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Michael Schellenberger In The Mail

July 23, 2020

By Paul Homewood



Having slagged off the press today, I must give credit to the Mail for printing a full account of Michael Schellenberger’s return to sanity.

His story is familiar to us, but probably not the wider public.

Below is a shortened version:



When it comes to radical activism, there are few who can hold an ethically-sourced candle to Michael Shellenberger.

At 16, he threw his first fundraising party for a rainforest conservation group. At 17, he lived in Nicaragua to show ‘solidarity’ with the Sandinista socialist revolution.

By his early 20s, he was raising money for Guatemalan women’s co-operatives and small farmers to fight off corporations trying to take their land in the Amazon. In 2008, Time magazine named him its ‘Hero of the Environment’. His ideas to promote renewable energy led to the Obama administration pumping $150 billion into the now trendy sector.

But far from being a ‘hero’ of the Green movement, he’s now become a heretic they’d happily burn at the stake — if that didn’t increase the global carbon footprint, of course. For the American environmentalist has changed his mind. Rather drastically.

Distilling the contents of his new book, Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, he recently wrote an online opinion article for the business magazine Forbes entitled ‘On Behalf of Environmentalists, I Apologise For The Climate Scare’. He continued: ‘Climate change is happening. It’s just not the end of the world. It’s not even our most serious environmental problem.’

A few days later, Forbes took the story down without explanation, eventually claiming it had removed the article because it violated its editorial guidelines ‘around self-promotion’. (Shellenberger was plugging his book).

Shellenberger, 49, claimed — understandably — that he had been censored after his article sent the Green lobby into a frenzy. But if this was censorship, it backfired spectacularly as his offending article was republished all over the internet and the uproar propelled his book into most bestseller lists (rising to seventh in Amazon’s non-fiction list).

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….

In his new book, he takes aim at a cornucopia of the Green movement’s treasured beliefs. Man-made climate change is not causing a new ‘mass extinction’ of species as only 0.001 percent of the planet’s species go extinct annually; the Amazon is not the ‘lungs of the world’ and carbon emissions are not soaring but declining in most rich countries, including Britain.

Contrary to what we are often led to believe, climate change is not making natural disasters worse, Shellenberger (pictured) says

Contrary to what we are often led to believe, climate change is not making natural disasters worse, he says: the greater use of wood fuel and the growing number of houses near forests are the real reasons why there are more severe fires in Australia and California.

Some of the statistics he brandishes are shocking to anyone remotely acquainted with the environmental movement, especially its claims that we need to become vegan and stop consuming meat to save the planet.

According to Shellenberger, the co-founder of a think tank called Environmental Progress, becoming a vegetarian actually reduces one’s emissions by less than four per cent while ‘free range’ beef — usually claimed to be more eco-friendly than the intensively farmed variety — requires 20 times more land and produces 300 per cent more carbon emissions.

As for starvation fears, we produce 25 per cent more food than we need and food surpluses will continue to rise as the world gets hotter. Meanwhile, switching to 100 per cent renewable energy is unfeasible — the U.S. would need to devote between 25 and 50 per cent of its total land to energy generation, compared with the 0.5 per cent it takes up now.

He also attacks the ‘myth’ that plastics linger for thousands of years in the ocean, saying they’re broken down by sunlight and other forces. As for the whales, they were saved not by Greenpeace as many believe, but by industry switching from whale oil to petroleum and palm oil, he says. Again and again, says Shellenberger, the Greens have actually made things worse rather than better with their misguided views.

He maintains the world’s most pressing environmental problem is not climate change but the continued burning of wood as fuel by up to two billion people — a consequence, he says, of poverty.

‘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.

He says his argument is particularly relevant in a world crippled by coronavirus, as it has laid bare how, in order to prevent pandemics (a far greater threat than climate change, he notes), we need to reduce our exposure to wild animals. That means creating more chicken, pork and beef in modern, safer facilities.

