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Breakthrough Institute comes apart – Michael Shellenger started new nuclear front propaganda group – Environmental Progress

The New Denial Is Delay at the Breakthrough Institute (Part 3)

The DisInformation Chronicle, 5 May 21,

This is Part Three of “The New Denial Is Delay at the Breakthrough Institute,” a three-part series examining the Breakthrough Institute and ecomodernism. In Part Two, we discussed their annual meetings to which they invite climate skeptics and Monsanto propagandists, the odd credentials for many of their affiliates, and their promotion of nuclear energy and GMO agriculture as techno-fixes to electrify and feed the world. To start at Part One, click here.

Months after the Breakthrough Institute released their 2015 ecomodernist manifesto, the declaration’s ideological binding started coming unglued. Breakthrough’s Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger met ridicule trying to sell the manifesto at a public event in England, and the duo later parted ways, as Shellenberger founded a new organization called Environmental Progress to publicize nuclear energy. The split has been somewhat acrimonious as both try to break from a past that neither seems capable of escaping.

The event in England focused on restoring science to environmentalism, and it was there that they planned to sell ecomodernism to British reporters. Conservative MP Owen Paterson, a climate denier who almost halved the UK’s climate preparedness budget when he was environmental secretary, hosted the media event. 

When announcing the press conference, Paterson called on the public to abandon the “relentless pessimism of the environmental movement” and warned in a Telegraph op-ed that “the Green Blob still infests the official bureaucracy with its influence.” Other conference panelists included Mark Lynas, a co-author of the the ecomodernist manifesto, and Matt Ridley, a British science writer noted for climate denial screeds

But after critics argued that the event provided a platform for climate denialists, DesmogBlog reported that Shellenberger dismissed those who warned the group not to participate in a press conference with Paterson.

Fuck you all, we’re going to go to the press conference,” Shellenberger said. “Owen will say his thing, we’re going to say our thing, if people can’t deal with it, fuck ‘em. I’m done with the tribalism on this.” 

Shellenberger’s cavalier attitude did not seem to impress the crowd, however, and many complained that Breakthrough had made the wrong decision by choosing to associate with climate denialists and anti-environmentalists

In a recent interview, Nordhaus explained this strategy as sort of a means to an end. “I’ve given talks to groups of climate skeptics, climate deniers—you know, real climate deniers,” he said. “You can have a variety of viewpoints on this question without having to put a tin foil hat on. And the thing is, you get to the end of those talks and if you go, ‘OK, so who supports nuclear energy?’ Everybody in the room supports nuclear energy.”

Neither Nordhaus nor Shellenberger responded to detailed questions sent by e-mail.

By late 2015, Shellenberger had left the Breakthrough Institute and started Environmental Progress. A photo at the organization’s website shows Shellenberger clad in a yellow t-shirt giving a Ted Talk. The summer after founding his group, Shellenberger partnered with employees of the nuclear energy industry to lead the March for Environmental Hope, which was billed as the “first-ever pro-nuclear march.” 

As part of their march, the group held protests outside the Bay area offices of Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, and attendees included a half dozen Exelon employees, who flew in from jobs working at nuclear reactors scattered across the country. 

Months later, Shellenberger led a pro-nuclear march in Chicago that was said to be inspired by the Civil Rights March on Washington, the Stonewall Riots, and Gandhi’s Salt March. Counter protestors denounced Environmental Progress as “astroturf.” 

When not writing for the Environmental Progress website, Shellenberger sometimes has his views echoed on Spiked, a British website funded in part by the Koch Brothers that traffics in climate denial. He also runs a blog at Forbes where he ridicules climate policy while advocating for nuclear energy. In one example at Forbes, he cited studies by Ed Calabrese, a professor of toxicology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, as proof that fears of nuclear radiation are overblown. Shellenberger’s story picked up on a theme first introduced by the Breakthrough Institute where they interviewed Calabrese about his research.

As reported by The Los Angeles Times and HuffPost Investigations, Calabrese has long excited the tobacco, chemical, and nuclear industries with research called “hormesis” that argues tiny amounts of pollution and radiation are actually good for people. Public health experts have dismissed Calabrese’s hormesis studies as a type of religion, although Trump officials showed interest.

Shellenberger is a propagandist,” said Paul Dorfman, Founder and Chair of the Nuclear Consulting Group and Honorary Senior Research Associate at the University College London. Dorfman said that while some experts can make a case for nuclear energy that he disagrees with, Shellenberger is not one of them. 

“He’s not a scientist. He just comes up with stuff,” said Dorfman. Dismissing the hormesis theory as “quasi science” and “tosh,” Dorfman said there is no safe dose of radiation. “This is a fact. And all the regulatory bodies know this.” ………

To promote his recent book “Apocalypse Never,” Shellenberger added another piece to the canon of environmental apologist lit, with a post on his Forbes blog titled “On behalf of environmentalists, I apologize for the climate scare.” Forbes removed the blog shortly after, which Shellenberger decried as censorship. Nonetheless, Shellenberger references his blogging at Forbes to claim that he is a “leading environmental journalist.” 

But once again, reality diverges from the Shellenberger storyline.

Forbes has long been a breeding ground for industry messaging and corporate propaganda. Back in 1997, Forbes ran a takedown of EPA Administrator Carol Browner, warning the public that she was ignoring science to gain control over American lives. “Watch out for this woman,” read the scary headline splashed across the cover of Forbes magazine, “The EPA’s Carol Browner is exploiting health and the environment to build a power base.” 

The story’s co-author was Bonner R. Cohen, who also operated EPA Watch, a newsletter that Philip Morris described as an “asset” that they established to attack the EPA on second hand smoke. After EPA Watch disappeared, Cohen then joined various climate denial groups, including the Heartland Institute. ………

“We flood the American public with a tsunami of crap every day in the media,” said Gary Schwitzer, an adjunct professor at U of Minnesota School of Public Health, and Publisher of Health News Review. He said Forbes is particularly terrible because it hosts fringe contributors with undeclared industry ties, and who write dreck. This is harmful, Schwitzer said, because it distracts the public from real news: “That’s what really pisses me off.”

“In some ways, it’s just like a fabulous performance art piece that he’s doing right now,” Nordhaus told Drilled News of Shellenberger’s campaign to promote his latest book. “It’s like Andy Kaufman doing environmentalism in a way that environmentalists could sort of see how dogmatic it gets. How sort of shrill it gets, and how angry it gets. How kind of dark and conspiratorial it gets.”

Despite attempts to create space between themselves and Shellenberger, Breakthrough has also helped to prop him up. When both Shellenberger and Bjorn Lomborg published books last year, climate scientists rushed to condemn them. Writing in The Guardian, climate expert Bob Ward dismissed both books as “classic examples of political propaganda.” ………

Breakthrough’s troubling ties to climate denial continue to this day as a member of their board is Reihan Salam, president of the Manhattan Institute. Four years back, 19 Senators took to the Senate floor in a week-long event to denounce the Manhattan Institute and other fossil fuel-funded groups that deny climate science and stymie legislation. According to Exxon Secrets, the Manhattan Institute has received $1.39 million from Exxon since 1992, with $75,000 donated in 2018, the last year for which records are available.

