I want you to panic….around the year 2030…we will be in a position where we set off an irreversible a chain reaction that will most likely lead to the end of our civilization as we know it…” If there’s one consistent message coming from activists and politicians pushing the Green New Deal and massive new subsidies for renewable energy it’s that if we don’t take radical action now, life on Earth as we know it will soon be irreversibly destroyed.
the world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change. The claim is time is running out. Science tells us that how we act or fail to act in the next 12 years will determine the very live-ability of our planet.
This fear-mongering is flat-out misleading, and the findings of the scientists studying global warming don’t support such alarmist claims, according to the new book Apocalypse Never. “Please welcome Michael Shellenberger.
..I know you’re an environmentalist because you’re not wearing a tie. okay, but you’re a new kind of environmentalist because you’re very well coiffed.” the book argues that deforestation and deaths from extreme weather are actually declining, and concerns about environmental damage from plastics are fundamentally misplaced.
Shellenberger, who began his career as an advocate for more government spending on wind and solar, was eventually disillusioned after witnessing the failure of subsidies to fix the inherent drawbacks of renewables.
Named a “Hero of the Environment” by Time magazine in 2008, Shellenberger is an “expert reviewer” for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He also appeared in the 2013 documentary Pandora’s Promise, which was shown at Sundance, and featured several prominent environmentalists who have come around to see the virtues of nuclear power.
it really took us getting clear about how big the gap was between fossil fuels and renewables for us to take a second look at nuclear. “coal, fracking, and nukes – you’re my kind of liberal.” I interviewed Shellenberg over Zoom about his new book, and why he believes that environmentalism has become a replacement for religion in an increasingly secular world.
I want you to panic around the year 2030 we will be in a position where we set off an irreversible chain reaction that will most likely lead to the end of our civilization as we know it if there’s one consistent message coming from activists and politicians pushing the green New Deal and massive new subsidies for renewable energy it’s that if we don’t take radical action now life on Earth as we know it will soon be irreversibly destroyed the world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change the claim is that time is running out and science tells us that how we act or failed act in the next 12 years will determine the very livability of our planet this fear-mongering is flat-out misleading and the findings of the scientists studying global warming don’t support such alarmist claims according to the new book apocalypse never but you’re a radical new kind of environmentalists because you’re very well clothed the book argues that deforestation and deaths from extreme weather are actually declining and concerns about environmental damage from plastics are fundamentally misplaced Shellenberger who began his career as an advocate for more government spending on wind and solar was eventually disillusioned after witnessing the failure of subsidies to fix the inherent drawbacks of renewables named a hero of the environment by Time magazine in 2008 Shellenberger is an expert reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change he also appeared in the 2013 documentary Pandora’s promise which was shown at Sundance and featured several prominent environmentalists who have come around to see the virtues of nuclear power it really took us getting clear about how big the gap was between fossil fuels and renewables for us to take a second look at nuclear coal natural gas fracking and nukes you’re my kind of liberal I interviewed Shellenberger / zoom about his new book and why he believes that environmentalism has become a replacement for religion in an increasingly secular world michael Shellenberger thanks for talking to Reason thanks for having me so your book is apocalypse never subtitled why environmental alarmism hurts us all give us the give me the elevator pitch of the book I mean the elevator pitch of the book is that everything they told us about the environment is wrong often it’s the opposite of what they said climate change is real but it’s not the end of the world it’s not even our most important environmental problem poverty under development bad government are the biggest factors driving environmental degradation the same factors behind poverty and disease and all the things we’re familiar with but more proximate problems that are much more serious in my view is the continued use of wood as fuel by a 1 to 2 billion people in the when are you building people in the world the overeating of wild animals in general certainly wild fish the oceans are in much worse shape and many people realize but just just the kind of poverty that pushes people into forests to farm and use wood as fuel and eat wild animals are really underappreciated threats and the solutions are industrialization and urbanization solutions are moving away from renewables towards fossil fuels and eventually towards nuclear which is obviously the best form of energy and that that trajectory the physical hierarchy of energy and the moral hierarchy are just perfectly overlap it’s not I don’t know any other discipline or any other science that shows this so clearly that one’s life is deeply improved by moving from wood to fossil energy and then one’s life is it’s further improved by becoming French and getting most of your electricity from nuclear that’s a higher that’s a bold claim to say that we need to become French in order to improve the future or to have a future but let’s start you know there’s a lot of claims there and I want to work through some of them the book is and I’ll congratulate you up front it is I mean it’s both kind of a mem or but it’s also a policy book and and you do a really great job of blending them your personal story is really interesting because you are you are an environmentalist can you talk a bit about why you are interested in preserving or you know improving the environment and how that seems out of earlier political commitments yeah but basically some of the punchline to the book is that our love of nature is irrational there’s no there’s no justification and I criticize conservationists for somehow suggesting that the continued existence of yellow eyed penguins or mountain gorillas are somehow important to human civilization that those species went extinct that somehow we’d be like a Jenga puzzle and then the human civilization would crash down suddenly we wouldn’t have roads and electrical systems and sewage systems and whatever interests ridiculous it’s there’s no mechanism for any of it and that the reason that we want to save these species is the same you know one might say it’s the same reason that we we preserved and go paintings or or it’s the same reason that we you know you know protect old churches or so it’s a preference it you know it’s a preference that we have so that of course you can say that you can say its aesthetic you can say its spiritual you can it’s all those refines to me as an environmental activist now we were saving redwood trees we never had did we here’s our strategy to save redwood trees was like was like here’s a photo of ancient redwoods don’t you want to save them it wasn’t we must save these redwoods because if we don’t then you know the apocalypse will come and you know so you how do we get to the end is near and so that that traces back through the birth of what we call environmentalism