Low-Carbon Portfolio Standards

Expanding existing state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) into Low-Carbon Portfolio Standards (LCPS) would more than double the statutory requirements for clean energy in the United States. Such a policy shift would prevent the premature closing of many of Amer- ica’s nuclear power plants and assure that nuclear power plants will be replaced with low-carbon electrical generation when they are retired. 

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Adaptation for a High-Energy Planet

A Climate Pragmatism Project

Even as adaptation has more recently gained mainstream acceptance as an unavoidable response to rising global temperatures, it continues to be a sideshow to the main event of limiting greenhouse gas emissions through international climate negotiations. This misses enormous opportunities for effective action to reduce human suffering due to climate and weather disasters, and to lay a stable foundation for cooperative international efforts to address both climate adaptation and mitigation.

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A New Day for Ecomodernism

Big Changes at the Breakthrough Institute

Over a decade ago, the three of us created the Breakthrough Institute to help build a better environmental movement. The publication of “An Ecomodernist Manifesto” in April of this year represents the culmination of that effort. The manifesto has been translated by volunteers into 10 additional languages, and has become a touchstone for conversations about how to advance human development while protecting the natural environment.

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India — Re-Energized

Samir Saran Argues that India Must Hold Fast Against Western Climate Change Demands

What motivated you to write your recent essay about the double standard the West is trying to hold India to on climate change?

Earlier this year I was speaking at a premier Washington DC think tank around the time India announced it wouldn’t commit to overall emissions reductions at the climate negotiations. Someone in the audience said to me, “Why can’t India play by the same rules everyone else is agreeing to?” My response was “Why can’t India develop like everyone else did?”

Where are Indians when it comes to energy for development?

Today Indians with grid connectivity spend at least 20 – 25 percent of their income on energy. This only allows them a fraction of energy that the developed world consumes. Indians on an average consume one-fifth of the average coal consumption of an American and one-third of a European. The Chinese, Americans and Japanese all spend less on procuring renewable energy relative to their incomes than do Indians.

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How to Strand Assets

Nature-saving Through Disruptive Technological Change

In 1849, the wife of an American entrepreneur named Samuel Kier was prescribed “American Medicinal Oil” — petroleum — by her doctor to treat an illness. The Iroquois Indians had used petroleum as an insect repellent, salve, and tonic for hundreds of years. The so-called “rock oil” that naturally seeped out of the ground was viewed as a blessing, and for hundreds of years they skimmed it off the surface of rivers and streams.

With his wife feeling better, Kier saw a business opportunity. He started his own brand, “Kier’s Petroleum or Rock Oil,” and sold bottles for 50 cents through a sales force traveling through the region by wagon.

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September 24: UK2020 – Ecomodernism (London)

UK 2020 is hosting Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus of the Breakthrough Institute for an event that will consider the future of environmentalism, and how policy at a UN, EU, and state level needs to be guided by science and not ideology. Joining the panel are Mark Lynas of the Alliance for Science at Cornell University, journalist Matt Ridley, and Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP, former UK Environment Secretary.

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September 24: Is It Time for Ecomodernism? (London)

Sense about Science, Energy For Humanity, and Breakthrough Institute will cosponsor an evening event at the Free Word Centre in London. Tracey Brown of Sense about Science will make opening remarks. American ecomodernist and president of Breakthrough Institute, Michael Shellenberger will kick off the program by arguing that ecomodernism — and only ecomodernism — can make the planet habitable for future generations. A discussion will follow, and wide audience participation will be welcome. He will be joined for a discussion by University College London professor of biodiversity and ecosystems Georgina Mace and Shadow Minister for the Department of Energy and Climate Change Baroness Byrony Worthington.

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Clearing the Air

EPA Climate Rule Not Designed to Keep Nuclear Plants Open

This post is coauthored by Alex Trembath and Michael Shellenberger

The recently released final rule of the EPA Clean Power Plan projects to reduce US power sector carbon emissions by 32 percent under 2005 levels by 2030. That's awesome. But by allowing existing nuclear capacity to close and be replaced by fossil fuels, the CPP jeopardizes almost one-half of EPA's emissions reduction goals from 2013 to 2030.

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September 25: Global Conference on Stranded Assets and Environment (London)

The University of Oxford’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment is hosting researchers and interested practitioners to a major academic conference on stranded assets and the environment. Despite its growing prominence as a topic, there remains a great deal of confusion about: what stranded assets are; what assets might be affected; what drives stranding; how financial institutions and companies can manage the risk of stranded assets; what it means for policy makers and regulators; and how it links to climate change policy. Breakthrough cofounders Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus will present a keynote speech on decoupling as a strategy for stranded assets based upon the forthcoming report Nature Unbound.

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Ruth DeFries Bestowed 2015 Breakthrough Paradigm Award

Mapping a Blueprint for the Good Anthropocene

Between 1845 and 1849 one million people starved to death in Ireland and another million fled the island. The immediate cause was a virulent fungus that destroyed potatoes. But the underlying reason, held good opinion in Britain, was that there were just too many Irish people. “The cheapness of this nourishing root [potatoes],” wrote Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus two decades earlier, “joined to the ignorance and barbarism of the people, have encouraged marriage to such a degree that the population has pushed much beyond the industry and present resources of the country.”

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Breakthrough President Michael Shellenberger to Speak at International Student Energy Summit

The International Student Energy Summit 2015, themed “Connecting the Unconnected,” will combine the visions of “striving forward” and “leaving no one behind.” In today’s interconnected energy world, there is a desperate need for energy rich nations to understand energy access issues that dominate a large portion of the globe. Here in Bali, ISES 2015 will give students a new frame for evaluating the energy challenges the world faces.

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On Pragmatic Conservation

How Decoupling and Pragmatic Rewilding Are Key to Conservation in the 21st Century

The last few years have seen a big debate among leading conservationists over the future of parks and protected areas. On one side are groups like The Nature Conservancy that work with foreign countries to site hydroelectric dams so they are less destructive of river systems and with big corporations to protect wetlands and reduce pollution. These groups have tended to argue that all of nature is a kind of “rambunctious garden,” a mix of human and nonhuman influences.

On the other side are groups like the Center for Biological Diversity that sue US government agencies to protect more endangered species and try to stop dams in poor countries. These groups criticize the view of nature as a garden and defend older views of wilderness as devoid of human activity. The fighting has been so intense that a group of scientists last year urged both groups to calm down and seek common ground.

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An Ecomodernist Manifesto

From the Death of Environmentalism to the Birth of Ecomodernism

Ten years ago the two of us wrote a controversial essay arguing that inaction on climate change required rethinking everything we thought we knew. Our assumptions had us defining the problem and solutions too narrowly. Too much negativism was turning people off. We needed the death of environmentalism so that a new and more expansive ecological politics could be born. 

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