2020-07-28 08:13:59 UTC
environmental myths. Among them: that humans are causing a sixth mass
extinction and that climate change is making natural disasters worse.
While I expected my book to be controversial, I didnt expect CNNs top
climate reporter to compare it to an advertisement for cigarettes. Or to
have an environmental journalist with nearly half a million followers on
Twitter accuse me of promoting white supremacy.
Im hardly a climate denier. In fact, I have been a climate activist for
20 years and an environmental activist for more than 30. Governments,
including the US Congress, regularly ask me to offer my testimony as an
energy expert. And this year, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change asked me to serve as an expert reviewer of its next
I decided to speak out last year, after it became clear to me that
alarmism was harming mental health. A major survey of 30,000 people around
the world found that nearly half believed climate change would make
humanity extinct. Mental-health professionals now routinely find
themselves addressing adolescent anxiety over climate. In January,
pollsters found that one in five UK children reported having nightmares
And yet the IPCC doesnt predict billions or even millions of deaths from
climate change. Thats in part because economic development and
preparedness mitigate natural disasters, diseases and other environmental
impacts of climate change. And scientists expect our ability to mitigate
harms to expand and improve long into the future.
There has been a 92 percent decline in the per-decade death toll from
natural disasters since its peak in the 1920s. In that decade, 5.4 million
people died from natural disasters. In the 2010s, just 0.4 million did.
The decline occurred during a period when the global population nearly
quadrupled and temperatures rose more than 1 degree centigrade over pre-
Would deaths have been even lower had temperatures not risen that 1
degree? Maybe, but we will never know. Huge reductions in deaths
outweighed any increase in deaths from more forceful disasters. Could
future temperature increases reverse the trend of declining mortality?
Perhaps, but the IPCC doesnt predict that happening. Thats partly
because again we are so much better at protecting people from natural
disasters, climate-fueled or not.
Climate alarmists steadfastly ignore our capacity to adapt. To take just
one example, France in 2006 had 4,000 fewer deaths from a heat wave than
anticipated thanks to improved health care, an early-warning system and
greater public consciousness in response to a deadly heat wave three years
Even poor, climate-vulnerable nations like Bangladesh saw deaths decline
massively thanks to low-cost weather surveillance and warning systems and
Some have said that climate change will make epidemics like COVID-19 more
frequent or more severe, but the main factors behind the novel-coronavirus
pandemic had nothing to do with climate and everything to do with the
failure of the Chinese regime to protect public health.
Its why the IPCC names poverty alleviation, public health interventions
such as the provision of water and sanitation and early-warning and
response system for disasters and epidemics not emissions reductions
as the keys to lowering disease risk in the future.
So why do some alarmists claim that climate change is making disasters
worse? In part, its so they can use the worlds most visual and dramatic
events, from Hurricane Sandy to Californias forest fires, to make the
issue more salient with voters.
If it were acknowledged that Hurricane Sandys damage owed overwhelmingly
to New York failure to modernize its flood-control systems or that
Californias forest fires were due to the buildup of wood fuel after
decades of fire suppression, alarmist journalists, scientists and
activists would be deprived of the visually powerful events and news
hooks they need to scare people, raise money and advocate climate
Climate alarmism isnt just about money. Its also about power. Elites
have used climate alarmism to justify efforts to control food and energy
policies in their home nations and around the world for more than three
In just the last decade, climate alarmists have successfully redirected
funding from the World Bank and similar institutions away from economic
development and toward charitable endeavors, such as solar panels for
villagers, which cant power growth.
Contrary to the claims of CNNs top environment reporter, using energy
that emits carbon dioxide isnt like smoking cigarettes. People need to
consume significant amounts of energy in order to enjoy decent standards
of living. Nobody needs to smoke cigarettes.
In the end, climate alarmism is powerful because it has emerged as the
alternative religion for supposedly secular people, providing many of the
same psychological benefits as traditional faith.
Climate alarmism gives them a purpose: to save the world from climate
change. It offers them a story that casts them as heroes. And it provides
a way for them to find meaning in their lives while retaining the
illusion that they are people of science and reason, not superstition and
There is nothing wrong with religious faith and often a great deal right
about it. Religions have long provided people with the meaning, purpose
and consolations they need to weather lifes many challenges. Religions
can be a guide to positive, pro-social and ethical behavior.
The trouble with the new environmental religion is that it has become
increasingly destructive. It leads its adherents to demonize their
opponents. And it spreads anxiety and depression without meeting the
deeper spiritual needs.
Happily, real-world events, starting with the coronavirus pandemic, are
undermining the notion that climate change is an emergency or crisis.
After all, it was a disease that brought civilization to a halt, not
climate-fueled natural disasters. And while COVID-19 has killed more than
half a million people and counting, alarmist scientists struggle to
explain how climate change will make diseases and disasters worse.
Meanwhile, emissions are declining in much of the world. In Europe,
emissions in 2018 were 23 percent below 1990 levels. In the United States,
emissions fell 15 percent from 2005 to 2016. And emissions are likely to
peak and start to decline in developing nations, including China and
India, within the next decade.
As a result, most experts believe that global temperatures are unlikely
to rise more than 3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. No amount
of warming is ideal, since it will change conditions for both people and
wildlife. But 3 degrees isnt catastrophic for, much less an existential
threat to, human societies and economies.
For pointing out these basic facts, I have been smeared, bizarrely, as a
racist. Yet readers will discover that, far from being a defense of white
supremacy, Apocalypse Never exposes European and North American
environmentalists for promoting discriminatory anti-development policies
toward poor African, Asian and Latin-American nations.
The activists and their media allies censor news articles. But eventually,
the public will get to review the evidence and realize that the censors
It is my hope that, after the public reckoning, everyone, particularly
anxious adolescents, will go from seeing climate change as the end of the
world to viewing it as a highly manageable problem.
Michael Shellenberger is the author of Apocalypse Never: Why
Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All.