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Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All

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Michael Shellenberger has been fighting for a greener planet for decades. He helped save the world’s last unprotected redwoods. He co-created the predecessor to today’s Green New Deal. And he led a successful effort by climate scientists and activists to keep nuclear plants operating, preventing a spike of emissions.

But in 2019, as some claimed “billions of people are going to die,” contributing to rising anxiety, including among adolescents, Shellenberger decided that, as a lifelong environmental activist, leading energy expert, and father of a teenage daughter, he needed to speak out to separate science from fiction.

Despite decades of news media attention, many remain ignorant of basic facts. Carbon emissions peaked and have been declining in most developed nations for over a decade. Deaths from extreme weather, even in poor nations, declined 80 percent over the last four decades. And the risk of Earth warming to very high temperatures is increasingly unlikely thanks to slowing population growth and abundant natural gas.

Curiously, the people who are the most alarmist about the problems also tend to oppose the obvious solutions.

What’s really behind the rise of apocalyptic environmentalism? There are powerful financial interests. There are desires for status and power. But most of all there is a desire among supposedly secular people for transcendence. This spiritual impulse can be natural and healthy. But in preaching fear without love, and guilt without redemption, the new religion is failing to satisfy our deepest psychological and existential needs.

272 pages, ebook

First published June 23, 2020

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About the author

Michael Shellenberger

14 books257 followers
Michael Shellenberger is an American author and former public relations professional. His writing has focused on the intersection of climate change, the environment, nuclear power, and politics.
He is a co-founder of the Breakthrough Institute, co-founder of the California Peace Coalition, and the founder of Environmental Progress.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 769 reviews
1 review3 followers
July 5, 2020
Perhaps it’s fitting that a book aimed squarely at climate 'alarmism' is so fatally undermined by its own over-reach. It's not that Shellenberger doesn't spell out some legitimate questions and dilemmas, but over-confidence in his conclusions and the flimsiness and incompleteness of the evidence on which many of them are based made this an insubstantial and unsatisfying read. There are far too many such instances to mention, but the sections on fire, food and energy provide examples.

In claiming that Australia's disastrous east coast fires in 2019/20 would have occurred even without any warming, partly because of a supposed lack of fuel reduction burns, Schellenberger, relying on an Andrew Bolt interview with David Packham, takes no account of the extreme heat, nor of those areas where the fires raged despite hazard reduction burns. He minimises their severity by referencing the more extensive 1974/75 fires despite the fact these were largely grass fires in the Northern Territory that resulted from heavy rains the previous year, and which caused much less ecological damage. And in referencing a (perfectly valid) study showing that the area burned by wildfire globally has fallen, he fails to point out that the same study showed that fires in closed canopy forests were increasing, and that where reductions in savannah and grasslands were driven largely by agricultural expansion.

In his sections on agriculture, Shellenberger notes the potential for higher CO2 levels to increase yields, but ignores evidence that the nutritional value of many crops is adversely affected. He tries to argue that the development of Brazil’s Cerrado helps take pressure off other areas, a claim he does not substantiate, and which does not address the fact that much of the Cerrado’s output of soy is for animal fodder, not human consumption. Of course, this is consistent with his defence of intensive agriculture to support meat consumption, which follows some slightly peculiar philosophical and nutritional musings about diet and health. He highlights a study showing that climate change mitigation could decrease land availability for farming and raise prices, but omits subsequent work by the same author showing how these mitigation costs can be avoided.

Reading his discussion of energy, it is hard to take seriously his advocacy of LNG when he never evaluates the extent and effect of current fugitive emissions from this huge industry, instead using a thirty year-old EPA report to assure us that improved gaskets and maintenance had reduced emissions from even earlier levels. His assertions about renewable energy include comprehensively wrong statements, such as the notion that solar and wind’s unreliability means that they require 100% backup, which is most certainly not true for networks in large and meteorologically diverse regions, and his dismissal of distributed solar generation notion that “real electricity” in Indian villages means “reliable grid electricity” wouldn’t jive with those in many areas for whom the grid is anything but reliable.

This is a strange, somewhat confessional book. It scores a few cheap points knocking obvious exaggerations, and raises some legitimate questions, but it is so selective in its presentation of evidence that it undermines the case it is trying to make. His discussion of the place of nuclear energy in decarbonizing the economy is about the only really substantial, if still selective, argument.

If you must read it, do your homework and check for information the author omits. And perhaps read it alongside The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells, who very deliberately examines the worst case scenarios and in Shellenberger’s terms is the arch-exaggerator – this may be a valuable counterpoint.
Profile Image for Amora.
198 reviews152 followers
December 11, 2020
Extremely well-researched and very much needed now. Shellenberger offers real solutions as to how when we protect the environment and mitigate climate change using both the private and public sector. Along the way, Shellenberger debunks hysteria surrounding climate change and nuclear using hundreds of citations. You don’t even need to be an academic to understand the arguments being made. Before reading this book, I highly recommend listening to the author’s TED Talk on nuclear energy. The author knows his stuff!
Profile Image for Benjamin Dave.
10 reviews2 followers
July 6, 2020
One of the worst books I have ever read. Awful in every respect, but especially morally. Its author can only be a person of really shocking moral degeneracy. It is exactly what one would expect from its publisher, Rupert Murdoch.

Shellenberger is an astonishingly mendacious writer. He constantly misrepresents facts and reaches conclusions only a Fox News viewer would fail to see through on nearly every page. For example, were you aware that plastic is actually good for nature because without it we would have killed all the elephants for piano keys? He writes this in broad daylight under his real name. If you're dumb and dishonest enough to buy that, you'd probably also agree that the Nazis were actually good for the Jews since without the holocaust there would be no IDF.

The book is written for an unlettered rightwing climate-denying audience, who are the only people capable of enjoying it. They will eagerly slurp up this garbage. Shellenberger wants to come across as a respected scientist (despite being neither respected nor a scientist), but comes across only as what he is: a dishonest self-promoting huckster unfit for any employment other than by Breitbart, Fox News, or any other gutter tabloid. Imagine a person so baldly unethical that even Forbes found his writing unfit for print and had to pull it. That actually happened. That's a bit like being kicked out of the NBA for being too tall.

Shellenberger knows his audience are imbeciles. This why he, e.g. doesn't refer simply to albatrosses, but instead refers to an "albatross seabird": because his readers are the type of crewcutted shaved ape who thinks an Albatross is a military airplane and won't be able to understand why one is eating a fish.

To call it worthless would be to lavish it with unwarranted praise. It is a buffoonish and revolting piece of trash.
26 reviews37 followers
July 7, 2020
This book is not climate critical, only climate-solutions critical, providing an alternative viewpoint on how to solve the problems inherent in climate change. I expect it will generate a lot of knee-jerk responses from people that rate it without actually reading it, or who will read it bad-faith, or who are upset at its valid criticism of radical environmentalist groups. Criticism that, by the way, are shared by many climate scientists, just seldom reported upon. Many are upset by the provocative news article the author wrote, failing to realise that it serves the purpose of getting a lot of climate-skeptics to engage with a book that takes for granted as its starting position that climate change is a real and human-caused problem.

If people who care about the environment and the issues we face can't see the upsides of a provocatively-title book that encourages readership from the large portion of the population that has otherwise been resistant to other climate change advocacy, then they need to stop and reflect on this fact.

Such people also need to consider that we can agree on the problems, and reasonable disagree on the solutions.

As another reviewer noted, there are 100 pages of footnotes/citations. My impression is that it is a well-intentioned take on the issues we face today. Will it be without error? No. But neither are the reports of major organisations such as the IPCC entirely without some error (which is to be expected as climate science is extraordinarily complex - this is not a criticism, only an observation). Neither is our climate change modelling without error. A recent publication indicates, for example, that modelling of the arctic failed to properly account for IPO which means that we are seeing much worse temperature trends in the arctic than expected right now.

This book is an interesting read that you need not - and should not - treat as a definitive answer, but which I believe validly reflect one perspective on how to solve the problems climate change presents.
Profile Image for Nick.
6 reviews
July 9, 2020
Very misleading and overstated claims. I invite everyone to read "Shellenberger's op-ad" on RealClimate.org. This is written by Michael Tobis. An actual climate scientist. Of which, Michael Shellenberger is not one.

Read this book with every bit of skepticism and further research it deserves. It was clearly written to rile up the deniers. Of course there are some on the other side that are written in the same vein. It's about time we start listening to actual scientists...
Profile Image for John Devlin.
Author 22 books79 followers
June 5, 2023
Shellenberger takes a jackhammer to the edifice of modern environmentalism.

