At their best the authors have many smart and impassioned things to say; just as often they are vague, overreaching and self-contradictory. They argue, for example, that government has no motivation to raise energy prices, yet they blithely envision a government motivated to make massive investments in clean energy. They argue against a regulations-centric approach to combating climate change before acknowledging, as Hawkens highlights, that regulations are a requirement:
...the effort to reduce and stabilize global greenhouse gas emissions will require a major regulatory effort to make sure that everyone is playing by the same rules, provide a stable investment environment for nations and businesses, and increase the cost of fossil fuels relative to cleaner energy sources.They argue against complaint-based politics and in favor of visionary leadership (as if anyone could be against visionary leadership), then write a book that amounts to one long-winded complaint. As you might guess from the title of their book, Shellenberger and Nordhaus, argue we need a breakthrough -- nothing less than a paradigm shift -- if we are to overcome our predicament. But that's a hope, not a prescription.
"There is an existential question at the heart of the debate over global warming," the authors write. "Can green groups transform themselves into institutions motivated by a vision of prosperity and possibility? Or will they remain grounded in the politics of pollution and limits?"
Whatever. The real existential question doesn't concern green groups. The stakes are way higher than that. The real existential question is the one confronting civilization, and so far, I'm afraid, no one can lay claim to having the answers.