Michael Shellenberger

Michael Shellenberger



Michael Shellenberger is the founder and president of Environmental Progress,3Michael Shellenberger,” The Breakthrough Institute. Archived June 30, 2020. Archive URL: and the co-founder of the Breakthrough Institute where he served as president from 2003 to 2015. He co-founded the Apollo Alliance, now the Blue-Green Coalition, in 2002.4Founder & President,” Environmental Progress. Archived June 30, 2020. Archive URL: In 2023, he joined the advisory board of the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship (ARC), a group launched by Jordan Peterson.5Advisory Board,” ARC. Archived August 15, 2023. Shellenberger joined the University of Austin as its “CBR Chair of Politics, Censorship, and Free Speech” in November 2023.6MICHAEL SHELLENBERGER,” University of Austin. Archived January 25, 2024. Archive URL:

Shellenberger co-founded the Breakthrough Institute in 2007 with Ted Nordhaus. According to its website, “Breakthrough’s early work built on Nordhaus and Shellenberger’s argument, first articulated in their 2004 essay ‘The Death of Environmentalism,’ that 20th-century environmentalism cannot address complex, global, 21st-century environmental challenges like climate change.”7About Us,” The Breakthrough Institute. Archived July 1, 2020. Archive URL:

A January 2008 profile in The New York Times outlined Nordhaus and Shellenberger’s 2004 essay on “The Death of Environmentalism,” commenting that “Nordhaus and Shellenberger hold less that environmentalism is dead than that it ought to die.” According to the NYT, “Throughout the book, Nordhaus and Shellenberger refer to environmentalists in the third person, as if the term doesn’t apply to them.”8Matthew Yglesias. “Beyond Mother Nature,” The New York Times, January 13, 2008. Archived June 30, 2020. Archive URL:

Nordhaus and Shellenberger have been described as “eco-pragmatists9Keith Kloor. “The Great Schism in the Environmental Movement,Slate, December 12, 2012. Archived July 1, 2020. Archive URL: and “ecological modernists10New Green Vision: Technology As Our Planet’s Last Best Hope,” YaleEnvironment 360, July 15, 2013. Archived July 1, 2020. Archive URL: and have promoted technological advances as solutions to environmental issues like climate change. More recently, Shellenberger wrote an article where he suggested while “climate change is happening” it’s “just not the end of the world,” and “not even our most serious environmental problem.”11On Behalf Of Environmentalists, I Apologize For The Climate Scare,” Environmental Progress, June 29, 2020. Archived June 30, 2020. Archive URL:

The Breakthrough Institute’s work “has focused heavily on the future of nuclear energy” since 2011. “[W]e have made the case that addressing climate change will require abundant, cheap, safe, and reliable nuclear energy. Toward that end, Breakthrough has been a leading advocate for innovation in advanced nuclear designs and business models.”12About Us,” The Breakthrough Institute. Archived July 1, 2020. Archive URL:

Among those with prior associations with the Breakthrough Institute include Roger Pielke, Jr. who served as a senior fellow as of 2008.13Senior Fellows,” Breakthrough Institute. Archived September 6, 2008. Archive URL: Pielke has described connections between extreme weather and climate change as “zombie science.”14Coverage of Extreme Events in the IPCC AR5,” Roger Pielke Jr.’s Blog, October 3, 2013. Archived January 27, 2017. URL:

Shellenberger advocates for nuclear power, while he has questioned whether we may be “destroying the environment” by switching to the renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.15Why renewables can’t save the planet | Michael Shellenberger | TEDxDanubia,” YouTube video uploaded by user “TEDx Talks,” January 4, 2019. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

Shellenberger is also president of Lumina Strategies, a political consulting firm that was hired by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 200416Venezuelan politics suit Bay Area activists’ talents / Locals help build Chavez’s image, provide polling data,” SFGate, August 21, 2004. Archived June 30, 2020. Archive URL: as part of a $60,000 contract to oversee media relations strategy for Venezuela’s government.17Kevin Bogardus. “VENEZUELA HEAD POLISHES IMAGE WITH OIL DOLLARS,” Center for Public Integrity, September 22, 2004. Archived June 30, 2020. Archive URL: He co-founded the Business Ethics Network in 2003. In 1996, he co-founded the public interest communication firm Communication Works, which merged with Fenton Communications in 2001.18Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus. The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World, 2004.

Ties to Nuclear Energy Institute

In a 2017 year-end report to members, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) said that it “engaged third parties to engage with media through interviews and op-eds, including former Senator Saxby Chambliss, Senator Lindsey Graham, environmentalist Michael Shellenberger, former EPA administrator Carol Browner and former Senator Judd Gregg.” The documents were obtained through a public records request and are available publicly on DocumentCloud.19NPPD – NEI Comms 3_20180101-20190319,” (Page 170), DocumentCloud. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

According to the NEI website, “The Nuclear Energy Institute is the policy organization of the nuclear technologies industry, based in Washington, D.C.” Its members include companies operating nuclear power plants, reactor designers, technology companies, engineering firms, fuel suppliers, and a variety of other companies involved in the nuclear energy industry.20“About NEI,” Nuclear Energy Institute. Archived July 1, 2020. Archive URL:

NEI‘s stated mission is to “promote the use and growth of nuclear energy through efficient operations and effective policy.” It accomplishes this “by providing a unified industry voice before Congress, the executive branch, state and local legislatures, and federal regulators, as well as international organizations and venues, on key policy issues.”21“About NEI,” Nuclear Energy Institute. Archived July 1, 2020. Archive URL:

In 2019, Shellenberger also testified in support of Ohio House Bill 6.22House Bill 6,” The Ohio State Legislature. Archived July 1, 2020. Shellenberger’s PDF testimony on file at DeSmog. Archive URL: The bill, which was signed into law by Governor Mike DeWine later that year, provided subsidies to uncompetitive nuclear and coal plants, and rolled back Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards for electric utilities. Others who testified in support of the bill at one of the same hearings included representatives of NEI and its affiliate Nuclear Matters.23David Roberts. “Ohio just passed the worst energy bill of the 21st century,” Vox, July 27, 2019. Archived July 1, 2020. Archive URL:

Judd Gregg, representing Nuclear Matters, also testified. Nuclear Matters is a pro-nuclear coalition that combines the former CASEnergy Coalition and Nuclear Advocacy Network (NAN) “to form a single, broad-based, multifunctional entity to leverage a diverse community of advocates and support solutions that encourage current and future nuclear energy use.”24Our Mission,” Nuclear Matters. Archived July 1, 2020. Archive URL: CASEnergy sprang up in 2006 as a PR campaign advocating for new reactors and was reportedly funded entirely by NEI.25Ex-Environmental Leaders Tout Nuclear Energy,” The New York Times, April 25, 2006. Archived July 1, 2020. Archive URL:

Run for California Governor

2022 Run

Shellenberger ran for California Governor as an independent, however lost the primary on June 7, 2022 with just over 4% of the vote according to the initial election results.26Governor – Statewide Results,” California Secretary of State. Archived July 7, 2022. Archive URL:

During his run for Governor, Shellenberger appeared on a 3-hour-long discussion with Joe Rogan on the March 30 episode of The Joe Rogan Experience.

Campaign finance data from the California Secretary of State show that his campaign, Shellenberger for Governor 2022, raised $1,070,888.06 in contributions. Notable contributors included Alex Epstein:27Advanced Search Results,” California Secretary of State. Archived .csv on file at DeSmog.

