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About Michael Shellenberger
Shellenberger is author of "Apocalypse Never," which Harper Collins will publish June 30, 2020. Advance praise for the book has been strong.
"Apocalypse Never is an extremely important book," says historian Richard Rhodes, who won the Pulitzer Prize for The Making of the Atomic Bomb. "Within its lively pages, Michael Shellenberger rescues with science and lived experience a subject drowning in misunderstanding and partisanship. His message is invigorating: if you have feared for the planet's future, take heart."
He has been called an "environmental guru," "climate guru," "North America's leading public intellectual on clean energy," and "high priest" of the environmental humanist movement for his writings and TED talks, which have been viewed over five million times.
Shellenberger advises policymakers around the world including in the U.S., Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Belgium. In January 2020, Shellenberger testified before the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology of the U.S. House of Representatives.
He has been a climate and environmental activist for over 30 years. He has helped save nuclear reactors around the world, from Illinois and New York to South Korea and Taiwan, thereby preventing an increase in air pollution equivalent to adding over 24 million cars to the road.
Shellenberger was invited by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2019 to serve as an independent Expert Reviewer of its next Assessment Report, to be published in 2022 his most recent Congressional testimony on the state of climate science, mitigation, and adaptation.
Shellenberger is a leading environmental journalist who has broken major stories on Amazon deforestation; rising climate resilience; growing eco-anxiety; the U.S. government's role in the fracking revolution; and climate change and California's fires.
He also writes on housing and homelessness and has called for California to declare a state of emergency with regards to its addiction, mental health, and housing crises. He has authored widely-read articles and reports on the topic including "Why California Keeps Making Homelessness Worse," "California in Danger."
His articles for Forbes, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, and his TED talks ("How Fear of Nuclear Hurts the Environment," "Why I Changed My Mind About Nuclear Power" and "Why Renewables Can't Save the Planet") have been viewed over six million times.
Shellenberger was featured in "Pandora's Promise," an award-winning film about environmentalists who changed their minds about nuclear, and appeared on "The Colbert Report." He debated Ralph Nader on CNN's "Crossfire" and Stanford University's Mark Jacobsen at UCLA .
His research and writing have appeared in The Harvard Law and Policy Review, Democracy Journal, Scientific American, Nature Energy, PLOS Biology, The New Republic, and cited by the New York Times, Slate, USA Today, Washington Post, New York Daily News, The New Republic.
Shellenberger has been an environmental and social justice advocate for over 25 years. In the 1990s he helped save California's last unprotected ancient redwood forest, and inspire Nike to improve factory conditions in Asia. In the 2000s, Michael advocated for a "new Apollo project" in clean energy, which resulted in a $150 billion public investment in clean tech between 2009 and 2015.
He lives in Berkeley, California and travels widely.
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Climate change is real but it’s not the end of the world. It is not even our most serious environmental problem.
Michael Shellenberger has been fighting for a greener planet for decades. He helped save the world’s last unprotected redwoods. He co-created the predecessor to today’s Green New Deal. And he led a successful effort by climate scientists and activists to keep nuclear plants operating, preventing a spike of emissions.
But in 2019, as some claimed “billions of people are going to die,” contributing to rising anxiety, including among adolescents, Shellenberger decided that, as a lifelong environmental activist, leading energy expert, and father of a teenage daughter, he needed to speak out to separate science from fiction.
Despite decades of news media attention, many remain ignorant of basic facts. Carbon emissions peaked and have been declining in most developed nations for over a decade. Deaths from extreme weather, even in poor nations, declined 80 percent over the last four decades. And the risk of Earth warming to very high temperatures is increasingly unlikely thanks to slowing population growth and abundant natural gas.
Curiously, the people who are the most alarmist about the problems also tend to oppose the obvious solutions.
What’s really behind the rise of apocalyptic environmentalism? There are powerful financial interests. There are desires for status and power. But most of all there is a desire among supposedly secular people for transcendence. This spiritual impulse can be natural and healthy. But in preaching fear without love, and guilt without redemption, the new religion is failing to satisfy our deepest psychological and existential needs.
Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus triggered a firestorm of controversy with their self-published essay “The Death of Environmentalism,” which argued that the existing model of environmentalism cannot adequately address global warming and that a new politics needs to take its place.
In this follow-up to their essay, the authors give an expansive and eloquent manifesto for political change. American values have changed dramatically since the environmental movement’s greatest victories in the 1960s. And while global warming presents exponentially greater challenges than any past pollution problem, environmentalists continue to employ the same tired and ineffective tactics.
Making the case for abandoning old categories (nature versus the market; left versus right), the authors articulate a new pragmatism that has already found champions in prominent figures such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Seeing a connection between the failures of environmentalism and the failures of the entire left-leaning political agenda, the authors point the way toward an aspirational politics that will resonate with modern American values and be capable of tackling our most pressing challenges.
“To win, Nordhaus and Shellenberger persuasively argue, environmentalists must stop congratulating themselves for their own willingness to confront inconvenient truths and must focus on building a politics of shared hope rather than relying on a politics of fear.” —The New York Times
Now, in a special issue of Breakthrough Journal, a group of scholars argues that rather than playing a moderating role, the expert class is contributing to America's political polarization. On questions of economic growth and inequality, global warming, obesity, and polarization itself, battling tribes of ideological experts frame new social and environmental problems in ways that undermine pragmatic political action. And rather than counter-balancing the expert ideologues, the news media have been caught up in the hyper-partisan spiral, making it easier than ever for politicians and voters alike to insulate themselves from information that challenges their assumptions.
The special issue draws on the theory of "wicked problems." Problems like inequality, climate change, and obesity are problems of affluence, not scarcity. Where the mortal problems of old — infectious disease, hunger, deprivation — unified the public, "wicked problems" divide us. Our wealth allows us to self-sort into ideologically conforming Congressional districts and fund intractable political battles. Against the view that corporate power has corrupted democracy and disempowered citizens, the authors argue that greater, not diminished democracy is behind today's political divide. The real problem is not that our democracy is broken but rather that much of the American electorate has lost confidence in national institutions, whether big business or big government.
What will it take for Americans to come together? The creative destruction of the old ideological fault lines on both the Right and the Left. Reformers must challenge the simplistic framing of issues as the consequence of either unchecked corporate power or unchecked government. This will require a renewal of the American tradition of democratic pluralism — and a pragmatic commitment to concrete common actions.
About the Breakthrough Institute: Breakthrough's mission is to accelerate the transition to a future where all the world's inhabitants can enjoy secure, free, and prosperous lives on an ecologically vibrant planet. The Breakthrough Institute is a paradigm-shifting think tank committed to modernizing liberal thought for the 21st century. Our core values are integrity, imagination and audacity.
In this provocative collection of essays edited by the authors of “The Death of Environmentalism,” leading ecological thinkers put forward a vision of postenvironmentalism for the Anthropocene, the age of humans. Over the next century it is within our reach to create a world where all 10 billion humans achieve a standard of living that will allow them to pursue their dreams.
But this world is only possible if we embrace human development, modernization, and technological innovation