Book Review: “Apocalypse Never” By Michael Shellenberger

Posted on Tue 06/30/2020 by


By Peter Murphy ~

The way to a cleaner, sustainable planet is not to eliminate fossil fuels and nuclear power, but rather to expand their use, especially in developing countries to bring economic growth and prosperity, the way such sources did for the developed world.

This is one of the primary themes in the new book, Apocalypse Never, written not by a “climate denier” or “corporate shill.” Instead, author Michael Shellenberger is a 30-year environmental activist with street cred in various causes including saving California’s redwood forests and co-founding a “progressive Democratic, labor-environment push” in 2002 for the New Apollo Project, a renewable energy initiative that long predated the Green New Deal. He also is a Time magazine “Hero of the Environment.”

Shellenberger’s background is a key reason Apocalypse Never is so devastating to extremist environmentalism that has taken hold in politics, the media, K-12 education and popular culture. This book, which was released just last week, destroys numerous claims of the environmental alarmist industry, spearheaded by robustly funded organizations including the Sierra Club, 350, Greenpeace, National Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund and lesser known groups.

Shellenberger is presently the founder and president of Environmental Progress, a nonpartisan research organization in Berkeley, California. He espouses what he calls “environmental humanism,” which is grounded in the “transcendent moral purpose of universal human flourishing and environmental progress, and then in rationality.”

He also is a strong supporter of nuclear energy, and makes the compelling case that it is safe, abundant, carbon free, and vitally important to expand for a sustainable future.

The book’s subtitle, Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, especially describes the counterproductive impact of climate policies on populations in the developing world, including in Congo, Bangladesh, Brazil and Rwanda where the author traveled. He faults international organizations such as the World Bank for trying to force on such nations renewable energy projects such as wind and solar and bio-fuels.

Instead, these nations, which remain heavily reliant on wood burning, need investment in hydroelectric dams, fossil fuel development and infrastructure to industrialize and improve living conditions – the very things that brought the economic growth and prosperity to Europe and the U.S. Yet, the aforementioned Green groups vigorously oppose this to and instead push what Shellenberger calls “energy leapfrogging” to renewables, which have neither the efficiency nor capacity to raise living standards.

Such climate policies toward the developing world are a form of neo-colonialism. “It is hypocritical and unethical to demand that poor nations follow a more expensive and thus slower path to prosperity that the West followed,” Shellenberger writes. I would add, these Green groups are effectively demanding the West reverse its prosperity by crippling fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

There is almost no issue propagated by the environmental alarmist camp that is spared in this book of fewer than 300 pages, not counting another 104 pages of endnotes. I suspect because of Shellenberger’s takedown of so many environmental narratives and shibboleths, he meticulously documented his substantial research.

Environmental falsehoods are exposed regarding hydro-fracturing, including the bogus film, Gasland; polar bears; population control; wind energy, which is devastating birds and bats (yet denied by Green groups); and recent wild fires and extreme weather events, which are not historically significant and claim significantly fewer lives today. Solar and wind energy, he notes, are far less efficient and take 100 to 1,000 times the land space of fossil fuel plants. The book also decries the deforestation necessary to expand wind, solar and bio-fuels, which threaten wildlife habitats.

Politicians and elites also are exposed for hypocrisy, including former California Governor Jerry Brown, whose family and political donors benefitted from Indonesian crude oil and natural gas made more necessary from his impeding nuclear energy. Green groups are shown being financially supported by fossil fuel billionaires, even as these groups attack climate skeptics for the same transgression.

Environmental scientists, journalists and activists are often criticized in the book for embellishments and dishonesty, for example, in reporting on the findings of the International Panel on Climate Change, and the parroting of unfounded catastrophic consequences of climate change.

The book makes perhaps its most riveting discussion around the religious backdrop of apocalyptic environmentalism, which he writes, “gives people a purpose” and helps them “find meaning in their lives.” The trouble is that it also has become destructive such that it “leads its adherents to demonize their opponents, often hypocritically,” while they refuse to acknowledge genuine science and facts.

Shellenberger calls himself a “rational environmentalist” who wrote this book because the “conversation about climate change and the environment [has] spiraled out of control.”

Indeed, rationalism is in woefully short supply in present day environmental discourse. Michael Shellenberger’s Apocalypse Never succeeds in providing a welcome boost

Peter Murphy is a CFACT analyst, and he has researched and advocated for a variety of policy issues, including education reform and fiscal policy. He previously wrote and edited The Chalkboard weblog for the New York Charter Schools Association, and has been published in numerous media outlets, including The Hill, New York Post and the Wall Street Journal.

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