The Environmentalists' Civil War

by Robert Bryce

The absolutist, pro-sprawl outlook touted by [Bill] McKibben and his allies provides a stark contrast to the pro-human outlook the ecomodernists support. Perhaps the key line of their manifesto is in the concluding sentence, which says they want to “achieve universal human dignity on a biodiverse and thriving planet.”

Toward that end, the 18 signers of the manifesto — a group that includes Breakthrough Institute founders Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, as well as Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand, and the University of Tasmania’s Barry Brook — support increased energy use. They note, rightly: “Climate change and other global ecological challenges are not the most important immediate concerns for the majority of the world’s people. Nor should they be. A new coal-fired power station in Bangladesh may bring air pollution and rising carbon dioxide emissions but will also save lives.”

That’s it exactly. While the absolutists want one of America’s most prestigious universities to sell some of its investments — with the only goal being to stigmatize the world’s biggest and single most important business — the ecomodernists are arguing not only that greater global energy consumption is inevitable, but that it’s good, that more energy use will allow more people in the developing world to live fuller, freer lives. As part of that, they are adding, rightly, that nuclear energy must be a central element of climate policy if we are going to reduce the rate of growth in global carbon dioxide emissions.

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