The Future of Food

Towards a Sustainable Food System for a Planet with 9 Billion People

Since the dawn of agriculture, humans have been converting forests, grasslands, and other ecosystems to farmland. While climate change, air and water pollution, and a range of other environmental challenges frequently get the headlines, food production without question represents the single largest human impact upon the environment. Land for crops takes up 12% of Earth’s ice-free land. Add pasture and that percentage climbs to 36%. The long-term conversion of land for agriculture has brought enormous losses to ecosystems and wildlife populations already. The climate impacts are also considerable—15% of global greenhouse emissions come from the agricultural sector. With global food demand expected to grow as much as 70% by 2050, those impacts threaten to grow substantially.

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What Is To Be Done?

Trump and Ecomodernism

This is the space where I am supposed to write about what a Trump Presidency might portend for climate, energy and the environment.  At present, I don’t believe I can in good faith do so.

Our view at Breakthrough remains that macro-economic conditions, technological change, and public investment in innovation and infrastructure are the primary determinants of global emissions. At least insofar as climate change is concerned, a Trump Presidency may not be much worse than a Clinton Presidency would have been, for the simple reason that explicit climate policy has had little impact upon the trajectory of emissions pretty much anywhere in the world.

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The Pope and Climate Change

Can Laudato Si Help Modernize the Catholic Church?

The following is an introduction to the recent Breakthrough Journal essay "Modern Pope" by Sally Vance-Trembath. To read the Journal piece, click here.

 

This month, Pope Francis again referred to climate change as a “sin.”

Recalling last year’s landmark encyclical Laudato Si (Our Common Home), Francis spoke of climate change as an unacceptable trashing of God’s creation, and as an unjust imposition of environmental devastation against the world’s most vulnerable poor populations. 

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Ecomodernization

Does Premature Deindustrialization Pose a Threat to an Ecomodern Future?

The release of “An Ecomodernist Manifesto” last year sparked a variety of critiques. Some took issue with ecomodernism’s embrace of large-scale agriculture. Others differed with the Manifesto’s focus on growth and modernization, arguing for the opposite: degrowth and lower consumption. And of course there are the traditional environmental bugaboos. Nuclear power. Industrialization. GMOs.

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Capitalism and the Planet

Can Growth and Innovation Lead to a Lighter Environmental Footprint?

The notion that high living standards and environmental protection represent a zero-sum game finds expression on both the left and right. On the right, the charge that environmentalists prefer trees and endangered species to people is a long-standing trope. On the left, the idea that humans must dramatically downscale consumption, lest the earth that sustains us collapse, has animated modern environmental thought since the early 1970’s.

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The Coming Baby Bust

Ecology and Politics After the Population Boom

Rising ethno-nationalism in recent years has many mothers. Migration, increasingly multicultural societies, economic dislocation and inequality in a globalized economy have all contributed to a role in a growing sense of alienation among populations whose demographic, economic, and cultural hegemony is in decline. But one factor rather less remarked upon is the population bust.

Among white Americans, fertility rates have fallen to 1.75, well below the replacement rate (around 2.1). Among native-born residents of the United Kingdom the rate is 1.76. In France, Austria, and other sites of prominent nativist ethno-nationalist movements, fertility rates have been well below replacement for decades.

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Energy Access Without Development

Debating Energy Access at the Brookings Institution

This week, the Brookings Institution’s Energy Security and Climate Initiative hosted a debate between myself and UC Berkeley’s Dan Kammen. The important relationship between energy consumption and human well-being is today broadly recognized by scholars and policy-makers. But there is no similar consensus as to the ways in which energy drives human development, what types of technology and investment are most productive, and how growth in energy consumption interacts with other key driver of development such as urbanization and industrialization.

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About Michael Shellenberger & Ted Nordhaus

Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger are leading global thinkers on energy, environment, climate, human development, and politics. They are founders of the Breakthrough Institute and executive editors of Breakthrough Journal.

Click here to view their recent articles.