which is really the marriage of Malthusian ISM and and socialism hmm well can I ask to dilate a little bit on this the kind of preference question early conservationists I guess more than environmentalists or even preservationist would often talk about going into the woods and of course this happens after kind of industrial as industrialization a second place but you go to the woods to commune with nature and that that’s a powerful feeling and a meaning that’s that’s kind of where you’re talking about the the preference for keeping nature going is there how does that then get yet yolk to Malthusian ISM and a kind of an apocalyptic alarmism about the end of you know the last mountaintop or the last tree something like that great well so there’s sort of two reversals that occur and the first reversal is that the woods go from being a place of danger and criminality to that have to be conquered before God’s plan you know in Europe United States to something that is beautiful and sacred and special so that occurs you know at least in Europe and what’s called the early modern period between 16th and 18th centuries and of course it occurs after we start living in cities run you know so you only appreciate the thing after you’re not the American Indian was never so beloved as when he was no longer a threat right to fright to your people yeah you got it exactly so so that’s the first reversal and then we get this period of sort of conservation called aesthetic for spiritual doesn’t matter which lasts until about World War two and so after World War two there is a very powerful Malthusian Drive I would say by elites in the West particularly in the anglo-american countries but it spreads throughout Europe and it attaches itself to a bunch of conservation concerns and it does that in a bunch of different ways but for the most part conservationists in America in the United States and and really probably in Europe as well that we look at mostly I spend most time in California was the conservationists were pro-nuclear Pro economic growth Pro people Pro cities they even said things like you have to have a lot of cheap energy to just protect nature to just have nature nature takes a lot of work you have to you have to bat you have to have the boundaries you I talked about in Congo you know you talk to people and like how is your life and his interview and what’s going on around here and they’re like hey or what do you always know because you’re big tall white guy they know why you’re there you’re there to be at the park and they go can you ask the park director to put electric wire around the park is the wild animals be beating my crops right so that reality of course still exists in really poor countries but but managing nature turns out to be very expensive and of course there’s opportunity cost loss but but it’s a it’s an amazing thing if I can just interject I know at in the early 60s when students for a Democratic Society and their founding documents Port Huron Statement and the young Americans for freedom their conservative counterpart that was founded by William F Buckley and a couple of other conservatives each of their manifestos they take they assume nuclear power and essentially free unlimited non-polluting energy you know and that was you know in in the early 60s that’s what we were looking forward to obviously it didn’t work out that way yeah I mean the Port Huron Statement is so interesting because of course it’s like small modular nuclear reactors parents suburbs yeah because people had a thief at that point they still thought the cities are these monster cities I think that was the language they used right monster cities and them rather than live in suburbs powered by nuclear well today it’s the exact opposite now now environmentalist want to have cities but powered by renewables and we also I show why that’s physically not going to work for inherent power density reasons but nonetheless you get to this these humanistic you know greatest generation conservationists who are overthrown in the Sierra Club elsewhere too but we focus on this focus at such a pivotal or organization and they’re thrown by the Malthusian who are anti-nuclear whereas the earlier conservationists are pro nuclear and so the I unwrapped me a long time it took me many years to get to the bottom of what that was about where is it you say arrived is it partly that nuclear I mean talk a little bit about how nuclear went from being the savior of kind of the jet age or whatever to being you know the ultimate thing that we had to avoid was it and I mean you talk about it at length in the book but is it a kind of transference from nuclear power to nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons obviously you know her Oshima and Nagasaki are the things to be avoided we’re you know in the post-world War two ERA and through the 60s we’re living you know you know you know 15 minutes from the end of humanity and all of that kind of stuff is that what made nuclear energy such a pariah because I know people like Stewart Brand the Whole Earth Catalog founder merry prankster you know important figure in the development of personal computing as a concept and a technology is was always Pro nuclear but that went missing in the in counterculture years right well just on the case of Stuart he changed his mind around 2009 and that was why I changed my mind so he only changed his mind very much okay yeah I mean I think the the short version is that I see two big factors animating anti-nuclear ideology really starting to more strongly in the 60s and it was first just the true the truly shocking nature of the bomb and the truly terrifying nature of the bomb is is real and I think some people feared it and he did it for some ideological reasons but there is some independent just the bomb is a very serious invention the second is the Malthusian ISM which is that the problem that nuclear energy poses to mullahs who want to control society and restrict growth and do all the things that we know what the people that call themselves environmentalist want to do it’s threatened by nuclear energy because nuclear energy means you have infinite energy infinite fresh water infinite fertilizer and I means you have infinite food so nuclear eliminates resource scarcity now how much resource scarcity really was there before nuclear yeah I mean it wasn’t really wasn’t like we were ever really running out of energy we now know we weren’t running out of oil or gas or coal or any of that so that wasn’t really real necessarily but nonetheless I think I document basically a reaction to nuclear by Malthusian that I think is clearly motivated by a fear that basically this human cancer the in their view the human virus we have to cut off its power source that was always the idea and again I think it’s more irrational than rational sometimes these guys don’t really pull it apart and you’re right about the transference or I don’t know transferences I’m oppression use that words has some recycling analytical media but um displacement I think is the word I use and we use in the book which is that the fear displaces from the bomb onto the power plant and that’s true although it’s worth noting that it’s not something universally true it’s true among people who are on the left not just the radical left either but really this is often just mainstream liberals and I think this comes from the kind of old conte interview I didn’t get into it in the book necessarily but this desire that human reason be the thing that ends war not a technical fix which what degree gets confusing very quickly because you know you mentioned France France supplies a large percentage of a vast majority of its electricity needs via nuclear power plants and in Europe nuclear power seems more you know it’s more acceptable nuclear weapons