Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All
Questioning your own beliefs is brutal. It’s like when you were young and believed in Santa. Then one Christmas Eve you wake up in the middle of the night to witness your parents gorging on Santa’s cookies. It’s your own little Keyser Soze realization moment.
Challenging his own beliefs as a former environmental activist, Michael Shellenberger pulls back the curtain to reveal how much he and others have been misled. Take for example the polystyrene that we’ve all grown to hate. You know, those foam clamshell boxes that McDonald’s use to serve its burgers in? Turns out they don’t live for a thousand years in landfills after all. “Sunlight breaks down the polystyrene into organic carbon and carbon dioxide. The organic carbon dissolves in seawater, and the carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere. At the end of the process, the plastic is gone.”
In other chapters, Shellenberger describes Energy Transitions, an idea pioneered by Cesare Marchetti in the 1970s whereby markets move on their own away from energy sources to cleaner, more efficient sources. However, politics, steered by wealth, has derailed this natural process delaying and sometimes reversing the progression, transitioning us toward dirtier, less efficient energy sources. See my beautiful infographic below…
Shellenberger makes the case that nuclear is the cleanest, cheapest, and safest form of energy production we have. So why are the number of nuclear plants around the world declining? Environmentalists have done a remarkable job convincing people of the opposite: nuclear is dirty, expensive, and dangerous. But, why? “Opposition to the new fuel usually comes from the wealthy.”
In a shocking twist, big oil has been pouring money into the pockets of prominent Democratic politicians and environmental conservation groups like the Sierra Club for decades. In exchange, these groups play up fears around nuclear, while pushing hard for solar and wind. How do solar and wind benefit oil companies? Despite recent advances, these technologies provide an unreliable, diffuse source of energy. If the wind dies or the sun goes down (or winter arrives), power generation decreases or stops. A steady stopgap is needed to prevent brownouts. Enter natural gas. The more we depend on solar and wind, the more we need natural gas and the more oil companies stand to gain.
Overall, the book reads well and is thoroughly cited with sources. I longed for a bit more narrative up-front but found enough compelling stories along the way to propel me across the finish line.
You may not agree with Michael Shellenberger and his conclusion that capitalism, not governments, will save the environment, but if you relish reading about red pill rabbit hole journeys as I do, you’ll enjoy Apocalypse Never.Tags: climate change Climatology Environmental Policy environmentalism global warming nuclear power technology