is particularly bad right now as well.

    Joke around my house is, “it’s too bad the virus isn’t selective for stupidity, just spread by it.” I’m going to extend that to greed.

  127. Steven Mosher says:

    ” Essentially, he’s managed to undermine a movement he’s trying to challenge, by apologising on their behalf, while also getting lots of coverage for his book.”

    slick move.

  128. Steven Mosher says:

    “The rest of the world is building reactors as we TALK about building reactors …”


  129. Jeffh says:

    “Essentially, he’s managed to undermine a movement he’s trying to challenge, by apologising on their behalf, while also getting lots of coverage for his book.”

    This proves that Shellenberger is more interested in promoting himself and his book than on his phony credentials as an ‘environmentalist’. It is a slick move alright – for bolstering his ego and bank balance. For the biosphere? Not at all.

    Any time the corporate media labels someone like Lomborg or Shellenberger a ‘hero of the environment’ alarm bells should be ringing. They are effectively saying that anyone who promotes BAU under neoliberal capitalism with a few tweaked caveats is their kind of person and deserves accolades. Anyone who really challenges the status quo is vilified or ignored. Both Lomborg and Shellenberger actually would come near to bottom of any truly progressive environmental table. ‘Heroes of the environment’ that are feted by the likes of the Heartland Institute are not heroes at all.

  130. Joshua says:

    Hey Brandon. Hanging in there. Also spending a lot of time felling trees, fighting off tomato blight, and nobely defending stone fruit trees from canker…

  131. pendantry says:


    No, humans are not going to go extinct but a lot of other species might given how we are teraforming the planet. Just the exponential growth of ocean dead zones and deadly algae blooms due to radical changes in the chemical composition of aquatic habitats is proof enough to see the trouble ahead.

    It’s not a case of ‘a lot of other species might’ go extinct. A lot of species are going extinct as a direct result of our failure to control our own explosive expansion into their domains. Koalas will be gone by 2050, if not before. Orangutans will be gone in eight years.

    As for whether or not humans will survive: that depends largely upon the severity of the temperature rise we’re imposing on the planet. The jury is still out on that question.

    I also, pedantically, take objection to your use of the word ‘teraforming’ (sic). What we had was a holocene Earthly paradise, in which humanity flourished: what we’re doing now is anything but ‘terraforming’ — in fact it’s the direct opposite.

  132. jacksmith4tx says:

    I said ‘might’ because we aspire to control the planet’s biologic destiny with genetic engineering.
    Extinction is indeed happening now:
    I accept your critique of the my use of the word terraforming as it implies we have plan or blueprint when if fact it’s anything but.

  133. izen says:

    “What we had was a holocene Earthly paradise, in which humanity flourished:”

    I don’t think there was anything intrinsically paradisaical about the Holocene that allowed humanity to flourish.
    Humans had already spent at least 150,000 years as a small element of the natural ecology along with other hominids.

    What changed in the Holocene was first the development of agriculture. That evolved into widespread interventions in irrigation and slash and burn to turn forest into farmland.
    The domestication of some large mammals and the eradication of others was also part of this.
    Emerging from that innovative change is the city. Dense population centres that require the manufacture of shelter and the management of water and food supply.
    From the beginning of the flourishing of humanity it has involved significant land use changes impacting natural habitats. Plants and animal ecologies were subject to radical change.
    The development of industrial processes that add CO2 and other chemicals to the environment in geologically significant amounts over a few centuries is just the latest step in this flourishing.

  134. Brandon Gates says:

    > I don’t think there was anything intrinsically paradisaical about the Holocene that allowed humanity to flourish.

    I don’t know what the literature consensus is on this if any. I’ve seen several arguments that the Holocene’s relative stability compared to the past 300ka is what allowed sedentary agriculture to finally take hold. Richardson et al 2001 argue that sedentary agriculture was not only impossible before the Holocene, but *mandatory* afterward.

    My answer to the question of “best” climate for humanity is the one to which modern civilization has already adapted. The burden of proof for BAU as closer to optimal should rest on those who make that argument.

  135. Shellenberger makes false claims that anyone familiar with the published evidence can debunk. It seems a lot of those defending him either don’t know the evidence, or care less about evidence and more about the narrative Shellenberger helps them to peddle.