The news on climate change has actually been getting better, he says. Every rich country’s carbon emissions are already down and in the UK, France and Germany, those emissions peaked in the 1970s.

It’s not hard to see why his old allies are so riled. Shellenberger is putting a big red pen through pretty much everything the modern Green movement holds dear. He takes particular aim at the UK’s Extinction Rebellion, whose celebrity supporters range from Benedict Cumberbatch and Olivia Colman to Ellie Goulding and Bob Geldof.

During the two weeks of chaos caused by the group’s protests in October last year, spokesmen made a raft of alarming claims — billions of people were going to perish from climate change, the Earth was dying and government was doing nothing. Their apocalyptic predictions were echoed by Greta Thunberg. ‘I don’t want you to be hopeful’ about climate change, she said, ‘I want you to panic.’

Pointing out that the group’s popularity plunged after the protests, (and in fact its spokesman, British activist Zion Lights, actually defected to his group, Environmental Progress), Shellenberger says climate alarmism is self-defeating. Not only is it unnecessarily scaring the wits out of people — he cites a poll showing one in five British children report having nightmares about climate change (not surprising given Extinction Rebellion banners claimed ‘Climate Change Kills Children) —but it turns off working people who feel environmentalists don’t actually care about them. ‘And they’re right, they don’t,’ he adds. ‘[Climate alarmism] also destroys the credibility of science and, right now, trust is everything.’

He says he wrote Apocalypse Never ‘because the conversation about climate change and the environment has, in the past few years, spiralled out of control. ‘Much of what people are being told about the environment, including climate, is wrong, and we desperately need to get it right.’

He’s ‘fed up’, he adds. ‘with the exaggeration, alarmism, and extremism that are the enemy of a positive, humanistic and rational environmentalism’. The people ‘most apocalyptic about environmental problems tend to oppose the best and most obvious solutions to solving them’.

We need to get our priorities right, he says. Just think how much more useful it would have been if all those climate change protesters had marched instead for pandemic preparedness, he points out. What message does he want the public to take from his book in altering their behaviour? ‘I want them to know what matters,’ he replies. They should feel happy buying cheap ‘fast fashion’ because it not only ‘liberates’ the women who make the clothes in Third World factories by giving them jobs, but as it moves them from countryside to urban areas, it returns the land to nature as less is used for food production.

In fact, Shellenberger says climate change is intrinsically linked with poverty, and that if people in the Third World have more money, they can invest in cleaner energy, using gas and electricity, for example, rather than burning wood….


Shellenberger isn’t surprised he’s drawn flak although the personal attacks — being threatened with castration on Twitter — have been a ‘deeply unpleasant experience’.

The vehemence may be understandable given his belief that this ‘apocalyptic’ view of climate change is an ‘evangelical, fundamentalist religion’ that doesn’t respond to rational arguments.

It satisfies a basic need for something to believe in, he says, and its followers can convince themselves they are serving a higher purpose [saving the planet].

‘These people are in the grip of a religion,’ says Shellenberger, ‘and they don’t know it.’

  1. Bertie permalink
    July 23, 2020 7:04 pm


  2. July 23, 2020 7:26 pm

    The Gospel according to St. Luke: Chapter 15 Verse 7

    • Bertie permalink
      July 24, 2020 9:16 am

      “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.”

  3. Phillip Bratby permalink
    July 23, 2020 7:31 pm

    He’s become a bit like Matt Ridley – a rational optimist. I wonder when Harrabin and the BBC will cover this story instead of giving us fake news?

    • Broadlands permalink
      July 24, 2020 12:24 am

      I wrote to the Editor of SCIENCE to ask if the AAAS would make note of this remarkable shift. So far, they seem to have ignored it. Normally SCIENCE asks for and publishes book reports. Don’t hold your breath for this one.

      • Barbara Moir permalink
        July 25, 2020 2:23 pm

        AAAS: Science: I think receiving money from Grantham nowadays. Particularly sad for me as I worked for them (top mag) in the 1980s.