2018 Run
In late November of 2017, Shellenberger announced his plans to run for Governor of California in 201828Untying the Nuclear Knot,” YouTube video uploaded by user “New York Times Events,” November 30, 2017. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog. as an independent.29David R. Baker. “Pro-nuke activist from Berkeley to run for California governor,” SFGate, November 30, 2017. Archived July 1, 2020. Archive URL: He lost the primary election on June 5, 2018.30Michael Shellenberger,” Ballotpedia. Accessed July 1, 2020.

Below is a summary of the campaign contributions Shellenberger received while running for governor.31Campaign Finance: SHELLENBERGER FOR GOVERNOR 2018; MICHAEL,” California Secretary of State. Data retrieved June 30, 2020. Note that his top donor was Frank Batten Jr., who has testified on behalf of The Landmark Foundation regarding nuclear energy.32“Testimony of Mr. Frank Batten, Jr. on Behalf of The Landmark Foundation” (PDF), United States House of Representatives, May 13, 2015. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

Batten is chairman, president and chief executive officer of Landmark Media Enterprises LLC, which is based in Norfolk, Virginia. He is also president of The Landmark Foundation, which “provides support for nuclear fuel recycling.”33Frank Batten, Jr.” UVA Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. Archived July 1, 2020. Archive URL:

Stance on Climate Change

June 28, 2020

The following is from an article Shellenberger originally published at Forbes,34On Behalf Of Environmentalists, I Apologize For The Climate Scare,” Forbes, June 28, 2020. Archived June 30, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. which was later retracted (in Shellenberger’s words, “Censored”). He later republished the article at Environmental Progress35On Behalf Of Environmentalists, I Apologize For The Climate Scare,” Environmental Progress, June 29, 2020. Archived June 30, 2020. Archive URL: and elsewhere. He wrote:36Forbes has censored my article. …” Twitter post by user “@ShellenbergerMD,” June 29, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

“On behalf of environmentalists everywhere, I would like to formally apologize for the climate scare we created over the last 30 years. Climate change is happening. It’s just not the end of the world. It’s not even our most serious environmental problem.”

He went on to list “some facts few people know”:

  • “Humans are not causing a ‘sixth mass extinction’”
  • “The Amazon is not ‘the lungs of the world’”
  • “Climate change is not making natural disasters worse”
  • “Fires have declined 25% around the world since 2003”
  • “The amount of land we use for meat — humankind’s biggest use of land — has declined by an area nearly as large as Alaska
  • “The build-up of wood fuel and more houses near forests, not climate change, explain why there are more, and more dangerous, fires in Australia and California”
  • “Carbon emissions have been declining in rich nations for decades and peaked in Britain, Germany and France in the mid-seventies”
  • “Adapting to life below sea level made the Netherlands rich not poor”
  • “We produce 25% more food than we need and food surpluses will continue to rise as the world gets hotter”
  • “Habitat loss and the direct killing of wild animals are bigger threats to species than climate change”
  • “Wood fuel is far worse for people and wildlife than fossil fuels”
  • “Preventing future pandemics requires more not less ‘industrial’ agriculture”

Shellenberger added, “I know that the above facts will sound like ‘climate denialism’ to many people. But that just shows the power of climate alarmism.”

Another version of his article, titled “Sorry for misleading you, but I cried wolf on the global dangers of climate change,” was published at The Australian on June 30.37Michael Shellenberger. “Sorry for misleading you, but I cried wolf on the global dangers of climate change,” The Australian, June 30, 2020. Archive URL:

Comments Surrounding 2021 Capitol Insurrection

Michael Shellenberger was among dozens of the individuals and organizations profiled in DeSmog’s Disinformation Database who posted online or gave interviews about the events surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection. Some posted claims of election fraud, similar to those that drove the Stop the Steal rally on Jan. 6. Some circulated dubious information about the insurrection itself. DeSmog has preserved a selection of notable posts related to the events of Jan. 6, 2021, including some that were later deleted or removed.

Shellenberger posted the following on social media after the failed Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021:

The following via Internet Archive (original tweet no longer exists):

Key Quotes

September 4, 2023

Spiked quoted Shellenberger’s conversation with O’Neill on The Brendan O’Neill Show:38“‘The green movement is a disinformation campaign’,Spiked, September 4, 2023. Archived October 24, 2023. Archive URL:

“[T]he climate movement is undeniably a disinformation campaign,” Shellenberger claimed, pointing to the attribution of recent wildfires across Europe and America to climate change as “a type of organised lying that needs to be disproved.”

August 30, 2021

Discussing the damages of Hurricane Ida, Shellenberger made several tweets suggesting campaigns emphasizing the danger of climate change are “ridiculous, paranoid, and wrong”:

September 15, 2020

Shellenberger posted the following on Twitter:

Terrible forest management is real

August 18, 2020

Shellenberger wrote at Forbes that “California’s bet on renewables, & its shunning of natural gas & nuclear, is directly responsible for the state’s blackouts and high electricity prices:39Michael Shellenberger. “Democrats Say California Is Model For Climate Action But Its Blackouts Say Otherwise,” Forbes, August 17, 2020. Archived Sept 8, 2020. Archive URL:

“The underlying reason blackouts are occurring is because California lacks reliable, in-state supply. And the reason for that is California has been closing both natural gas and nuclear power plants,” he wrote.

One energy expert suggested that natural gas may actually be to blame for the blackouts:40California has first rolling blackouts in 19 years — and everyone faces blame,” Politico, August 18, 2020. Archived September 8, 2020. Archive URL:

“What’s weird about what happened is they were adequate until they weren’t,” Michael Wara, director of Stanford University’s climate and energy program and a member of the state’s Catastrophic Wildfire Cost and Recovery Commission told Politico. “It seems as if certain power plants for some reason were not able to deliver on the commitments to supply reserves and also supply energy.”

“Because the Friday outage started around 6:30 p.m., when solar is ramping down and gas-fired plants are ramping up, gas is the likely immediate culprit, Wara said. “The timing of all this strongly suggests problems with gas plants,” he said.

July 2, 2020

The following is from an interview Shellenberger did for The Heartland Institute‘s podcast:41HEARTLAND INTERVIEWS MICHAEL SHELLENBERGER ON HIS NEW BOOK, APOCALYPSE NEVER,” The Heartland Institute, July 5, 2020. Archived July 7, 2020. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog. Archive URL:

[00:19:50] “I don’t blame people for being apocalyptic environmentalists anymore than I blame being blame people for catching the coronavirus. You know, it’s like an infectious disease. Right. All right. It’s treatable, though. Highly treatable.”

He later commented on climate change:

[00:36:27] “Climate needs to have its importance diminished. It’s not the most important environmental problem in the world. The main function of IPCC appears to be to terrify people. I don’t know what else it does.”