  136. izen says:

    “I’ve seen several arguments that the Holocene’s relative stability compared to the past 300ka is what allowed sedentary agriculture to finally take hold.”

    The Richardson argument is persuasive, but ends up being that it must be Holocene climate stability because the Pleistocene glacial had an unstable climate and we don’t have any other explanation.
    But there is increasing evidence that the Eocene interglacial had a stable climate, at least for a comparable time to the Holocene-
    But there is absolutely no evidence from botanical or zoological sources that domestication and agriculture was a factor in any hominids during this period.
    There is a real mystery around why H. Saps wandered around the globe for ~70,00 years and then within a few centuries settled down into villages and domesticated plants and animals in China, the Indus valley and Mesopotamia around 11,000 BPE.
    It is almost certainly multi-factored given the various types and timings of the transition to agriculture in different regions. That climate stability may be necessary is convincing, whether it is sufficient is much less credible.

  137. izen says:

    NG should have been BG, Brandon Gates
    I’m blaming my new keyboard, it is a different length/size to the old one with super sensitive keys, very good for typos…

  138. Brandon Gates says:

    > That climate stability may be necessary is convincing, whether it is sufficient is much less credible.

    Good point. We’re certainly arguing today that climate stability going forward is more optimal than a non-mitigation pathway, a clear motive for this line of research. Everything else I could write from here has already been said upthread by others better-informed. Thanks for the reading, it’s certainly piqued my interest even further.

  139. David B Benson says:

    izen — Some state that it was the Younger Dryas but I opine that it is love of beer:

  140. izen says:

    “…but I opine that it is love of beer”

    It is certainly the case that the use of grain for beer, poppy datura, mescal and peyote and cannabis cultivation all seem to be contemporaneous with the advent of agriculture.
    Perhaps Richardson’s idea that food crops would not have been cultivated in an unstable climate because they would not have provided nutrition, needs to consider human drives to obtain certain plant products for reasons other than calories.

  141. Dave_Geologist says:

    But there is increasing evidence that the Eocene interglacial had a stable climate

    So why didn’t Ida and her chums develop agriculture?

    Ah, I see, probably not on the human lineage after all 😦 .

    Nevertheless, I salute our ancient lemur overlords!

    On a more sombre note, it was the PETM disruption which opened up the evolutionary niches for primate diversification. Nicely bookended (not) by us de-diversifying our primate cousins if not, so far, ourselves.

  142. Joshua says:

    Off topic – but for Steve:

    In comparing attitudes about masks between the US and S. Korea

  143. Willard says:

  144. “The rest of the world is building reactors as we TALK about building reactors …”

    I’d recommend watching Shellenberger’s congressional testimony about this.

  145. Willard says:

    I would too. Here’s Nuke Mike leading with a white lie:

    My name is Michael Shellenberger, and I am Founder and President of Environmental Progress, an independent non-profit research organization funded by charitable philanthropies and individuals with no financial interest in our findings. As background, I am an invited expert reviewer of the next assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a regular contributor to the New York Times, Washington Post, Forbes, and other publications, and a Time Magazine“ Hero of the Environment.”


  146. verytallguy says:


    Iies aside, I often find that self description as a hero and humility are commonly found side by side.

  147. Willard says:

    No less a Hero of the Environment for a gig he has not advertised, Very Tall. No mention of the Breakthrough Institute in that testimony either. There lies the power of true humility.

    There is a letter annexed to Nuke Mike’s testimony. The start is promising:

    Dear [Donald],

    We are writing as nuclear energy advocates and industry leaders to express our support for your goal of American energy dominance, offer our ideas and support for achieving that goal, and request a meeting to discuss them.


  148. Jeffh says:

    As I said above, the corporate-state media deems closet contrarians as ‘heroes’ for effectively advocating the status quo (effectively changing nothing). Shellenberger is a tweaker, like Lomborg. His big talk amounts to profoundly minor adjustments in ongoing programs, but nothing that rocks the neoliberal boat. The word ‘environmental’ preceding hero should be replaced by ‘corporate’. True environmental heroes pushing for the radical changes necessary to pull our species back from the abyss to which it is headed are ignored or vilified.