definitely not in the United States nuclear what you know nuclear power is pretty verboten you know is it is is there a consistent threat or is is that it’s Malthusian ism and a dislike of of a post-scarcity world and it just takes different forms depending on the social or political context yeah for sure I mean I think that countries that have the bomb are more comfortable with nuclear and and in fact I think that I think it’s I’ve been it’s not in the book because I didn’t quite have the argument but I’ve been looking at whether or not it could be that Japan and Germany are uniquely anti-nuclear because they they weren’t allowed to have it and they would like to level the playing field plus I think there’s some pride and I mean look it’s the best weapon and obviously it’s the best weapon and Japan and Germany as anyway so anytime there knows these are the these are people that are deeply committed to excellence and have deep pride in doing the best of everything in here they are denied the best veteran hmm before we get to the apocalyptic turn because that’s really what you you know what’s your book you know in its title its apocalypse never you’re confronting that that’s certainly the the contemporary political discourse talk a little bit about how you individually grew to be an environmentalist and you know why it matters to you I mean yes so for me he you know just probably boring like everybody my parents took me camping a lot so we really loved being out I loved nature you know and and they were sort of I think my mom was still Christian my dad was more post Christian but death but out of a the Mennonite tradition which is a pacifist anti statist libertarian tradition by the way right yeah I remote so I mean I’m happy to see wearing buttons you’ve you’ve gotten past that right it’s progress yeah very basic morality I never believed I never I never I was never Malthusian you know I just was never and people would say there’s too many people in the world and always struck me as racist because I was it wasn’t I knew they would beg no no and of course there’s too many you know rich white people too and you’d always be kind of like yeah but seems like you’re always it seems like all the sterilization camps are in India you know it’s like doesn’t seem like this is evenly distributed concern but I was definitely had more apocalyptic view and you know I and I traced that in some ways to just the bomb I mean I when I was I’m a gen Xer I don’t know I was born at 71 so by 1980 the the movie the day after I think is 1983 so I was like 12 and this movie they the ABC encourages parents to watch this movie with their children and it just like whatever you know 15 minutes in it’s just I mean and they show the classrooms of children being carbonized right you know so schools you know that so you know so that was really there in my certainly my dad was more left-wing than my mom I read Chomsky it like 17 and went in the garage WA at 17 to work you know help the Sandinistas and so I think the apocalypticism also comes from socialism or Marxism a bit too which is a kind of view that you know of course there will be this becoming of the kingdom of heaven except for the communism or socialism in the transition phase so I had all of that you know I think there was a bunch of things I mean in the book I talk about just living with small farmers and trying to be a revolutionary socialist with small farmers he discovers small farmers are like they’re not on board necessarily with collectivization they they’ve got their own farm you know they don’t really even want their brother telling them how to how to do it you know that was a big deal seeing kind of the difference between first world problems and thermal problems which most people never experienced in poor countries had a big impact and it just became clear that like a lot of environmentalists were just putting nature ahead of lifting people out of poverty and that that was unethical and in fact the humans had to always come first because otherwise you know bad things happen and bad things are justified and so I think they’ll you know and then I think another big moment was just changing my mind about nuclear and once once you could change your mind about nuclear you can’t go there’s an aha moment it goes oh so we’re gonna have to spread all this these crappy renewables all over our deserts and for us we don’t have to grind up all this nature for climate change you just have nuclear power plants and once you understand how power density works and that it’s good to move up the energy ladder from wood and dung to coal to oil to natural gas to uranium and that industrial intensified agriculture produces more food on less lands there’s kind of a picture that you get and it was that picture that I had and it just took a while to be able to actually turn into the book let’s talk about contemporary alarmism in October and these are quotes that are in the book apocalypse never October 2018 grete tunberg or rather in 2019 in October of 2018 a UN IPCC report comes out which was widely kind of misinterpreted to say we have 12 years left grete tunberg in 2019 sense I want you to panic about the coming the imminent end of the world alexandria kzo Cortes who was pushing the green New Deal along with Senator Martin O’Malley a Democrat from Massachusetts or Maryland but she says the world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change they’re wrong how how can you according to you they’re wrong what is the brief argument of how wrong they are so the the two most important things anybody needs to know about climate change are that deaths from natural disasters have declined 90% over the last hundred years they’ve defined 80 percent over the last 40 years including in very poor countries we should be celebrating this like every day that we tiny amounts that people are swept away and in floods and hurricanes and cyclones and killed there it’s just great news and then the other thing is that carbon emissions have peaked in rich countries they’re going to peak in poor countries in the next 10 20 years maybe most some people think it peaked already I don’t but and so we’re probably most likely going to be come in around 3 degrees increase in temperatures globally over pre-industrial levels you know any increase in temperature does create changes to how we’ve created our society and what the habitats that we’ve set aside for animals are so any increase in temperatures does create problems there are benefits to but it definitely creates more problems so you don’t want to have higher temperatures if you can avoid them all else being equal but you know the guy that won the Nobel Prize for economics on climate change the Yale University professor William Nordhaus is the optimal level for balancing cost and benefits was four degrees so now three run hit three degrees it’s not the end of the world again most literally literally and figuratively not the end of the world there is yeah and so I open that first I’m going to publish it I’m just gonna give away the first chapter I think my publisher just give away the first chapter and I wanted to I go through that evidence that you described and then I say does any of that sound like the end of the world let’s go to the end of the world and see what life is actually like there and if you go to the Congo the difference between the Congo and my Helmand Berkley is that we have like when the rain floods down my hillside here we have a flood control system I make sure my house is not washed away they don’t have that in the Congo they don’t have electrical grid that functions properly I do there’s nothing in any climate scenario that’s going to basically wipe out our roads and electrical systems and sewage systems or flow control systems and yet that’s the way that the the way