July 2, 2020

In an interview for Alex Epstein‘s podcast, Shellenberger described how he believed climate change would be solved, and also gave Epstein credit for the term “unreliables” in relation to wind and solar — a term Shellenberger said he used in his recent book.42‘I apologize for the climate scare’ | Michael Shellenberger interviewed by Alex Epstein,” YouTube video uploaded by user “ImproveThePlanet,” July 2, 2020. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

Michael Shellenberger: [00:04:39] We’re going to deal climate change by by by just switching to power sources that don’t have that don’t produce carbon emissions. So those like the first big thing. And then it was like once I was on board with that. It wasn’t. Is it’s hard to be like, OK, maybe you do need nuclear. And then it was just becoming disenchanted with renewables. It was really the land use impacts and the environmental impacts of renewables. So, you know, you and your listeners know I don’t need to tell you guys. But, you know, 400 times more land on average, for solar and wind farms than you need for natural gas or nuclear plants. Of course, it’s completely unreliable. By the way, do you see got yourself a little section. You got this. I gave you a little section headline once. Unreliables. [00:05:23][44.3]

Alex Epstein: [00:05:24] Yeah, I’m glad. [00:05:25][0.7]

Michael Shellenberger: [00:05:26] I don’t know you wrote that. But I. [00:05:27][1.2]

Alex Epstein: [00:05:27] I did, but I didn’t know that you credited me. Where did you credit me? [00:05:30][2.0]

Michael Shellenberger: [00:05:30] I didn’t credit you. I just stole it from you. I’m crediting you now. Um, no, I was going to say and I mean it was unreliables. [00:05:37][7.6]

Alex Epstein: [00:05:38] I know, I love it. I was so happy when I saw that, because I’ve wanted that to get wider use. [00:05:42][4.1]

Later in the interview, Shellenberger compared feras of climate change to fears of nuclear energy:

Michael Shellenberger: [00:26:34] So climate change, if you listen to how people talk about it, like the apocalyptic stuff. It sounds almost identical to fears of nuclear weapons and nuclear wars. It’s like the same… Nuclear is kind of the prototypical apocalypse. And then they’d kind of be like, well, yeah, overpopulation, you know, that would be like a bomb going off. Yeah. But what? Really? I mean, not really, right. Like, not at all. But whatever it would be like population bomb. [00:26:58][24.5]

Michael Shellenberger: [00:26:59] That was the name of the big Malthusian population scare in 1968 and now climate change. And if I would point out the Amazon has talked about like a bomb going off. So the bomb became kind of the ultimate symbol of humankind’s apocalyptic power. And then and then you can see that it becomes the devil and then you’re trying to get away from it. You’re going to the angels, which just renewables. I mean, the overall cosmology of apocalyptic environmentalism is kind of so basic and dumb. It’s almost embarrassing to when you describe it, you know, you’re kind of like God, I can’t believe people really believe this, but that is what’s going on. It’s ultimately this idea that with renewables, we’re going to harmonize ourselves with the new god of nature. And they keep destroying the environment in order to save it while doing that. [00:27:43][44.4]

November 25, 2019

Wrote an article in Forbes titled “Why Apocalyptic Claims About Climate Change Are Wrong.” Some notable quotes below.43Michael Shellenberger. “Why Apocalyptic Claims About Climate Change Are Wrong,” Forbes, November 25, 2019. Archived July 1, 2020. Archive URL:

“There is good evidence that the catastrophist framing of climate change is self-defeating because it alienates and polarizes many people. And exaggerating climate change risks distracting us from other important issues including ones we might have more near-term control over,” Shellenberger wrote.

“I feel the need to say this up-front because I want the issues I’m about to raise to be taken seriously and not dismissed by those who label as ‘climate deniers’ or “climate delayers’ anyone who pushes back against exaggeration.”

He continues:

“First, no credible scientific body has ever said climate change threatens the collapse of civilization much less the extinction of the human species.”

“Last January, after climate scientists criticized Rep. Ocasio-Cortez for saying the world would end in 12 years, her spokesperson said ‘We can quibble about the phraseology, whether it’s existential or cataclysmic.’ He added, ‘We’re seeing lots of [climate change-related] problems that are already impacting lives.

“That last part may be true, but it’s also true that economic development has made us less vulnerable, which is why there was a 99.7% decline in the death toll from natural disasters since its peak in 1931.”


“What about sea level rise? IPCC estimates sea level could rise two feet (0.6 meters) by 2100. Does that sound apocalyptic or even ‘unmanageable’?”


“What about claims of crop failure, famine, and mass death? That’s science fiction, not science. Humans today produce enough food for 10 billion people, or 25% more than we need, and scientific bodies predict increases in that share, not declines.”


“Part of what bothers me about the apocalyptic rhetoric by climate activists is that it is often accompanied by demands that poor nations be denied the cheap sources of energy they need to develop. I have found that many scientists share my concerns.”


Happily, there is a plenty of middle ground between climate apocalypse and climate denial.

November 2017

In a TedX talk titled “Why I changed my mind about nuclear power,” Shellenberger commented:44Why I changed my mind about nuclear power | Michael Shellenberger | TEDxBerlin,” YouTube video uploaded by user “TEDx Talks,” November 17, 2017. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

Michael Shellenberger: [00:18:35] Look at how much more materials are required for each different energy source. And when you calculate all the panels that are required to produce the same amount of electricity as nuclear, solar actually produces 300 times more waste than nuclear. Very little of it contained and all of it containing toxic heavy metals. [00:18:54][19.3]

March 8, 2010

“The real challenge is: How do you make low-carbon energy really cheap—as cheap as coal is? I think the reality is that we are not going to get beyond a fossil-fuel economy, and I don’t think we are going to impose big costs on the fossil-fuel economy either in the U.S. or in foreign developing countries like China, until the alternatives become a lot cheaper. I think while it is conceivable to have a carbon tax in the U.S., it will never be high enough to make fossil fuels as expensive as clean energy technologies are today.” — Wall Street Journal.45Voices from the Conference,” Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2010. Archive URL:

June 2009

The following quotes are from an article published at NPR:46Richard Harris. “Putting A Financial Spin On Global Warming,” NPR, June 24, 2009. Archived June 30, 2020. Archive URL:

“We’re stuck in this kind of poor paradigm for dealing with climate change, this pollution paradigm, not because environmentalists are failures, but actually because they were so successful. The Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the cap and trade on acid rain — these things worked really well.”

Shellenberger has suggested that introducing price controls on carbon would not be effective. 

“When was the last time human beings modernized our energy sources by making older power sources more expensive? And, of course, by now you probably know that the answer is never.”

Rather than use regulation, Shellenberger suggests technology as the alternative.

“So is there a better way to do this? Well, we think that there is. It’s very simple: It’s that we need to make clean energy cheap worldwide.”

Such technology could be achieved with large increases in federal research spending.

“There’s this idea that the government shouldn’t be involved in technology, the government shouldn’t be picking winners and losers. Which is sort of a funny thing to say. It’s kind of like, well, why not? And when hasn’t the United States government been involved in picking technology winners and losers?”

November 12, 2007

The following is from a New York Times interview of Michael Shellenberger to discuss how he “gave up working with activist groups to campaign for a new, market-oriented and technology-driven environmentalism.”47Interview: Michael Shellenberger,” The New York Times, November 12, 2007. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

[00:03:56] We actually believe that global warming is a very serious threat and we even call it an existential challenge in the book. We compare it in seriousness to nuclear proliferation. So we’re very concerned about it. The difference with our position and traditional environmentalism is that we don’t think it’s going to be solved through pollution regulation. And we also don’t think that leaving people in a state of fear is particularly productive in terms of mobilizing the public. 

September 25, 2007

“There are two ways to change the world,” Shellenberger said in a 2007 interview with Wired. “One of them is just to talk a presidential candidate into it. Then he wins, and the whole world changes. The other way is a paradigm shift. And that takes time.”48Mark Horowitz. “Two Environmentalists Anger Their Brethren,” Wired, September 25, 2007. Archived June 30, 2020. Archive URL:

Key Actions

November 2023

Michael Shellenberger was among those mentioned by Media Matters as making misleading claims about renewable energy following the cancellation of two major wind projects of the coast of New Jersey.49Ilana Berger. “Right-wing figures are using the cancellation of two offshore wind projects to make misleading claims about renewable energy,” Media Matters for America, November 14, 2023. Archived February 29, 2024. Archive URL:

Shellenberger posted on X: “Experts said wind energy was good for the environment and the economy, but it wasn’t. And now, with the cost of wind energy rising, along with industry demands for subsidies, @Orsted has abandoned the projects it had planned to build off the coast of New Jersey. Victory!!!”50Experts said wind energy was good for the environment and the economy, but it wasn’t. […]” Post by user “@shellenberger” on November 1, 2023. Archived .png on file at DeSmog.

