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Mike Shellenberger's new book Apocalypse Never is an Amazon bestseller. @g_kallis and I have spent 5 years reviewing the science around the ecomodernist ideas presented and found that they are often wrong. Here is why. THREAD.
I look forward to reading Shellenberger’s book. For now, here are some problems I have with claims he makes. I refer to "facts few people know" and "highlights from the book" from his promotional article (in photos below each tweet).…
Humans are definitely beginning to cause a 6th mass extinction. Vertebrates are going extinct at least 100 times faster than the background rate --… -- and hundreds more mammal and bird species are on the brink of annihilation --….
Sure, if the Amazon were lungs it would take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide, when really it does the opposite.
But what is the objection with protecting a forest that absorbs CO2? Forests account for essentially the entire terrestrial carbon sink, and the Amazon is an important one -- see…
Climate change is making natural disasters worse and scientists can now attribute individual extreme weather events to climate change.…
Shellenberger refers in his article to the work of Pielke Jr, who showed that disaster-related costs may increase over time, but not per unit of GDP, which for him is the right indicator since bigger economies have more to lose.
But bigger economies have also more money and more expensive infrastructures to protect themselves. So, it is not clear why accounting for GDP should have an effect one way or the other. If the costs of natural disasters, it's likely because they're doing more damage.
Even if rich countries are becoming more resilient to natural disasters, there is no guarantee that they will be resilient enough to withstand the disasters that climate disruption – the side-effect of the processes that made them more resilient – will cause in the future.
Climate change increases fires. The area burned by fires has decreased only because people have converted fire-prone savannas and grasslands to farms. Sure, if we were to pave forests too, there would be nothing left to burn. See…
Global pastureland has shrunk by an area *half* the size of Alaska, according to a report by @thebti, which Shellenberger cofounded --….
Concentrating livestock in feedlots has allowed grazing land to decline. But those industrial farms require land for growing feed, land for mining fertilizers, land for absorbing wastes, etc. This "shadow land footprint" offsets some of the decline in global pastureland.
Actually it’s both. Yes there is more wood fuel and more houses, *and* climate change has made California and Australia drier. Both have contributed to increasing the frequency and severity of fires. See…
Rich nations moved their smokestacks to poor nations, so the carbon emitted from their territories has declined while their carbon footprints have mostly continued increasing. See…
Granted, there is evidence that some rich countries, like Britain or Sweden, have been recently ‘decoupling’ in absolute terms -- with declining carbon footprints while GDP is growing:….
But as @J_Lovering showed for @TheBTI, economies that have shown signs of absolute decoupling all ‘experienced much slower growth’.…. Had economic growth, which Shellenberger celebrates in his book, been closer to 3%, emissions likely wouldn't have declined
No rich country is reducing emissions fast enough to keep global warming under 2C -- or even planning to. The UK and Sweden have committed to reduction pathways that entail twice their fair share of carbon emissions, according to @KevinClimate et al.…
The Dutch dug themselves below sea level by overusing peat, a fossil fuel. And they kept expanding by exploiting people and colonies elsewhere. This is how Amsterdam got rich. Hardly a model for planetary sustainability. See the work of @oikeios:…
We do produce more food than we need. 45% of crop calories go to livestock, biofuels, or industry (…), 13% of food calories are lost in the supply chain, retailers and households waste another 10-20% (…), yet 2 billion are food insecure
This isn't fact but prediction, and not a sound prediction either. An IPCC meta-analysis determined that 2C warming will cause losses in both tropical and temperate staple crops --…. Yields already stopped rising in many places --….
Species go extinct when humans alter their habitat. Climate breakdown is altering every habitat on earth. Five previous instances of fast climate change have each resulted in the extinction of about 75% of species. See…
The IPCC rejects the idea that harvesting fuel from forests degrades them -- see….

Note also that on a global scale, fossil fuels have not replaced biofuels, whose use has doubled since the industrial revolution.
Peace and justice are the keys to human liberation, not factories or modern farming. Industrialization has coincided with environmental degradation, not environmental progress. See research on the great acceleration:…
Producing more food, more intensively has not “saved the environment” to date. First, more food is not needed. Second, concentrating agriculture on industrial farms isn't necessarily better for ecosystems than farming less intensively. See e.g.…
The most important thing for reducing air pollution and carbon emissions is burning fewer polluting and carbon-based fuels.
Up to now, we haven’t moved away from any fuel, we keep developing new fuels and using more of all of them.
If energy use grows 3% per year, by the end of this century we will have to produce 11 times more energy. Be it by nuclear, dams, solar or wind farms, this will be destructive for the environment. We have to reduce how much energy we use.
Solar panels can go on rooftops or already-degraded sites. Wind farms can be in forests or farm fields. Infrastructure for producing energy takes up far less space than infrastructure for consuming it: factories, roads, cities, etc. To use less land, we have to use less energy.
So far, producing and consuming energy at higher power densities has meant using more energy and more land overall. Using resources more efficiently and more productively enables growth, which means using more of them. See my recent @UnevenEarth piece:….
Oil didn’t save the whales. The whales are still endangered. Oil allowed the whaling industry to be able to kill and quickly process any whale in any ocean. See…
Greenpeace didn’t save the whales either, but did contribute to shifting public perception of whales from resources to sentient beings, which is part of what prompted regulation to protect them.
Economists (predictably) say whaling slowed because there were so few whales left that it became expensive -- see…. Regulation then followed catch decreases; international agreements and conservation movements solidified the descent.
If Shellenberger’s bullets were meant to spark our interest in the book, it worked on me. I am curious to see how he tries to defend such indefensible statements!
If the costs of natural disasters *rise* I meant, oops
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