…….. Breakthrough has other links to the fossil fuel industry, through the chair of their advisory board, the heiress Rachel Pritzker. Besides funding the Breakthrough Institute, the Pritzker Innovation Fund supports the Natural Gas Initiative at Stanford University. Other Natural Gas Initiative funders include Anadarko Petroleum, Gulf Energy, The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute. 

………. “If there’s one thing these guys are good at, it is getting the media to move a story for them,” said Kert Davies of the Climate Investigations Center. Complimenting Breakthrough’s skills in public relations, Davies said that their counterintuitive “man bites dog” message gives Breakthrough an advantage over environmental organizations, which keep selling the same tired story.

“They are good at PR,” he said. “It’s where they came from. They’re good PR guys pretending to be policy experts.”

May 6, 2021 Posted by | spinbuster, UK, USA | Leave a comment

The manipulative propaganda tactics of Michael Shellenger,Mark Lynas and Rachel Pritzker of the Breakthrough Institute

The New Denial Is Delay at the Breakthrough Institute (Part 2)

Ten years after jumping on the scene, contrarianism, public stumbles, and “debate-me-bro” tactics remained core to the group’s brand, The DisInformation Chronicle, Mar 23 2021,

This is Part Two of “The New Denial Is Delay at the Breakthrough Institute” a three-part series examining the Breakthrough Institute and ecomodernism. In Part One, we scrutinized Breakthrough’s early years, their attacks on traditional environmental groups, and their awkward defense of the oil and gas industry. To find Part One, click here.

From its 2003 beginning, the Breakthrough Institute weathered constant criticism for contrarian hot-takes on complex environmental topics. But 2014 saw two major stumbles: Breakthrough Institute Fellow Roger Pielke Jr. got bounced from Nate Silver’s 538 after writing an error-riddle column on climate change; another fiasco followed when Breakthrough invited Kieran Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity to one of its much-ballyhooed meetings. 

Having one of your senior fellows bounced from 538 after an eminent MIT scientist pointed out errors would embarrass any normal organization. But not Breakthrough…….

Attempting to debate facts that don’t land in their favor is boilerplate Breakthrough. More common is goading well-known experts to debate dense policy matters, because joining the stage with authorities perfumes Breakthrough with a whiff of their opponents’ expertise.

The “debate-me-bro” maneuver remains critical to polishing Breakthrough’s brand. 

“In the end, they know they don’t have to win all those debates,” said Sam Bliss, a graduate student in environmental economics at the University of Vermont, who published a study in the Journal of Political Ecology examining Breakthrough. “Just getting in the debates with actual experts, and getting attention for their ideas, puts those ideas into people’s heads.”

Breakthrough Institute co-founder Michael Shellenberger also relies on debate-me-bro when called out for misstatements. As catastrophic fires torched the West Coast last fall, reporters began quoting scientists who linked these fires with climate change. Nonetheless, Shellenberger hopped on Fox News to shout this science down.

When someone then tweeted that he was wrong, Shellenberger, of course, challenged that person to a debate…………….

Breakthrough hosted a talk by Alex Berezow of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH). Leaked documents and court records find that ACSH’s funders have included Chevron, Coca-Cola, Bayer Cropscience, McDonald’s, Monsanto, and the tobacco conglomerate Altria……….

In 2015, Nordhaus and Shellenberger released “An Ecomodernist Manifesto”, a sparkly, tectonic-shifting declaration. In reality, the document rehashed arguments that, as humans sculpt the planet, the Earth has entered a new era.

Many of the 18 signatories were Breakthrough affiliates, with a smattering of professors and others who orbit Breakthrough as a means to pump up their personal brands as innovative thinkers. Two signatories bear greater scrutiny: Mark Lynas and Rachel Pritzker…………..

He [Lynas] issued this very dramatic, but essentially, fabricated reinvention of his own biography to springboard into a new phase of his career,” Wilsdon said of Lynas. “He isn’t an expert in any of this.”

“He’s done a very impressive marketing campaign internationally,” agreed Mayer, who signed the letter calling Lynas’s claims false. “He’s not at all important in our country. But it fits into a nice story that gets lapped up by certain constituents.”

In recent years, Lynas has turned to writing for the Cornell Alliance for Science, a GMO and pesticide advocacy group at Cornell University. After the WHO’s IARC listed the pesticide glyphosate as a probable carcinogen, Monsanto and its allies began attacking the agency. The head of IARC told Politico that the agrichemical industry’s campaign reminded him of tobacco industry attacks when IARC categorized second-hand smoke as cancerous.

Lynas later published a piece at the Cornell Alliance for Science that dismissed IARC as “a little-known and rather flaky offshoot of the World Health Organization” and defended Monsanto as the victim of a “witch hunt.”

Lynas did not respond to detailed questions sent to him by e-mail.

Rachel Pritzker joined Breakthrough as the chair of its board in 2011. After co-authoring “An Ecomodernist Manifesto,” she achieved peak Breakthrough glory with two Ted Talks. In one talk, she flacked ecomodernism and recounted her transformation from little girl raised by hippies on a goat farm “where we grew our own vegetables and heated with wood” to Breakthrough-style tech modernist. After reaching this inflection point on the Ted Talk stage, Pritzker then toggled through talking points similar to what one would expect from a nuclear energy lobbyist, while also slapping down wind and solar energy.

“That’s the essential message of ecomodernism,” she said. “It’s a cause for optimism.”

Ms. Pritzker seems to have little scientific training, which makes her an odd choice to jump on stage and teach an audience about nuclear energy. According to news reports and her bio at the Pritzker Innovation Fund, Ms. Pritzker majored in Latin American studies. During the 2008 election, NPR reported that she was a “liberal nutritionist” who helped dump $1.1 million into an Ohio political action committee that opposed Senator John McCain, then running for President. …….

Besides chairing the board of the Breakthrough Institute, Ms. Pritzker has also supported several groups that collaborate with Breakthrough to promote nuclear energy and GMO agriculture, including Third Way and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF). 

This ends Part Two of “The New Denial Is Delay at the Breakthrough Institute,” a three part series examining the Breakthrough Institute and ecomodernism. To continue with Part Three, click here.

May 6, 2021 Posted by | spinbuster, USA | Leave a comment

Breakthrough Institute climate sceptics – Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger – ‘bright, shiny objects to some journalists’.

The New Denial Is Delay at the Breakthrough Institute, How ecomodernism’s attempt to revolutionize environmentalism became a tragic slide into techno-hype lobbying and endless bickering with “Big Green” The DisInformation Chronicle 5 May 21,

In 2004, Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, the founders of a scrappy Bay Area think tank called the Breakthrough Institute, shot to prominence when they published “The Death of Environmentalism,” an essay that argued the environmental movement had failed……….