that climate change is described in these apocalyptic scenarios which you can’t find in anything in the IPCC IPCC doesn’t even suggest that that we I mean I think I’ve been trying to I’ve been looking at this question of could you ever say that anybody that you think anybody will die I think I can safely say nobody should die from climate change I don’t see a scenario where that death toll that’s declined from disasters will go up now this is let me make a point on this because I think it’s important I’m gonna write something about this people who say climate change is making disasters worse are either deliberately misleading you completely ignorant or they are using a definition of disasters that the IPCC and scientists don’t use a hurricane on its own is not a disaster what a disaster is the corny IPCC is the effect of the hurricane on deaths and costs people on whatever that’s the interaction between the weather event and thing so I’m having I’m actually I’ve been going talk and trying to get the scientists to tell me how she’s claiming that cloud making disaster is worse when how would you be able to claim that if the deaths from disasters are going down you’d have to sort of imagine that they would have gone down more if you had a temperature increase deaths are going down even though we are we have developed and we’d everybody around the globe have developed much more along coastlines along places that are more likely to have extreme weather events yeah they experience like a 90 years have even higher percent decline in deaths from cyclones and the Indian base and just by have mean better weather because of it they’re better predicted and better able to predict weather and then they have storm shelters it’s super low costs like really it wasn’t so in one hand you kind of got what were more wealthy so we’re more protected for natural disasters which is true but some of it’s just cheap stuff but I mean I’m kind of like I can’t figure out if you kind of go hurricanes are getting a little bit more severe the fire seasons a bit longer it’s just outweighed by other factors you know so in the fires I point out that it’s it’s the build-up of wood fuel and forests and it’s building houses near forests that explain all of the increase in fuel in fire frequency and severity in the case of floods it’s whether you have a flood control system or not I mean the new york times has been running these news stories like hyping flood thread and you’re kind of like well so then we’ll make our flood systems better I mean it’s not like a pot I mean it’s not like somehow we’re all gonna be flooded because of climate change and they make it sound almost biblical in the in the in the in the threat it poses as opposed to fairly modest changes that were very evil easily especially in rich countries able to adapt to and so I mean is is the equation for you as as simple and or as direct rather as if you care about people the good news is that fewer people are dying from weather fewer people are dying from pollution or environmental degradation as we’re getting better at that and the way to kind of supercharge all of that is to increase general wealth I mean we should I mean there’s so many reasons to increase wealth so obviously that should be a major goal economic growth should be a it is and it already is of course at the highest priority but you basically see the what you get with the Malthusian left is they say we have to do this all this I mean they just the Democrats put out another terrible Oh just a mass of bad spending on climate stuff that doesn’t first of all most it doesn’t actually reduce emissions doesn’t have anything to do with carbon emissions jobs programs and all the stuff I mean some of it might be fine I mean I might be fine with some I’m not even saying it’s all bad I’m just saying it’s not about climate change and a lot of the emphasis in terms of renewables i point out is is that precisely because renewables make energy expensive that’s that was the that was not a bug that was a feature of renewables as it’s always been imagined in every green new deal so we and the idea there is if it’s more expensive you use less of it yeah it’s a very crude model basically making energy more scarce and slowing down this virus of growth it’s just a D growth anti growth agenda masquerading itself in green clothing in a variety of ways that’s why I mean the watermelon that gets said sometimes I think I’m the libertarian front you know people see greens as just watermelons only so that became Reena green on the outside and red communists no certainly no Marx Marx there’s an anti growth quality here that wasn’t either so explicit or wasn’t really center central to what Marxism and socialism right we’re supposedly about yeah quite I mean that Marxism was also trying to get to a post-scarcity world and it’s I mean it’s it’s fast hiding that kind of the modern environmental movement is really about intensifying scarcity right yeah so it’s about I basically the book is in you know it’s in three that I don’t have it broken into three parts in the book but basically the first third is everything you’ve been told about the government is wrong it’s just a debunking of climate deforestation plastic straws species extinctions the second third is how do humans actually save the natural environment like in the real world how did we save the whales you know that’s urbanization industrialization substitution you know we save sea turtles by not making glasses out of their shells anymore we use plastics and then the last third is like how if environmental problems are manageable if many of the trends are going in the right there erection if there’s really no there’s no like scientific basis for imagining some catastrophic events from climate change what’s going on what is this about and so I basically just summarized it as money power and religion and while I think money and power are really important obviously I wrote whole chapters on them I think independent factors behind this I think this is at bottom this is people constructing an alternative religion so this is because of the general secularization of the world we still have a religious impulse and it’s being rout rooted in a kind of transcendental but symbolic love of nature yeah and the problem with it is that it doesn’t acknowledge it in other words if you’re if I’m if I’m at you and you’re a Christian or a Muslim or whatever and we’re like I’m a Jew I’m a Christian almost let’s Who I am but in and I’m into my religion and then I have science and you know most religious people very few don’t very few words really my religion and I’ve got my science and then there’s kind of a sign and there’s sort of two different my go to church on a church or my when I’m reading IPCC reports or something else environmentalists they’re there because they don’t think that they’re in the grip of a religion they start treating nature as a new God they start treating science as a new religion and that’s when things just go absolutely bonkers and problematic let’s let me ask you to work through kind of how do you convert is the wrong word but how do you engage somebody constructively if they are kind of thinking religiously without acknowledging it and to go back to renewables you know it’s interesting to hear you talk about how part of the whole point of renewables was to increase the cost of energy so that even if it wasn’t destroying you know even if we weren’t sucking oil out of the earth and you know and ruining things that way we have renewable energy but it’s going to be more expensive so even though it doesn’t despoil the environment we use less of it can you quickly kind of sketch is the problem with renewables now that they are too expensive compared to other alternatives or is it that they don’t work at scale or is it