As a former priest of the environment, the author speaks with the power of Martin Luther assaulting the ramparts of Catholicism.
However, unlike religious pedantry, shellenberger has facts to back up his assertions.

Technology is good
Nuclear power is carbon free and safe
Environmentalists have a fetish over a Thoreau like vision of walking hand in hand with nature.
Environmentalists have been taking payoffs from big oil for decades to Block the threat of nuclear.
Solar and wind are fundamentally less dense and thus unable to furnish energy to power modern societies.

And much more..
Profile Image for Pete.
891 reviews56 followers
July 6, 2020
Apocalypse Never (2020) by Michael Shellenberger is a fascinating book by a twenty year social and environmentalist on how the environmental movement exaggerates some dangers and itself causes more environmental harm. Shellenberger has been an environmental activist for decades and was involved with the Obama administration’s renewables policies.

Note also that on Goodreads there are a number of 1 star reviews from people who haven't read the book. There is a pile on of 'likes' for these reviews. The Amazon reviews, where having purchased the book is a requirement may be a better indication of the book's actual merit.

Shellenberger has been invited to be an IPCC reviewer and the book is also praised highly by Tom Wigley who was the director of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia and a contributor to IPCC reports. Shellenberger is also an interesting environmentalist in that his views on various issues have changed in a similar way to the Guardian Environment writers Mark Lynas and George Monbiot.

People’s reactions to the book in general are going to be based on prior attitudes and what they know the book says. But first, read this quote. If you knew this then the book has little for you. If you didn’t then the book is worth reading.

“Between 2016 and 2019, the five largest publicly traded oil and gas companies – ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron Corporation, BP and Total invested a whopping $1 billion into advertising and lobbying for renewables and other climate-related ventures.”

The book starts off by going through various quotes from politicians, Extinction Rebellion and others about how we have 12 years to 2030 or we’re doomed or how Climate Change threatens human extinctions. Actual climate scientists, such as Kerry Emmanuel from MIT are also quoted as saying such claims “I don’t have much patience for the apocalypse criers”.

Shellenberger then looks at how the claims about fires in the Amazon just after the right wing president Jair Bolsonaro were wrong and why they were not corrected and the figures were not put into context.

The book follows Shellenberger’s journeys from when he travelled to Nicaragua in high school to visiting mountain gorilla’s in Africa. He also looks at people in different countries and how much energy they use and how much energy use and how much higher energy use contributes to well being.

Shellenberger has converted from believing that renewables could power society to thinking that nuclear is a better low carbon option. He points out that Germany has spent ~580 Bn on the Energiewende and has higher C02 emissions than France which runs on nuclear. He makes the remarkable point that large fossil fuel companies like renewables as it means that they get to sell a lot of gas. The quote earlier in this book highlights this point, he also points out that:

“Wrong. Not only are 350.org, Sierra Club, NRDC and EDF all funded by fossil fuel billionaires, they are all trying to kill America’s largest source of carbon-free electricity, nuclear power”.

Apocalypse Never is a really interesting that book that anyone interested in the environment should read. It has a genuinely new perspective from someone who has been an environmental insider for decades.
Profile Image for Book Clubbed.
146 reviews205 followers
June 22, 2021
Stop throwing firecrackers at your nosy neighbor and listen to full pods here.

Like any halfway concerned citizen, I pay attention to the news headlines about our slowly eroding world. Huh, plastic in the ocean? Damn, fast fashion is filling landfills? Plastic bags are the worst, amirite? Once we get rid of those, climate change is definitely defeated. So glad to be done with that.

I do my little part too, as long as it doesn’t inconvenience my life too much. Recycling is cool, energy efficient lightbulbs are great, but compost smells weird so I don’t do it. I’ve never worried too much, primarily to look out for my mental health, but also because scientists predicted in the 1950s that we would run out of food before the end of the century. They couldn’t alter their models for technology and agricultural advancements. You know “technology,” right? The thing that makes our life way easier and inspires radical changes in our society, covering ever facet of how we live and interact?

So, when a politician announces that climate change will become irreversible in 2030, or 2040, or any nice round number, I greet it with skepticism. The heterodoxy and groupthink are real, even for people attempting to be helpful. Shellenberger gives concrete evidence and cautious optimism to back up my surface-level cynicism. He writes in an accessible, grounded, and well-researched manner, a welcome balance in an era of hyper-partisan screeching and undereducated revolutionaries baying about the end of the world.

***Disclaimer: some scientists have supported Shellenberger while others have accused him of misrepresenting studies. So, read far and wide, and don’t be dependent on any one source. Especially if that source is me***

We love a good narrative, especially one we can place ourselves on the right side of with little work required. When the Amazon was burning, how many of us shared Instagram infographics, framed in hyperbolic smokes plumes and all-bold lettering? Surely, dastardly climate change and dictators and other mean things in the world were back at it. I mean, Leo DiCaprio shared it, and he’s one of my favorite scientists!

Of course, the truth is more nuanced, but for those who stick around to parse the truth, the audience has already moved on to the next big controversy. This is not to say that Shellenberger doesn’t have an agenda himself. His book hopes to prove that climate degradation is being overstated, so he will present his arguments as such. However, he does acknowledge the monumental tasks we still have to overcome, and instead argues that the best way to assist the environment is to strip away sentimental arguments and find what really works, whether in regards to energy alternatives, where recycling really ends up, or the rush to phase out red meats.
1 review
July 1, 2020
Shellenberger unfortunately makes so many misrepresentations and half-truths in the book. I'm quite disappointed.
Profile Image for Terry.
119 reviews6 followers
July 27, 2020
Think, if you will, of the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets in “Romeo and Juliet.” Or of the 1863-1891 classic American feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys, warring families in West Virginia and Kentucky. Full Review https://www.yaleclimateconnections.or...-

In the decades-old tensions involving environmental science, population, resource dynamics, and ecology, it’s the Malthusians and the Cornucopians. Subscribing to the wisdom of English economist Thomas Malthus, Malthusians express concerns that exponential human population growth and economic demands will outrun global resources needed to support people, undermining long-term sustainability. Cornucopians, in contrast – with their nod to the cornucopia or “horn of plenty” of Greek mythology – hold that technological advances can sustain societal needs and that unbounded economic growth and increased population are positive, giving rise to more good ideas.

The historical tensions and intellectual debates between Malthusians and Cornucopians are now more than two centuries old and have evolved. In recent years, the public conversation around critical global crises like human-caused climate change, deforestation and species extinction, population pressures, and new and worsening public health threats has grown louder, harsher, and increasingly ideological. As the sciences have improved, the deep complexity and connections among these problems have also become more apparent, as have urgent calls to address them through local, national, and global actions.

A recent entry in this debate is Michael Shellenberger’s “Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All” (HarperCollins Publishers, 2020). Shellenberger explains in his introduction that he seeks to counter and dismiss what he considers irrational, overwrought arguments of pending Malthusian catastrophes; instead, he seeks to promote the Cornucopian view that environmental problems can be eliminated if we’d just pursue aggressive economic growth, simple technological advances, and increased tapping of abundant natural resources. In doing so, he echoes previous efforts of authors like Herman Kahn, Julian Simon, and Bjørn Lomborg.

Climate dialogue seen as ‘out of control’
Shellenberger self-describes as an environmentalist activist and a bringer of facts and science to counter “exaggeration, alarmism, and extremism that are the enemy of a positive, humanistic, and rational environmentalism.” He decided to write this book because he believes “the conversation about climate change and the environment has, in the last few years, spiraled out of control.”

Voices of reason and clear analyses in the contentious debates about how to tackle our global problems are welcome. Unfortunately, the book is deeply and fatally flawed. At the simplest level, it is a polemic based on a strawman argument: To Shellenberger, scientists, “educated elite,” “activist journalists,” and high-profile environmental activists believe incorrectly that the end of the world is coming and yet refuse to support the only solutions that he thinks will work – nuclear energy and uninhibited economic growth.

‘What is new in here isn’t right, and what is right isn’t new.’

But even if the author properly understood the complexity and nature of global challenges, which he does not, and got the science right, which he did not, a fatal flaw in his argument is the traditional Cornucopian oversimplification of his solutions – reliance on economic growth and silver-bullet technology. As the great American journalist and humorist H. L. Mencken said, “there is always a well-known solution to every human problem – neat, plausible, and wrong.” Mencken also warned against those who know precisely what is right and what is wrong, a warning especially worth hearing in the highly complex and uncertain worlds of global climate, pandemics, and environmental change.