Because they ….. defined themselves against climate science deniers, they found a sympathetic audience among mainstream intellectuals……….

But it turns out they weren’t so different from run-of-the-mill climate skeptics after all……
Breakthrough’s antics and loose relationship with facts have caused most environmental groups and climate change experts to give them the cold shoulder.

“They had this idea of molding environmentalism to attract conservatives and what actually happened was they turned into conservatives themselves—writing for Forbes, Quillete, National Review, and the Wall Street Journal,” said Sam Bliss a graduate student in environmental economics at the University of Vermont. Along with research professor Giorgos Kallis, Bliss published a study in the Journal of Political Ecology that documents the Breakthrough Institute’s promotion of a strange idea called ecomodernism. Bliss describes it as a tragic tale, where Nordhaus and Shellenberger turn into exactly who they didn’t want to be: conservative lobbyists for techno-fixes who engage in endless battles with environmentalists. 

But while Breakthrough may have become a pariah in much of the environmental movement, ignoring them is not the smartest strategy. Most of their early critics have vanished after becoming exasperated at the group’s constant failure to correct errors, granting Nordhaus and Shellenberger an open license to peddle “ecomodernism” as a gadget to address the world’s environmental challenges. 

Indeed, while it’s been 12 years since Shellenberger and Lomborg shared a stage to promote their “alternative voices,” the veracity and quality of their scientific advice has not improved. Both Shellenberger and Lomborg released new books in 2020—and as in the past, experts immediately savaged them. In a review at Yale 360, Pacific Institute emeritus president Peter Gleick wrote, “Bad science and bad arguments abound in ‘Apocalypse Never’ by Michael Shellenberger.” Taking a pickaxe to Lomborg’s book “False Alarm,” Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote in the New York Times, “This book proves the aphorism that a little knowledge is dangerous. It’s nominally about air pollution. It’s really about mind pollution.”

But despite criticism of the Breakthrough Institute’s ideas and turmoil within it — Shellenberger left the group in 2015 — Breakthrough shows an uncanny knack to survive and spread bad ideas, even managing to attract the occasional reasonable scientist such as Steven Pinker, an attention-starved Harvard professor, who is sometimes touted as one of his generation’s leading minds.

Neither Nordhaus nor Shellenberger responded to detailed questions sent by e-mail.

……………….. A recently retired Hill staffer, who did not want his name in the media, said he worked for decades on appropriations for the House but never heard of the Breakthrough Institute. He wondered how Shellenberger—or anyone—could claim personal credit for passing billions of dollars in renewable energy policy with just one or two meetings, when the Hill is swarming with hundreds of professional lobbyists working around the clock.

“He’s constantly reinventing his story to build the appearance of power and access,” said Kert Davies, who spent 13 years at Greenpeace examining energy policy, before founding the Climate Investigations Center in 2013. Davies said he first met Shellenberger in the early 2000s, when Shellenberger was vying to get a communications contract with Greenpeace.  “He takes credit for things [that happened] years after he was boosted from the Apollo Alliance. He can say whatever he wants, and it’s all vapor because the organization is now gone.”

“They aren’t players up here on the Hill,” said a senior Democratic Committee staffer, who has spent decades working on climate policy and is not authorized to speak to the media. “They spend most of their time shooting spitballs at mainstream environmental organizations and that makes them a bright, shiny object to some journalists.” 

………. Shellenberger’s denial that Exxon suppressed or spun what it knew about climate change is now referenced by mainstream climate denialists,

……….. since launching the Breakthrough Institute in 2003, Nordhaus and Shellenberger have generated gigawatts of media buzz — along with a pile of disapproval taller than a West Virginia coal mountain. Scientists and environmentalists have noted the duo’s penchant for portraying the fossil fuel industry as a tiny corporate Goliath picked on by David, the environmental giant. But Breakthrough’s counterintuitive narratives, headlined with sparkly buzzwords and backfilled with selective facts, make sense when you remember that Nordhaus and Shellenberger forged their expertise in public relations.

In the tech-crazed, libertarian San Francisco of the early 2000s, Breakthrough’s ideology perhaps made sense to those who saw the environmental movement as stuck in the past, unwilling to embrace necessary technology, and too resistant to corporate solutions. This has caused a few moments of public embarrassment for Breakthrough such as promoting fracking as a “clean energy” alternative.

Last year, medical experts writing in the New England Journal of Medicine dismissed fracking as a clean energy false promise that data show is less a bridge to future, than a tether to the past. Today, Breakthrough promotes fracking and eagerly embraces nuclear and solar energy, while cheerleading for GMO agriculture, as preferred technologies to electrify and feed the world. 

……….. over the years, Breakthrough also began defending oil companies and cozying up to climate contrarians. Denying that they traffic in climate denial, while constantly ending up in the same room with contrarians and climate denialists, is a constant dilemma for the Breakthrough crowd, as are spine twisting arguments to soften human impacts on the planet and to hype technology solutions.  It’s a subtle, more modern version of denial and catnip to some journalists. When celebrated data cruncher Nate Silver relaunched his 538 website in 2014, one of his first hires was Breakthrough Fellow Roger Pielke Jr. 

A professor of science policy at the University of Colorado, Pielke Jr. has a long track record of wildcat contrarian writing on climate change and receiving invites to promote his views at congressional hearings from Republicans who deny climate science. 

……… It’s a subtle, more modern version of denial and catnip to some journalists. When celebrated data cruncher Nate Silver relaunched his 538 website in 2014, one of his first hires was Breakthrough Fellow Roger Pielke Jr. 

A professor of science policy at the University of Colorado, Pielke Jr. has a long track record of wildcat contrarian writing on climate change and receiving invites to promote his views at congressional hearings from Republicans who deny climate science. ……

May 6, 2021 Posted by | spinbuster, USA | Leave a comment

Russia’s Rosatom launches the nuclear lobby’s propaganda push for ”climate change credibility” – ”Atoms For Humanity”

Thousands Join Launch Of Rosatom’s Atoms For Humanity Nuclear Awareness Campaign, By India Education Diary Bureau Admin  May 3, 2021  Moscow: On April 30, over 3200 people from some 40 countries watched Rosatom’s Atoms for Humanity new nuclear awareness campaign launch event. The project is aimed at demonstrating the importance of nuclear technologies in achieving the UN Sustainable Goals through human-centered stories.

The project launch event Why Humanity Needs Nuclear brought together Polina Lion, Chief Sustainability Officer at Rosatom, Sama Bilbao y León, Director General of the World Nuclear Association, Dr. Maher Aziz, member of the World Energy Council, Ben Heard, founder of the Bright New World and Sergio Orlandi and Head of Central Engineering and Plant Directorate at ITER. Heroes of Atoms for Humanity joined the event to share their experiences participating in the campaign.

The [?] esteemed speakers discussed social, economic and environmental benefits of nuclear technologies and their invaluable contribution to solving the most urgent challenges of today and tomorrow.

May 4, 2021 Posted by | Russia, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Growing aggressive behaviour by nuclear proponents – is nuclear facing obsolescence?