    As for humility, there is none. Shellenberger’s bloated ego is pasted on everything he says and writes. His scathing response to the puff-piece criticism in the Australian Guardian was telling. It takes a mere breeze to rile him. When scientists begin to finally respond more strongly to some of the nonsense in his book, then his true Mr. Hyde persona will become apparent.

  149. Willard says:

    In response, Judy and Junior try to play ClimateBall with Zeke.

    They should have known not play ClimateBall with Zeke.

  150. verytallguy says:

    In which Schellenberger claims that hurricanes don’t count as natural disasters, so increasing hurricane strength doesn’t count as an impact on natural disasters.


  151. dikranmarsupial says:

    What a very depressing thread (apart from Zeke), partisan sniping and very little in the way of substantive argument.

  152. Joshua says:

    > (apart from Zeke)

    IMO, everyone involved should learn from Zeke’s example about how to communicate about science in the public sphere:

    And conveniently, we can follow Zeke to find perfect examples of how not to communicate about science in the public sphere.

  153. dikranmarsupial says:

    Joshua – indeed, polite, forgoing ad-hominems and being willing to engage in constructive discussion. It will never catch on! ;o)

  154. Jeffh says:

    Dikran, I agree. One commenter Jack Peterson claims that extinction rates are only marginally above natural background extinction rates. That is total nonsense. The current rate of extinction exceeds natural background rates by between 100 and 1000 times (or even more). Peterson simply made the argument up and I cannot blame Hausfather for not being able to counter it because it is not his field of expertise. Moreover, extinction is not only based on species loss but on the loss of genetic variation within populations. Across the biosphere the abundance of well-studied taxa has decreased by around 60% for well-studied taxa of plants and animals over the past 50 years (Dirzo et al., 2014, Science). For marine fish, especially species at the top of the food chain, it is much worse than that. In 1997 Hughes et al. estimated that the planet was losing around 30,000 genetically distinct populations a day out of a global total of 6 to 10 billion (Science). For sure that has accelerated since then.

    We are into the early stages of a mass extinction event for sure. Those who claim otherwise aere wrong.

  155. vtg,

    In which Schellenberger claims that hurricanes don’t count as natural disasters, so increasing hurricane strength doesn’t count as an impact on natural disasters.

    Turns out to be quite a convoluted issue. As you’ve realised, a natural disaster is something that happens to us as a consequence of some event, such as a Tropical Cyclone hitting a populated region. The Tropical Cyclone is, by itself, not a natural disaster.

    The next complication relates to the claim that climate change is not making natural disasters worse. Your immediate thought might be that this has to be relative to a counterfactual world without climate change, or maybe even relative to a world where we haven’t enhanced our resilience. But, no, it’s only worse if things are actually worse. For example, more deaths now than in the past. Then you might think, but hold on, haven’t the damage costs increased, even in real terms? Well, yes, but not if you normalise to something like GDP. So, again, not worse.

    There’s a whole series of steps you need to take in order to recognise that climate change is not making natural disasters worse. I suspect that there will be additional steps taken in future in order to sustain this conclusion that climate change is not making natural disasters worse.

  156. Joshua,
    It’s hard to communicate as effectively as Zeke. Those of us who’ve tried, and failed, have hopefully at least helped to create an environment where Zeke can thrive 🙂

  157. Brandon Gates says:

    Nick Stokes too.

    Contrarians are rude because they can’t be satisfied. Judith insists that Zeke should have put the entire article in the overview

  158. Brandon,
    Indeed, Nick is another example of someone who can remain unflustered while trying to engage with contrarians.

  159. Willard, you accused Shellenberger of a white lie with a highlighted quote about being an expert reviewer. I followed your link and its footnote and can’t find anything that could be construed as evidence of a lie. What am I missing?

  160. Mike,
    I may be mistaken, but I don’t think anyone is “invited” to be an IPCC reviewer. You apply and are, typically, accepted. It’s possible that the acceptance comes in the form of some kind of invitation, but it’s a bit of a stretch to describe the acceptance of a request to become something, as an invitation.

  161. Someone at the IPCC could have asked him to be an “expert” reviewer.

  162. Mike,
    I don’t think there is a formal process for doing that. Even if an IPCC author suggested that Shellenberger applied to become a reviewer, that isn’t what anyone would recognise as an invitation from the IPCC.

