Ted Nordhaus

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Ted Nordhaus (born 1966) is an American author and the director of research at The Breakthrough Institute. He has co-edited and written a number of books, including Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility (2007) and An Ecomodernist Manifesto (2015) with collaborator Michael Shellenberger.[1][2][3]

The two were described by Slate as "ecomodernists," while the authors have described themselves as the "bad boys" of environmentalism.[4][5] Like Shellenberger, Nordhaus generally advocates for increased use of natural resources through an embrace of modernization, technological development, and increasing U.S. capital accumulation, usually through a combination of nuclear power and urbanization.[6][7][8][9] Many of his positions have been debated by environmental scientists and academics.[10][4][11][12]

Breakthrough Institute[edit]

Nordhaus is director of research at the Breakthrough Institute, which he co-founded with Michael Shellenberger in 2003.[1]

Nordhaus and Shellenberger have written a number of articles at Breakthrough, with subjects ranging from positive treatment of nuclear energy and shale gas[13][14][15][16] to critiques of the planetary boundaries hypothesis.[17]

The Breakthrough Institute has argued that climate policy should be focused on higher levels of public funding on technology innovation to "make clean energy cheap", and has been critical of climate policies such as cap and trade and carbon pricing.[18][19][20][21] The institute advocates higher levels of public spending on technology innovation, which they argue will lead to higher environmental quality, economic growth, and quality of life.[22][23][16]

Writing and Reception[edit]

"The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming in a Post-Environmental World"[edit]

In 2004 Nordhaus and Shellenberger co-authored "The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World." The paper argued that environmentalism is incapable of dealing with climate change and should "die" so that a new politics can be born.

Former Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope called the essay "unclear, unfair and divisive." He said it contained multiple factual errors and misinterpretations. However, former Sierra Club President Adam Werbach praised the authors' arguments.[24]

Former Greenpeace Executive Director John Passacantando said in 2005, referring to both Nordhaus and Shellenberger, "These guys laid out some fascinating data, but they put it in this over-the-top language and did it in this in-your-face way."[25]

Michel Gelobter and other environmental experts and academics wrote The Soul of Environmentalism: Rediscovering transformational politics in the 21st century in response, criticizing "Death" for demanding increased technological innovation rather than addressing the systemic concerns of people of color.[10]

Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility[edit]

In 2007 Nordhaus and Shellenberger published Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. The book is an argument for what its authors describe as a positive, "post-environmental" politics that abandons the environmentalist focus on nature protection for a new focus on technological innovation to create a new economy. They were named Time magazine Heroes of the Environment (2008) after writing the book.

The Wall Street Journal wrote that, "If heeded, Nordhaus and Shellenberger's call for an optimistic outlook -- embracing economic dynamism and creative potential -- will surely do more for the environment than any U.N. report or Nobel Prize."[26]

However, academics Julie Sze and Michael Ziser argued that Break Through continued the trend Gelobter pointed out related the authors' commitment to technological innovation and capital accumulation instead of focusing on systemic inequalities that create environmental injustices. Specifically Sze and Ziser argue that Nordhaus and Shellenberger's "evident relish in their notoriety as the 'sexy' cosmopolitan 'bad boys' of environmentalism (their own words) introduces some doubt about their sincerity and reliability." The authors asserted that Break Through fails "to incorporate the aims of environmental justice while actively trading on suspect political tropes," such as blaming China and other Nations as large-scale polluters so that the United States may begin and continue Nationalistic technology-based research-and-development environmentalism, while continuing to emit more greenhouse gases than most other nations. In turn, Shellenberger and Nordhaus seek to move away from proven Environmental Justice tactics, "calling for a moratorium" on "community organizing." Such technology-based "approaches like those of Nordhaus and Shellenberger miss entirely" the "structural environmental injustice" that natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina make visible. Ultimately, the authors of Break Through believe "that community-based environmental justice poses a threat to the smooth operation of a highly capitalized, global-scale Environmentalism."[4]

An Ecomodernist Manifesto[edit]

In April 2015, Nordhaus joined with a group of scholars in issuing An Ecomodernist Manifesto.[27][28] It proposed dropping the goal of “sustainable development” and replacing it with a strategy to shrink humanity’s footprint by using natural resources more intensively through technological innovation. The authors argue that economic development is necessary to preserve the environment.[29][30]

An Ecomodernist Manifesto was met with critiques similar to Gelobter's evaluation of "Death" and Sze and Ziser's analysis of Break Through. Environmental historian Jeremy Caradonna and environmental economist Richard B. Norgaard led a group of scholars in a review which argued that Ecomodernism "violates everything we know about ecosystems, energy, population, and natural resources," and "Far from being an ecological statement of principles, the Manifesto merely rehashes the naïve belief that technology will save us and that human ingenuity can never fail." Further, "The Manifesto suffers from factual errors and misleading statements."[12]

Environmental and Art historian T.J. Demos agreed with Caradonna, and wrote in 2017 that the Manifesto "is really nothing more than a bad utopian fantasy," that functions to support oil and gas industry and as "an apology for nuclear energy." Demos continued that "What is additionally striking about the Ecomodernist document, beyond its factual weaknesses and ecological falsehoods, is that there is no mention of social justice or democratic politics," and "no acknowledgement of the fact that big technologies like nuclear reinforce centralized power, the military-industrial complex, and the inequalities of corporate globalization."[11]