Nuclear Engineering International 29th April 2021, Extract from Letter Andy Stirling, Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex.

It is reasonable to give particular scrutiny both to the style and content of a commentary by Jeremy Gordon published on an article issued last year in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Energy. This is sadly especially so, because what we see as Jeremy Gordon’s aggressive tone and superficial arguments display behaviour that is sadly growing among nuclear proponents.

These are worrying signs of a wider malaise in current nuclear debates. It is a growing problem in nuclear advocacy that those holding contrasting informed and measured views – or who simply question the comparative merits of nuclear power – are so often smeared as ‘anti-nuclear’.

 It is hysterical to brand someone raising evidence of a problem with something, as being somehow intrinsically ‘anti’ that thing. Yet on nuclear, this is a norm. Even to raise questions about relative pros and cons of nuclear versus renewable based strategies is treated by Gordon as if inherently biased.

Gordon criticises us for not analysing coal, oil or gas. Our purpose is to examine associations between carbon emissions and the uptake of two families of technologies that are variously claimed as “zero carbon”: nuclear and renewables. We are ourselves clear in urging further more specific work addressing finer details and wider dimensions  

But it is not unreasonable that this pioneering study focuses specifically on technologies for which zero carbon
claims are actually made. Whatever ‘side’ one is on, it is striking that as the relative position of nuclear power deteriorates, the invective grows more intense. But perhaps all may agree (on any side), that spurious caricatures and personal attacks undermine themselves?

No technology is entitled to immunity either from criticism or obsolescence. Whether nuclear power faces this latter fate is unsure. But if (like many earlier technologies) its time has come, then this past quintessential icon of scientific prowess should not bring down with it the reasoned policy discourse that forms the lifeblood of democracy itself.

May 3, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, culture and arts, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Paul Beckwith on the failure of universities to address real world problems

1 May 21, I have often wondered how humanity, in our present day and age, can be facing total and utter catastrophe from abrupt climate system change, and still have the vast multitudes of citizens, governments, and nations not even want to recognize the grave dangers that we face. These are not long term risks, in fact we face the imminent complete loss of Arctic Sea Ice, enormous outbursts of methane gas, mass extinctions of our plants and animals, and global food shortages leading to deadly widespread famine within a decade. How is this possible? How can society be so stupid? Why am I cursed to recognize the imminent and complete collapse of our society?

Having been within the university system and academia for many years, I have been constantly puzzled as to why there is no sense of societal danger and risk of near term collapse. The Ivory Towers of Academia have been completely oblivious to the existential crisis, and has done absolutely nothing to educate the public to these risks. The university is essentially a knowledge-factory to push forward the boundaries of knowledge in a vast array of independently siloed fields, while it has completely lacked the wisdom to recognize let alone address the real world problems that are right in front of our face. As a result, with zero wisdom from our esteemed institutes of learning, our society is teetering on the brink of complete and utter collapse from abrupt climate system change. The best paper that I have read on this failure of our university system to address real world and imminent global problems was published two weeks ago and is called “How Universities Have Betrayed Reason and Humanity – And What’s to Be Done About It” by Nicolas Maxwell.

May 3, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Education, environment | Leave a comment

Mobile nuclear reactors? Scathing report slams ‘disturbing’ military program

Mobile nuclear reactors? Scathing report slams ‘disturbing’ military program, Times, 1 May 21, Todd South The author of an academic report on Pentagon plans to build mobile nuclear reactors to power future combat bases called the effort “extremely disturbing” and “based on a lie.”

The report released Thursday slams the Pentagon and Army G-4, logistics — specifically the Army office’s 2018 report that lays out the potential uses and needs for such mobile nuclear reactors in future operations.

Alan J. Kuperman wrote the 21-page report titled, “Proposed U.S. Army Mobile Nuclear Reactors: Costs and Risks Outweigh Benefits,” in his role as coordinator of the University of Texas at Austin’s Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project.

“They don’t reduce casualties, they increase costs and they increase threats to the lives of U.S. service members,” Kuperman said.

The program, known as “Project Pele,” is prototyping the mobile advanced microreactor concept under the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office……..

The DoD spokesman pointed out that the project is part of a collaboration involving the Department of Energy, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and private industry. Project Pele is not being designed for a specific military service branch but does include experts across defense for a variety of requirements.

Army officials for G-4 deferred comment on the program to DoD……..

Congress approved funding for prototype reactors and the Army awarded $40 million in contracts to three nuclear reactor companies in March 2020 for Project Pele, according to the NPPP report.

Kuperman struck at the Army’s rationale, calling the project unnecessary and dangerous. He counters some of the main justifications that have been provided by DoD and Army reports:

  • High cost
     – Kuperman said the Army’s claims that nuclear power can provide cheaper electricity for powering future forward bases is “based on unrealistic assumptions.” Those include that such a reactor would have low construction costs and operate for 18 hours a day over 40 years. The more likely scenario is a mobile reactor would run for half that time over about 10 years, meaning nuclear electricity could cost 16 times more than estimates and still seven times more than diesel-generated power.
  • Vulnerability to missile attacks – The report points to the 2020 missile attack on forces at al-Asad air base in Iraq. Even with warnings hours ahead of time, more than 100 U.S. personnel suffered traumatic brain injury from the 11 strikes that hit the facility. And the missiles were 10 times more accurate than the Army has predicted in its report on the vulnerability of reactors to precision strikes. The service admits that a direct hit on a reactor would destroy the device. Kuperman notes that even the Army’s plans to protect the reactors, by burying them underground, could inadvertently cause meltdowns by impeding air cooling and causing overheating. A similar strike on an similar such future base with a reactor could cause far more devastating consequences.

  • Captured reactors 
    – Should a U.S. base housing a mobile reactor be overrun or abandoned, the radioactive waste from the reactor could be used in “dirty bomb” terror attacks.
  • No mission for reactors – One of the chief purposes of pursing such reactor programs was to reduce casualties from diesel transport to remote bases. But Defense Department data shows a dramatic drop in casualties of five per 1 million gallons of fuel delivered in 2005 to nearly zero by 2013.
  • High-energy weapons don’t need reactors – Kuperman states that the justification that future high-energy or laser weapons that the Army hopes to have protecting bases don’t require a reactor to power. “A high energy weapon would have to be fired millions of times to justify a reactor,” Kuperman said. “In reality such a weapon would be fired perhaps hundreds of times in its lifetime.”
  • Transport problems – The Army wants to air deliver these reactors to combat posts. Kuperman questions the “regulatory nightmare” that would create. The program calls for initial tests flying the reactors domestically to run then returning them, and their radioactive waste, to another domestic location. Foreign transport would require approval of countries airspace traversed and the approval of a host nation where the reactor would be placed, he said. Other Army recommendations include truck or rail transport domestically and either ship or over-the-ocean flights to friendly ports to then move the reactors again via truck or rail.