… yet bad science, strawman arguments, cherry-picking facts, and ad hominem attacks on scientists, media, others
But the problems in the book go much deeper. The author wanders from topic to topic, jumping from personal anecdote to polemical arguments to data and numbers carefully chosen to support his views, making it difficult for the reader to follow his threads. The most serious flaw, however, is that he assumes a position and seeks data and facts to fit that position rather than, as science demands, using data and facts to develop, test, and refine a theory. As a result, the book suffers from logical fallacies, arguments based on emotion and ideology, the setting up and knocking down of strawman arguments, and the selective cherry-picking and misuse of facts, all interspersed with simple mistakes and misrepresentations of science. Distressingly, this is also an angry book, riddled with ugly ad hominem attacks on scientists, environmental advocates, and the media.

I provide just a few examples of these flaws here – a comprehensive catalog would require its own book. In short, what is new in here isn’t right, and what is right isn’t new.
Two Cornucopian ideas lie at the heart of this book: The first idea is that there are no real “limits to growth” and environmental problems are the result of poverty and will be solved by having everyone get richer. This idea isn’t original and has long been debunked by others (for a few examples see here, here, here, and here).

View that nuclear alone can address needs
The second idea – and the focus of much of Shellenberger’s past writings – is that climate and energy problems can and should be solved solely by nuclear power. He writes, “Only nuclear, not solar and wind, can provide abundant, reliable, and inexpensive heat,” and, “Only nuclear energy can power our high-energy human civilization while reducing humankind’s environmental footprint.” (“Apocalypse Never” – hereafter “AN” – pp. 153 and 278) The many economic, environmental, political, and social arguments levied against nuclear are simply dismissed as having no merit, for example: “As for nuclear waste, it is the best and safest kind of waste produced from electricity production. It has never hurt anyone and there is no reason to think it ever will.” (AN, p. 152) His passionate belief that nuclear is the only answer to our energy and climate problems (maybe along with a mega-dam on the Congo River in Africa) is matched by the corollary that renewable energy alternatives – he calls them “unreliables” (AN, p. 176) – are bad because he asserts they are small scale, intermittent, and their economic, environmental, political, and social problems disqualifying.

The argument that poverty and environmental threats are intertwined is both correct and not new. It lies at the heart of international development efforts, including the early United Nations Millennium Development Goals and the current Sustainable Development Goals, which state:

The Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice. The 17 Goals are all interconnected. (emphasis added)

Similarly, mainstream experts in environmental science and environmental economics have long acknowledged that all energy options have complex sets of environmental advantages and disadvantages. The fields of energy risk assessment, integrated environmental systems analysis, and ecological economics have addressed them for decades.

Using the facade of ‘strawman arguments’
Shellenberger regularly sets up other strawman arguments and then knocks them down. [A strawman argument is an effort to refute an argument that hasn’t been made by replacing your opponent’s actual argument with a different one.] One of the most prevalent strawman arguments in the climate debate is that scientists claim climate change “causes” extreme events, when in fact, climate scientists make careful distinctions between “causality” and “influence” – two very different things. This area, called “attribution science,” is one of the most exciting aspects of climate research today.
Shellenberger sets up the strawman argument that people are incorrectly claiming recent extreme events (like forest fires, floods, heat waves, and droughts) were caused by climate change, and then he debunks this strawman. “Many blamed climate change for wildfires that ravaged California” (AN, p.2) and “the fires would have occurred even had Australia’s climate not warmed.” (AN p. 21) He misrepresents how the media reported on the fires, describing a New York Times story on the 2019 Amazon fires: “As for the Amazon, The New York Times reported, correctly, that the ‘fires were not caused by climate change.'” But here Shellenberger is cherry-picking a quote: If you look at the actual article he cites, the journalist makes clear the “influence” of climate change just two sentences later:
These fires were not caused by climate change. They were, by and large, set by humans. However, climate change can make fires worse. Fires can burn hotter and spread more quickly under warmer and drier conditions. (emphasis added)

He also misunderstands or misrepresents the extensive and growing literature on the links between climate change and extreme events, saying “But climate change so far has not resulted in increases in the frequency or intensity of many types of extreme weather” (AN, p. 15) citing out-of-date research, including a workshop from 15 years ago. In fact, a large and growing body of literature already shows strong links between climate change and extreme events, including hurricanes, heat deaths, flooding, decreasing ice, and more (see, for a few examples, here, here, and here), and this literature has been expanding rapidly. For instance, in 2019, the American Meteorological Society, or AMS, published a summary – produced annually – with 21 peer-reviewed analyses of extreme weather in 2018 including the research of 121 scientists from 13 countries. The severe Four Corners drought in the U.S., intense heat waves on the Iberian peninsula and in northeast Asia, exceptional precipitation in the mid-Atlantic states, and record-low sea ice in the Bering Sea were all examples of extreme weather events “made more likely by human-caused climate change.” As Jeff Rosenfeld, the editor-in-chief of the AMS series, noted, “We’ve now published more than 100 of these attribution studies in this AMS series and can see how powerful this science is getting. Attribution studies increasingly yield useful, nuanced conclusions that embrace real-world complexity,” Rosenfeld wrote. “They collectively make an ever starker statement about the human influence on extreme weather.”

Another example of a serious conceptual confusion is his chapter dismissing the threat of species extinctions. The chapter is full of misunderstandings of extinction rates, ecosystem and biological functions, confusions about timescales, and misuses of data. For example, Shellenberger confuses the concept of species “richness” with “biodiversity” and makes the astounding claim that
Around the world, the biodiversity of islands has actually doubled on average, thanks to the migration of ‘invasive species.’ The introduction of new plant species has outnumbered plant extinctions one hundred fold. (AN, p. 66)

By this odd logic, if an island had 10 species of native birds found only there and they went extinct, but 20 other invasive bird species established themselves, the island’s “biodiversity” would double. This error results from a misunderstanding of the study he cites, which properly notes that simply assessing species numbers (richness not biodiversity) on islands ignores the critical issues of biodiversity raised by invasive species, including the disruption of endemic species interactions, weakening of ecosystem stability, alteration of ecosystem functions, and increasing homogenization of flora and fauna.
Another set of classic logical fallacies is the misuse, misrepresentation, and selective use of evidence. Shellenberger sees himself as the white knight bringing science and facts to emotional arguments. “Every fact, claim, and argument in this book is based on the best-available science … Apocalypse Never defends mainstream science from those who deny it on the political Right and Left.” (AN, p. xiii) But often, his arguments are based on inappropriate use of evidence, outdated or cherry-picked science, misunderstandings or misrepresentation, or just outright errors.

One of the most common flaws is his confusing use of the terms “can,” “could,” “will,” “will likely,” and so on. These grammatical choices usually reflect classic Cornucopian optimism and the advantage of telling the audience a positive story, rather than one based on the actual evidence. For example, he claims:

When it comes to food production, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) concludes that crop yields will increase significantly, under a wide range of climate scenarios. (AN, p. 6, emphasis added)

What great news, if only we knew for sure it were true and under all plausible climate scenarios. But in fact, this is a misrepresentation of the 2018 FAO report cited, which looks at possible futures and actually says:

Climate change already has negative effects on crop yields, livestock production and fisheries, particularly in low- and middle- income countries. Such impacts are likely to become even stronger later in this century. (emphasis added)

Unaddressed climate change, which is associated, inter alia, with unsustainable agricultural practices, is likely to lead to more land and water use, disproportionately affecting poor people and exacerbating inequalities within and between countries. This carries negative implications for both food availability and food access.
There are many other examples where his optimism (things “will” happen) overrides the scientific evidence and uncertainties about the future.
. We know how to provide safe water and sanitation to the billions who still lack it. We know we must now work to both cut greenhouse gas emissions to reduce the severity of climate change and at the same time work to adapt to the impacts we can no longer avoid. We know how to improve agricultural efficiency to both grow enough food for everyone and to get it to hungry mouths.
What we lack are adequate efforts to prioritize solutions, fix governmental and institutional failures, motivate policymakers, and, sadly, talk rationally to each other about moving forward quickly and effectively. This book fails to contribute to those much-needed efforts.

Dr. Peter H. Gleick is president emeritus of the Pacific Institute, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, a MacArthur Fellow, and winner of the 2018 Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization.

Profile Image for Ben De Bono.
470 reviews79 followers
July 20, 2020

Environmental thought, especially when it comes to climate change, is perpetually trapped in the prison of two ideas. One side paints humans as destroyers of the planet and insist only the most radical action has the chance to save us. The other claims it's all a hoax and that any environmental protection is unneeded.

Michael Shellenberger is not trapped in that prison. He's an environmentalist and activist. He believes in anthropomorphic climate change. He's well versed in the science and never once cries hoax. Yet for all that he rejects the apocalyptic predictions.