  163. verytallguy says:

    “I suspect that there will be additional steps taken in future in order to sustain this conclusion that climate change is not making natural disasters worse.”

    I suspect your suspicions are well founded.

  164. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Someone at the IPCC could have asked him to be an “expert” reviewer.”

    That doesn’t make him an invited expert reviewer. If someone associated with a conference suggests that my work (if I had time for that sort of thing anymore) would be a great fit for the conference, that wouldn’t make it an invited paper. If the program committee formally send me an invitation *then* it is an invited paper.

    The obvious CV embellishment along with the pretense of being an environmentalist ought to raise alarm bells (and eyebrows). It doesn’t necessarily mean that the arguments in the book are poor, but I suspect there is a corellation in these things.

  165. verytallguy says:

    To be fair to Schellenberger, he does seem to be correct on one point – he’s showing an email which does, indeed, seem to be an invitation to be an expert reviewer.


  166. vtg,
    Interesting. I guess I stand corrected.

  167. Dear colleague,

    We are sending this invitation to all former reviewers of AR4 WGIII. You are on that list with a few thousand others, thus the reference to a so-called colleague in this autonomous email. Join us.

    Otto N.O. Mouse-Bot

  168. Willard says:

    Here is the invitation for WGII, AT:

    “We invite experts from all over the world to participate in the review of the IPCC Working Group II assessment of the impacts of climate change, the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, and options for adapting to it,” said Debra Roberts and Hans-Otto Pörtner, the Co-Chairs of Working Group II, in a joint statement.


    Consider yourself invited!

  169. verytallguy says:

    Pity Schellenberger.


    Censored. CENSORED I say.

    It’s *impossible* to find his writings anywhere!!

    Myself? I feel nothing but compassion for him. My humility in this is confirmed by my invitation to apply for a Nobel… [that’s enough. Ed.]

  170. David B Benson says:

    Up to 6 meter higher waves in the Arctic:

    Catastrophe for the Arctic villagers.

  171. Jeffh says:

    I read vtg’s link.

    Michael Shellenberger’s attempt to downplay the seriousness of biodiversity loss, and not to attribute it to human activity, is quite frankly pathetic. He quotes scientist Josef Settele, whose work I know well, in a desperate attempt to downplay the argument that species and populations are collapsing. Bear in mind that Shellenberger has no formal expertise in the area of population or systems ecology, so if he was being objective, he would consult volumes of empirical evidence and seek the opinions of experts who study many taxa. He doesn’t. Like other contrarians, he does his mass-cherry picking exercise in order to promulgate directed conclusions. Lomborg did it in TSE, and Shellenberger repeats the exercise in AN.

    Citing claims from a hugely conservative body like the IUCN is profoundly misleading. I am a major critic of the IUCN for two major reasons. First, a species is not formally classified as being extinct unless it is not verifiably recorded from nature for 50 years. That is a huge time lag. Indeed, many species that were lost in the 1970s are still officially ‘extant’. There has been a lot of serious harm done to the environment since then, and the effects of climate change on species and populations is a much more recent phenomenon. Second, and more importantly, the IUCN lists may species whose populations are in free-fall as being of ‘least concern’. Whereas they are very rightfully concerned about primates, when it comes to many other mammals, reptiles, birds and invertebrates that ‘LC’ tag is applied to species whose demographics are of great concern to scientists. I can think of many in temperate zones but I will describe only a few. The Glanville Fritillary Butterfly, Melitea cinxia, once occurred over most of Europe. It has disappeared from about 90% of its range, and where it still exists it is found in tiny remnants of habitat. It is locally common but only in habitat fragments. The IUCN lists at as ‘least concern’. The Adder, Vipera berus, a pit viper found widely in northern and centra Europe, is disappearing from many areas and declining over most of its range. Several factors have been posited to explain its decline. The IUCN lists it as ‘least concern’. The Corn Bunting, Miliaria calandra, was once common in Ireland and the UK. It is extinct in Ireland now and pretty much gone from the UK. It is also declining over 90% of its European range as a result of intensive agricultural policies and other factors. It is listed as ‘least concern’ by the IUCN.