  • Army Times
     reported on the proposed program in 2019, which had drawn backlash from the Union of Concerned Scientists and its then-director of the Nuclear Safety Project, Edwin Lyman, who called the proposal, “naïve.”The original proposal, approved by the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office asked for industry solutions in January 2019 on providing a less than 40-ton small, mobile nuclear reactor design that could operate for three years or more and provide 1 to 10 megawatts of power.Planners want the reactor to fit inside a C-17 cargo plane for air transport to theater. More recent moves have reduced the power output to 5 megawatts……..

Lyman notes a major failure with one of the original eight designs in 1961 when a core meltdown and explosion of the ML-1 reactor in Idaho killed three operators.

The three deployed to Antarctica, Greenland and Alaska proved “unreliable and expensive to operate,” Lyman wrote in his response to the Army’s 2018 report on the mobile reactor program.Lyman told Army Times on Thursday that a number of those old reactors required decades of decommissioning and one used at Fort Belvoir, Va., near Washington D.C. is finally scheduled for decommissioning in late 2021………..

May 1, 2021 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, spinbuster, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Extinction Rebellion exposes Zion Lights as yet another nuclear propaganda front


Extinction rebellion 16th Sept 2020, There have been a number of stories in the press in the last few weeks with criticisms about Extinction Rebellion by Zion Lights, UK director of the pro-nuclear lobby group Environmental Progress. It appears that Lights is engaged in a deliberate PR campaign to discredit Extinction Rebellion.
For any editors who might be considering platforming Lights, we would like to make you aware of some information about the organisation she works for and her employer, Michael Shellenberger. Environmental Progress is a pro-nuclear energy lobby group. While the group itself was only established in 2016, its backers and affiliates have a long and well-documented history of denying human-caused climate change and/or attempting to delay action on the climate crisis.
A quick look at groups currently promoting Zion Lights through their social media channels include climate deniers and industry
lobbyists such as The Global Warming Policy Foundation and the Genetic Literacy Project (formally funded by Monsanto). The founder of Environmental Progress, Michael Shellenberger, has a record of spreading misinformation around climate change and using marketing techniques to distort the narrative around climate science. He has a reputation for downplaying the severity of the climate crisis and promoting aggressive economic growth and green technocapitalist solutions.


April 26, 2021 Posted by | spinbuster, UK | Leave a comment

Puerile publicity tactics of pro nuclear publicist “Think Atom”

The keynote speexh at the World Nuclear Cycle Forum was so absurd as to be almost funny. It avoided consideration of nuclear power’s huge costs, safety problems, weapons connection, terrorism risk, – and above all, the fact that the nucleare fuel cycle is highly carbon-emitting. It also sidesteps the fact that nuclear power , even if it did combat climate change, could never be operating fast enough to be of any use anyway.

But that didn’t stop gee-whiz nuclear spinner ”Think Atom” from insulting our intelligence by recommending the most puerile publicity tactics to win over the hearts and minds of the general public.


You need to put it in context: ‘The worst case scenario is a similar dose that you get from eating a bag of chips or a couple of bananas.’ And use emotion: ‘But that’s ridiculous! Yes, but it’s true!’ This context gives you an image of something. It’s easier [to convince people]/

Nuclear industry must change the way it communicates, says Think Atom, World Nuclear News, 15 April. 21, ”……….The fact that nuclear is clean [really?] energy is already “out there” and so the issue is not a lack of information,  Rauli Partanen, the CEO of Think Atom,   said, but rather of believing that information and then acting on those beliefs. For that to happen, data and reports proving the science are not enough. There also needs to be emotion and an alignment of values, he said, which will turn the information into something that has value.

“Why do people dislike nuclear? Forty years ago, the nuclear industry left the public discussion to those who opposed nuclear. These people, groups and organisations said that nuclear is dangerous and irresponsible, ……..

There has therefore been no progress in having a vision for the nuclear industry and instead it has focused on fighting against the premature closure of reactors or on decommissioning.

“That’s not very inspiring. How many young people are going to go into a field that’s focused on getting rid of itself? Not many……

The nuclear industry needs to start talking publicly about a “mission of expansion”, he said……  the nuclear industry should demand support from policymakers and legislators to create a fair market in clean [really?] energy, …….  enabling the nuclear industry to enjoy access to low-cost finance the way that other clean energy technologies already do.

The high rate of nuclear power plant construction seen in the 1970s and 1980s should be repeated over the next 40 years because “even when we get to net zero, we need to get into negative emissions, and that is not going to happen by itself, it will need a lot of energy”, he said.

“The key point is that, if the nuclear industry doesn’t have a big vision on its role, potential and importance in stopping climate change, how can it expect the rest of us to have that vision for them?”……

 World Nuclear Association’s Harmony goal – the addition of 1000 GWe of new nuclear capacity and a 25% share in the global electricity mix, by 2050………. It needs to spread out from World Nuclear Association onto the slide presentations of utilities, with statements like; ‘We’re looking forward to doubling our fleet’.”…………

“He is certainly an influencer and thought leader in some circles, but we also need others – rock stars, famous politicians, climate scientists. The issue is you cannot have one single message for everyone. Know your audience.”

The message however needs to make clear that being ‘anti-nuclear’ effectively means being against a proven way to mitigate climate change……….

Asked how attitudes towards nuclear energy could be changed at the political level, he said this was difficult, but “when change starts it can happen pretty fast”……..”One of the catalysts for this has been advanced nuclear reactors and small modular reactors, which is a new way of thinking about nuclear. It can give people a second chance to rethink nuclear…”’

,,,,,, The anti-nuclear countries, like Austria, Germany and Luxembourg, are constantly joining up and bullying other nations 

………..  The answers to those questions [about radioactive wastes] must be in a context the audience can understand, he said. For example, “the worst-case scenario” of radiation leaking from the Onkolo final repository would be a tiny number of millisieverts per year.

“Nobody will understand that. You need to put it in context: ‘The worst case scenario is a similar dose that you get from eating a bag of chips or a couple of bananas.’ And use emotion: ‘But that’s ridiculous! Yes, but it’s true!’ This context gives you an image of something. It’s easier than ‘many zeros of millisieverts’, which means nothing to the non-nuclear engineer.”

April 17, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, spinbuster | Leave a comment

With breathless enthusiasm, media applauds another nuclear lobby confidence trick – ”Earth 300”

Full of deceptive words and phrases – “clean” ”emissions-free” ”solutions to climate change” ”safe and sustainable atomic energy from a molten salt reactor” – journalists can hardly contain themselves as they regurgitate the propaganda from the nuclear lobby. Not so long ago, nuclear proponents were climate change deniers. Now they see that getting on the climate change bandwagon is their only chance to get taxpayers’ money, to fund their failing industry.

Tickets for this nuclear-powered superyacht will cost $3 million for VIPs and be free to scientists and students selected to help study climate change., Business Insider, APR 13, 2021,  

The striking behemoth has been dubbed Earth 300‚ with a stated mission to carry out research expeditions in order to “confront earth’s greatest challenges,” according to Jefferson. Featuring naval architecture by NED, it spans an insane 984 feet—300 meters, hence the suffix—which makes it even longer than RMS Titanic (883 feet). The majority of that real estate has been dedicated to scientific equipment and tech straight from Silicon Valley.