Instead he promotes a pro-human environmentalism. The problem with the two ideas outlined above is that they both see an antagonism between human progress and the environment. Shellenberger doesn't. He sees the environment (rightly) as a tool for human progress but also recognizes (rightly) that as humanity develops the impact on the environment naturally becomes less, not more.

Naturally, this has made Shellenberger the enemy of the dogmatic left. Even Forbes pulled a recent article from. That at least suggests he's stepping on the right toes.

Apocalypse Never did what many of the best books do: caused me to look at familiar issues in entirely new ways. This is a book not to reinforce your thinking but to challenge it. It will do so no matter where you land on the spectrum of environmental politics. Highly, highly recommended
1 review
July 2, 2020
A highly needed book that clarifies and straigthens many misconseptions about climate change and the state of the environment. Considerate and well researched (1/4 of the book is notes), the book tries to present different issues in their proper context and offer rational solutions. It makes the convincing case that climate change is not the catastrophic event many people claim it to be, and also addresses many other topics, like plastic waste, animal conservation, food production, energy and forestry. It's also made visible, that the prosperity of humans and the environment actually goes hand-in-hand.

Highly recommended read, especially to young people who are worried about the future.
Profile Image for Audrey.
1,075 reviews165 followers
March 21, 2021
Michael Schellenberger is a left-wing, Progressive Democrat and environmentalist. Yet he’s the kind of person who will seek the truth and get to the bottom of debate without caring about any agenda. So he visited the rainforests and sweatshops and endangered species sanctuaries. The book exposes how environmental alarmism is a hoax and damages the environment more than it helps. He explains how certain popular books are wrong, whether intentional or not, and busts today’s popular myths about the environment.

In the 1950s kids were traumatized by duck-and-cover drills. My generation was told we were going to die from acid rain and the ozone layer disappearing. Today we’re traumatizing kids by telling them climate change will kill them, and some are killing themselves to escape it. This is seriously wrong.

The whole thing was a fascinating read as well as informative. This is a MUST-READ for everyone. I highlighted so much stuff. I included the chapter titles. Continued in comments.


1. It’s not the end of the world
The report also found, intriguingly, that climate change policies were more likely to hurt food production and worsen rural poverty than climate change itself.

We should be concerned about the impact of climate change on vulnerable populations, without question. There is nothing automatic about adaptation. And it’s true that Bernadette [of the Congo] is more vulnerable to climate change than [my wife] Helen and I are. But she is also more vulnerable to the weather and natural disasters today. ... Climate change is not on her list of things to worry about. As such, it’s misleading for environmental activists to invoke people like Bernadette, and the risks she faces from climate change, without acknowledging that economic development is overwhelmingly what will determine her standard of living, and the future of her children and grandchildren, not how much the climate changes.

Studies find that climate alarmism is contributing to rising anxiety and depression, particularly among children. In 2017, the American Psychological Association diagnosed rising eco-anxiety and called it “a chronic fear of environmental doom.” In September 2019, British psychologists warned of the impact on children of apocalyptic discussions of climate change. In 2020, a large national survey found that one out of five British children was having nightmares about climate change.

Governments “have a ten-year window of opportunity to solve the greenhouse effects before it goes beyond human control,” said the U.N. official. Did the Associated Press publish that apocalyptic warning from the United Nations in June 2019? No, June 1989. And, the cataclysmic events from the U.N. official predicted were for the year 2000, not 2030. ... “The scientific community produces carefully caveated scenarios of the future, ranging from the unrealistically optimistic to the highly pessimistic,” [Roger] Pielke wrote. By contrast, “Media coverage tends to emphasize the most pessimistic scenarios and in the process somehow converts them from worst-case scenarios to our most likely futures.”

The International Energy Agency now forecasts carbon emissions in 2040 to be lower than in almost all of the IPCC scenarios. Can we credit thirty years of climate alarmism for these reductions in emissions? We can’t. Total emissions from energy in Europe’s largest countries, Germany, Britain, and France, peaked in the 1970s, thanks mostly to the switch from coal to natural gas and nuclear—technologies that McKibben, Thunberg, AOC, and many climate activists adamantly oppose.

2. Earth’s Lungs Aren’t Burning
Rainforests in the Amazon and elsewhere in the world can only be saved if the need for economic development is accepted, respected, and embraced. By opposing many forms of economic development in the Amazon, particularly the most productive forms, many environmental NGOs, European governments, and philanthropies have made the situation worse.

Yet developed nations, particularly European ones, which grew wealthy thanks to deforestation and fossil fuels, are seeking to prevent Brazil and other tropical nations, including the Congo, from developing the same way. Most of them, including Germans, produce more carbon emissions per capita, including by burning biomass, than do Brazilians even when taking into account Amazon deforestation.

3. Enough with the plastic straws
Are the alternatives to fossil-based plastics really better for the environment? Certainly not in terms of air pollution. In California, banning plastic bags resulted in more paper bags and other thicker bags being used, which increased carbon emissions due to the greater amount of energy needed to produce them. Paper bags would need to be reused forty-three times to have a smaller impact on the environment. And plastic bags constitute just 0.8 percent of plastic waste in the oceans. ... Glass bottles consume 170 to 250 percent more energy and emit 200 to 400 percent more carbon than plastic bottles.

While bioplastics biodegrade more quickly than fossil plastic, they are not reused as often as ordinary plastics, and they are more difficult to recycle. The lack of reuse of recycling infrastructure reduces the resource-productivity of bioplastics, including both their environmental impact and economic cost. “People just assume that because it’s ‘bio’ it means it’s somehow better,” said [Christine] Figgener, “and it’s just not. I mean, it also depends on where the raw materials come from. Just because it is made from cane sugar it is not necessarily biodegradable.”

We must overcome the instinct to see natural products as superior to artificial ones, if we are to save species like sea turtles and elephants. Consider how dangerous that instinct was in the case of the tortoiseshell.

4. The Sixth Extinction is Canceled
The huge increase in biodiversity during the last 100 million years massively outweighs the species lost in past mass extinctions. The number of genera, a measure of biodiversity more powerful than species count alone, has nearly tripled over the course of this time period. After each of these past five mass extinctions, the biodiversity in the fossil record dips between 15 [and] 20 percent, but each extinction is followed by a much larger growth.
Some say the erroneous claims of a sixth mass extinction undermine conservation efforts. “To a certain extent they’re claiming it as a way of frightening people into action when in fact, if it’s actually true that we’re in a sixth mass extinction, then there’s no point in conservation biology,” noted one scientist. “People who claim we’re in the sixth mass extinction don’t understand enough about mass extinctions to understand the logical flaw in their argument.”

The real threat to the gorillas and other wildlife isn’t economic growth and fossil fuels, I learned during my visit in December 2014, but rather poverty and wood fuels. In the Congo, wood and charcoal constitute more than 90 percent of residential primary energy. “The place where gorillas are located,” noted Caleb on our phone call, “is near villages that need charcoal for cooking.”

Scientists estimate that between five and “tens of millions” of people have been displaced from their homes by conservationists since the creation of Yosemite National Park in California in 1864. A Cornell University sociologist estimated that Europeans created at least fourteen million conservation refugees in Africa alone.

Sarah Sawyer: “The idea of conservation that local people (in Cameroon) held was that you get kicked off your land and you got no money. ... Talking about conservation there felt totally wrong because the local people felt like conservation was simply a way to rob them of their resources. Talking to them about conserving gorillas was not talking to them in their own language. This reminded me of what I had read in grad school about conservation as neocolonialism.”

Anyone exposed to books like The Sixth Extinction, reports like IPBES’s 2019 Platform, and films like Virunga, along with the publicity they generate, might reasonably think that protecting wildlife requires restricting economic growth, strictly enforcing park boundaries, and fighting oil companies. Worse, they might give developed-world audiences the impression that African wildlife parks are best run by Europeans.
“When Virunga Park was run by the Congolese,” said [Andrew] Plumptre, “there were more large mammals, [fewer] political problems, and fewer people invading the park, even though they didn’t have anywhere near the money coming in. Today, there’s infrastructure, but the mammal numbers have crashed and there is a lot of cultivation in the park that wasn’t there five or six years ago.”

The truth about clothing and other consumer items made in factories in poor and developing countries is actually the opposite of what Extinction Rebellion and Greenpeace claim. Rather than being the main culprit in the destruction of forests, factories have been, and remain, an engine for saving them.

