If you want a piece of Nordhaus to go with your Stern
Nordhaus and Shellenberger will be on line at TPM Cafe discussing their new book, Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. Joseph Romm has already cut a slice.
What do Michael Crichton, Bjørn Lomborg, Frank Luntz, George W Bush (and his climate/energy advisors) have in common with Michael Shellenberger & Ted Nordhaus? They all believe 1) new “breakthrough” technologies are needed to solve the global warming problem and 2) investing in such technology is far more important than regulating carbon. . .
Why two people who say they care about the environment, Shellenberger & Nordhaus (S&N), embrace it, I don’t understand. Their instant new bestseller, unhelpfully titled Break Through — has already been endorsed by Roger Pielke, Jr. and Gregg Easterbrook and The National Review — ’nuff said. You can read all the misinformation you want from them online in their landmark essay, "The Death of Environmentalism” and recent articles in The New Republic (subs. req’d) and Gristmill (here and here).
S&N simply don’t know what they’re talking about. Worse, their message plays right into the hands of those who counsel delay. For that reason, I will spend some time debunking them. Here is the most dangerous S&N falsehood, from TNR:
"Over the last ten years, a consensus has emerged among energy policy experts–one no less important than the consensus among climate scientists that carbon emissions are warming the earth. What’s needed, they say, are disruptive clean-energy technologies that achieve non-incremental breakthroughs in both price and performance."
Uhh, no. Energy policy is my field, and I have talked to virtually all of the leading energy policy experts over the past few years. A few believe as S&N do (mostly academics), but the majority do not – especially those who are actual energy practitioners or who have taken the time to educate themselves on climate science. Yes, they all want much higher funding for clean energy R&D — who doesn’t??? (other than the phantom “pain- and-sacrifice-loving” environmentalists that only S&N seem to have met).Nordhaus and Shellenberger get their pony.
But the energy practioners know that meaningful breakthroughs rarely if ever happen in energy (a key point I will return to in the next post). I can say that with very high confidence since I ran the federal office responsible for doing the vast majority of the research into new carbon-free technologies.