    These are three examples off the top of my head. There are literally thousands of other species that are declining at an alarming rate which are still regarded by the IUCN as ‘safe’. They aren’t. The IUCN is painfully slow in recognising worrying demographic shifts of species. The Golden-Winged Warbler, Vermovora chrysootera, which has been in trouble for the past 40 years was only very recently (this year I think) changed in status from ‘least concern’ to ‘near threatened’. Much too late. There are countless other examples. The IUCN lists virtually ignore insects or downplay threats to the vast majority of them. The truth, as a number of studies have pointed out over the past decade, is vastly different. Insects may be declining more rapidly than any other terrestrial group of organisms. By now the spectre of collapsing populations of butterflies, mayflies, bees, beetles and other taxa is frequently in the news. There may be some exaggerations, such as the media use of the term ‘insectageddon’, but the fact remains that many insects are in deep trouble across the biosphere. I am working with colleagues on developing ways to slow these declines and develop methods of conserving and restoring insect populations (see paper in nature Ecology and Evolution in January). The task is very difficult, as we still do not have a clear idea what are the most important factors driving these declines. Certainly agricultural intensification is important, as well as ongoing habitat loss and invasive species, but climate change and especially an increase in the frequency, duration and intensity of climate extremes (heat waves, droughts) are likely to play a role in many regions. When temperatures exceeded 40 degrees in Benelux, France and Germany last summer, there was no doubt that this unprecedented event harmed biodiversity. The problem is that the harm is not necessarily just instantaneous but there are temporal legacies. We need to understand the significance of these legacies and quickly.

    Like most contrarians, Shellenberger, as I said above, cherry-picks his examples and from whom he seeks information. Josef Settele has a more subtle, nuanced view about extinctions than many other ecologists (me included). There are a huge number of qualified ecologists out there who argue that the loss of 60% genetic variability over the past 50 years of well-studied taxa and a rapid rise in the number of species listed by even a conservative body as the IUCN as being ‘vulnerable’, ‘endangered’ or ‘critically endangered’ constitutes a major crisis. Why does he ignore them? What unique insights does he have that enables him to determine which scientists are correct and which are not? These are questions that were posed to Lomborg (who side-stepped them), and now they need to be put to Shellenberger. He veers well out of his lane and it is up to scientists to respond and expose the massive flaws in his arguments.

  172. David B Benson says:

    Jeffh — If you would register for the
    BNC Discussion Forum
    and then properly maintain the 6th mass extinction thread
    I and others would appreciate it.
    Thank you in advance.

  173. Pingback: An Environmentalist Apologises… - Resilience

  174. Joshua says:

    Jeff –

    > and now they need to be put to Shellenberger

    You do realize, of course, that it would be a wasted effort? He clearly had no interest in meaningful exchange?

    Just sayin’

  175. Jeffh says:

    Joshua, yup, you are probably right. Contrarians like Shellenberger and Lomborg are not really interested in the truth. Ideologues never are.

  176. Joshua says:

    Jeffh –

    After praising Zeke for his response, I then made the mistake of reading Michael’s response to Zeke – and at this point I just hope that Zeke just simply stops where he’s at. (although I doubt he will) I respect Zeke for the good faith engagement, but at some point it’s (mostly) pointless.

    It’s really too bad. I would like to see Michael engage in good faith. As I said above, I think that he and RPJr., and a few others make some points that I think should be engaged with meaningfully. But, IMO, they make it impossible to do so. I have seen that to be the case with Michael for years – which is why his claim that he’s only started being vocal with his criticism in the last year as so preposterously inaccurate that IMO, it’s simply a waste of time to engage with him beyond that point.

    Michael is clearly a warrior. That’s clearly how he identifies in the “environment space.” He’s got his war paint on. He has no manifest interest in dialog. He sees it as a pitched battle, zero sum game, scorched earth.

    I don’t suppose there’s any harm in Zeke approaching from a good faith perspective. I suppose there is perhaps some value in having someone like me read his counterarguments to what Michael says – but in order to really get much value out of that I would need to see a good faith engagement from Michale’s part with what Zeke has to say – and clearly that won’t happen.

