Ted Nordhaus

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Ted Nordhaus (born 1966) is an American author, environmental policy expert, and the director of research at The Breakthrough Institute. He was listed in Time magazine's Heroes of the Environment (2008),[1] winner of the 2008 Green Book Award,[2] co-editor of Love Your Monsters (2011) and co-author of Break Through (Houghton Mifflin 2007) and The Death of Environmentalism (2004).[3] He and his co-author Michael Shellenberger were described by Slate Magazine as "ecomodernists" or "eco-pragmatists".[4] In 2015, Nordhaus partnered with 18 other self-described ecomodernists to coauthor 'An Ecomodernist Manifesto.'[5]

Breakthrough Institute[edit]

Nordhaus is director of research at the Breakthrough Institute, which he co-founded with Michael Shellenberger in 2003.[3] Today, Breakthrough Institute consists of a policy staff, an annual conference, a policy journal, and a network of affiliated fellows.[6][7][8]

Breakthrough Institute analyses of energy, conservation and innovation policy have been cited by US President Barack Obama,[9] National Public Radio,[10] The Wall Street Journal[11] and C-SPAN.[12]

Nordhaus has co-authored analyses of cap and trade climate legislation,[13] of the "planetary boundaries" hypothesis,[14][15] energy rebound from energy efficiency measures,[16] carbon pricing,[17] renewable energy subsidies,[9][18] nuclear energy,[19] and shale gas.[18][20][21]

The Institute argues 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 like cap and trade and carbon pricing.[22][23][24][25]

The Institute has conducted research showing that shale gas and other major technological innovations were created by American government institutions and public financing. 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.[18][20][21]


In 2004, Nordhaus and Shellenberger, both long-time strategists for environmental groups, co-authored a controversial essay, "The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World." The paper argues that environmentalism is conceptually and institutionally incapable of dealing with climate change and should "die" so that a new politics can be born. The essay was debated,[3][26] and continues to be widely discussed [27] and taught[28]

In, 2007, Houghton Mifflin published Nordhaus and Shellenberger's Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility (Houghton Mifflin, 2007). Break Through 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. Time Magazine named Nordhaus and Shellenberger two of its 32 Heroes of the Environment (2008) calling Break Through "prescient" for its prediction that climate policy should focus not on making fossil fuels expensive through regulation but rather on making clean energy cheap.[1] Break Through was awarded the Green Book Award, 2009, whose other recipients include E.O. Wilson and James Hansen.[2]

Their writings have focused on the intersection of climate change, energy innovation, and politics. The two predicted the failure of cap and trade for its focus on making fossil fuels expensive rather than on technology innovation to make clean energy cheap.[29][30] They faulted the Kyoto climate treaty for being focused on what they called "shared sacrifice" rather than shared technological innovation.[31] They have criticized green cultural life as a consequence of status anxieties among Western consumers.[32] And they have argued for a "theology" of ecological modernization that embraces technological innovation and human development.[33]

Nordhaus and Shellenberger have argued for a "climate pragmatism" and an embrace of modernization and human development. They are co-authors of an alternative framework to the United Nations process focused on energy innovation, pollution control and adaptation.[34][35][36]

In 2011, Nordhaus and Shellenberger started The Breakthrough Journal, which The New Republic called "among the most complete efforts to provide a fresh answer" to the question of how to modernize liberal thought,[7] and The National Review called "...the most promising effort at self-criticism by our liberal cousins in a long time." [37]

Nordhaus has taken exception to U.S. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' climate change mitigation approaches.[38]

An Ecomodernist Manifesto[edit]

In April 2015, Nordhaus joined with a group of scholars in issuing An Ecomodernist Manifesto.[39][40] The other authors were: John Asafu-Adjaye, Linus Blomqvist, Stewart Brand, Barry Brook, Ruth DeFries, Erle Ellis, Christopher Foreman, David Keith, Martin Lewis, Mark Lynas, Roger A. Pielke, Jr., Rachel Pritzker, Joyashree Roy, Mark Sagoff, Michael Shellenberger, Robert Stone, and Peter Teague[41]

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 Beekeepers Lament.[42][failed verification] He is the nephew of William Nordhaus, an environmental economist at Yale University who argued that carbon pollution can be economically efficient.[43]