August 24, 2023

Shellenberger produced a documentary that “misleadingly blames offshore wind projects for a spike in whale deaths and strandings on the East Coast,” Media Matters reported.51Ilana Berger. “Fox News is touting a dubious new documentary repeating misleading claims about offshore wind link to whale deaths,” Media Matters for America, August 29, 2023. Archived March 22, 2024. Archive URL:

“Shellenberger’s film follows a fossil fuel-tied conservation group called Save Right Whales Coalition, which despite a lack of concrete evidence, claims that a New Jersey offshore wind project, and offshore wind farms in general, pose a threat to endangered right whales, a species of baleen whale found in the North Atlantic,” Media Matters reported.52Ilana Berger. “Fox News is touting a dubious new documentary repeating misleading claims about offshore wind link to whale deaths,” Media Matters for America, August 29, 2023. Archived March 22, 2024. Archive URL:

Fox News promoted the documentary. Martha MacCallum, a Fox host, said, “I recommend the documentary to everybody,” before interviewing Shellenberger.53Ilana Berger. “Fox News is touting a dubious new documentary repeating misleading claims about offshore wind link to whale deaths,” Media Matters for America, August 29, 2023. Archived March 22, 2024. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSog. Archive URL:

June 12, 2023

The Guardian reported that Shellenberger had joined the advisory board of the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship (ARC) a group hoping to examine “issues pertaining to the meaning of life,” which includes other outspoken climate deniers including Bjørn Lomborg, Jordan Peterson, Tony Abbott on its advisory board and is linked to climate denial groups the Global Warming Policy Foundation, GB News and the Legatum Institute.54Graham Readfearn and Paul Karp. “Tony Abbott and John Howard join Jordan Peterson-led group looking at ‘meaning of life’,The Guardian, June 12, 2023. Archived June 12, 2023. Archive URL:

July 9, 2022

Shellenberger falsely blamed the “fall of Sri Lanka” on corporate governance practices known as Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG). He alleged that “the underlying reason for the fall of Sri Lanka is that its leaders fell under the spell of Western green elites peddling organic agriculture and ‘ESG.’”55Michael Shellenberger. “Green Dogma Behind Fall Of Sri Lanka,” Public, July 9, 2022. Archived March 21, 2023. Archive URL:

Many experts have blamed the economic crisis in Sri Lanka on poor economic management by its President, Mahinda Rajapaksa.56Sri Lanka: Why is the country in an economic crisis?BBC News, July 14, 2022. Archived March 21, 2023. Archive URL:

March 1, 2022

Shellenberger wrote an article at The Free Press titled “The West’s Green Delusions Empowered Putin.57Michael Shellenberger. “The West’s Green Delusions Empowered Putin,” The Free Press, March 1, 2022. Archived April 17 2023. Archive URL:

“You can’t power a whole grid with solar and wind, because the sun and the wind are inconstant, and currently existing batteries aren’t even cheap enough to store large quantities of electricity overnight, much less across whole seasons. In service to green ideology, they made the perfect the enemy of the good—and of Ukraine,” he claimed in the piece. He added:

“We should take Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a wake-up call. Standing up for Western civilization this time requires cheap, abundant, and reliable energy supplies produced at home or in allied nations.”

He also discussed the topic in a series of tweets. “Why did the West fail to deter Russia from invading Ukraine?” Shellenberger tweeted. “Because we were lost in soft, renewable energy delusions while Putin was grounded in the hard physical reality of nuclear, oil, & natural gas.”58Why did the West fail to deter Russia from invading Ukraine?” Tweet by user @shellenberger, March 1, 2022. Archived .png on file at DeSmog.

October 14, 2021

Shellenbeger appeared on the Joe Rogan Experience to discuss “Climate Change Alarmism.”59Michael Shellenberger on Climate Change Alarmism,” YouTube video uploaded by user “PowerfulJRE,” October 14, 2021. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

During the interview, Shellenberger claimed an article he had written about his new book, Apocalypse Never.

“There’s definitely this top down effort at censorship and including the people like me. In fact, I was censored by Facebook,” Shellenberger said.

When Joe Rogab asked him to clarify on the censorship, Shellenbeger elaborated:

“They put a, like a, warning label on the article that was being shared, that was the initial article announcing the book, saying this contains misleading and false information. It’s not true. Didn’t contain a single piece of false information, and misleading is a really subjective thing, right?”

He added they had supposedly objected to Shellenberger’s comment “that natural disasters are not getting worse. Deaths from natural disasters have declined over 90 percent over the last 100 years.”

“My view is the drug crisis is objectively a much bigger threat to human life and to civilization than climate change, like we’re adapted really well to climate change. We should do something about it. It’s real. There are risks associated with it. But like, there’s no scenario in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of Climate Change, killing ninety three thousand Americans a year, that there’s no scenario of it killing of it increasing deaths from natural disasters at all,” Shellenberger claimed in the interview.

May 2021

E&E News described Shellenberger as the environmentalist “shaping the GOP’s climate narrative.” According to E&E News, which noted his role as a “redeemed activist who regrets his role in ‘climate alarmism'” has given him regular air time on Fox News, “he differs from the energy lobbyists and climate denialists who have contributed to far-right Republican climate politics for years. He has never rejected the scientific underpinnings of climate change.”60Scott Waldman. “This environmentalist is shaping the GOP’s climate narrative,” E&E News, May 19. 2021. Archived May 20, 2021. Archive URL:

Shellenberger testified in congressional hearings six times since January 2020, as E&E noted, often at the invitation of Republican committee members. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has cited Shellenberger’s work as informing the party’s climate policy.

“The party is embracing Shellenberger with glowing testimonials from lawmakers, media figures and climate denial groups,” E&E‘s Scott Waldman wrote.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) described Shellenberger’s book as “worth reading,” on Twitter. It also got praise from climate change denial and pro-fossil-fuel groups like the CO2 Coalition and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow.61Scott Waldman. “This environmentalist is shaping the GOP’s climate narrative,” E&E News, May 19. 2021. Archived May 20, 2021. Archive URL:

“Shellenberger’s op-eds and right-wing media appearances are littered with cherry-picked statistics and bold claims that don’t all stand up to scrutiny, according to climate scientists, including one of his own advisers,” Waldman wrote.

Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told E&E News “that he uses misleading facts to try to downplay the climate risks.”

“Something did happen to him about the time he published the book or before that, that he never used to complain about risk estimates associated with climate change. Something changed,” Emanuel said.

“People like Shellenberger provide cover for the continued policies that really ultimately will do nothing to address the real climate problem,” said Peter Gleick, a climate and water scientist and president emeritus of the Pacific Institute.

August 5, 2020

Testified as a Republican witness on a Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on “The Devastating Health Impacts of Climate Change.” View a PDF copy of Shellenberger’s prepared testimony here, and view full video record of the hearing below.62The Devastating Health Impacts of Climate Change,” House Committee on Oversight and Reform, August 5, 2020. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

During his testimony (at timestamp 41:04), Shellenberger referred to his recent book, claiming it “pushes back against the extremism and alarmism which is causing serious mental health problems including among adolescents.”63The Devastating Health Impacts of Climate Change,” House Committee on Oversight and Reform, August 5, 2020. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

“My 14-year-old daughter is fine because I explained the science to her, many of her friends don’t know if they will live long enough to have children,” Shellenberger added.

He claimed that concerns brought up by other witnesses in the hearing could be interpreted as excessive, claiming “there is no scenario for human extinction, nor any apocalyptic scenario in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s reports.”