5. Sweatshops save the planet
For more than 250 years, the combination of manufacturing and the rising productivity of farming have been the engine of economic growth for nations around the world. ... The declining number of workers required for food and energy production, thanks to the use of modern energy and machinery, increases productivity, grows the economy, and diversifies the workforce. ... Increased wealth from manufacturing is what allows nations to build the roads, power plants, electricity grids, flood control, sanitation, and waste management systems that distinguish poor nations like Congo from rich nations like the United States. Cities, meanwhile, concentrate human populations and leave more of the countryside to wildlife. Cities cover just more than half a percent of the ice-free surface of the earth. Less than half a percent of Earth is covered by pavement or buildings.

Machines liberate women from drudgery. ... Rising prosperity is strongly correlated with rising freedom among, reduced violence against, and greater tolerance for women, racial and religious minorities, and gays and lesbians.

In the United States, per capita consumption of wood for fuel peaked in the 1840s. It was used at a per capita rate that was fourteen times higher than today. Fossil fuels were thus key to saving forests in the United States and Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

As a result of cleaner-burning coal, the transition to natural gas, cleaner vehicles, and other technological changes, developed nations have seen major improvements in air quality. Between 1980 and 2018, U.S. carbon monoxide levels decreased by 83 percent, lead by 99 percent, nitrogen dioxide by 61 percent, ozone by 31 percent, and sulfur dioxide by 91 percent. While death rates from air pollution can rise with industrialization, they decline with higher incomes, better access to health care, and reduction in air pollution.

Contrary to what I and others have long believed, the positive impacts of manufacturing outweigh the negative ones. We should thus feel pride, not guilt, when buying products made by people like Suparti. And environmentalists and the news media should stop suggesting that fast-fashion brands like H&M are behaving unethically for contracting with factories in poor nations.

Early developers, today’s rich nations, should do everything they can to help poor nations industrialize. Instead, as we will see, many of them are doing something closer to the opposite: seeking to make poverty sustainable rather than to make poverty history.

6. Greed save the whales, not Greenpeace
It was vegetable oil, not an international treaty, that saved the whales. Ninety-nine percent of all whales killed in the twentieth century had occurred by the time the International Whaling Commission got around to imposing a moratorium in 1982. The Commission’s moratorium on whaling in the 1980s, according to the economists who did the most careful study, was a “rubber stamp” on a “situation that had already emerged. ... Regulation was not important in stabilizing populations.”

For nearly a decade, climate activists led by Bill McKibben of 350.org have claimed that natural gas is worse for the climate than coal. And yet, on virtually ever metric, natural gas is cleaner than coal. Natural gas emits 17 to 40 times less sulfur dioxide, a fraction of the nitrous oxide that coal emits, and almost no mercury. Natural gas is one-eighth as deadly as coal, counting both accidents and air pollution. And burning gas rather than coal for electricity requires 25 to 50 times less water.

Opposition to the new fuel usually comes from the wealthy. In Britain, elites called coal the “devil’s excrement.” ... The upper-class of Victorian England resisted the transition from wood to coal as long as they could. It was educated elites who similarly waged the war on fracking. The key antagonists were The New York Times, Bill McKibben, and well-financed environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council.

Politics even interfered with saving the whales. While environmentalists often blame capitalism for environmental problems, it was communism that made whaling worse than it needed to be. After the fall of communism, historians found records that the Soviet Union was whaling at far higher numbers than they had admitted. It did so even though it was no longer profitable to do so, thanks to Soviet central planning.

7. Have your steak and eat it, too
Attempting to move from factory farming to organic, free-range farming would require vastly more land, and thus destroy the habitat the needed by mountain gorillas, yellow-eyed penguins, and other endangered species. [Jonathan Safron] Foer unwittingly advocates nineteenth-century farming methods that, if adopted, would require turning wildlife-rich protected areas like Virunga Park into gigantic cattle ranches.

The trouble with dogmatic vegetarianism is the same as with dogmatic environmentalism. It ends up alienating the very people needed for improving conditions for animals and reducting the environmental impact of farming.

Much of the public’s concerns about meat have thus been misplaced. Consumers continue to express anxiety over things like the use of growth-promoting hormones in beef, even though the Food and Drug Administration, World Health Organization, and Food and Agriculture Organization have all concluded that meat produced with them is safe for human consumption. The evidence suggests we should have been more concerned by the absence of fat in our meat than by the use of hormones in its production.
Profile Image for Mandalorian Jedi.
43 reviews3 followers
July 4, 2020
A Must Read on the Truth About Climate Activism

I found this book to be extremely well written, interesting and informative. With the volume of I formation covered in this book it could easily become a painstaking experience to read. The author covered a exhaustively wide range of topics in great detail without losing the humanity of the subject matter. His arguments were clear and concise with documentation for even the most mundane of references.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone with even the slightest interest, or disinterest, in the subject of Global Climate Change or Climate Activism.
Profile Image for John.
119 reviews5 followers
July 30, 2020
There is just too much cherry picking of information and clear factual errors on subjects I am very well read on and are in my field of expertise. Which makes me call into question the information provided in this book in areas I am not as well versed. This leaves me to wonder what is this authors possible hidden agenda?
Profile Image for Steven Dzwonczyk.
137 reviews
July 6, 2020
Michael Shellenberger hit it out of the park with "Apocalypse Never." He has brought into focus a lifetime of environmental science and propaganda, explaining which is which and how you can tell the difference. He gives the reader several simple-to-understand concepts to help evaluate any environmental claim that is put before one to make it easier to see if it is a net good or net bad.

In each chapter he lays out the conventional wisdom, explains what is wrong in the reasoning, and suggests alternatives which would have better outcomes.

In the final chapter, he talks about the religion of environmentalism, why this religion results in sad and depressed congregants, and offers gratitude and wonder as alternatives.

This book will change the way we talk about the environment, and ultimately hopes to push us in the direction of a healthy environment and a prosperous humanity, a reality that can be achieved through nuclear power. (Oh, and he debunks the major myths about nuclear power throughout the book, which was eye-opening to me, even as a scientist.)
Profile Image for David Harestad.
166 reviews5 followers
July 10, 2020
I have been in the green movement now for 7-8 years, I worked for the Green party in Norway in the election of 2019, I even flirted a bit with Extinction Rebellion the summer that same year, and I can surely say that Shellenberger is right on the money. The main reason I heard about him is because he supports nuclear power as one of the real solutions, clever guy (yes, he is a paid lobbyist for nuclear power, but soon so am I).

Shellenberger is no climate change denier, quite the opposite. He has, as some of the critique of the book pointed out, some errors in his book, but those are absolutely not enough to label him as a climate change denier. Some would say that his assault on ICC-reports should label him a loonie, when what he really does is listen to one of the original authors who is critical of the apocalyptic tone in the summary. Yes, it is not looking good, but it is not completely hopeless. From the summaries you get this feeling, I have read them myself.

This apocalyptic tone is the reason I agree so wholeheartedly with Shellenberger. Within many green movements and Extinction Rebellion there is a consensus that we are all going to die tomorrow and that you are automatically sinful being born a carbon-emitting human, SHAME! Add the neo-Malthusian hypocrisy that we all need to reduce our global consumption, effectively dooming billions of people to poverty, and you have a modern green movement. It is not healthy at all, I can feel the damage done to my own system, and I personally know people who are mentally broken because of climate-angst. The general consensus is "it's fucked anyways" and "were all going to die". The broken people I know could have contributed a whole lot to a green organisation that had a more constructive message, or just society in general, instead of dropping out of life. Tell people the truth, but do not break them down, defeatist and doomerist people will get nothing done.

The message in this book is important, it should be read by everybody who are involved with anything political, and especially those within the green movement who keep an open mind.
Profile Image for eClaghorn.
374 reviews39 followers
February 19, 2023
Antidote for the disease of environmental alarmism. Well researched/documented and exposes the corruption of environmental activism. Even explains the psychology of environmentalists.
Profile Image for Stephen.
661 reviews17 followers
October 6, 2021
This book should have a warning label

Michael Shellenberger can’t be dismissed as a standard-issue climate change denier. He acknowledges that average global surface air temperature is going up and that fossil fuels under human control have had, still have, a big role in that rise. He denies however, that efforts to radically lower CO2 emissions in the next few years are justified, arguing that the rate of change in surface air temperature and the effects of that change are exaggerated by “apocalyptic environmentalists.” The exaggerations, in his opinion, are fomented by persons phobic and confused about nuclear fission; indifferent to poverty in the developing world; and, he speculates, maladaptively defending against an unconscious death wish for humanity.