combination of both of those so think of it this way that there’s basically you know renewables are for you know pre-industrial subsistence farming societies there are low energy density it’s woods sunlight water wind they’re all very low energy density fuels or flows fossil fuels are much bigger increases in energy density they’re what allow us to have cities you can’t have renewable powered cities we did try we had horse-drawn carriages and you had horse species everywhere and disease and all sorts of problems so with electricity then also you can have elevators and the buildings can go higher until you get to nuclear where really you completely D materialized your power source so the problem with renewables is just it’s just physics you know this Michael Moore movie which got all this controversy which documents the big environmental problems of renewables they document the big of all problems renewables but then they kind of suggest that it’s because of capitalism as though like a solar farm wouldn’t require for higher times more land in a socialist society solar farm requires 400 times more land and natural gas plant or a nuclear plant because of the physics of sunlight or wind I mean there’s you know it’s just there’s just nothing but well the solar panels have become 2 percent or 10 percent more efficient ok so then it’ll be just 360 times more land there’s no and that’s by the way that’s it’s actually been 2 percent efficiency improving over 10 years 10 so you’re talking about so and then there’s the unreliability of it you know you have to have reliable power for it to be cheap power every time you’re removing electricity out of the grid into a battery or something else in the back end you’re getting two energy conversions so the renewables you know they’re doing a lot of work for people renewables are doing the work for Malthusian of trying to at least a fantasy of moving to a low energy society they’re they’re obviously a place that do look at crony capitalist can make a lot of money just subsidy farming and then and then they’re providing this spiritual fantasy of harmonizing human societies with nature which is the whole point so renewables just a sight you know renewable and organics and and humans are now making themselves right by nature in the same way that Christians wanted to make themselves right by God and so it’s a new morality anybody that opposes renewables is immoral right and and and satanic in some sense and nuclear itself is kind of satanic it plays the satanic role in this new cosmology which is so powerful because it’s so unconscious so part of the reason I want to write apocalypse never was just uh let’s just make it conscious and just kind of go if you want to justify your religion fine but then I think you need to explain to everybody why it’s worth the devastating impact it has on the natural environment why it’s worth the big cost increases the increases that it forces in the electricity system because often what riddles are doing is they’re externalizing their cost the unreliable managing the radical unreliability of wind turbines only it’s a 5 a.
m. or 4 a.m. and all this energy is on the grid you have to pay people to take it like it’s not like this is not great energy it’s often producing large amounts of garbage energy so you know you kind of go at the bottom you can do how you know what could possibly allow such terrible energy to be viewed as something so good right only a religion could perform that right do you find a and obviously you have you know throughout your career you engage mostly you know environmentalist some people like that our people receptive are you know hardcore greens receptive to being told you are in the throes of a religion that you can’t even see because you’re so deep into it what do you think yeah well I I you know I guess the question is because we live in a world where you know we have the the Democratic Party of basically every one of their presidential candidates had signed on to some version of the green New Deal or at least paid lip service to it you know in an environmental I mean in in in a profound way I think we are all environmentalists now in the sense that we we think about the costs and benefits of choices of energy choices and I’m old enough to remember the public service ads to treat that you know to teach people not to just throw garbage out the window of a car on a highway I mean we had to work we all think in environmental terms if you know in terms of cost-benefit to the surrounding areas but where it looks like we’re about to make a great leap forward into a very extreme version of it so how do you you know how do you what is what is the target audience I guess in a way for your book is it to get hard-core greens to you know kind of change the way they’re thinking is it to get I mean there’s a sizable group of people including in the Republican Party who are like nothing is wrong that can’t be fixed by just you know dumping crude oil everywhere you know I mean who had it how do you convert people to what your position is which strikes me as like eminently sensible so I mean part of the I mean I wrote this book for so many different audiences I mean I definitely had conservatives on my mind while I was writing it I definitely had progressed this on my mind for writing it they should be getting different things out of it if it’s working so for conservatives I think the most important thing to do is to just get grounded you really do get grounded in the science there’s still a lot of guys out there on the right who think that they’re either the plants not really warming or that carbon dioxide is not as our esteemed president calls that you know that climate change is a hoax right it’s a prey right by the Chinese government somehow in a yeah I don’t even want to try and diagram that yeah that flowchart but I think it’s a kind of a troll honestly I don’t really know that anybody that says that actually believes that there’s definitely some sunspots people but you know I testified in front of the House Committee on Science Space and Technology and in January and like not a single Republican was a climate denier you know and they were all asking questions and they had other concerns but it wasn’t this kind of the old caricature and certainly Trump obviously is responsible for some of that so but the old character I don’t find is true among like most Republicans you know I think that they didn’t I think miserable didn’t know I talk a little bit about how as here only came all to Z and the right actually became ante Malthusian even though Malthus is truly a conservative in just the kind of true conservative sense and why that was and so I think that there’s an sort of the same reason libertarians ended up on the right I think in United States so I think that there’s a you know so I think they’re sort of like it just kind of reject all that because look the IPCC saw IPCC science it’s like fine IPCC policy recommendations are stupid and just reflect the green agenda and we should criticize them I’m actually a review or I criticized them recently but I think if the conservatives were to actually get a more scientific view on climate change and to adopt this more humanistic view that I’m proposing which says look it’s not like you’re ever satisfied with your energy source just like you’re never satisfied with your food production you always want to improve it but the key is to be going in the direction of higher power densities not in the direction of lower power densities because that requires more nature more material more mat or more natural environment must be grounded up to produce either electricity or food or products or whatever and Republicans I think have been articulating they’ve been sort of articulating something close but it’s been around the economy