Discussing efforts to reduce carbon emissions, he claimed that emissions went down more on their own in the US than they would have under President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

“I think we need to be concerned about some of the policies are being proposed here that could actually make things worse. Anything that makes energy, food or housing more expensive disproportionately affects the poor and people of color,” Shellenberger said, repeating a claim often made by fossil fuel proponents like Alex Epstein (who also recently featured Shellenberger on his podcast).

“And that’s we’ve seen that in California, where our electricity prices went up six times more than they did in the rest of the United States,” he added. “There’s now a civil rights lawsuit against California’s climate policies for that reason. There’s much more to say, but I’ll close by saying I think one of the most urgent things is to prevent the continued closure of nuclear power plants.”

He concluded: “If this committee wants to address something right away, that really is an emergency. I would encourage this committee to consider what it can do to keep our nuclear power plants operating and even expand them.”

When asked if he believes in climate change by ranking member James Comer, Shellenberger responded:

“Well, yeah, I mean, of course, I think climate change is happening. I think it’s being caused by humans. I’ve dedicated the last 20 years of my life to addressing it. My concern is with the just gross misrepresentation of what the best available science says that’s having these severe mental health impacts. So I think it’s possible to be somebody that’s very concerned and wants to take action on climate change and also pushes back against the extreme alarmism that we’ve been seeing.”

Responding to a follow up question on whether he felt climate change was the biggest threat to mankind, he said:

“Absolutely not. I don’t know any scientific organization, any serious credible scientific organization that makes such claims. It’s not even our most severe environmental problem. […]  I don’t think there’s any evidence that climate change is our most serious environmental problem.”

In response to a question of whether climate change should be described as a crisis or emergency, Shellenberger said:

“No, we should be reserving these words, climate crisis and emergency for actual crises and emergencies. I think we can all…we’re all at home right now because we’re in the midst of a Coronavirus emergency. An emergency a crises suggest a time, an urgent time delimited factor.”


I don’t think we should just call everything that we care about a crisis or emergency because we think it’ll help us politically or something.”

Responding to another question by Comer, this on whether “climate change threatens the collapse of civilization or the extinction of the human species,” Shellenberger said:

“Absolutely not. There is nothing in any of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report suggesting that nothing in the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. In fact, there’s every reason to believe that, that deaths from natural disasters should continue to go down, that food production should continue to go up, and that the global burden of disease should continue to go down, as it has been for decades and centuries, really.”

In a later discussion with Congressman Paul Gosar, Shellenberger suggested nuclear energy was superior to renewables. He also suggested that “if you want to talk about a very serious challenge facing American national security as well as  our environmental and public health, it’s that it’s our complete abandonment of nuclear energy and the managed decline of nuclear energy in the United States.”

Representative Jody Hice asked Shellenberger if he had done any research on the Green New Deal, to which Shellenberger responded that a focus should be made on making electricity cleaner through natural gas and nuclear but not renewables:

“All else being equal it would be better if temperatures just didn’t change at all because we’ve created this whole civilization around this temperature. So all else being equal, yes, it would be better. But but we have every reason to believe that deaths from natural disasters, food surpluses and disease will continue to go down in the future. There’s no reason that that should not occur. So, yes, I agree with you. If you want to solve pollution problems, we should do it the way we’ve always done it, which is making our ways of making electricity cleaner. Mostly, by the way, it’s through natural gas and nuclear, not through renewables. “

In response to a question by Congressman Gary Palmer:

“Deaths from natural disasters are going down around the world. They’ve been going down 90 percent. It’s just wonderful. We should celebrate it. Few of our loved ones are being swept away in floods and hurricanes. All of the increase in property damage is due to the fact that we’ve become wealthier. So the idea that people can see climate change in natural disasters is completely fallacious. That’s not science. That’s misinformation.”

Shellenberger suggested that cheap energy and economic development should be the highest priorities:

“You need a capital heavily capitalized oil and gas industry to be able to make the transition away from coal, which is what’s been occurring in the United States, and as well as economic development is the main factor in making sure that the deaths from natural disasters, that the global disease burden continues to decline. So I think the focus on making sure that we protect continued economic growth, which requires cheap energy. I think that it has been and should remain our highest priority. “

On natural gas:

“Clearly, the great success story of the last several decades is this is the is this abundance of natural gas. It’s really the main event. And it’s what is almost certainly going to allow carbon emissions globally to peak and decline sometime in the next decade or so.”

July 28, 2020

Shellenberger testified before Congress about energy policy. He later claimed at Quillette that he had been “smeared by sitting members of the United States House of Representatives.”64Michael Shellenberger. “I Was Invited to Testify on Energy Policy. Then Democrats Didn’t Let Me Speak,” Quillette, July 29, 2020. Archived July 31, 2020. Archive URL:

“[B]oth Democrats, used the whole of their allotted time to claim that I am not a real environmentalist, that I am not a qualified expert, and that I am motivated by money,” Shellenberger wrote.

During the hearing, he pushed against renewables claiming they “require hundreds of billions of dollars from American taxpayers in the form of subsidies.”65Michael Shellenberger. “I Was Invited to Testify on Energy Policy. Then Democrats Didn’t Let Me Speak,” Quillette, July 29, 2020. Archived July 31, 2020. Archive URL:

“Renewables also hurt working people by raising the cost of electricity for industries that offer good jobs with high pay,” Shellenberger wrote.

July 22, 2020

The Daily Mail ‘s Tom Leonard wrote an article praising Shellenberger as “The eco-warrior who’s made greens see RED.” According to Leonard, “hysterical Green doom-mongers — [Shellenberger] singles out Britain’s Extinction Rebellion group and 17-year-old Swedish eco-warrior Greta Thunberg — must stop saying the world is about to end due to climate change. It isn’t even close, he says.”66Tom Leonard. “The eco-warrior who’s made greens see RED: Going veggie? Almost pointless. Mass loss of species? A myth. The real climate change culprit? Poverty, not power stations. So says a Time Magazine ‘environment hero’,” The Daily Mail, July 22, 2020. Archived August 6, 2020. Archive URL:

As Leo Hickman noted on Twitter, the print version of The Daily Mail featured a large ad for Esso beside the article.

Leonard continues: “’Environmentalists got it exactly wrong’, Shellenberger told me this week. Motivated by left-wing, anti-capitalist, anti-growth ideas, they have pushed for a low energy, low consumption world — essentially ‘a return to Elizabethan England’.”

“He’s ‘fed up’, he adds. ‘with the exaggeration, alarmism, and extremism that are the enemy of a positive, humanistic and rational environmentalism’. The people ‘most apocalyptic about environmental problems tend to oppose the best and most obvious solutions to solving them’.”

“It’s true that climate change is real and it does present some potential risks,’ he told me. ‘But it’s nothing like this Hollywood, Mad Max, End of the World, Crazy Town scenario that was painted by Extinction Rebellion and Greta last year.’”

“‘These people are in the grip of a religion,’ says Shellenberger, ‘and they don’t know it.’”

July 15, 2020

Shellenberger went on Fox News in an interview with Brian Kilmeade where he was asked on his opinions about the Green New Deal.67Environmental Progress president slams Joe Biden’s $2 trillion climate plan,” Fox News, July 15, 2020. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

According to Shellenberger, “you’re actually paying twice” for renewble energy. “We’re paying first with subsidies which increase the deficit. And then we’re also paying higher electricity prices.” He also suggests renewables like wind turbines have “enormous” impacts on wildlife and endangered species.

He concludes: “I think the obvious thing, if you cared about nuclear power, you would do nuclear. I mean, if you cared about climate change. Sorry. You would do nuclear power.”

