Zion Lights, a former spokesperson for the radical United Kingdom environmental group called Extinction Rebellion (XR), had to ask herself a painful question: “What if you’d dedicated most of your life to trying to save the planet,” she wrote last year, “but then you realized that you may have actually — potentially — made things worse?” It’s a question that more environmentalists should grapple with today. Over the past half-century, their movement has scored world-changing victories in reducing air and water pollution, preserving wilderness and protecting wildlife. But when it comes to fighting global warming, the issue that most environmentalists now see as the planet’s paramount threat, the green-policy elite has arguably done more harm than good.
That claim certainly sounds counterintuitive, but evidence shows that some of the activists’ favored policies — especially the single-minded focus on wind and solar facilities for making electricity — have been marginally effective, at best. Other policies, such as replacing gasoline and diesel fuel with biofuels made from plants, actually increase emissions. One of the environmental movement’s biggest self-described victories has been its long-running war against nuclear power, the only technology that has yet proven the ability to drastically reduce a nation’s carbon output. Call it the green war on clean energy.
James B. Meigs is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a City Journal contributing editor, cohost of the How Do We Fix It? podcast, and the former editor of Popular Mechanics. Adapted from City Journal.
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