books book reviews

global warming books

reviewed by T. Nelson


Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All

by Michael Schellenberger
Harper, 2020, 413 pages
reviewed by T. Nelson

L ast year an activist movement called Extinction Rebellion, founded on the premise that climate change would make humans extinct, nearly caused a riot by blocking commuters in the London Tube. Yet despite claims to the contrary, scientists are generally noncommittal toward the global warming theory in general. Climate change is not a scientific cause, but a political one.

Part of the reason is that climate is harder to study than people realize. Even something as simple as measuring changes in sea level is fraught with uncertainty. In some areas land is still rising 10,000 years after the last ice age; elsewhere it is sinking, and further corrections are necessary to correct for thermal expansion of water. Even measuring temperature accurately is challenging—all the more so now that climate activists have destroyed the original temperature records to “save space.”

Schellenberger is a former environmental activist who still believes global warming is a threat, but rejects environmental alarmism because it will prevent us from finding a solution. He says nuclear energy is the most economical and safest altern­ative. He backs this up with compelling arguments and startling facts and figures. For example:

Schellenberger says environmentalism was born out of Malthusianism. Early environmentalists believed the fundamental problem was overpopulation. When that was shown to be false, they switched to climate change. The movement became a secular religion of the educated, upper-middle-class elite in developed nations, in which scientists play the role of gods, but it fails to fulfill the devotees' deeper spiritual and psychological needs. What remains is opposition to all practical solutions. He writes:

Malthusians raise the alarm about resource or environmental problems and then attack the obvious technical solutions. Malthus had to attack birth control to predict overpopulation. Holdren and Ehrlich had to claim fossil fuels were scarce to . . . raise the alarm over famine. And climate activists today have to attack natural gas and nuclear energy, the main drivers of lower carbon emissions, in order to warn of climate catastrophe. [p.242]

Schellenberger says rich celebrities are well aware of their climate hypocrisy:

Hypocrisy is the ultimate power move. It is a way of demonstrating that one plays by a different set of rules from the ones adhered to by common people. [p.247]

Of the IPCC, Schellenberger writes: “Its Summary for Policy­makers, press releases, and authors' statements betray ideological motivations, a tendency toward exaggeration, and an absence of important context.” Typical of the emotionalism of the times, and to the delight of the news media, alarmists invent myths and create fake videos about polar bears:

The “climate denialists” were right: devastating declines in the number of polar bears have indeed failed to materialize . . . . misinformation about polar bears perfectly captures the ways in which many of the stories people tell about climate change don't have much to do with science. [p.252]

Leading media companies have been exaggerating climate change at least since the 1980s. And, as we have seen, elite publications like The New York Times and The New Yorker have frequently and uncritically repeated debunked Malthusian dogma for well more than a half century. [p.257]

But underneath it all, Schellenberger's writing suggests, is an obsession with death and a subconscious hope for the destruction of civilization as a way of returning to nature. The demonstra­tions in the UK reveled in depictions of death, complete with coffins and blood.

Young people are being told that they're going to die in ten years. No wonder they're angry and depressed. But their anger is disem­powering and it's based on misinterpretations of the evidence. To counter it, Schellenberger says, “we must ground ourselves first in our commitment to the transcendent moral purpose of universal human flourishing and environmental progress.”

To be clear, he still believes AGW is a real threat. His message is that the biggest obstacle in eliminating that threat is the environmentalist movement. To those who want any economic sacrifices to be fully justified and backed by sound science, this book is a tiny green sprout in a desert of unreason.

If Schellenberger had a bumper sticker, it would say: SAVE THE BABY NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS. But his book raises a good question: if the warmers reject every reasonable solution, are they really serious about solving a problem, or is it just a game to them?

jul 05, 2020