and therefore they’ve ended up reinforcing the sense there’s some there’s some there’s some necessary [Music] trade-off between the economy in the environment but the truth is like France 75% nuclear it’s not poor because it has 75 percent nuclear I think you could actually argue that it’s rich so I think that there’s been a confusion on this I want to write this book for conservatives and Republicans and the Rotarians okay so then and then for progressives obviously yeah well talk a bit though how quick just on progressives it’s just getting similarly it’s getting to the energy power yeah yeah it’s is the progressives it’s just going also simply getting your head screwed on right with the science and being like renewables are problems because of low power densities and this is just nothing to do with capitalism or the man or whatever or like that’s just a problem with your fuels do you and that actually yeah that you would you have a sense it seems you mentioned you’re a Gen X or I’m a late baby boomer and your argument makes perfect sense to me and I suspect to a lot of Gen Xers for Millennials Gen Z younger Americans the environment regularly shows up and kind of polls and surveys as a very high order principle and kind of moving towards a you know fully renewable posts carbon kind of energy future why do you think that is and how do you reach younger people of whatever kind of ideological orientation I mean look it’s a religion I mean it’s just a complete we’re in a total religious revival it’s supposedly secular but I think I look at I don’t work on race but I listened to John McWhorter and you know John McWhorter was doing one of his things with Glenn Lowry and I think I saw you interview Quinn Lowry and and I think McWhorter goes McWhorter goes I’m gonna he’s gonna write a book on how anti racism is the new religion that was like I was like I just I just did that on the environment and it’s like it’s like I haven’t I haven’t spent any time trying figure out how they kind of work together but it’s like the same people that are in the street around anti racism run this food around climate apocalypse so I mean I think you know the death of God secularization you so first of all people need something to believe in you know that includes like some view of their own immortality and that’s okay there’s nothing wrong with that that’s actually I think it’s part of being human you know the argument I make is actually our awareness of our mortality creates anxiety that then this is I’m taking this from a major anthropologist who wrote on this makes us want to have some kind of legacy that’s natural that’s okay makes us want to feel heroic that’s great be aware of it don’t you know pretend like you don’t need that or want that and then and then I think you need a new morality this whole thing of the obsession with plastic straws you know the I’m vegetarian I showed these things are of no can I ask you bi I try to eat vegan and I do that mostly for calories not for ethical reasons but you have a stat in the in the book which put me back on my heels it’s that if everybody adopted a vegetarian diet how much how much of the earth would that say from farming it’s basically Oh from the where I’m sorry what what is that what is the metric yeah I mean carbon emissions it’s it’s two to four percent right so nothing yeah it’s just nothing you should side you should not and only that but like there’s AI can explain why I basically like does it doesn’t even work out that if you became vegetarian you could sort of be like there’s more will for this because there’s less pasture the big thing on and how much land we use for me it’s just weather are you spreading your cows all over the hillsides like Michael Pollan and the organicist want us to do or are you confining them in the evil industrial farming way because the evil industrial farming way leaves more of the earth to the natural environments obviously okay like just I don’t need to provide any math I mean just think about you concentrate a hundred cows over a hundred miles of land versus you know one mile I mean not you know one of the things that I really appreciate about the book too is that you’re not just you know picking off you know certain things for your argument I mean you talked about how there is a massive reforestation of the planet which is a good thing you know we have more plants more trees less land is being used for food production and energy production and things like that but then that there are also problems with kind of forests that are planted by you know people who are creating timber for us right I mean yeah everybody knows that an old-growth forest is just have you ever been in an old-growth forest it’s like it’s like for me it’s one of my peak spiritual existential peak experiences old-growth redwood forests or old with oak forest you feel they feel different they feel like you’re in a Cathedral if you’re in some tree farm so I point out yeah there’s reforestation but it’s not exactly mess it’s not what you there’s real law send me Amazon the bigger dynamic is that by promoting bad forms of Agriculture Greenpeace has encouraged fragmentation of the primary forest primary old-growth forest which we need if you’re gonna have like big cat species that can move around hundreds of kilometres of space you need these big apex predators and so they fragmented it because they actually thought that there was something wrong with concentrated industrialized intensified agriculture when that’s the key that’s the one of that’s the most important thing when it comes to saving the natural environment what we call the natural primary conservation it’s concentrating animal production concentrating food production intensifying production more food on less land it’s just obvious it’s physics you know there’s no advanced physics it’s just simple when you think about it and yet the dogmatism and the religiosity then has resulted in real ecological harm not just harm to people could you I want to get to uh I want to hear you make the best case possible for a nuclear power ubiquitous nuclear power in a second but just as a specific point you would mention this in passing about how the you know the next or the sixth extinction is not going to happen it’s not happening this is something that we hear a lot it’s like plastic straws you know killing all sorts of sea life you know the these are the kind of talking points or aphorisms of the of the environmentalist movement what is going on with extinctions and why should we not be overly concerned right now that you know we’re going to wake up you know by the fall most of our species are going to be extinct let me tell you what we should first be concerned about now so you should about we should just be concerned that humans have a large footprint we take up a lot of the earth there’s just not as much habitat for endangered species as we would want poverty in particular often drives people into forested or grassland areas converts them into farming or ranching and that is how you get loss of habitat it’s also how you get wild animal consumption so that’s what you want to worry about extinction because it’s such a powerful word is used by scientists advanced look relations and advocacy for their conservation agenda the problem is that we’re not in the sixth mass extinction we would be I mean you’d have to be the amount the the share of extinctions has to be enormous we’re just at a very tiny and it’s you know and yeah actually people don’t realize is that what happened was the way they construct this is they model they create these models where they assume a certain amount of loss of habitat would lead to a certain number of extinctions well they were wrong the models always overestimated extinctions just turns out species are actually many animal and plant