Shellenberger’s be-all and end-all is continued economic development for the whole world, with the lion’s share to lower-income countries. This is constrained of course by resources and sinks. A good ideal fifty years ago, it is incompatible now with what must be done to arrest global warming unless methods of energy conversion can be deployed that don’t release greenhouse gases (GHGs). The author allows that renewables (principally wind and solar with some hydro) are good on GHGs but argues they can’t power the scope of development he calls for. Consequently, he stakes everything on the “peaceful atom” or in some situations, natural gas. Anyone who says “No Nukes” or “Leave it in the Ground” or “Circular Economy” or (worse yet) cites Garrett Hardin’s lifeboat analogy must in Shellenberger’s view be irrational about nuclear power or care nothing for people in low-income regions or both. The introduction (p. xiii) sets out the dialectic thus: “[The book] makes the moral case for humanism, of both secular and religious variant, against the anti-humanism of apocalyptic environmentalism.”

Near the book’s ending (p. 270) the author uses “if” and “might” to make his polarities look subtle. The implication is not lost. He writes

If the climate apocalypse is a kind of subconscious fantasy for people who dislike civilization, it might help explain why the people who are the most alarmist about environmental problems are also the most opposed to the technologies capable of addressing them, from fertilizer and flood control to natural gas and nuclear power.

The “environmental problems” Shellenberger refers to are not limited to rising global surface temperature and its sequelae, To him, a worse environmental problem is low potential for rapid economic development in much of the world. For that problem his practicable solution is processes extant now that can convert one form of energy to another very rapidly in a small space. Prime among these is “atoms for peace.” (p. 280) A distant second is natural gas.

The author can’t see a rational basis for anyone’s opposing nuclear fuels as a solution to both widespread poverty and long-lived atmospheric pollutants like CO2 and N2O; so, he psychoanalyzes the opposition. He presents his finding not as a declarative nor (as in the excerpt above) in hypothetical “if … might” terms, but as a rhetorical question ripe for a “yes” answer. “Could a similar hatred of human civilization, and perhaps of humanity itself, be behind claims of environmental apocalypse?” (p. 270) Shellenberger conjures up from Ernest Becker’s “denial of death” his personal insight that “apocalyptic environmentalists,” especially those who act out die-ins and carry mock coffins, have an exaggerated fear of death, stoked because the prognosis for life on earth as we know it looks worse to them than to him. Indeed, he regards “apocalyptic environmentalists” as “lost souls” who believe the false doctrine that emissions of GHGs are now a net detriment to the living earth and who “derive psychological benefits from climate alarmism.” (272) . The author writes

Young people learning about climate change for the first time might understandably believe, upon listening to [Sarah] Lunnon {of Extinction Rebellion] and [Greta] Thunberg, that climate change is the result of deliberate, malevolent actions. In reality, it is the opposite. Emissions are a by-product of energy consumption, which has been necessary to people to lift themselves, their families and their societies out of poverty, and achieve human dignity. Given that’s what climate activists have been taught to believe, it’s understandable that so many of them would be so angry. (272)

Whose reality, please? Most people would agree that the industrial revolution did not begin with a plan to heat up the planet. Most “apocalyptic environmentalists” will concede that we would not live as we do now without a lot of fossil fuel burnt or processed in the past. That said, nearly all climate activists, even those not engaged with Extinction Rebellion, do believe that energy buyers and sellers in the last fifty years have knowingly abetted the release of now intolerable quantities of GHGs to the atmosphere in pursuit of corporate profits. This has been deliberate. vide Supran and Oreskes, 2017 https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10... Whether it’s malevolent or just reckless endangerment is a matter of opinion.

Three pages later, Shellenberger reprises his defense of economic development.

The picture promoted by apocalyptic environmentalists is inaccurate and dehumanizing. Humans are not unthinkingly destroying nature. Climate change, deforestation, plastic waste and species extinction are not, fundamentally, consequences of greed and hubris but rather side effects of economic development motivated by a humanistic desire to improve peoples’ lives. (275)

This is humanistwashing, Shellenberger’s own variant of greenwashing. Oil companies like Shell, Exxon, Texaco and Chevron were not motivated by humanistic desire when they plundered Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea and Ecuador. See Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil by Peter Maas

The author contrasts activists motivated by anger in what’s to him a fallacious cause with those called to what he sees as the authentic cause of civil rights. (273)

As such, when we hear activists, journalists, IPCC scientists and others claim climate change will be apocalyptic unless we make immediate, radical changes including massive reductions in energy consumption, we might consider whether they are motivated by love for humanity or something closer to its opposite (275)

In summary, Shellenberger believes that activists who say that to be recognizable and stable thirty years hence the world must reduce CO2 emissions radically and do without nuclear fuels are lost souls following false gods. For a rebuttal much better than mine, let’s turn to the words of someone who may be thought by atheists or adherents of non-Abrahamic religions to serve a false god, but by few humans to be a lost soul: His Holiness, Pope Francis in the 2015 encyclical Laudato Si. I call your attention especially to paragraphs 59, 104 and 161 among those reprinted here.

59. At the same time we can note the rise of a false or superficial ecology which bolsters complacency and a cheerful recklessness. As often occurs in periods of deep crisis which require bold decisions, we are tempted to think that what is happening is not entirely clear. Superficially, apart from a few obvious signs of pollution and deterioration, things do not look that serious, and the planet could continue as it is for some time. Such evasiveness serves as a licence to carrying on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption. This is the way human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen.

66. The creation accounts in the book of Genesis contain, in their own symbolic and narrative language, profound teachings about human existence and its historical reality. They suggest that human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbour and with the earth itself. According to the Bible, these three vital relationships have been broken, both outwardly and within us. This rupture is sin. The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations. This in turn distorted our mandate to “have dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), to “till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). As a result, the originally harmonious relationship between human beings and nature became conflictual (cf. Gen 3:17-19). It is significant that the harmony which Saint Francis of Assisi experienced with all creatures was seen as a healing of that rupture. Saint Bonaventure held that, through universal reconciliation with every creature, Saint Francis in some way returned to the state of original innocence.[40] This is a far cry from our situation today, where sin is manifest in all its destructive power in wars, the various forms of violence and abuse, the abandonment of the most vulnerable, and attacks on nature.

67. We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us. This allows us to respond to the charge that Judaeo-Christian thinking, on the basis of the Genesis account which grants man “dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), has encouraged the unbridled exploitation of nature by painting him as domineering and destructive by nature. This is not a correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church. Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures. The biblical texts are to be read in their context, with an appropriate hermeneutic, recognizing that they tell us to “till and keep” the garden of the world (cf. Gen 2:15). “Tilling” refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while “keeping” means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations. “The earth is the Lord’s” (Ps 24:1); to him belongs “the earth with all that is within it” (Dt 10:14). Thus God rejects every claim to absolute ownership: “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with me” (Lev 25:23).

104. Yet it must also be recognized that nuclear energy, biotechnology, information technology, knowledge of our DNA, and many other abilities which we have acquired, have given us tremendous power. More precisely, they have given those with the knowledge, and especially the economic resources to use them, an impressive dominance over the whole of humanity and the entire world. Never has humanity had such power over itself, yet nothing ensures that it will be used wisely, particularly when we consider how it is currently being used. We need but think of the nuclear bombs dropped in the middle of the twentieth century, or the array of technology which Nazism, Communism and other totalitarian regimes have employed to kill millions of people, to say nothing of the increasingly deadly arsenal of weapons available for modern warfare. In whose hands does all this power lie, or will it eventually end up? It is extremely risky for a small part of humanity to have it

106. The basic problem goes even deeper: it is the way that humanity has taken up technology and its development according to an undifferentiated and one-dimensional paradigm. This paradigm exalts the concept of a subject who, using logical and rational procedures, progressively approaches and gains control over an external object. This subject makes every effort to establish the scientific and experimental method, which in itself is already a technique of possession, mastery and transformation. It is as if the subject were to find itself in the presence of something formless, completely open to manipulation. Men and women have constantly intervened in nature, but for a long time this meant being in tune with and respecting the possibilities offered by the things themselves. It was a matter of receiving what nature itself allowed, as if from its own hand. Now, by contrast, we are the ones to lay our hands on things, attempting to extract everything possible from them while frequently ignoring or forgetting the reality in front of us. Human beings and material objects no longer extend a friendly hand to one another; the relationship has become confrontational. This has made it easy to accept the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology. It is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit. It is the false notion that “an infinite quantity of energy and resources are available, that it is possible to renew them quickly, and that the negative effects of the exploitation of the natural order can be easily absorbed”.[86]

161. Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world. The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now. We need to reflect on our accountability before those who will have to endure the dire consequences.
Profile Image for Cav.
701 reviews101 followers
February 16, 2023
Apocalypse Never was a very well-written, reasoned, and nuanced look at climate change, minus the alarmism and emotional urgency that are often par for the course when discussing this contentious topic.