  1. ^ a b Bryan Walsh, Time Magazine, September 24, 2008
  2. ^ a b Stevens' Center for Science Writing, January 8, 2008
  3. ^ a b c Felicity Barringer, "Paper Sets Off A Debate On Environmentalism's Future," New York Times February 6, 2005
  4. ^ Keith Kloor, "The Great Schism in the Environmental Movement," December 12, 2012
  5. ^ "A manifesto for a Good Anthropocene". An ECOMODERNIST MANIFESTO. Retrieved 2016-01-26.
  6. ^ Joe Garofoli, "Thinkers Take Apart Liberalism in Order to Save It," San Francisco Chronicle, June 16, 2011
  7. ^ a b Mark Schmitt, The New Republic, "Has Liberalism Entered a Post-Obama Era?, June 30, 2011
  8. ^ The Breakthrough Institute
  9. ^ a b "The End of Clean Energy Subsidies?" New York Times, May 5, 2012
  10. ^ Christopher Joyce, "Nuclear Woes Push Japan into a New Energy Future," NPR News, March 11, 2012
  11. ^ Joseph White, Obama's Energy Shift: It's Not About Climate, Wall Street Journal, January 27, 2011
  12. ^ C-Span, "Role of Government in Energy Innovation," May 22, 2012
  13. ^ Bryan Walsh, "What the Energy Bill Really Means for CO2 Emissions," Time Magazine, June 27, 2009
  14. ^ "Boundary Conditions," The Economist, June 16, 2012
  15. ^ David Biello, "Walking the Line: How to Identify Safe Limits for Human Impacts on the Planet," Scientific American, June 13, 2012
  16. ^ John Tierney, "When Energy Efficiency Sullies the Environment," New York Times, March 7, 2011
  17. ^ Michael Totty, "Should There Be a Price on Carbon?" Wall Street Journal, October 5, 2012
  18. ^ a b c David Leonhardt, "There's Still Hope for the Planet," New York Times, July 21, 2012
  19. ^ Michael Totty, "Nuclear Energy's Fall — and Rise," Wall Street Journal, April 17, 2010
  20. ^ a b 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
  21. ^ a b Kevin Begos, "Decades of Federal Dollars Helped Fuel Gas Boom," Associated Press, September 23, 2012
  22. ^ Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, "Second Life: A Manifeto for a New Environmentalism," The New Republic, September 24, 2007
  23. ^ Richard Harris, "Putting a Financial Spin on Global Warming," NPR News, June 24, 2009
  24. ^ Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, "How to Change the Global Energy Conversation, Wall Street Journal, November 28, 2012
  25. ^ "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
  26. ^ Katharine Mieszkowski, "Dead Movement Walking?" Salon, January 14, 2005
  27. ^ http://aaahq.org/AM2012/abstract.cfm?submissionID=1955
  28. ^ http://www.skidmore.edu/~bturner/go231.htm[dead link]
  29. ^ Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, "Getting Real on Climate Change, American Prospect, November 21, 2008
  30. ^ Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, "Cap and Charade," The New Republic, October 14, 2010
  31. ^ Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus "Scrap Kyoto," Democracy Journal, Summer 2008. Archived 2013-03-09 at the Wayback Machine
  32. ^ Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, "The Green Bubble: Why Environmentalism Keeps Imploding," The New Republic, May 20, 2009
  33. ^ Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, "Evolve," Orion Magazine, September/October 2011
  34. ^ Daren Samuelsohn, "Report: Treat climate change like 'Fight Club'," Politico, July 26, 2011
  35. ^ Lisa Friedman, "'Climate pragmatists' call for an end to Kyoto process" ClimateWire, July 26, 2011
  36. ^ Bryan Walsh, "Fighting Climate Change by Not Focusing on Climate," Time Magazine, July 26, 2011
  37. ^ Steven Hayward, "An Environmental Reformation," The National Review, July 18, 2011
  38. ^ Don't let the planet Bern: Column March 10, 2016
  39. ^ "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.
  40. ^ 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.”
  41. ^ "Authors An Ecomodernist Manifesto". ecomodernism.org. Retrieved April 17, 2015. As scholars, scientists, campaigners, and citizens, we write with the conviction that knowledge and technology, applied with wisdom, might allow for a good, or even great, Anthropocene.
  42. ^ The Beekeepers Lament Archived 2013-02-16 at Archive.today
  43. ^ Douglas W. Cray (24 Mar 1977). "People and Business; Status of the Nordhaus Brothers In Administration Is Cleared Up" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved 29 May 2013.