As we were finalizing this newsletter we learned of an amazing piece by Michael Shellenberger, a Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment” so progressive he went to Nicaragua in solidarity with “the Sandinista socialist revolution” at 17 and “raised money for Guatemalan women’s cooperatives” at 23. Also an environmental activist from his teens, he just published a stunning piece in Forbes that starts “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.” No indeed. Whereas a leading candidate for our most serious problem is the “cancel culture” that led Forbes promptly to delete the piece without explanation. But it’s too late. The cat is out of the bag.
We won’t spend a lot of time summarizing or quoting the piece because it’s one you really need to read for yourself. Not only for the facts it contains, but for passages like this one: “Until last year, I mostly avoided speaking out against the climate scare. Partly that’s because I was embarrassed. After all, I am as guilty of alarmism as any other environmentalist. For years, I referred to climate change as an “existential” threat to human civilization, and called it a “crisis.” But mostly I was scared. I remained quiet about the climate disinformation campaign because I was afraid of losing friends and funding. The few times I summoned the courage to defend climate science from those who misrepresent it I suffered harsh consequences. And so I mostly stood by and did next to nothing as my fellow environmentalists terrified the public.”
Now, he says, “Forbes has censored my article. I have reposted it here: https://t.co/PPcd2DrinO” It’s not actually censorship when a private firm makes a decision about what to offer customers or not to. (Though it’s pretty stupid to think people won’t archive the piece and loudly discuss your decision.) And it’s also not censorship if people write letters to the editor expressing their dismay at such a decision or cancel their subscription on the grounds that a once-reputable publication is now engaged in cowardly flight from a mob.
What really stands out here is the justified fright people feel in challenging well-funded, culturally and politically powerful and polemically aggressive alarmism that shames, insults, fires and bullies anyone who stands in its way. Speak out and forget tenure or research grants. And while Shellenberger is famous and established enough to weather the storm, imagine the paralysing effect it has on less-well-known journalists, academics and even activists. The issue isn’t as one-sided as it looks from the outside; many people are simply afraid to speak up.
Bottom line: The debate on climate is conducted in a climate of fear coming from the bullying guardians of orthodoxy.