A Green and Conservative (and Liberal) Solution to Climate Change

I’m reposting in its entirety this great piece by Steven Hayward with a great TED Talk video of Michael Shellenberger.

Reposted from Powerline Blog


Here’s a paradox that few people in the fawning green media seem to perceive: the more serious you think the problem of global warming may be in the future, the more farcical and unserious are the policy prescriptions of the “climate change community.” In fact I’ll go further: if perchance we do experience catastrophic, man-made global warming many decades from now, historians will look back and blame the environmental community for being the chief impediment to taking serious incremental action to reduce carbon emissions in a significant way—not the so-called “climate deniers.” Today’s wind and solar racket, and all of the fancy pieces of paper UN bureaucrats sign in Paris making promises that no nation is going to keep, will be looked at with the same disdain that we today look back at the League of Nations treaty and the disarmament efforts of the 1920s and 1930s.

The chief datum for this argument today is a terrific piece at Axios on “The Left’s Nuclear Problem,” i.e., the environmental movement’s continuing hatred of nuclear power—the one large-scale source of carbon-free electricity that we have (along with hydroelectric dams, which environmentalists also hate). I know a number of environmentalists like Stewart Brand who have changed their mind in the issue, and I know a prominent left-leaning environmental philanthropist who told me privately three years ago that the single biggest mistake of his life was opposing nuclear power back in the 1970s, in part because it led to a huge expansion of coal-fired power here and abroad.

But what about the leading environmental advocacy organizations? The Axios piece brutally reveals their craven cowardice:

Some Democratic politicians and prominent scientists have come out to back nuclear in recent years because of climate change, but most of the biggest environmental groups and influential leaders remain opposed. In interview after interview at a United Nations climate conference in Bonn, Germany, I noticed a trend: Politicians would cite the many challenges facing nuclear power, such as safety, how to store radioactive waste and the economics, as reasons their positions didn’t matter. . .

Many of America’s largest environmental groups, which have influence over liberal politicians, are doubling down on their opposition to nuclear power. They argue plummeting prices of wind and solar make nuclear power unnecessary.

Another reason: they’d lose donations, according to James Hansen, a climate scientist at Columbia University, and his colleague Steve Kirsch, a California-based entrepreneur and philanthropist. At a meeting in 2014 between Kirsch and Frances Beinecke, who at the time led the Natural Resources Defense Council, Beinecke said one of the reasons the group couldn’t back nuclear power is because it would lose donations.

“The lunch did in fact occur and there was no movement,” Kirsch said by email last week. A spokesman for NRDC declined to comment. Beinecke, who retired from NRDC later that year, didn’t respond to requests for comment. NRDC’s position on nuclear power resembles that of many others on the left: It would only support it if all of the industry’s challenges are “properly mitigated.”

A real profile in courage there: NRDC is putting its financial health ahead of the planet’s health. No wonder they argue that climate skeptics are in it for the money, because that’s the way they think about matters themselves.

Michael Shellenberger, Founder of Environmental Progress, is another lefty who has broken with orthodoxy to support nuclear power. Here he is giving a TED Talk in Berlin on how he changed his mind. Along the way he totally demolishes German’s energiewende,  and its foolish rejection of nuclear power. Definitely worth the 20 minutes: