I gave a heads-up to Michael Shellenberger’s book Apocalypse Never a little while ago. On Amazon.com it is still #1 in climatology, environmental policy, and environmental science, though I understand it was removed from the New York Times bestsellers list for much the same reasons that works by Blaise Pascal, Francis Bacon or John Calvin were put on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. I’ve not heard of its being burned by Extinction Rebellion yet, possibly because the woke activists are too busy burning Bibles for BLM.
In a way the main importance of the book is not that it reveals new information about climate change alarmism – you can find most of its facts on climate skeptic websites like Watts Up With That – but that it is a prominent longstanding climate activist, formerly an alarmist, who is saying it. In normal times his change of position would gain him a greater hearing, but as it is it’s just likely to get him cancelled that much quicker. Climate Alarm being a religion, unrelated to science, he will be seen as an apostate rather than a source of new evidence.
What surprised me about the book was just to what extent his views are congruent with those of the range of older scientists and other thinkers counted as “denialists.” Like a majority of them, he remains convinced the climate is warming, is uncertain the degree to which anthropogenic factors are responsible, and flat out denies the doomsday consequences predicted by most of the sources the general public usually gets to see. His major focus, though, is on the inadequacy of renewable energy, about which he presents a wealth of material showing how the world is spending huge amounts for little return, whilst committing many to energy poverty by demonizing fossil fuels and, most importantly, nuclear energy.
His hierarchy of energy sources in terms of their energy concentration, and hence their ability to help human well-being, is useful as it reminds us of where much of the under-developed world actually is, rather than where international organisations are trying to force them to go by foisting low-tech fixes or high-tech renewables on them, whilst blocking funding for conventional energy. The hierarchy is this:
wood <coal <oil <natural gas < nuclear
This is a salutary reminder of the threat to both health, industry and the environment posed by refusing the poorest of the world excess to the fossil energy which lifted our own countries out of serfdom. He points out that, by and large, developing countries will follow this sequence to progressively cleaner energy, as for example China and India are doing. He is probably not optimistic enough about the viability of clean coal (on which our own GJDS is an expert), but that’s excusable when his purpose is to show how, in the real world, locally-sourced coal power is a key to people’s initial prosperity, whereas wind and solar should not figure at all.
Shellenberger is a particular champion of nuclear energy, and he makes a good case debunking the longstanding evil reputation of the one energy source that could solve the entire problem, if it is one, of human greenhouse gas emissions. Interestingly he describes the same post-war scientific misdirection of “no-threshold” risk which I mentioned recently in my review of Scientocracy.
But the subject which taught me most, and which his inside knowledge of the whole environmental movement informs, is his exposee of how much the corruption of supposedly green politicians by environmentalist NGOs and, even more seriously, big corporations has perverted the issue of climate change.
I’ve read elsewhere, and probably written here, about how there is a revolving door of employment in NGOs like Greenpeace, national or supra-national advisory bodies, and green energy companies. I’ve also written about how useful it has been for Greenpeace, etc, to manufacture spurious claims of big oil funding for climate “deniers.” I have even noted how all the big oil companies are investing heavily in green diversification, which makes a nonsense of the virtue-signalling calls of the NGOs to disinvest from oil.
What I hadn’t realised was the massive extent of corporate funding of those very NGOs, and particularly fossil fuel interests, as well as the dirty tricks played by large corporations, with vested interests, in collaborating with politicians to make a monopolistic profit from renewable energy. Since this includes obfuscating the major role that fossil fuels play in the manufacture, deployment and operation of “green energy”, it ought to matter to environmentalists a bit.
Shellenberger’s description of the commercial interests and the corrupt politicans behind the closure (and demonization) of US nuclear plants makes revealing, but sobering, reading. In short, the whole environmental agenda is as crooked as the dirty treatment of those who refuse to swallow the simplistic “green is good” agenda already indicated.
The book is essential reading, then, for anyone concerned about the environment, even more for those concerned about the welfare of people, and especially for those who were fooled into thinking this was all about a virtuous new green world versus a few evil oil tycoons and their paid stooges in the contrarian camp indifferent to the planet’s fate.