The vessel will reportedly be powered by nuclear tech known as molten salt reactors (MSRs). ……he project has gained a number of partners, including IBM, RINA, Triton Submarines and EYOS Expeditions. Iddes anticipates Earth 300 will launch in 2025,- Robb Report 14 Apr 21,

April 15, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Iran and Israel – the situation shows the strong connection between nuclear power and nuclear weapons- small nuclear reactors with enriched uranium fuel.

Nuclear Alert: Iran & Israel Playing High-Stakes Poker with Nuclear Power & Nuclear Weapons  Fairewinds, Maggie Gunderson, 14 Apr 21, Fairewindsy now, Fairewinds is sure you know that an explosion at an Iranian nuclear enrichment plant has slowed Iran’s progress to enrich uranium. The crisis shows a very blurry line between Civilian Atomic Power and Military Atomic Bombs!………..

For decades, we are informed there is no correlation between weapons and civilian power. This standoff between Iran and Israel highlights the strong connection between nuclear weapons and nuclear power, like hand-in-glove.

The borderline between bomb-grade uranium and civilian power-grade uranium is determined by how much the isotope Uranium-235 (U-235) is enriched. Traditionally, if uranium enrichment is above 20%, that is considered the low-end of weapons-grade enrichment, which falls between 20% and 100% enrichment for bombs.  Therefore, the higher the percent of enrichment of U-235, the easier it is to manufacture a nuclear bomb.

To be cost-effective, the nuke industry claims its U-235 must be more enriched to prevent atomic power reactors from refueling as often. Currently, uranium fuel used worldwide in operating nuclear power plants is enriched to about 6%.  But the nuclear industry’s new designs for proposed Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) will use fuel enriched to about 20%.

Yes, as Fairewinds quoted above, SMRs will use nuclear fuel that is “one step away from weapons-grade uranium” used to make bombs!

At Fairewinds, we have two questions today:

  1. First, what are Iran’s plans for gaining that much enrichment? Iran claims that this centrifuge produced fuel is for peaceful purposes only, then why does the uranium have to be enriched to almost bomb-grade? Is Iran building SMRs?
  2. Where does that place the United States in world politics with its creation of SMRs? The U.S. plans to build tens of thousands of these allegedly new Small Modular Reactors. Moreover, SMRs use HALEU fuel (High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium) enriched to almost 20% Uranium-235. 
  • How does this action make the U.S. any different from what Iran is doing when the U.S. SMRs will contain high-test Uranium identical to what is being enriched in Iran?
  • Is this federal push for this new SMR design some type of ploy to spread atomic bomb-grade fuel all over the world?
  • The U.S. nuclear power industry is looking at SMRs as its latest cash cow, expecting to sell and build SMRs all over the world!  What kind of international threat is this if thousands of proposed SMRs are located all over the U.S. and worldwide?

As a result of the attack on its enrichment facility, Iran has further changed its mind and said it would enrich uranium to 60%. According to the BBC:

Iran will produce 60%-enriched uranium in retaliation for a suspected Israeli attack on a nuclear site, President Hassan Rouhani says, bringing it closer to the purity required for a weapon. … But he reiterated that Iran’s nuclear activities were “exclusively peaceful”.

France, Germany and the U.K. expressed “grave concern” at the move, saying Iran had “no credible civilian need for enrichment at this level”.

Fairewinds is clear that the 20% enriched fuel planned to be used in SMRs is only one easy step away from creating bomb-grade atomic fuel!  Now that Iran has informed the world that it intends to enrich its uranium to 60%, scientists worldwide know that there is no peaceful civilian atomic reactor of any kind using U-235 enriched to 60%!

Fairewinds hopes that diplomats will resolve this enrichment conundrum before the military situation escalates further.

April 15, 2021 Posted by | spinbuster, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Unrelenting dishonest propaganda leading us to war against China

Not sleepwalking but marching with eyes wide open to war. Independent Australia, By William Briggs | 13 April 2021  
While the USA moves towards war, anti-China rhetoric grows on a daily basis and the idea of war is being sold as the “right” thing, writes Dr William Briggs.

A LIE told often enough can become accepted, but it can never be the truth. China has been declared a threat to all that we hold dear, but it is just not so. China, for all its faults, is not a threat and nor is it practising genocide!

The Uyghur genocide claim gets bigger as each day dawns. Peter Hartcher, in The Age on the 10 April, writes of this genocide and of ‘the evil genius of the system of genocide with Chinese characteristics.’ The “genius” according to Hartcher is that the Chinese are allowing the Uyghurs to live. What a clever and cunning genocide that is!

The plight of the Uyghurs is but the latest lurid episode in a sustained and enormously successful push to demonise China in the eyes of the world. The motivations behind this are simple enough. China’s economic star is rising and America’s best days are behind it.

The world is certainly on the edge of a precipice. There is a broad acceptance, despite an embarrassing lack of evidence, that China is an enemy and, as an enemy, a threat. Nobody is ever eager for war, but people have often enough been persuaded that war is an acceptable option. This is particularly so when an existential threat exists, or in this case, is manufactured. The potential for war, justifications for it and warnings of how it might almost “accidentally” become a reality have come to dominate thought……..

If the USA goes to war with China, it will not be by chance. It has been meticulously planned, costed, budgeted for and the weapons, including “low-yield” nuclear weapons, have been manufactured and deployed by the USA. The world should be aghast at such blatant preparations, but it is not. Those who would take us to war need first to convince us that we have no option, that we are protecting freedom, that we are standing for justice and that a threat exists that the enemy is engaging in genocide.

In the space of just a decade, the people have come to accept this. China has gone from economic saviour of the world to arch enemy. Governments begin the process but could not be expected to convince the people alone. Television and print media: editorials, opinion pieces from leading journalists and international editors, columnists and experts, have all played a decisive role.

A recent poll by the Lowy Institute showed that in 2018, 52 per cent of Australians believed that China would act responsibly in the world. Two very short years later and that figure had dropped to just 23 per cent! The polls are then used by the same anti-China crusaders to prove that a problem exists. They are happy to ignore the effect that a daily barrage of anti-China campaigning can do and how it can shift people’s views…….

The most recent reporting of the treatment of the Uyghurs is that the Chinese are engaged in a campaign of genocide. Genocide was practised in Nazi Germany, in Kampuchea, in Rwanda, in Armenia, in Australia, but to suggest that the Chinese behaviour towards the Uyghurs, while quite possibly repressive, even reprehensible, is genocidal is ludicrous.

There has been discrimination and persecution. Life, for the Uyghurs, has never been easy. However, the West paid little or no attention to these people until about the time that the USA began to talk of “containing” China. It was, for the USA, a fortuitous discovery.

