The Global Environmental Apocalypse Has Been Canceled

“What we’re playing for now is to see if we can limit climate change to the point where we don’t wipe out civilizations,” the environmental writer Bill McKibben declared back in 2018. “The climate crisis is way worse than people generally realize, way worse,” said former Vice President Al Gore in January of this year. Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden evidently concurs: Announcing his $2 trillion climate change plan in July, he said that the world has “nine years before the damage is irreversible.”

And climate change isn’t the only environmental disaster that people see looming. “We cannot hide away from human population growth,” argued primatologist Jane Goodall in January. “All these [environmental] things we talk about wouldn’t be a problem if there was the size of population that there was 500 years ago.” The Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich co-wrote an article this year in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences declaring, “The ongoing sixth mass extinction may be the most serious environmental threat to the persistence of civilization, because it is irreversible.” And as fires burned to clear agricultural land in Brazil last year, French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “The Amazon rain forest—the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen—is on fire. It is an international crisis.”

According to these activists and politicians, humanity is beset on all sides by catastrophes that could kill off civilization, and maybe even our species. Are they right?

Absolutely not, answers the longtime environmental activist Michael Shellenberger in an engaging new book, Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All. “Much of what people are being told about the environment, including the climate, is wrong, and we desperately need to get it right,” he writes. “I decided to write Apocalypse Never after getting fed up with the exaggeration, alarmism, and extremism that are the enemy of positive, humanistic, and rational environmentalism.” While fully acknowledging that significant global environmental problems exist, Shellenberger argues that they do not constitute inexorable existential threats. Economic growth and technological progress, he says, can ameliorate them.

Shellenberger’s analysis relies on largely uncontroversial mainstream

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