- Dec 5, 2007
His essential message is not one his old comrades would want you to hear. His thesis is that rabid Green alarmism is creating a raft of dangerous myths about climate change and blinding the public to real solutions that could address far more pressing global problems. Having once campaigned for them, Shellenberger now believes that most forms of renewable energy such as solar and wind power are simply impractical for large scale use in much of the world. They’re also damaging because they require huge amounts of land and harm wildlife.
Meanwhile, hysterical Green doom-mongers — he singles out Britain’s Extinction Rebellion group and 17-year-old Swedish eco-warrior Greta Thunberg — must stop saying the world is about to end due to climate change. It isn’t even close, he says.
‘Environmentalists got it exactly wrong’, Shellenberger told me this week. Motivated by left-wing, anti-capitalist, anti-growth ideas, they have pushed for a low energy, low consumption world — essentially ‘a return to Elizabethan England’, he says — when what is needed is the opposite. Industrialisation in the Third World (where carbon emissions are rising the fastest) may cause a short-term rise in carbon emissions, he argues, but in the long term it benefits the environment as it pushes people out of the countryside and into cities. Farmland can revert to nature and people get richer, allowing them to switch to cleaner forms of energy.
A critical way of saving the environment, says Shellenberger, is to produce more food, particularly meat, on less land. He also argues Western banks and governments should stop forcing renewable energy technology such as batteries and solar panels on developing countries and let them build hydroelectric dams and efficient fossil fuel power stations. Rich nations are trying to make poverty ‘sustainable’ rather than ‘history’ in the Third World, he says damningly.
When it comes to radical activism, there are few who can hold an ethically-sourced candle to Michael Shellenberger. But the American environmentalist has changed his mind. Rather drastically.