The Chinese, at the end of the 20th Century, waged a campaign against Islamist separatist groups that had become active within the Uyghur population. Violence met violence and conditions worsened for the Uyghurs. None of this concerned Washington. What happened to make things change so dramatically? The Chinese, in all likelihood, did step up repressions but the USA have manipulated events to suit a specific propaganda purpose.

Uyghur stories become more and more horrifying. The Western media was once content to rail against the existence of “re-education” camps. Then it was reports of campaigns of mass rape and then mass sterilisation programs. This morphed into claims of social genocide. Reports of forced labour emerged and evolved into stories of slave labour. The term “social” genocide came into use but has now been shortened to genocide.

This ramping up of rhetoric has one real purpose. China must, at every turn, be shown to be a malignant force. The editorialists, international editors, columnists and journalists have become a willing and shameless weapon in this campaign. If it all ends in war it will not be a chance thing. The world will not be “sleepwalking”. 

Nobody wants war but we are being prepared for it.,14982#.YHZ_2MRzAdY.twitter

April 15, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, spinbuster, weapons and war | Leave a comment

How the British government reacted to the Fukushima catastrophe – with propaganda promoting the nuclear industry

March 19, 2021 Posted by | spinbuster, UK | Leave a comment

Don’t believe hydrogen and nuclear hype – they can’t get us to net zero carbon by 2050 

Don’t believe hydrogen and nuclear hype – they can’t get us to net zero carbon by 2050        

Jonathon Porritt, 15 Mar,21,   Big industry players pushing techno-fixes are ignoring the only realistic solution to the climate crisis: renewables.  

ow that the whole world seems to be aligned behind the goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the nuclear industry is straining every sinew to present itself as an invaluable ally in the ambitious aim. Energy experts remain starkly divided on whether or not we can reach this global net zero target without nuclear power, but regardless, it remains a hard sell for pro-nuclear enthusiasts.

The problems they face are the same ones that have dogged the industry for decades: ever-higher costs, seemingly inevitable delays, no solutions to the nuclear waste challenge, security and proliferation risks.

The drawbacks to nuclear are compounded by the burgeoning success of renewables – both solar and wind are getting cheaper and more efficient, year after year. There is also a growing realisation that a combination of renewables, smart storage, energy efficiency and more flexible grids can now be delivered at scale and at speed – anywhere in the world.

While the majority of environmentalists continue to oppose nuclear power, there is now a significant minority, increasingly concerned about accelerating climate change, who just don’t see how we can get to that net zero comfort zone without it. They’re right to be concerned – it is a truly daunting challenge. All emissions of greenhouse gases (across the entire economy, including those from transport, heating, manufacturing and refining, farming and land use, as well as from shipping and aviation) must be brought down to as close to zero as possible, with all residual emissions compensated for by the removal of an equivalent amount of CO2 from the atmosphere.

It’s the sheer scale of that challenge that has led a lot of people (including Boris Johnson with the government’s 10-point plan in November) not just to keep a flag flying for the nuclear industry, but to revisit the idea of hydrogen doing some of the heavy lifting. Hydrogen hype has become all the rage over the last 18 months, with some offering up this “clean energy technology”, as government officials insist on describing it, as the answer to all our net zero prayers.

For those prayers to be answered, there will need to be a complete revolution in the way in which hydrogen is produced. As it is, 98% of the 115m tonnes used globally is “grey hydrogen”, made from natural gas or coal, that emits around 830m tonnes of CO2 per annum – 2% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Beyond that, there’s a tiny amount of so-called “blue hydrogen” – essentially grey hydrogen but with its CO2 emissions captured and stored – and an even tinier amount of “green hydrogen” from electrolysing water, both of which are much more expensive than the climate-wrecking grey hydrogen.

The gulf between that current reality, one rarely mentioned by hydrogen enthusiasts, and the prospect of readily available and affordable green hydrogen that could help us get to net zero, is absolutely vast.

Don’t get me wrong: we will indeed need significant volumes of green hydrogen and it’s good that the government has set an ambitious target for 2030, in the hope that this will significantly reduce the costs of electrolysis to create it. But we need to be clear about what that green hydrogen should be used for: not for electricity; not for heating homes and non-domestic buildings; and not for cars, where electric vehicles will always be better. Instead we will need it for what are called the “hard-to-abate” sectors: for steel – replacing carbon-intensive coking coal – cement and shipping.

Much of the hype for hydrogen is coming from the oil and gas sector, in the hope that gullible politicians, seduced by an unattainable vision of limitless green hydrogen, will subsidise the vast investments needed to capture the emissions from gas-powered hydrogen. Their motivation couldn’t be clearer: to postpone the inevitable decline of their industry.

The nuclear industry is also desperate to get in on that game. One has to admire its capacity to pivot opportunistically. In February, the Nuclear Industry Council (made up of both industry and government representatives in the UK) published a shiny new Hydrogen Roadmap, exploring how either large-scale nuclear or small modular reactors could generate both the electricity and the heat needed to produce large amounts of green hydrogen. But the entire plan is premised on spectacular and totally speculative reductions in the cost of electrolysis.

Rather than being the solution we have been waiting for, this nuclear/hydrogen development would actually be a disastrous techno-fix. Low-carbon nuclear power will always be massively more expensive than renewables and we can never build enough reactors to replace those coming offline over the next decade. We also know that producing hydrogen is always going to be very expensive. The truth is, you need a lot of electricity to produce not a lot of hydrogen. All of which makes pipe-dreams about substituting hydrogen for conventional gas in the UK’s gas grid, or of producing millions of tonnes of blue hydrogen, look almost entirely absurd.

This, then, could lead to a double economic whammy of quite monstrous proportions. It would either have to be paid for through general taxation or through higher bills for consumers. That’s particularly problematic from the perspective of the 10% of households in England still living in cruel and degrading fuel poverty.

Environmentalists who are tempted by this new nuclear/hydrogen hype should remember that our transition to a net zero world has to be a just transition. Every kilowatt hour of nuclear-generated power will be a much more expensive kilowatt hour than one delivered from renewables plus storage.

So let’s just hold back on both the hydrogen hype and the nuclear propaganda, and concentrate instead on ramping up what we already know is cost-effectively deliverable: renewables. We need to do it as fast as we possibly can.

March 17, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Review of Michael Shellenberger’s book on ”Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All”

Book review: Bad science and bad arguments abound in ‘Apocalypse Never’ by Michael Shellenberger’, Yale Climate Connections , By Dr. Peter H. Gleick | Wednesday, July 15, 2020   ”……………….. A recent entry in this debate is Michael Shellenberger’s “Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All” (HarperCollins Publishers, 2020). Shellenberger explains in his introduction that he seeks to counter and dismiss what he considers irrational, overwrought arguments of pending Malthusian catastrophes; instead, he seeks to promote the Cornucopian view that environmental problems can be eliminated if we’d just pursue aggressive economic growth, simple technological advances, and increased tapping of abundant natural resources. In doing so, he echoes previous efforts of authors like Herman Kahn, Julian Simon, and Bjørn Lomborg.