  177. Jeffh says:


    Excellent points and ones that need to be understood in the context of individuals like Shellenberger. And as I have said, those who approached Bjorn Lomborg after his book was first published in Denmark in 1998 were faced with the same ‘warrior’ mentality, Despite all of the rhetorical flourishes, Lomborg was not remotely interested in dialogue. It was always more about ‘him’ and his ‘image’ as the slayer of environmental myths. When I was invited to speak in Denmark early in 2002, I spoke with a number of Danish scientists who told me that they had replied politely to Lomborg soon after publication of the Danish edition of The Skeptical Environmentalist (TSE). They wanted to discuss the book and to point out what they felt were errors in various chapters. Lomborg did not apparently engage in good faith with them. Instead, he seemed to ignore them completely, so when the English version was published in 2001 the transition from the Danish version to the English was virtually identical. Lomborg had his story and no amount of criticism was going to change it.

    Soon after publication of the book Lomborg set up his blog. In it he had a section he called “Errors and corrections”. It was a slick attempt at public relations, a veiled means of conveying to readers that Lomborg was interested in debate and dialogue with his critics. It was all a mirage. I remember looking through the section and seeing that it was full of pedantic alterations that in no way changed the conclusions. For instance, he might write something like, ‘In TSE I argued that global fish catch increased by 75% between year x and year y. Instead, it increased by 73% over that time. Thank you to Dr. Joe Bloggs for this correction‘. Something like that. The corrections and errors section was full of similar examples. More egregious errors – and TSE is full of them – were not corrected.

    The aim of responding in this way was twofold. First, it gave the blog reader the impression that Lomborg was indeed engaging with his critics and was open to correcting errors that were pointed out to him. But he only corrected errors that were miniscule and therefore insubstantial. In this context, the second aim was to make his critics look like they were desperately clutching at straws, correcting errors that were so small that they would have no effect on the broader conclusions in each chapter. There are, as I said, significant errors and profoundly serious examples of cherry-picking, for instance in the chapter on biodiversity and on how extinction rates in relation to habitat loss are calculated using models of exponential decay. The models have been proven to be quite accurate for well-studied taxa like birds, and by the time TSE was written there were a number of papers published in journals like Nature and Proceedings of the National Academy of Science that supported these models. Lomborg did not cite them. How could he have missed them? I am sure that they must have been pointed out to him before publication of the English version of TSE, but cherry-pickers tend to prefer certain cherries. And, as I said, had these papers been included in the English version Lomborg would have been obliged to change the conclusions, something he seemingly did not want to do.

    Shellenberger won’t budge either. I am sure of it. Watch how this unfolds. Like the warrior, as scientists weigh in with criticisms and corrections, he will deflect. He has his castle to defend and no amount of argument is going to get him out of it.

  178. izen says:

    “Contrarians like Shellenberger and Lomborg are not really interested in the truth. Ideologues never are.”

    There are two types of Ideologues.

    One type is keen to convert those that disagree with their POV. They may engage to some extent with the issues as seen by their opponents, but it is usually only to try and find points of leverage or uncertainty they can use to make their case.

    The second type has no interest in converts, they are only concerned with preaching to the choir of ardent believers who share their POV. They may also engage with the arguments their opponents put forward, but are much more tightly focused on counterpoints that will resonate with their fellow travellers, irrespective of the validity of such points in the wider debate.
    They are most easily identified by the howls of outrage and whines about censorship when their opponents contradict them.
    Victim-hood plays well with the home crowd.

  179. jacksmith4tx says:

    The Ogallala Aquifer will be drained way before 2100.
    After the huge drought of 2011 Texas created a new water conservation plan funded by billions of tax dollars. Years later very little has been done apart from some early planing.

    “Bois d’Arc Lake is the first major reservoir built in the state of Texas in 30 years…
    15 miles long and over 16,000 surface acres, once finished and filled with water, the lake will stretch from the 2-mile-long dam in northeastern Fannin County to just outside of Bonham back to the southwest. Water drawn from Bois d’Arc Lake will then be treated and pumped about 60 miles to be used by communities in Collin, Rockwall, Hunt, and Kaufman counties.”

