On June 30 Michael Shellenberbger’s new book, Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, will be published. He has a twitter thread full of blurbs by prominent intellectuals like Richard Rhodes, Tom Wigley, Steven Pinker, Jonathan Haidt, Kerry Emanuel and more. He originally intended for it to be about nuclear power, but has “decided to broaden its focus last year in response to the increasingly apocalyptic claims being made about climate change, deforestation, and species extinction.”
He is clearly the world’s leading advocate for nuclear energy. His Environmental Progress site is full of graphs, charts and quotes. The “news” button on the top heading bar is pretty much a blog. There’s an excellent post about Jerry Brown’s history with nuclear energy. It has a lot of history about the Sierra Club and it’s former president Will Siri, a nuclear advocate.
Shellenberger has been making the rounds doing public appearances and interviews promoting nuclear on such varied venues as Alex Epstein’s Power Hour, the Reuben Report, The Delingpod, ReasonTV, various TED talks, more TED talks, Coffee with Scott Adams, the Brendan O’Neill show and testifying before congress. He speaks with a translator at a rally in France where he compares nuclear power to Cinderella and renewables to her evil stepsisters. Nuclear’s true beauty is in her small ecological footprint (the glass slipper fits).
While a lot of support for nuclear power tends to focus on new designs, Shellenberger has spent a lot of time with engineers who actually work on reactors. He’s found that historically prototypes similar to these proposed designs have been tried and proven to be more complicated and expensive. The current light water reactors have proven durable and to last for a long time. What has been most cost effective is to make them bigger and to have the same people make a lot of them over and over. He goes into detail in the Scott Adams interview and in his congressional testimony.
One of his themes is moving towards more concentrated energy sources. He sees a progression from wood to coal, to oil and gas to nuclear. He’s a big supporter of fracking. He has a debate with a NRDC lawyer named Kate Sinding over fracked gas.
There’s also the full hour version. You can hear Sinding speak at a NY anti-fracking rally along with Mark Ruffalo, who plays the scientist who turns into the Incredible Hulk in the Avenger movies. I realize these are fairly old, but the NRDC is still battling gas pipelines in New York.
When Shellenberger was young, he spent time in Latin American and saw how people there lived and developed an appreciation for modernity. In the Brendan O’neill interview, he talks about how hypocritical environmentalists can be and how Hollywood celebrities are some of the worst. He speculates on philosophical reasons for this. He brings up the question of whether they actually want to solve the climate problem and face a personal existential crisis of meaning.
Shellenberger has coauthored some well known controversial writing such as the “Ecomodernist Manifesto” and “The Death of Environmentalism” essays and Love Your Monsters, but this is his first major solo book. He’s been writing about housing and fires in California. I suspect he might try another, more serious run for governor of California. If the democrats win the presidency, could they find a place for him? He does have experience with the Apollo Alliance under President Obama. This was a program that used stimulus money to subsidize renewables. Seeing this in action caused him to change his mind about their value and become a nuclear advocate. Now a large part of the democrats’ environmental constituency is very antagonistic toward him. His new book also just got a praising tweet from Ted Cruz.
I don’t know if he has further political ambitions, but a new book is a good way to establish your positions. He describes himself as a democrat. He’s very smart, driven, articulate and even charismatic. He definitely takes outlying positions based on his own research and experience. At 52 minutes into his Brendan O’Neill interview, he talks about how he’s concluded that nuclear weapons have prevented war and how he couldn’t find anyone to publish a book he wanted to write on the subject. I don’t usually vote for democrats, but there’s no one else I’d rather see in politics.