Personal life[edit]

Nordhaus is the son of Robert Nordhaus, former General Counsel of the United States Department of Energy, and the brother of Hannah Nordhaus, environmental journalist and author of The Beekeeper's Lament.[31][citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Felicity Barringer, "Paper Sets Off A Debate On Environmentalism's Future," New York Times February 6, 2005
  2. ^ Barringer, Felicity (February 6, 2005). "Paper Sets Off a Debate on Environmentalism's Future". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
  3. ^ "A manifesto for a Good Anthropocene". An Ecomodernist Manifesto. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c Ziser, Michael; Sze, Julie (2007). "Climate Change, Environmental Aesthetics, and Global Environmental Justice Cultural Studies". Discourse. 29 (2/3): 384–410. JSTOR 41389785.
  5. ^ Keith Kloor, "The Great Schism in the Environmental Movement," December 12, 2012
  6. ^ "Orion Magazine - Evolve". Orionmagazine.org. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  7. ^ Daren Samuelsohn, "Report: Treat climate change like 'Fight Club'," Politico, July 26, 2011
  8. ^ Lisa Friedman, "'Climate pragmatists' call for an end to Kyoto process" ClimateWire, July 26, 2011
  9. ^ Walsh, Bryan (July 26, 2011). "Fighting Climate Change by Not Focusing on Climate Change" – via content.time.com.
  10. ^ a b Gelobter, Michel; Dorsey, Michael; Fields, Leslie; Goldtooth, Tom; Mendiratta, Anuja; Moore, Richard; Morello-Frosch, Rachel; Shepard, Peggy M.; Torres, Gerald (May 27, 2005). "The Soul of Environmentalism Rediscovering transformational politics in the 21st century". Grist. Archived from the original on July 11, 2005.
  11. ^ a b Demos, TJ (2017). Against the Anthropocene: Visual Culture and Environment Today. MIT Press. pp. 46–49. ISBN 9783956792106.
  12. ^ a b Caradonna, Jeremy L.; Norgaard, Richard B.; Borowy, Iris (2015). "A Degrowth Response to an Ecomodernist Manifesto". Resilience.
  13. ^ Totty, Michael (April 17, 2010). "Nuclear's Fall—and Rise" – via www.wsj.com.
  14. ^ Leonhardt, David (July 21, 2012). "Opinion | A Ray of Hope on Climate Change". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
  15. ^ Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, "A Boom in Shale Gas? Credit the Feds," Washington Post, December 16, 2011
  16. ^ a b Kevin Begos, "Decades of Federal Dollars Helped Fuel Gas Boom," Associated Press, September 23, 2012
  17. ^ "Boundary conditions". June 16, 2012 – via The Economist.
  18. ^ Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, "Second Life: A Manifeto for a New Environmentalism," The New Republic, September 24, 2007
  19. ^ Richard Harris, "Putting a Financial Spin on Global Warming," NPR News, June 24, 2009
  20. ^ Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, "How to Change the Global Energy Conversation, Wall Street Journal, November 28, 2012
  21. ^ "Fast, Clean and Cheap: Cutting Global Warming's Gordian Knot," Harvard Law and Policy Review, January 2008, Vol. II, No. 1 Archived 2013-01-11 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ David Leonhardt, "There's Still Hope for the Planet," New York Times, July 21, 2012
  23. ^ Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, "A Boom in Shale Gas? Credit the Feds," Washington Post, December 16, 2011 Archived December 16, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ "Dead movement walking?". Salon.com. January 14, 2005. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  25. ^ Barringer, Felicity (February 6, 2005). "Paper Sets Off a Debate on Environmentalism's Future". The New York Times.
  26. ^ Jonathan Adler, The Wall Street Journal, 27 November 2007, The Lowdown on Doomsday: Why the public shrugs at global warming
  27. ^ "An Ecomodernist Manifesto". ecomodernism.org. Retrieved April 17, 2015. A good Anthropocene demands that humans use their growing social, economic, and technological powers to make life better for people, stabilize the climate, and protect the natural world.
  28. ^ Porter, Eduardo (April 14, 2015). "A Call to Look Past Sustainable Development". The New York Times. Retrieved April 17, 2015. On Tuesday, a group of scholars involved in the environmental debate, including Professor Roy and Professor Brook, Ruth DeFries of Columbia University, and Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus of the Breakthrough Institute in Oakland, Calif., issued what they are calling the “Eco-modernist Manifesto.”
  29. ^ "An Ecomodernist Manifesto". Ecomodernism.org. Retrieved April 17, 2015. A good Anthropocene demands that humans use their growing social, economic, and technological powers to make life better for people, stabilize the climate, and protect the natural world.
  30. ^ Eduardo Porter (April 14, 2015). "A Call to Look Past Sustainable Development". The New York Times. Retrieved April 17, 2015. On Tuesday, a group of scholars involved in the environmental debate, including Professor Roy and Professor Brook, Ruth DeFries of Columbia University, and Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus of the Breakthrough Institute in Oakland, Calif., issued what they are calling the "Eco-modernist Manifesto."
  31. ^ The Beekeeper's Lament Archived 2013-02-16 at archive.today

External links[edit]