This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate

By Law, Matthew | Geographical, December 2014 | Go to article overview

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate


Law, Matthew, Geographical


THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING: Capitalism vs the Climate by Naomi Klein, Allen Lane, hb, 20 [pounds sterling]

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As Upton Sinclair wrote--and Naomi Klein quotes--'it is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.' In many ways this quote reaches the heart of global inaction on climate change. We've known for decades that burning fossil fuels increases the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and warnings from climate scientists are growing ever more urgent and alarming. Yet we lack the political, or all too often personal will to take action. 'What is wrong with us?' asks Klein.

To answer that question, she starts out by examining the Heartland Institute, a conservative and libertarian American think tank who sponsor meetings of climate sceptics. The meeting she attends is light on science--and what little is presented is contradictory--but the delegates are strongly united in the view that climate change is not about the environment, but is a Trojan horse for increased regulation and global wealth redistribution. Klein does not deny that the societal change required to avoid a climate disaster cannot be moderate: 'the deniers get plenty of the details wrong ... but when it comes to the scope and depth of change required to avert catastrophe, they are right on the money.' Our society has become too closely bound to a system of global free trade and extractivism that is at odds with solving the climate crisis.

Klein explores how international climate change politics grew up alongside global trade agreements that have increased the carbon footprint of everyday goods. How there are such powerful legal protections in place, the US government can challenge a solar power development in India because it enshrines local protectionism. She also examines the reasons why some large environmentalist groups were complicit in missed opportunities when the North American Free Trade Agreement was drafted, and some hard truths about their relationships with fossil fuels are revealed. Free market capitalism has, to Klein, systematically sabotaged our chances of averting climate disaster. …

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