Author Michael Shellenberger is a Time magazine “Hero of the Environment”; the winner of the 2008 Green Book Award from the Stevens Institute of Technology’s Center for Science Writings; and an invited expert reviewer of the next Assessment Report for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He has written on energy and the environment for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Nature Energy, and other publications for two decades. He is the founder and president of Environmental Progress, an independent, nonpartisan research organization based in Berkeley, California.

Michael Shellenberger:

I first heard about the book on Michael Shermer's Science Salon podcast. Shellenberger is a life-long climate advocate, and has written this book not to contest the idea that climate change is real, but rather to have a more balanced discussion around some of the major issues surrounding it.

Shellenberger talks about many things climate-related here; CO2 emissions, renewable and fossil fuel energy, polar bears, whales, forest fires, and many more.
He takes a shot at climate alarmists like Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thunberg, and others that promote excessive and/or irrational fear over climate change.
"...Whereas in January 2019, Thunberg had paid lip service to the need for poor nations to develop, in September she said, “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth.”
But economic growth was what lifted Suparti out of poverty, saved the whales, and is the hope for Bernadette, once Congo achieves security and peace.
Economic growth is necessary for creating the infrastructure required for protecting people from natural disasters, climate-related or not. And economic growth created Sweden’s wealth, including that of Thunberg’s own family.
It is fair to say that without economic growth, the person who is Greta Thunberg would not exist."
Good stuff!

Shellenberger identifies (correctly, IMHO) many of these climate alarmists as neo-Malthusians.
A large number of these alarmists have become religiously attached to these views, as is evidenced by their inability to have any discourse around the topic without resorting to hysterics and hyperbolic catastrophizing...

Many of the negative reviews here are no doubt ironically from the sort of people he describes in the book.
Shellenberger also correctly informs the reader that if the World's bottom income earners and poor in developing countries are to escape the poverty that plagues them, they will require more energy going forward, not less . Steven Pinker also has a great chapter about this in his book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.


I enjoyed the writing here. Shellenberger has an engaging style, and the book makes for easy reading. I also think this book is important. Anytime a rigid orthodoxy and/or moral panic emerges, it is important to amplify the voices of reasoned and rational contrarians.
Large groups of people engaging in moral panics and pathological groupthink are humanity's greatest Achilles' heel, IMHO.
Books like this one; well-written, presented, and argued - are necessary to help bring rational discourse back into the picture again.
I would definitely recommend this one to anyone interested.
5 stars.
Profile Image for Sandra.
264 reviews64 followers
August 18, 2021
Worth the time it took to read it, even if some of the facts are presented as more rosy than they are in reality. An example would be Temple Grandin and her efforts to ease life of animals raised for food - I read a few of her books and while what she was able to do was absolutely amazing, she bemoaned the slow degradation of animal welfare standards throughout the farming industry as soon as the public spotlight moved on the next crisis. The systematic abuse and cruelty in farming is well documented, and not a figment of some extreme environmentalist's imagination.
An interesting part was the background on anti-nuclear energy movements, which created an alliance between the environmentalists and fossil fuel companies that started in 1970s. I never understood the resistance to such an obvious lesser evil, when it comes to pollution and global warming, not to mention cheap source of energy, and why it was so successful. Also, an interesting history of California governors and their continuous personal investment in fossil fuels. We all love a good hypocrite, even when he have such overabundance of them.
When it comes to the current environmental policies, there is this insistence of international monetary and development agencies that the *developing* countries have to 'leapfrog' over the existing cheap and abundant energy sources and pass on the infrastructure that brought the West to the development level where it is at right now, and somehow make it with renewables. As Bill Gates explains it pretty convincingly in How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need, solar and wind energy are nowhere near the efficiency required for any meaningful development to take place, and the current estimate of their max. potential is quite underwhelming too, not to mention the inconvenience of nights and wind-less and cloudy days and battery storage issues. If they are so great and it's so doable, why don't the Western countries do it? Right, even Germany, which is throwing dozens of billions on it every year, is not doing too great with it. Yet, the undeveloped countries are forced to forego their own development to satisfy pet theories and lobby money of 'renewables'. It is a conundrum and a damn shame.

Here is an illustration (of Westerners using undeveloped countries for their pet projects): https://www.indiatoday.in/india/east/...
Profile Image for L.A. Starks.
Author 11 books665 followers
May 18, 2021
Michael Shellenberger has worked around the globe for environmental causes, so he is coming at the subject of energy, poverty remediation, industrialization, and the environment from a vast level of experience. He has seen what works, and what doesn't--why people want dams and electricity, why residents prefer charcoal to wood pellets near the Virunga National Park, and why nuclear is a better long-term large-scale answer than intermittent renewables.

He is clear that most countries require coal (as the US & UK did, and as China does) for cheap energy to go through the industrialization stage that leads to a healthy economy.

He is specific about the current Malthusians--that instead of running out of food as they did in the past, they claim we will run out of air.

One paragraph provides one of many good philosophical summaries:
"The trouble with the new environmental religion is that it has become increasingly apocalyptic, destructive, and self-defeating. It leads its adherents to demonize their opponents, often hypocritically. It drives them to seek to restrict power and prosperity at home and abroad. And it spreads anxiety and depression without meeting the deeper psychological, existential, and spiritual needs its ostensibly secular devotees seek."

Falls into the category of "if you only read one book this year, this should be the one."
Highly, highly recommended to all interested in energy, the environment, and the well-being of people around the world.
Profile Image for Luke Jacobs.
35 reviews6 followers
July 15, 2020
Honestly, this book did a really good job at challenging my default assumptions about climate change. A good deal of modern activism is rooted in ideological misgivings and not on rational policy. Especially with the rise of social media movements like The Sunrise Movement, which are echo chambers of semi-coherent, well meaning but ultimately counterproductive policy advocates.

That being said, this book kinda sucked. The author constantly rambles on about specific random scientists he disagrees with and gets wayyyyyy to bogged down in stuff like his history corresponding with that person, dates and locations where he read about them, and other boring irrelevant information. Every chapter gets caught in these weeds and doesn’t flow well into a entertaining blend of fact and storytelling.... it’s just a giant dump of the authors findings and grievances.
July 10, 2020
Count me in as one of the people that feels a lot of anxiety when we're told the earth is getting beyond the point of no return, the planet is dying, the storms and fires are out of control, the animals are suffering and disappearing, and our kids are totally screwed. What have been the "bold" solutions that are being proposed by the most high profile "experts?" You're the cause of these problems, cut way back on the energy you use, don't eat meat, don't have kids, don't fly anywhere, get ready to shut down the entire economy, and build big, ugly, endangered bird killing machines in the form of solar and wind farms. Most importantly raise taxes to the moon. I've even found myself partially agreeing with the observation that humanity is just a big, genetic mistake and the earth would have been better without us. Adults are understandably depressed by this narrative. Children are traumatized by it.
But the good news, as brilliantly and logically outlined in Apocalypse Never shatters these myths, and lays out solutions using existing, affordable technology, and on a timeline that can be measured in years rather than decades. This book is a breath of fresh air that counters the hot air of much of the media and apocalyptic talking heads that dominate air time. Most importantly I felt empowered and inspired as I turned the (electronic) pages. A friend of mine once said, "The simple solution presents itself last." And thus it finally found me after years of wondering, "what can we do about these environmental problems?" Part of the beauty of this work is that the author, Michael Shellenberger didn't arrive at this point-of-view out of the cradle. He earned it by first taking on global warming in the traditional form of an environmental activist. We're all lucky that Mr. Shellenberger is blessed with the rare gift of critical thinking. Because he paused, and took a deep, intellectual dive into the environmental data. He came out with a set of observations and proposed solutions that are fascinating, often counter-intuitive, and actionable. He earned his chops in the poorest and most dangerous places in Africa, where his observations about the timeline of moving toward denser energy sources seems to have emerged. He went to the problem areas of the earth both intellectually and physically. His own "Hero's Journey."
I am no longer anxious about our environment. I am fired up. I am ready to help Mr. Shellenberger's and his colleagues' get their message out to as many people as possible. I no longer feel guilty about my carbon foot print, or how much energy my family consumes. Now I realize, as a member of an advanced society, we require more energy, not less. Fear and misinformation, not technology is the hurdle these brilliant scientist need us to help them clear. Now the tools are available for even C+ Students like me to be part of the solution. I don't want to feel bad about building a better life for my family as we try to share that blessing with people all over the world. One of my favorite songs is, What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong. I can enjoy that heartfelt tune again without hypocrisy in my heart. Read this book! And thank you, Michael Shellenberger.
Profile Image for Jack.
814 reviews13 followers
July 5, 2020
A great Contrast to mainstream environmentalists