  4. David Virgo permalink
    July 23, 2020 7:40 pm

    I read the book – he is also in favour of nuclear power which is more efficient than burning gas or oil and is much safer in terms of numbers killed or injured. Reading between the lines it seems clear that money from the oil industry supports the green movement because it is against nuclear power which is the biggest threat to the oil industry.

    • Philip Mulholland permalink
      July 23, 2020 8:31 pm

      I partly agree with you, but the oil industry has another major competitor, the coal industry.

      Coal is a solid fuel that can be dug out of the ground, loaded into wagons, transported in bulk with relative ease and stored in the open air in heaps. Coal is also the highest energy value carbon fuel.

      Oil is a liquid, it is much more difficult to find, to transport and to store. And then there is gas. Gas is relatively easy to find compared to oil, but gas is difficult to safely extract, to transport and to store (all those pipes and cryogenic tankers). Gas is also a low value fuel because of the hydrogen atoms surrounding the carbon core that makes up the light hydrocarbon gases of methane, ethane, propane etc.degrade its value as a combustible energy source.

      So which side would you support if you are the boss of a oil major and you have a low value fuel that is costly to handle and yet can be made to seem virtuous if carbon dioxide from burning coal is a dangerous greenhouse gas and water vapour from burning natural gas is not?

      • July 24, 2020 1:40 am

        I remember reading the British Navy studied fuels around 1900. Their conclusion was that oil was the fuel for ships and beat sail and coal. The British then concentrated their gunboat diplomacy on getting access to the Middle East oil fields. I am equally sure what you say about coal for static power stations is equally true. It would be great if Australia could put some money in small regional nuclear plants and produced cheap power again!

      • bobn permalink
        July 24, 2020 2:08 am

        Absolutely right. In Austarlia oil and gas compamies support campaigns against coal. Fossil fuels against fossil fuels.

    • Steve permalink
      July 24, 2020 4:10 pm

      The oil industry is represented in the Climate Change Committee and supports hydrogen by reforming methane. They will be paid to provide as much as at present, then to reform it and then be paid to capture and liquefy the CO2 and pump it into old gas fields. Quids in all the way.

  5. Thomas Carr permalink
    July 23, 2020 8:35 pm

    Discomfort for the Twitterati is entirely self inflicted. But it may be nirvana for the neurotic so it serves some purpose, I suppose. I have yet to hear that those with low self esteem gain anything beneficial from it .

  6. Mike Jackson permalink
    July 23, 2020 10:26 pm

    I read his book as soon as it was available. There is indeed “rejoicing in heaven over one sinner …” but he still cannot escape from his conviction that CO2 drives climate and as long as his green ex-pals can convince enough politicians that that is the case we are headed down the road to the pre-industrial totalitarianism they long for.

    And some of his arguments, while I agree with most of them, are too counter-intuitive for the average hard-of-thinking eco-warrior.

    Still, let’s be thankful for small mercies!

    • Broadlands permalink
      July 24, 2020 12:33 am

      The problem that he still seems to ignore is that if CO2 drives the climate there is nothing plausible that humanity can do to mitigate or prevent it. If there was a discussion of solutions to this “climate emergency” I missed it. Adaptation?

  7. July 24, 2020 9:58 am

    Is it possible that the oil companies have over played their hand.In giving support to the green Marxists,did they ever consider that their themselves,would become victims of the mob.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      July 24, 2020 12:39 pm

      It seems to me that the mob has infiltrated the pike companies. Why else would Shell welcome the banning of petrol and diesel cars?

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        July 24, 2020 12:40 pm

        Auotvcorrect! Pike=oil

  8. It doesn't add up... permalink
    July 24, 2020 8:31 pm

    I was encouraged to see this report in the mainstream press. Let’s hope for more reporting like this. It might eventually pierce the thick skulls of policymakers.

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