another species or just good at occupying less and less land it’s kind of sad actually I mean it’s kind of amazing as well but it’s not like extinction is like in other words we’re really good at maintaining a lot of species diversity even if you just don’t have you know enough I think for me half of all wild animals we have half the number of wild animals in the world today that we had in 1960 that’s the issue if you just care about wild animals and you want more wild animals that’s too bad we should have been eating cows and pigs and chickens instead of eating all those animals and taking their habitat so that’s why the extinction and then the other problem of the extinction stuff is that it’s very it’s just very apocalyptic like if you kind of I quote this conservation science as soon as if you believe all that sixth extinction stuff then why would you bother you know like why would you bother saving things it’s wrong and stupid one of the things I’m I did in this book very deliberately very carefully is I got the key scientists on the phone that often make these apocalyptic claims I interviewed them like a proper reporter would which amazingly no environment reporters had done before me and basically got them on the record admitting that you know I fear they were bullshitting basically or grossly exaggerating you know or in the case of the species extinctions one I just got some of the main scientists just go on the record and just be like no you’re right we’re not in a sixth extinction so I was like okay then why why did you guys tell everybody that for like the last 10 guided years you know well how you know from up from a lay position you know and we live in it both simultaneously and I guess these things are related in age of experts and an absolute loss of faith in experts confidence in experts and institutions what are the tells that you’re being sold a line of BS on environmental claims you you spend a fair amount of time in the book and it’s it’s it makes for good reading but it’s infuriating looking at the tactics and the claims of the grip extinction rebellion in which is primarily are very big in England but how do you know when people are kind of stretching for for true claims well I mean this book i mean i mean i don’t i think that someone look at things like health care you know as like complicated i look at energy the environment is not that complicated i mean in some ways you just go those things i mentioned you know declining death tolls you know from natural disasters someone starts talking about people dying any number millions or billions you have to be like what is the mechanism for that what is the mechanism like how will those people die oh well we might run out of food well actually it turns out most everybody agrees that that as long as the four countries using fertilizer irrigation tractors and have roads we’re gonna produce much more food than we produced today we produced 25 percent more food than we need obesity is a problem we have we we throw away huge amounts of food that’s great man some ways it’s great it’s terrible the waste but it is kind of a sign that we’re secure and wealthy and that that’s not the issue so you know and then in terms of like this story about energy moving from lower energy densities both on energy and food production as well as well as cities by the way power densities increases like down it like Manhattan is like insanely high power density Singapore right hi Parkinson’s these little rural parts of Congo super low so just understanding that and that energy substitutes for matter that you can leave the natural environment by using more energy to protect it to save it I think these things once people get that framework this is like the last I’m not gonna doing the book on the environment over decided like I just got other things I want to do all right other articles but like this book actually there’s a secretly I’ve hidden an environmental studies textbook in this book it has all of the science it has the basic framework that you should get in your environment textbook and are not getting so I do feel like once you read this book your brain will be able to detect the okay well let’s here let’s try it out and see if I can detect from you when you talk about nuclear power and you know we talked a bit about how okay you know the nuclear age is born in you know Hiroshi Amma at Nagasaki the mushroom cloud that’s terrifying and then you know we still have God knows where more than enough nuclear weapons to blow up the planet a million times over and all of that we have nuclear power in parts of the world France overwhelmingly you know generates its own electricity by that places like Japan places like Russia but you know then the history of nuclear power seems to be littered with these warning signs these blips or more than blips Fukushima Chernobyl Three Mile Island which not in the same league I guess but why should we be moving towards nuclear you know and and and also then is it actually affordable in in any kind of meaningful what I mean I think the first thing you have to understand about nuclear you have to appreciate what it is it is a revolutionary moment in human evolution it’s a completely radical new technology okay it is and we knew it would be like literally before it was invented in the early 1900s before they had even split the atom there was books describing how once we got nuclear energy it would both open up the possibility of super bombs huge bombs and limitless energy basically limitless clean energy they didn’t quite use that word but that was where they were talking about so this first thing is you get it at the lab level I mean this is the Manhattan Project require did this huge only the US government could have done with massive wartime mobilization but splitting the atom happens in the lab I mean that’s just an a literally as soon as the word gets out they did it they replicate it everybody replicates it in the lab around the world so this is not something where you can just kind of be like like smallpox where you can be like well okay well some small pox in a couple of freezers in the United States and Russia like this is this is comes right out of human knowledge so what that what that means is so first of all I mean one of these so interesting I discovered in the research for apocalypse never was like really right after the bomb this group of scholars at yeah ill and some guys from Harvard to me figured out right away what it would mean in fact Niels Bohr the Nobel prize-winning Danish physicist who visits Manhattan Project sees Oppenheimer goes up Tommen is like this is going to change everything this is going to end war I mean like literally they really he’s gonna end work and then they were and then it freaked them out because of what it meant for it to end war and so there was some backpedaling and how do we control it and whatever they basically long story short by it was clear that this weapon is truly terrifying and in and in fact that’s how it works if it wasn’t so terrifying it wouldn’t be creating peace between India China India Pakistan right you know and other countries Soviet so in the industrial and the Chinese and whatever so it’s that so but that’s the but that is so kind of horrible in the sense that that was what like I remember telling you a friend of mine who’s progressive very much a UN type you know and she and I was like what just sounds like you just it just upsets you that this is how what it took to kind of tame the human beast she was like yeah it’s horrible like it was supposed to happen through brotherly love and reason and it was consoled that whole idea so that’s why that was you that’s the weaponry then how do we you know make the case for as as the best power source for the future so so then you get to the energy and it