A good friend had shared with me the story that Forbes pulled an article by Michael Shellenberger on climate change. He had revised his views on it being the most important existential threat that the world faces. What makes it interesting is that he has been a life-long activist. His full original article can be found here. If one wished to read it online, here is another link.
I mentioned it to a friend who lives in Coonoor and believes in the impact of climate change. He remained sceptical of Shellenberger’s new-found scepticism. I want to read his book, ‘Apocalypse, Never’. As of now, I have mixed feelings about his apology. Mind you, I am yet to read the book.
(1) His endorsement of industrial agriculture does not square with the rising tide of obesity in some societies and incidences of cancer. Does the world need to produce so much food?
(2) ‘Free range’ beef production prevents animals from being frightened on their way to being slaughtered. In their frightened state, their bodies produce chemical reactions that could be one of the causes of meat-eating creating human health disorders.
(3) This critique of ‘climate change’ activism should not give rise to a sense of free pass to even air and water pollution in places like India. Their impact is rather apparent. Just a week of walking around in Indian cities is enough to cause sore throat and accumulation of phlegm. Therefore, he may be right that wood-burning is more problematic but it should not be construed as giving a free pass to fossil fuels.
(4) ‘Climate change’ sceptics/repudiationists also believe in growth at all costs. For them, climate does not matter; debt does not matter and deficit does not matter. So, it is a package deal. If one pulled back on one of them, they would take it as a ‘green signal’ for the rest of the package. There is ‘sustainable financing’, sustainable living and sustainable economics. The word, ‘sustainable’ need not only be relevant to climate change.
(5) Of course, it is also true that the Left & Climate Change activists also overlap with deficit monetisation because the government has access to the ‘virtual/electronic printing press’ and hence, even they believe in having the cake and eating it too. So, both sides are guilty of believing in different kinds of free lunches.
Yes, one can become sceptical about climate change and yet remain a pollution fighter. But, industrial and fossil fuel pollution also play their part in inducing climate change. We saw evidence of human activity on air when pandemic-induced shutdowns gave us blue skies in places that have long since ceased to see blue skies and people could see Himalayan peaks some 200 kms. away from Chandigarh in India.
I am aware that climate change has been used as a bogey to prevent developing countries certain economic growth options that western nations took for granted in their development phase. So, to that extent, climate change repudiation is welcome.
But, all told, I am left with mixed emotions. I have to read the book to form my own view of how credible his arguments sound to an (hopefully) intelligent reader but who is not a climate specialist. I read two reviews. One is from ‘The Guardian’ newspaper and one is from the ‘Wall Street Journal’. Somewhat predictably and yet disappointingly the reviews are what one would expect. The review in ‘The Guardian’ is critical of the book and the review in ‘Wall Street Journal’ praises the book.
The reviewer in ‘The Guardian’ calls Shellenberger’s book and Bjorn Lomborg’s book political propaganda although he did have several areas of agreement with Shellenberger.
As with many things, there is polarisation here. It would have been interesting had the reviews switched their platforms. Now it is difficult to make out if the reviews are to be taken at face-value or merely reflect entrenched views rather than being critiques of the book.
Interesting but difficult times. Trusting has become a lot harder. Cynicism rules.