He also discussed the Paris climate agreement, suggesting it could be part of “ this effort by United Nations officials and some scientists to want to try to control energy and food production”:

Brian Kilmeade: [00:03:33] What will happen if we rejoin the Paris climate deal?  [00:03:36] 

Michael Shellenberger: [00:03:38] Look, I think there’s always been this effort by United Nations officials and some scientists to want to try to control energy and food production around the world. Those decisions are really best made by countries on their own. Look, you know, most carbon emissions in rich countries have gone down. Our carbon emissions have gone down over the last 15 years in Apocalypse Never talk about how that’s actually due to the fracking natural gas revolution, which most environmentalists oppose. So the two technologies that have done the most to address climate change and reduce humankind’s impact on the natural environment, fracking and nuclear power are actually opposed by candidate Biden’s coalition. And that’s what concerns me.  [00:04:17]

July 2, 2020

Shellenberger appeared on episode 250 of the Heartland Institute‘s In The Tank Podcast along with Jim Lakely and Isaac Orr where he talked “about his ‘controversial’ new book ‘Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All.’”68HEARTLAND INTERVIEWS MICHAEL SHELLENBERGER ON HIS NEW BOOK, APOCALYPSE NEVER,” The Heartland Institute, July 5, 2020. Archived July 7, 2020. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog. Archive URL:

Jim Lakely wrote at Heartland that “The book destroys the climate alarmist narrative that the world is coming to an end and that wind and solar are the future of energy in the United States. [Shellenberger] also discusses how climate alarmism has become the new secular religion that he once observed, and his journey to the side of reason, science, and realism.”69HEARTLAND INTERVIEWS MICHAEL SHELLENBERGER ON HIS NEW BOOK, APOCALYPSE NEVER,” The Heartland Institute, July 5, 2020. Archived July 7, 2020. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog. Archive URL:

During the interview, Shellenberger commended the Heartland Institute—a group that has been at the forefront of climate change denial in the United States—of “sounding the alarm on these issues.”70HEARTLAND INTERVIEWS MICHAEL SHELLENBERGER ON HIS NEW BOOK, APOCALYPSE NEVER,” The Heartland Institute, July 5, 2020. Archived July 7, 2020. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog. Archive URL:

“Honestly, thank you guys for having been sounding the alarm on these issues for longer than I have,” he said. “I’m sorry it took me so long to basically get into a position where I could tell the truth.”

Shellenberger commented that “the argument of the book is that there’s an underlying physical reason that renewables are bad for the environment.”

In the interview, Shellenberger compared environmentalism to a religion:71HEARTLAND INTERVIEWS MICHAEL SHELLENBERGER ON HIS NEW BOOK, APOCALYPSE NEVER,” The Heartland Institute, July 5, 2020. Archived July 7, 2020. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog. Archive URL:

Michael Shellenberger: [00:14:29] “So they’ve basically what they’ve done is they turned nature into the new God and the and the role of renewables and organics is going to harmonize us, make us right by nature in the same way that Christians want to be made right by God, through their behavior, through their morality. And then science is supposed to be sort of the new religion. But, of course, it creates all sorts of problems because that’s not what science is. Science doesn’t behave that way, behaves like science. And so. Yeah. So basically, these are problems of environmentalists treating science as though it’s a religion.” [00:15:02][33.1]

Michael Shellenberger: [00:16:34] I think you have to understand is that whereas like Jews and Christians and Muslims are aware that they’re Jews and Christians and Muslims and that that’s a religion, apocalyptic environmentalists don’t think that their religion is a religion. They think it’s science. [00:16:50][15.8]

Near the end of the interview, Heartland’s Donald Kendall commented:

Donald Kendal: [00:38:39] I shouldn’t be speaking on behalf of the Heartland Institute, but I am pretty sure I can confidently say that we are in this mission with you and we would be glad to help in any way possible. [00:38:51]

July 2, 2020

Shellenberger appeared on Alex Epstein‘s Power Hour podcast where he discussed his article, “On Behalf Of Environmentalists, I Apologize For The Climate Scare.”72‘I apologize for the climate scare’ | Michael Shellenberger interviewed by Alex Epstein,” YouTube video uploaded by user “ImproveThePlanet,” July 2, 2020. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

June 30, 2020

Michael Shellenberger wrote an article at Forbes claiming a new Climate Crisis Action Plan proposed by Congressional Democrats would kill endangered bird species due to an increase in wind power.73Michael Shellenberger. “Democrats’ New Climate Plan Will Kill Endangered Species, Environmentalists Fear,” Forbes, June 30, 2020. Archived July 1, 2020. Archive URL:

“It is notable that many of the conservationists defending wildlife from industrial wind turbines and transmission lines view the Democrats’ refurbished Green New Deal and its call for the “rapid deployment” of wind and transmission lines not as a climate dream but rather as an ecological nightmare,” he commented. 

In the article, Shellenberger cited the recent Michael Moore documentary Planet of the Humans which has been widely criticized by energy and climate experts, who say it fails to provide context on the benefits of renewable energy and the negative impacts of fossil fuels, and is based on out-of-date information.74Richard Collett-White and Zak Derler. “Fossil Fuel-Backed Climate Deniers Rush to Promote Michael Moore Documentary ‘Planet of The Humans’,DeSmog, May 1, 2020.

Shellenberger also quoted Kevon Martis is a a senior policy fellow75Fellows & Advisors,” E&E Legal. Archived July 2, 2020. Archive URL: for the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal), a climate denial group that has also received funding from the Kochs and coal industry.76Coal-Backed Anti-Wind Guru Barrels into Ohio’s Seneca County to Attack Wind Energy,” Checks & Balanced Project, October 25, 2018. Archived July 2, 2020. Archive URL:

Martis is founder of the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition,77Sally York. “Wind turbines may rise over county,” The Argus-Press, September 30, 2016. Archive URL: a group that has signed on to the Koch-controlled Americans for Prosperity‘s letter opposing the extension of the Wind Production Tax Credit. He has also been defended by the Institute for Energy Research78Analysis: Americans for Prosperity Anti-Wind Letter, June 2014,” Energy and Policy Institute, June 16, 2014. Archived July 2, 2020. Archive URL: and testified against extending the Production Tax Credit for Wind Energy at an event hosted by IER in 2013.79Kevon Martis. “Fighting AWEA in OH, MI, and DC: Thank You Volunteers for a Great 2013!MasterResource, December 23, 2013. Archived July 2, 2020. Archive URL:

When The Guardian Australia contacted Forbes about the article’s removal, they replied it was removed “because it violated our editorial guidelines around self-promotion.”

MIT climate expert Prof Kerry Emanuel told The Guardian he was “very concerned” about the opinion piece. 

June 30, 2020

Shellenberger appeared on The Sean Hannity Show. He commented ”The big day has finally arrived” on Twitter and promoted his new book Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All.80Friends! The big day has finally arrived!” Twitter post by user “@ShellenbergerMD,” June 30, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

June 28, 2020

Shellenberger published an article at Forbes,81On Behalf Of Environmentalists, I Apologize For The Climate Scare,” Forbes, June 28, 2020. Archived June 30, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. which was later retracted (in Shellenberger’s words, “Censored”).82Forbes has censored my article. …” Twitter post by user “@ShellenbergerMD,” June 29, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. He republished the article, titled “On Behalf Of Environmentalists, I Apologize For The Climate Scare,” at Environmental Progress.83On Behalf Of Environmentalists, I Apologize For The Climate Scare,” Environmental Progress, June 29, 2020. Archived June 30, 2020. Archive URL:

His article was later reviewed by six scientists who estimated “its overall scientific credibility to be ‘low’” while “A majority of reviewers tagged the article as: Cherry-picking, Misleading.”