was obvious to everybody that it was gonna be the best form of energy like just because of all the reasons we know now the high power densities the fact that there’s no air and water pollution the fact that the so-called waste is just these used fuel rods that can be stored on-site tiny quantities of which never heard anybody never will hurt anybody that was all that and there was almost a mannequin thews II Azzam for nuclear energy in the 50s in part I think as a kind like way to make this terrifying new reality more palatable but that then didn’t last very long and animal food instructor after nuclear the the the Quakers and Mennonites and pacifist and others are going after nuclear weapons and then it eventually just displaces itself on to nuclear energy both deliberately and and through concerted political action and then so your questions and it’s all my way of getting your question the accidents whatever first of all it be like saying like when you kind of go well I don’t know chemistry you know chemistry look at all the accidents with chemistry and it’s kind of like if there’s a new whole new field of science which is what nuclear a whole new field aside a whole new industrial capacity like I kinda go well of course there’s gonna be a shitload of accidents like you’re kind of like I’m kind of amazed there haven’t been more and if they haven’t been worse and that’s what we keep finding at point out basically the radiation at a stage from these accidents just not the super potent toxin that people imagine there’s not very much of it because of the high power densities meaning that it’s just you know nuclear fuel rods you know as opposed to coal and wood you’re just putting a lot of material particulate matter into the environment very little of that escapes from nuclear so I go the overreaction to those accidents is displacement you know it’s one of the one of the reactors melted it like Three Mile Island it’s like wow okay yeah that’s and there’s that kind of we knew that would happen and it was like you know as a first generation and then like and so I mean people were killed in this major industrial accident Oh nobody so ok Fukushima operation there Oh nobody chernobyl II kind of dig down into it at best you can kind of count 200 dead bodies over like an 80 year period so you so ultimately nothing if you believe that science and I document all in the book I have the best expert on it then something else is going on and clearly the bomb is a big part of that now it’s again it’s more progressive than conservatives who are worried about nuclear it’s more women and then you know so there’s other things going on there but but nonetheless I think that’s the big animating factor that freaks us out about technology my understanding of nuclear plants in the United States at the very least and I I think this may be true in Europe as well as that they really once they’re up and running if you can assume a plant has been built and is running it’s incredibly cost-effective compared to you know carbon or you know oil gas things like that but that it actually it takes an enormous amount of subsidies to put a plant in operation is that accurate or how would you how would you address that no it’s not they’re not subsidies there are I mean I guess you could argue that you know loan guarantees are a subsidy but it doesn’t have to be with subsidies it can also just be you know under the traditional regulated public utility model where you have a natural monopoly in the form of electrical electrical electric company because you don’t want you know more than 100 electric companies stringing up wires everywhere it’s a natural monopoly we said we’re gonna either have it’s either gonna be socialist 30 percent of of us electricity is socialist basically publicly owned utilities seventy percent is privately owned it’s similar to that in Japan but South Korea France and many other countries are just publicly owned utilities and so when they invest they’ll just though they they don’t usually need a subsidy they usually just need to be able to start charging for some of that electricity in advance in order to make the capital that they borrowed cheaper so the most important thing is that you have cheap capital but it’s like what you said I mean it’s like if you think that this is important to the civilization and again I don’t I’m not suggesting that if we don’t do it that this civilization is in threat from climate change I’ve actually just sort of criticizing that nonetheless if you think like and there’s that nuclear is something that you need for civilization it’s just like building a bridge or a highway or a stadium or anything like that and there’s cost overruns just like there are with those things you expand the subway you do the Big Dig in Boston you do the high-speed rail and and those things have cost overruns but there’s no need for you know unless it’s a you know what it would basically happened was with deregulation and it made it harder to be able to do the kind of investments that we did was nuclear in the 1970s but we’re still able to it just we don’t really have weirdoes not really set up right to do it I guess as a closing thought are you optimistic that that the kind of high-water mark I’m reaching for bad metaphors here high-water mark fever you know the high you know high fever whatever of kind of environmental alarmism are we is that cresting or do you see that cresting sometime soon how optimistic are you that the message that you’re putting out in your book apocalypse never is going to carry the day I mean I think after apocalypse never and some of the stuff that we’re gonna do to call out the really bad science I think it’s gonna be increasingly hard to claim that climate change is causing natural disasters that it will increase deaths from natural disasters in the future I think that climate change will eventually have the same trajectory as fears of overpopulation and had which is that it will continue to sort of be something that people say and talk about but it won’t have the kind of it won’t be what a OS the next a OC is crusading on I do think the left will keep coming around on nuclear I just hired Zion lights from extinction rebellion who’s the person that is in the book to help us to build nuclear plants in Britain but I think the point I would make is that until there’s some alternative religion until there’s like some national I mean whether it’s nationalism or socialism or some alternative to the traditional judeo-christianity people are gonna keep finding new religions because we need that so I mean for me the question is what would the alternative religion I mean I mean I would argue in some sense libertarian is a kind of you know spiritual existential moral worldview what I’m proposing environmental humanism is the same but I do think that in some ways there’s just the work of Sisyphus that we do have to keep you know confronting apocalyptic millenarian ideologies because they are harmful I mean they’re causing things they’re contributing to anxiety and depression and people it’s being used as a strategy to basically keep poor countries from accessing cheap energy and thus economic growth so for me it’s more like I don’t know I can’t tell you exactly how big our victory will be but I do think the work is essential and you’ve got to kind of push back on this stuff so it doesn’t cause the kind of harm that it’s been causing in recent years I’m thinking with the myth of sisyphus if we could only harness the energy of that boulder rolling down the hill every night we yeah we wish it would carbon right yeah right right we’ll leave it there the book is apocalypse never why environmental alarmism hurts us all the author is Michael Shellenberger Mike thanks so much for talking to reason thanks for having me Nick good to see you.