About time too. Michael Shellenberger, a self-confessed “climate activist”, last month issued a “formal apology” for the “climate scare” environmentalists had “created over the last 30 years”.
Climate change was happening, but it was not the end of the world or even its most serious environmental problem. Mr Shellenberger, who has himself been an activist for 20 years, said that until last year he had mostly avoided speaking out against the climate scare. This was partly out of embarrassment because he had been “as guilty of alarmism as any other environmentalist”.
Mostly, however, “I was scared.” He had remained quiet during the “climate disinformation campaign” because he was scared of losing friends and funding. So he mostly “stood by and did next to nothing as my fellow environmentalists terrified the public”. Last year, however, “things spiralled out of control” with apocalyptic warnings that the world would end in 12 years if climate change was not addressed and that civilisations would be wiped out, while one in five British children had been having “nightmares about climate change”.
Such warnings have been issued year in and year out over the past three decades. “Project fear” was perfected by climate alarmists long before British European Union enthusiasts cooked up their own Project Fear about the apocalypse that Brexit would bring about.
And the scare-mongering continues. Last week, for example, Daily Maverick ran an article by a Stellenbosch professor under the headline “A terrifying glimpse of a future where overpopulation and climate crisis overwhelm earth”. The professor managed to describe people who moved from country to town as “climate migrants”. Rising temperatures and pollution were likely to cause premature, underweight, and even stillborn births.
Two months ago an academic at the University of Cape Town had an article in the Daily Maverick under the headline “Donald Trump’s disdain for climate science is an existential threat to the planet”. Helpfully informing readers that “I am a scientist”, the writer declared that “air that transmits Covid-19” was also “heating the planet to a metaphorical boiling point”. The response to this existential threat should not simply be “fuck any carbon guilt”.
So Mr Shellenberger’s courageous admission of real guilt comes not a moment too soon. His new book, Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, will no doubt be blacklisted and/or abused.
In the formal apology he issued last month “for how badly we environmentalists have misled the public”, Mr Shellenberger presented a list of “facts that few people know”. They included:
+ humans are not causing a “sixth mass extinction”
+ climate change is not making disasters worse
+ fires have declined around the world since 2003, while the build-up of wood fuel and more houses near forests, not climate change, explains why there are more fires in Australia and California
+ the amount of land used for meat has declined by an area as large as Alaska
+ air pollution and carbon emissions have been declining in rich countries for 50 years
+ habitat loss and the direct killing of wild animals are bigger threats to species than climate change, and
+ using wood fuel is far worse for people than fossil fuels.
Mr Shellenberger goes on to argue that modern farming is one of the keys to environmental progress, in that it makes it possible to produce more food on less land. He also contends that the most important means of reducing air pollution and carbon emissions is to move from wood to coal to petroleum to natural gas to uranium. Moreover, the evidence is “overwhelming that our high-energy civilisation is better for people and nature than the low-energy civilisation that climate alarmists would return us to”.
Mr Shellenberger further maintains that institutions such as the World Health Organisation and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “have undermined their credibility through the repeated politicisation of science”. As for the “ideology behind environmental alarmism – Malthusianism – [it] has been repeatedly debunked for 200 years”.
Little of what Mr Shellenberger says is unfamiliar to anyone willing to consider the arguments that have been put forward for a long time by a great many scientists who have been summarily dismissed as “denialists”. Although he believes that Malthusianism, notwithstanding having been repeatedly debunked, is “more powerful than ever”, he thinks environmental alarmism will have diminishing “cultural power”, because the actual crisis of the coronavirus pandemic will put the climate “crisis” into perspective.
Also, he argues, “social media is allowing for a wider range of new and independent voices to outcompete alarmist environmental journalists at legacy publications”.
Mr Shellenberger’s book will no doubt come in for plenty of abuse from the powerful, well-funded, Climate Alarmist Establishment, which will do its best to deny him platforms in accordance with long-standing treatment of “denialists”. As a believer turned heretic he will no doubt also be subject to special vilification. But that should also boost the sales of his book.
* John Kane-Berman is a policy fellow at the IRR, a think-tank that promotes political and economic freedom. Readers are invited to take a stand with the IRR by clicking here or sending an SMS with your name to 32823. Each SMS costs R1. Ts and Cs apply.