“Shellenberger’s article promoting his new book ‘Apocalypse Never’ includes a mix of accurate, misleading, and patently false statements,” commented Zeke Hausfather, Director of Climate and Energy at The Breakthrough Institute. “While it is useful to push back against claims that climate change will lead to the end of the world or human extinction, to do so by inaccurately downplaying real climate risks is deeply problematic and counterproductive.”84Article by Michael Shellenberger mixes accurate and inaccurate claims in support of a misleading and overly simplistic argumentation about climate change,” Climate Feedback, July 6, 2020. Archived July 7, 2020. Archive URL:

In his article, Shellenberger commented how, “On behalf of environmentalists everywhere” he “would like to formally apologize for the climate scare we created over the last 30 years.”

According to Shellenberger, while climate change is happening, “It’s just not the end of the world. It’s not even our most serious environmental problem.”

Among a list of “facts few people know,” Shellenberger lists a number of assertions that, he admits, “will sound like ‘climate denialism’ to many people.”

For example, he suggested “Climate change is not making natural disasters worse,” that “food surpluses will continue to rise as the world gets hotter,” among other assertions.

Shellenberger described his new book, Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All as his “formal apology for our fear-mongering” regarding the seriousness of climate change. 

He listed the following “highlights” from the book:

  • “Factories and modern farming are the keys to human liberation and environmental progress”
  • “The most important thing for saving the environment is producing more food, particularly meat, on less land”
  • “The most important thing for reducing air pollution and carbon emissions is moving from wood to coal to petroleum to natural gas to uranium”
  • “100% renewables would require increasing the land used for energy from today’s 0.5% to 50%”
  • “We should want cities, farms, and power plants to have higher, not lower, power densities”
  • “Vegetarianism reduces one’s emissions by less than 4%”
  • “Greenpeace didn’t save the whales, switching from whale oil to petroleum and palm oil did”
  • “’Free-range’ beef would require 20 times more land and produce 300% more emissions”
  • “Greenpeace dogmatism worsened forest fragmentation of the Amazon”
  • “The colonialist approach to gorilla conservation in the Congo produced a backlash that may have resulted in the killing of 250 elephants”

“The evidence is overwhelming that our high-energy civilization is better for people and nature than the low-energy civilization that climate alarmists would return us to,” Shellenberger commented.

He also claimed that “Environmental groups have accepted hundreds of millions of dollars from fossil fuel interests.”

January 15, 2020

Shellenberger testified before the US Congressional Committee on Science, Space and Technology, focusing on zero carbon emission energy from nuclear power.85Michael Shellenberger Congressional Testimony 2020-01-15,” YouTube video uploaded by user “Andrew Jaremko,” January 17, 2020. Archived. mp4 on file at DeSmog.

November 4, 2019

Wrote an article at Forbes suggesting that California’s recent wildfires shouldn’t be blamed on climate change.86Michael Shellenberger. “Why Everything They Say About California Fires — Including That Climate Matters Most — Is Wrong,” Forbes, November 4, 2019. Archived July 1, 2020. Archive URL:

January 2019

Shellenberger gave a TEDx talk titled “Why renewables can’t save the planet” where he advocated for nuclear energy as opposed to wind and solar. Video and some selected quotes below.87Why renewables can’t save the planet | Michael Shellenberger | TEDxDanubia,” YouTube video uploaded by user “TEDx Talks,” January 4, 2019. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

[00:05:46] Over time, it gradually struck me that there was really no amount of technological innovation that was going to make the sun shine more regularly or wind blow more reliably. In fact, nothing. [00:05:59][12.8]

[00:11:52] All of which I think raises a really uncomfortable question in the effort to try to save the climate, are we destroying the environment? [00:11:59][7.3]

[00:12:19] Poor countries around the world are in the process still of moving away from wood and dung as their primary energies. And for the most part, this is a positive thing. As you stop using wood as your major source of fuel, it allows the forest to grow back and the wildlife to return as you stop burning wood in your home. You don’t. You no longer need to breathe that toxic smoke. And as you go from coal to natural gas and uranium is your main sources of energy. 

It holds out the possibility of basically eliminating air pollution altogether. There’s just this problem with nuclear. Well, it’s been pretty popular to move from dirtier to cleaner energy sources, from energy diffuse to energy dense sources. Nuclear is just really unpopular for a bunch of historical reasons. And as a consequence, in the past, I and I think a lot of others have sort of said, well, in order to deal with climate change, we’re just going to need all the different kinds of clean energy that we have. The problem is, is that just turns out not to be true. [00:13:17][58.7]

[00:14:07] in places that are using a lot of nuclear or have grids that are mostly nuclear and hydro, going towards solar and wind and other renewables would actually increase carbon emissions. I think a better alternative is just to tell the truth. [00:14:21][14.6]

[00:16:46] I think it’s natural that those of us that became very concerned about climate change, such a big environmental issue, would gravitate towards really romantic solutions, like harmonizing human civilization with the natural world using renewable energies. But I think it’s also understandable that as the facts have come in, that many of us have started to question our prior beliefs and change our minds. For me, the question now is now that we know that renewables can’t save the planet. Are we going to keep letting them destroy it? [00:17:19][32.5]

February 2016

As Mother Jones reported, Shellenberger organized a campaign to save the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant from closure. “I’m tired of arguing about the future,” he said. “Let’s decide what we’re going to do right now with the largest single source of clean energy in California.”88Tim McDonnell. “Closing This Nuclear Plant Could Cause an Environmental Disaster,” Mother Jones, February 3, 2016. Archived July 1, 2020. Archive URL:

Mark Jacobson, an engineering professor at Stanford University, argued California could meet clean energy targets without using nuclear. “Repairing Diablo Canyon will not only be costly, diverting funds from the development of more clean, renewable energy, but it will also result in down time, resulting in emissions from the background grid, which currently still emits pollution and carbon,” he said in an email to Mother Jones.89Tim McDonnell. “Closing This Nuclear Plant Could Cause an Environmental Disaster,” Mother Jones, February 3, 2016. Archived July 1, 2020. Archive URL:

Several signatories of the open letter including Shellenberger were also authors of An Ecomodernist Manifesto. The letter urged Pacific Gas & Electric “to do all in their power” to save the nuclear plant.90Scientists & Conservationists for Diablo Canyon,Save Diablo Canyon. Archived Feb 9, 2017. Archive URL:

August 2015

Shellenberger was a guest on episode 104 of Alex Epstein‘s “Power Hour” program at the Center for Industrial Progress (CIP), a think tank that has historically promoted fossil fuel use. Among other topics, they discussed the “Eco Modernist Manifesto.”91Power Hour: Michael Shellenberger on A New Approach to Environmental Issues,” Center for Industrial Progress, August 2015. Archived .mp3 on file at DeSmog.