    Sure would be a shame if we can’t keep it filled.
    Let’s not overlook what happens when most of your grid is dependent on lots of cool surface water.
    The future of thermal power plants (coal,gas & nuclear) cooled by water looks dicey. Of course solar and wind consume very little water.

  180. Joshua says:

    izen –

    I think that there are certain ideologues who use each of those approaches, but I don’t think they are mutually exclusive categories. For example, i think that Mike uses both techniques.

    I hadn’t realized that Mike left the BTI.

    Can anyone tell me what that was about…and if it was under less than amiable circumstances, what Nordhaus’ situation was with respect to Mike leaving? I always felt that Ted wasn’t the same kind of obnoxious warrior that Mike is.

  181. izen says:

    “I think that there are certain ideologues who use each of those approaches, but I don’t think they are mutually exclusive categories.”

    I agree.
    I was riffing on the old joke, “there are two sorts of people in the World…”
    To which the punch line is , “those that think there are two sorts of people in the World, and those that know it’s more complicated than that.”

    But I see little evidence that MS has any interest or makes any attempt to persuade people to share his POV.
    Compare with ZH.

  182. Joshua,
    According to Zeke, Shellenberger is no longer on friendly terms with BTI.

  183. A comment about ideologues. I don’t have a problem with ideologues in the sense of those who have ideologies. What I do have an issue with are those who are pretending to have one ideology, while very clearly having another. Shellenberger seems to want to be seen to be holding a mainstream position on this topic, while clearly appealing to those who do not. Will explicitly claim that he accepts that climate change is important, and then largely dismisses it.

  184. Bob Loblaw says:

    “What I do have an issue with are those who are pretending to have one ideology, while very clearly having another.”

    The key to success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.

  185. verytallguy says:

    In which Tobis treats Schellenberger with undeserved seriousness.


    My guess is that Schellenberger will sell more books.

  186. vtg,
    Yes, I think Shellenberger has done very well out of all of this. Not quite sure what the alternative is. I think it was likely to do quite well irrespective of the responses. I think the responses are still useful. What I find more depressing is how people are simply buying his claim that he’s essentially a reformed alarmist, when it’s obvious that he’s never been any such thing. Why do people blindly accept these things just because the message is appealing. It just seem so blatantly disingenuous.

  187. Jeffh says:

    ATTP, people buy into this because they want to buy into it. Lomborg was never an environmentalist either. At least there is no evidence at all to suggest he was. He was manufactured. But the credibility of Lomborg and Shellenberger hinges critically on them being ‘reformed’, that they have changed their views based on the scientific evidence. If they were to say that they were always contrarians, their books would not have sold much and they would not be splashed all over the media. They both know it and Shellenberger will now milk the contrarian cow like Lomborg has been doing for the past 20 years.

  188. Jeff,
    Yes, I realise. It’s probably an unfortunate aspect of human nature. Does make me wonder if there are people I endorse who are similarly disingenuous.

  189. Bob Loblaw says:

    “Why do people blindly accept these things just because the message is appealing.”

    I think this classic cartoon (I can’t find a link to the original) tells it all:

  190. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    > Why do people blindly accept these things just because the message is appealing. It just seem so blatantly disingenuous.

    From MT’s excellent post (excerpted from The Forward) at RealClimate:


    The fuel for this fire comes from something that anthropologists call the myth of outgroup homogeneity. We tend to believe everyone in our tribe is nuanced and diverse, while all the members of that tribe over there are uniform and zombie-like. This is how New York thinks of New Jersey, Lakers fans think of Clippers fans, Mac users think of PC users, and MSNBC viewers think of Fox News viewers. The outgroup homogeneity effect makes it easier to blame a whole side for their crazy fringe while barely acknowledging your own. You can march under a big dumb banner, saying you’re from the smart, nuanced part of your coalition, while believing everyone on the other side has no more profound beliefs than their big, dumb banner.

    Also known as hippie punching.

  191. HAns says:

    Shellenbergers move to the dark side was to be expected. When he was just a nuclear power propagandist he already used cheap rhetoric tricks, used totally outdated data on renewables, cherry picked data and studies that fitted his agenda etc. to make renewables look bad.
    He expanded his topic, but the lack of integrity was already there.

  192. Pingback: 2020: A year in review | …and Then There's Physics

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