Shellenberger self-describes as an environmentalist activist and a bringer of facts and science to counter “exaggeration,

alarmism, and extremism that are the enemy of a positive, humanistic, and rational environmentalism.” He decided to write  this book because he believes “the conversation about climate change and the environment has, in the last few years,  spiraled out of control.”‘…
Unfortunately, the book is deeply and fatally flawed. At the simplest level, it is a polemic based on a strawman argument: To  Shellenberger, scientists, “educated elite,” “activist journalists,” and high-profile environmental activists believe incorrectly
 that the end of the world is coming and yet refuse to support the only solutions that he thinks will work – nuclear energy and uninhibited economic growth.
But even if the author properly understood the complexity and nature of global challenges, which he does not, and got the science right, which he did not, a fatal flaw in his argument is the traditional Cornucopian oversimplification of his solutions – reliance on economic growth and silver-bullet technology. ……
the book suffers from logical fallacies, arguments based on emotion and ideology, the setting up and knocking down of strawman arguments, and the selective cherry-picking and misuse of facts, all interspersed with simple mistakes and misrepresentations of science. Distressingly, this is also an angry book, riddled with ugly ad hominem attacks on scientists, environmental advocates, and the media.
I provide just a few examples of these flaws here – a comprehensive catalog would require its own book. In short, what is new in here isn’t right, and what is right isn’t new.

Two Cornucopian ideas lie at the heart of this book: The first idea is that there are no real “limits to growth” and environmental problems are the result of poverty and will be solved by having everyone get richer. This idea isn’t original and has long been debunked by others (for a few examples see hereherehere, and here).

View that nuclear alone can address needs

The second idea – and the focus of much of Shellenberger’s past writings – is that climate and energy problems can and should be solved solely by nuclear power. He writes, “Only nuclear, not solar and wind, can provide abundant, reliable, and inexpensive heat,” and, “Only nuclear energy can power our high-energy human civilization while reducing humankind’s environmental footprint.” (“Apocalypse Never” – hereafter “AN” – pp. 153 and 278) The many economic, environmental, political, and social arguments levied against nuclear are simply dismissed as having no merit, for example: “As for nuclear waste, it is the best and safest kind of waste produced from electricity production. It has never hurt anyone and there is no reason to think it ever will.” (AN, p. 152) ……….

Using the facade of ‘strawman arguments’

Shellenberger regularly sets up other strawman arguments and then knocks them down. [A strawman argument is an effort to refute an argument that hasn’t been made by replacing your opponent’s actual argument with a different one.] One of the most prevalent strawman arguments in the climate debate is that scientists claim climate change “causes” extreme events, when in fact, climate scientists make careful distinctions between “causality” and “influence” – two very different things. This area, called “attribution science,” is one of the most exciting aspects of climate research today.

Shellenberger sets up the strawman argument that people are incorrectly claiming recent extreme events (like forest fires, floods, heat waves, and droughts) were caused by climate change, and then he debunks this strawman. “Many blamed climate change for wildfires that ravaged California” (AN, p.2) and “the fires would have occurred even had Australia’s climate not warmed.” (AN p. 21) He misrepresents how the media reported on the fires, describing a New York Times story on the 2019 Amazon fires: “As for the Amazon, The New York Times reported, correctly, that the ‘fires were not caused by climate change.’” But here Shellenberger is cherry-picking a quote: If you look at the actual article he cites, the journalist makes clear the “influence” of climate change just two sentences later:

These fires were not caused by climate change. They were, by and large, set by humans. However, climate change can make fires worse. Fires can burn hotter and spread more quickly under warmer and drier conditions. (emphasis added)

He also misunderstands or misrepresents the extensive and growing literature on the links between climate change and extreme events, ……

……. Another example of a serious conceptual confusion is his chapter dismissing the threat of species extinctions. The chapter is full of misunderstandings of extinction rates, ecosystem and biological functions, confusions about timescales, and misuses of data. For example, Shellenberger confuses the concept of species “richness” with “biodiversity” and makes the astounding claim that

Around the world, the biodiversity of islands has actually doubled on average, thanks to the migration of ‘invasive species.’ The introduction of new plant species has outnumbered plant extinctions one hundred fold. (AN, p. 66)

By this odd logic, if an island had 10 species of native birds found only there and they went extinct, but 20 other invasive bird species established themselves, the island’s “biodiversity” would double. This error results from a misunderstanding of the study he cites, which properly notes that simply assessing species numbers (richness not biodiversity) on islands ignores the critical issues of biodiversity raised by invasive species, including the disruption of endemic species interactions, weakening of ecosystem stability, alteration of ecosystem functions, and increasing homogenization of flora and fauna………………

Another classic logical fallacy is to try to discredit an opponent’s argument by attacking the person and her or his motives, rather than the argument – hence the Latin “ad hominem” (“against the man”). Ad hominem attacks are pervasive in this book and detract from its tone and the content.

Shellenberger attacks “apocalyptic environmentalists” as “oblivious, or worse, unconcerned” about poverty (AN, p. 35) or for opposing a massive dam on the Congo river. (AN, p. 276) He attacks the finances of leading environmental groups and leaders like the late David Brower, arguing they have taken donations from fossil fuel companies to “greenwash the closure of nuclear plants.” (AN, p. 205) And he attacks the motives, reputations, and science of many individual environmental and geophysical scientists whose work contradicts his arguments……

 Shellenberger has a special level of animosity for the press:

News media, editors, and journalists might consider whether their constant sensationalizing of environmental problems is consistent with their professional commitment to fairness and accuracy, and their personal commitment to being a positive force in the world…….

In the most disturbing examples of vicious personal attacks, he paints broad categories of people who disagree with him as motivated by a hatred of humanity:

When we hear activists, journalists, IPCC scientists, and others claim climate change will be apocalyptic unless we make immediate, radical changes, including massive reductions in energy consumption, we might consider whether they are motivated by love for humanity or something closer to its opposite (AN, p. 275, emphasis added). We must fight against Malthusian and apocalyptic environmentalists who condemn human civilization and humanity itself. (AN, p. 274) (emphasis added).”

He argues in his closing sections that people worried about environmental disasters are playing out “a kind of subconscious fantasy for people who dislike civilization” (AN, p. 270) and suggests that people who oppose the solutions he prefers do so because they long for the destruction of civilization – a nasty attack on the motives of all those working in this field.

Finally, the book is riddled with a variety of simple errors…….  the number and scope of them here is problematic.  ….     one example is a massive misstatement of the amount of water required to produce energy. …..    in an important omission, he fails to note that key renewable energy sources such as wind and solar photovoltaics require far less water per unit of electricity produced than all fossil fuel and nuclear thermal plants. ….  He claims, twice (AN pp. 211 and 241), that nuclear power plants produce “zero pollution” ………

Dr. Peter H. Gleick
 is president emeritus of the Pacific Institute, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, a MacArthur Fellow, and winner of the 2018 Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization.

March 17, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, resources - print, spinbuster | Leave a comment