Shellenberger is not a heretic, or a climate denier. He’s pretty good at analysis and excellent at pointing out the differences between what scientists actually said and what the media and activists reported. There are so many good quotes in the book, I’m going back to try to make a summary. That’s the only problem with the book. It covers so much ground that it’s hard to find an ultimate theme . It’s a calmer, more reasoned read than the books from the apocalyptic writers that seem to dominate the airwaves and bookshelves.
81 reviews1 follower
July 4, 2020
Activist refutes Cilmate Apocalypse

Yes there is hope. The IPCC reports are intentionally exaggerated so politicians can say we need to act now. The news media then exaggerates it more to scare people into action. The world will not end. It's also interesting to see how green groups are supported by and support fossil fuel interests.
35 reviews
August 9, 2021
It's amazing that Shellenberger ran for public office using many of the arguments that he now - having lost the election - suddenly does a u-turn on to sell his book.
Profile Image for Ryan.
1,010 reviews
August 24, 2021
Since reading Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything, I’ve read a lot of climate change books. At this point, I find that I’m settling on some form of “our goal should be to maximize human flourishing while minimizing environmental harm,” a position that sometimes aligns me with ecomoderns. An ecomodern assessment of the climate crisis will often start with something not so different from this line in Rutger Bregman’s Utopia for Realists:
“Billions of us are suddenly rich, well nourished, clean, safe, smart, healthy, and occasionally even beautiful. Where 84% of the world’s population still lived in extreme poverty in 1820, by 1981 that percentage had dropped to 44%, and now, just a few decades later, it is under 10%. If this trend holds, the extreme poverty that has been an abiding feature of life will soon be eradicated for good” (1).
In other words, we’ve burned a lot of fossil fuels, but perhaps we got the benefits of modernity in return. Now we need to address the harms of modernity, so Bregman calls on readers to imagine new utopias to work towards. Ecomoderns who heed that call envision a world of capitalist innovation, urban development and density, cosmopolitan pluralism, nuclear energy, gene editing, anthropocentric ways of assigning of value, etc. Michael Shellenberger likes all of these things, and yet I found it difficult to enjoy Apocalypse Never, I suppose because it is a critique of left leaning greens rather than an attempt to build a more ecomodern coalition.

Shellenberger offers many arguments in Apocalypse Never, but I’ll focus on three broad ones that I think represent his views.

First, left leaning greens, and environmentalism more generally, focus too much on the worst case scenarios. I think greens would do well to consider this message. It’s easy to find layperson discussions about human extinction, and there’s even a group called Extinction Rebellion; I regularly encounter people who say they won’t have children for climate change reasons; societal breakdown is often emphasized in cli-fi visions of global collapse (and in works of scholarly non-fiction like Jared Diamond’s Collapse); and let’s not forget newspaper headlines that follow an ethos of “if it bleeds, it leads.” David Wallace-Wells published The Uninhabitable Earth, which begins “it is worse, much worse…” but, a year later, he wrote “After Alarmism” about how climate models and scientists are increasingly settling on forecasts of two to three degrees of warming (as opposed to four or more). The good news is that the worst forecasts seem increasingly unlikely.

The bad news is that the best forecasts also seem unlikely. At the risk of splitting hairs over where the line between "really bad" and "not that bad" lies, I already find that life at ~1 degree C of warming, which we now “enjoy,” seems bad enough to me. When I was a kid, we didn’t worry about deer ticks carrying lyme disease or West Nile virus, but both diseases moved north as temperatures warmed and it sucks. Writing in 2021, I note that the heat dome sucked. I live many hours away from forest fires, thankfully, but I’m still tired of hazy yellow smoke ruining every summer. The drought that has taken hold in the midwest and along the western coast sucks—and in a way that worries me more than hurricanes. I appreciate Shellenberger’s message that climate change induced human extinction and societal collapse seems unlikely. But it does not wow me, nor does the thought that our efforts to date have won us just 2 to 3 degrees of warming rather than 4 or more.

Second, Shellenberger wants to move his readers away from mitigation and towards economic development and adaptation.

The notion that wealth will empower us to adapt is a long standing argument amongst conservatives, and one that traces back at least as far as Thomas Schelling. To some extent, this is also an argument made by climate justice greens who see in their ability to adapt a privilege that remains from past imperial and colonial injustices. For some economists (and ecomodernists), climate change at some levels may be “worth it” if we can make enough money burning fossil fuels to adapt to the warming they produce. It's just a cost/ benefit analysis. I’m skeptical that climate change will prove to be worth it, or that people in thirty years will think “I’m so glad that people at the turn of the century doubled down on SUVs, megatrucks, and fossil fuel infrastructure rather than investing in renewable energy once they learned that CO2 was intensifying the greenhouse effect.” But economic growth is important and people are ingenious adapters. (The best argument I’ve seen for the importance of economic growth is expressed in Stubborn Attachments by Tyler Cowen, while one powerful demonstration of human ingenuity is found in Vaclav Smil’s Oil, which outlines the many ways engineers have found to pump oil out of the ground.)

Putting aside calls for more geoengineering research (Oliver Morton and Elizabeth Kolbert have good books on this subject), I’m not sure we need many more calls for adaptation. We can already see cities like Miami trying to fight back the rising waters (see The Water Will Come) because they already have no choice but to adapt and my prediction for my home province is that everyone will attempt to install some form of indoor climate control now that temperatures around 40 degrees C are possible. But we do need calls to mitigate more. Shellenberger downplays the importance of mitigation by drawing our attention to emissions reductions made in the developed world—these reductions are admirable. But the atmospheric concentration of CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) is still rising because reductions in emissions compared to last year are still additions of emissions compared to last year. Because CO2 takes decades to break down, even just a few more emissions add to the warming effect. Bill Gates presents this argument better than I can in How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, but it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that we need to get to net zero emissions and after that we’ll need to draw down emissions. Adaptation is nice, but mitigation is nicer.

Regardless, if economic development does matter, and if it relies on energy (which it often appears to), then where should that energy come from? Shellenberger’s third argument urges readers to embrace energy density, especially in the form of nuclear energy. I also would nudge people to split the atom, and here’s why. Whenever I play with climate policy simulators, such as Hal Harvey’s simulator at Energy Innovation, I am always struck by how much of an impact a) extending the life of current reactors and b) building advanced reactors has on reducing emissions. Shellenberger dislikes what he sees as irrational objections to nuclear energy, which often come from the left. For what it’s worth, I encounter these concerns amongst conservatives in my life, too, but the Canadian provinces that seem most interested in developing nuclear energy capacity right now are all led by conservative premiers. Having said that, when I study “Why Did Renewables Become So Cheap So Fast” from Our World in Data, solar and wind look fantastic—and cost/ efficiency has not yet plateaued. Nuclear energy costs, however, have risen--defenders often say because of excessive regulations. (Geothermal isn’t shown in that article, but it also looks awesome.) It is not by definition irrational that a climate scientist like Michael E. Mann would advocate for a mix of solar, wind, and geothermal over nuclear energy. But nuclear does seem underrated, even if in Drawdown Paul Hawken supports nuclear energy.

The group that stands to gain the most from considering the "environmental humanism" Shellenberger outlines in Apocalypse Never is left leaning readers who live in more of an echo chamber than they realize. I wish that cohort would read this book, though I also wish it were written with that goal in mind. Unfortunately, the audience Shellenberger has found, and embraced, is an “own the libs” climate inaction coalition signalled in the title (and his online posts). Too bad, as that is the group that, imho, least stands to benefit from this work. Conservatives not only live in their own echo chamber but in a world of “alternative facts.” This is not unique to the American right, sadly. When Canada’s federal conservative party in March of 2021 had a chance to agree or disagree with the phrase “climate change is real,” they voted against the resolution. In 2021. I would take Shellenberger more seriously if he called out his supporters on the right or worked to build a conservative climate movement not based on denial and fossil fuel emissions. Maybe someday he will. He's a fine writer, and, if I could, I'd draw his attention to the careers of the New Atheists, which went downhill so quickly when they stridently embraced their core audience.

Shellenberger's best arguments are important, so I recommend Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Discipline: An Eco-Pragmatist Manifesto. It’s an older work than Apocalypse Never, but I suspect its power to persuade remains higher.
Profile Image for John  Landes.
206 reviews6 followers
August 10, 2023
Great read. Helps to explain and expose some of the global warming and climate crisis fraud, half-truths, and the groups behind it all.
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