A Plausible Vision to Feed the Planet

Responding to Chris Smaje on the Future of Agriculture

Is a future in which global food demand is met by small-scale, labor-intensive, and local farms desirable or even possible? Chris Smaje, a British farmer, social scientist, and writer seems to think so, and he wants a great deal to change in order to accommodate his vision.

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Breakthrough Welcomes 2018 Fellows

Scholars Join the Breakthrough Institute for the Summer

Each summer, the Breakthrough Institute welcomes a new class of Breakthrough Generation fellows to join our research team for 10 weeks. Generation fellows work to advance the ecomodern project, by deepening our understanding in the fields of energy, environment, technology, and human development. 

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Using Technology to Address Climate Change

Oral Testimony to the House Science Committee

Introduction
Thank you for having me. It is an honor to testify before this committee. My name is Ted Nordhaus, and I’m the Founder and Executive Director of The Breakthrough Institute, an environmental think tank located in Oakland, California. My think tank counts among its senior fellows a number of prominent climate scientists, technologists, and social scientists. My testimony today will draw upon this work to present a synthesis — reflecting our assessment of the nature of climate risk, the uncertainties associated with action and inaction, and pragmatic steps that we might take today to address those risks.

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Green Growth Is Still Possible

A Response to the Decoupling vs. Degrowth Debate

Jason Hickel and I have exchanged a few rounds of public debate, prompted by his critique of ”green growth” published at Fast Company. The question being debated is whether decoupling offers a pathway towards a sustainable future. His core conclusion is that the answer is no, and that ecomodernists such as myself are indulging in magical thinking. “Even under best-case scenario conditions,” Hickel argued, “absolute decoupling of GDP growth from material use is not possible on a global scale,” and certainly is not enough to reduce material use sufficiently to stay within planetary boundaries. Consequently, he argued that slowing GDP growth is necessary to avoid environmental collapse.

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Why Bans of Internal Combustion Engines Don’t Make Sense

We Need Better Technology for a Smooth Transition

The imperative to respond to climate change, as well as recent progress with electric vehicles and other alternatives to gasoline, has emboldened many countries to mandate a transition to zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) through a ban on internal combustion engines. Great Britain plans to ban the sale of new gasoline or diesel cars by 2040 and completely ban their operation by 2050. France will also ban new gasoline burning cars by 2040, though hybrids will still be allowed. Several other countries have adopted or are considering similar policies. Legislation under consideration in California would also end the sale of new internal combustion cars by 2040.

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Eating Environmentally Requires Embracing Technology and Industry

On Earth Day, Let's Value Human Ingenuity

Sunday, April 22nd, marked nearly 50 years since millions of people gathered for the first Earth Day. Their celebration raised awareness in the US and across the globe of modern environmental threats, including those posed by agriculture. Just one year later, Frances Moore Lappé published Diet for a Small Planet, one of the first books advocating that people adopt vegetarian diets for environmental reasons.

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How Not to Save Nuclear

Emergency Bailouts Aren’t Climate Policy

Nuclear closures are dramatic affairs. The past week has been a tragedy for FirstEnergy. It announced the planned retirement of three of its nuclear plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy for its subsidiaries, and requested an unlikely emergency subsidy — putting the fate of its nuclear plants in the hands of the federal government. The maelstrom of uncertainty surrounding FirstEnergy illustrates the challenges facing American nuclear as a whole. Nuclear is politically unpopular and economically undercut by natural gas; at least a dozen nuclear plants across the country are scheduled for retirement in the next ten years.

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Decoupling or Degrowth?

Why "Peak Stuff" May Not Be As Dire As You’ve Heard

Does humanity’s growing use of materials mean that decoupling is impossible? In a word, no, and attempts to reduce all resource and environmental problems to our material footprint won’t help us solve problems of resource scarcity or environmental impacts.

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