Michael Shellenberger: [00:06:00] We I met one of the other co-founders of Breakthrough Institute. Ted Nordhaus is also my coauthor working to save the last ancient redwoods. [00:06:09][8.9]

Michael Shellenberger: [00:06:10] But when it came to climate change, we really started to lose confidence that our colleagues in the environmental community knew what they were doing. And we really didn’t know how bad it was until around 2004 when we started doing interviews with environmental leaders trying to understand what their strategy was on climate change. [00:06:28][18.4]

Michael Shellenberger: [00:06:29] And we came to the conclusion that really the problem with the whole environmental approach to climate was this very narrow way of thinking about the environment. And so we wrote an essay called The Death of Environmentalism Cause a lot of international debate. We did a standard into a full-length book in 2007 called Breakthrough. And what’s stayed the same and over that last 10 years is our belief that technological innovation and making cleaner energy sources cheap is the key to dealing with climate change and other environmental problems. What’s changed is that we’ve come to see a different set of technologies as the most important technologies for dealing with environmental problems [00:07:14][44.5]

Michael Shellenberger: [00:08:27] Well, so in terms of I mean, since we’ve just been we’ve been peeling the onion, trying to understand both, you know, what we think matters in terms of making a better world and also why it is that environmentalism is the way it is. And so one of the things that struck us very early on, and it obviously strikes a lot of other people, is that environmentalism is just really depressing. Like, you just you listen to it and you feel bad. And there’s reasons for that, because the story it’s telling me is a depressing story. [00:09:01][33.3]

Michael Shellenberger: [00:11:15] environmentalism really doesn’t have that much to do with the environment. And if you look at the founding of the environmental movement, one of the most important things about it in the late 60s and early 70s is that it had this idea that there was too many people, people were destroying the world. [00:11:33][18.5]

Michael Shellenberger: [00:12:42] Nihilism in some sense is really the motivating concern of environmentalism. And really what nihilism does is it says we need to choke off human energy, human creativity, human ingenuity. [00:12:50][8.9]

Michael Shellenberger: [00:19:20] I think you saw that on the Eco Modernist manifesto. I mean, mostly the people who attacked were the deep greens. [00:19:26][5.4]

Michael Shellenberger: [00:19:28] You know, not the mainstream environmental groups or mainstream environmental leaders or thinkers. And that’s because the deep Greens are actually quite happy to come out and admit that they want this completely radical change in society. They want. You know, degrowth, you know, they want less, they want and they don’t want less economic growth. They want reversal of growth. And they’re much more openly, more honest about their intentions. [00:19:56][27.9]

Michael Shellenberger: [00:25:38] I think that that’s sort of the big confusion that people had, is that the environmental movement was really about the environment. 

[00:25:47] You know, we had a conservation movement before. There was an environmental movement. It would mostly very wealthy people. But also, you know, activists persuaded the United States government to set aside special places. Environmental movement really was an anti-nuclear movement. [00:26:02][15.5]

[00:26:22] The environmental has been, you know, had a problem, which is that it was against nuclear energy, which was which everybody knew was the cleanest and greenest source of energy. I mean, everybody knew it. [00:26:34][11.4]

[00:26:34] I mean, ever all the entire scientific class tests, scientific and technical class, the journalists I mean, everybody knew you could produce a huge amount of power with very small material inputs, very small amount of waste, no air and water pollution on an on a tiny footprint of land. And so the environment movement had a problem. It had to attack that energy source. [00:26:58][23.8]

[00:27:01] And they had to start making up reasons why nuclear was not environmental. And they still do. They emphasized a lot about the waste, but really it didn’t anything to do with the environment. It really was about choking off the source of the energy that drives human development and modernization civilization. [00:27:23][21.3]

Michael Shellenberger: [00:33:14] The renewables discourse, the anti-nuclear renewables discourse was basically set up, and the agenda was set up, to move to a low energy civilization. [00:33:23][9.6]

Michael Shellenberger: [00:38:58] one of the one of the projects that Breakthrough is looking at is actually trying to get some clarity about what if you if you accelerate the transition from coal to natural gas and you accelerate the transition of everything to nuclear. What do we think that would mean for climate over the next century? What would what do we think that would mean for for climate stabilization over the next century? But, you know, I don’t want to get too. I think sometimes there’s some people on all sides of this who profess, I think, a level of certainty that I don’t think is appropriate, and I think that the quantifications cannot actually just be more and more misleading than they are revealing. [00:39:40][42.2]

Michael Shellenberger: [00:45:44] There’s just there’s the nihilistic Malthusian anti energy anti development anti human wing of the environmental movement called the Dark Greens. They’re obviously never going to be with us. But I have a lot of faith that conservationists will continue to see the wisdom of this approach of ecological modernization over this attempt to sort of starve the beast of its energy. [00:46:08][24.0]

April 2015

Shellenberger, as well as other representatives of the Breakthrough Institute, were authors of the “Eco Modernist Manifesto.” The manifesto announces the goal to “use humanity’s extraordinary powers in service of creating a good Anthropocene” and reads as follows:92AN ECOMODERNIST MANIFESTO,” Archived June 30, 2020. Archive URL:

“We offer this statement in the belief that both human prosperity and an ecologically vibrant planet are not only possible, but also inseparable. By committing to the real processes, already underway, that have begun to decouple human well-being from environmental destruction, we believe that such a future might be achieved. As such, we embrace an optimistic view toward human capacities and the future.

While the manifesto lists climate change among “serious long-term environmental threats to human well-being,” it later clarifies:93AN ECOMODERNIST MANIFESTO,” Archived June 30, 2020. Archive URL:

“Climate change and other global ecological challenges are not the most important immediate concerns for the majority of the world’s people. Nor should they be. A new coal-fired power station in Bangladesh may bring air pollution and rising carbon dioxide emissions but will also save lives. For millions living without light and forced to burn dung to cook their food, electricity and modern fuels, no matter the source, offer a pathway to a better life, even as they also bring new environmental challenges.

Meaningful climate mitigation is fundamentally a technological challenge. By this we mean that even dramatic limits to per capita global consumption would be insufficient to achieve significant climate mitigation. Absent profound technological change there is no credible path to meaningful climate mitigation. While advocates differ in the particular mix of technologies they favor, we are aware of no quantified climate mitigation scenario in which technological change is not responsible for the vast majority of emissions cuts.”

The full list of authors is below:94AN ECOMODERNIST MANIFESTO,” Archived June 30, 2020. Archive URL:

  • Christopher Foreman, Brookings Institution
  • Mark Lynas, Cornell University
  • David Keith, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Ted Nordhaus, Breakthrough Institute
  • Martin Lewis, Stanford University
  • Roger Pielke, Jr. , University of Colorado
  • Rachel Pritzker, Pritzker Innovation Fund & Breakthrough Institute
  • Michael Shellenberger, Breakthrough Institute
  • Joyashree Roy, Jadavpur University
  • Robert Stone, Documentary Filmmaker
  • Mark Sagoff, George Mason University & Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy
  • Peter Teague, Breakthrough Institute

Signatories notably included Roger Pielke, Jr., Ted Nordhaus of the Breakthrough Institute, as well as Mark Sagoff of the Koch-funded George Mason University. The full list of signatories is below:95AN ECOMODERNIST MANIFESTO,” Archived June 30, 2020. Archive URL:

  • John Asafu-Adjaye, University of Queensland
  • Linus Blomqvist, Breakthrough Institute
  • Stewart Brand, Long Now Foundation
  • Barry Brook, University of Tasmania
  • Ruth DeFries, Columbia University
  • Erle Ellis, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
  • Christopher Foreman, University of Maryland School of Public Policy
  • David Keith, Harvard University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
  • Martin Lewis, Stanford University           
  • Mark Lynas, Cornell University  
  • Ted Nordhaus, Breakthrough Institute
  • Roger Pielke, Jr., University of Colorado, Boulder
  • Rachel Pritzker, Pritzker Innovation Fund
  • Joyashree Roy, Jadavpur University
  • Mark Sagoff, George Mason University  
  • Michael Shellenberger, Breakthrough Institute
  • Robert Stone, Filmmaker 
  • Peter Teague, Breakthrough Institute

October 2004

Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus co-authored an essay titled The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World, which they released at an October 2004 meeting of the Environmental Grantmakers Association.96Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus. The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World, 2004.

The publication was praised by Gregg Easterbrook for challenging “so many conventional wisdoms on so many fronts that it’s hard to predict who will be offended most.”97Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus. The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World, 2004.


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