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[Book Review] Can Climate Change Cure Capitalism?

The New York Review

Dec 4, 2014

by Elizabeth Kolbert

Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein illustration by James Ferguson

Excerpt:

What would it take to radically reduce global carbon emissions and to do so in a way that would alleviate inequality and poverty? Back in 1998, which is to say more than a decade before Klein became interested in climate change, a group of Swiss scientists decided to tackle precisely this question. The plan they came up with became known as the 2,000-Watt Society.

The idea behind the plan is that everyone on the planet is entitled to generate (more or less) the same emissions, meaning everyone should use (more or less) the same amount of energy. Most of us don’t think about our energy consumption—to the extent we think about it at all—in terms of watts or watt-hours. All you really need to know to understand the plan is that, if you’re American, you currently live in a 12,000-watt society; if you’re Dutch, you live in an 8,000-watt society; if you’re Swiss, you live in a 5,000-watt society; and if you’re Bangladeshi you live in a 300-watt society. Thus, for Americans, living on 2,000 watts would mean cutting consumption by more than four fifths; for Bangladeshis it would mean increasing it almost by a factor of seven.

To investigate what a 2,000-watt lifestyle might look like, the authors of the plan came up with a set of six fictional Swiss families. Even those who lived in super energy-efficient houses, had sold their cars, and flew very rarely turned out to be consuming more than 2,000 watts per person. Only “Alice,” a resident of a retirement home who had no TV or personal computer and occasionally took the train to visit her children, met the target.

The need to reduce carbon emissions is, ostensibly, what This Changes Everything is all about. Yet apart from applauding the solar installations of the Northern Cheyenne, Klein avoids looking at all closely at what this would entail. She vaguely tells us that we’ll have to consume less, but not how much less, or what we’ll have to give up. At various points, she calls for a carbon tax. This is certainly a good idea, and one that’s advocated by many economists, but it hardly seems to challenge the basic logic of capitalism. Near the start of the book, Klein floats the “managed degrowth” concept, which might also be called economic contraction, but once again, how this might play out she leaves unexplored. Even more confoundingly, by end of the book she seems to have rejected the idea. “Shrinking humanity’s impact or ‘footprint,’” she writes, is “simply not an option today.”

In place of “degrowth” she offers “regeneration,” a concept so cheerfully fuzzy I won’t even attempt to explain it. Regeneration, Klein writes, “is active: we become full participants in the process of maximizing life’s creativity.”

To draw on Klein paraphrasing Al Gore, here’s my inconvenient truth: when you tell people what it would actually take to radically reduce carbon emissions, they turn away. They don’t want to give up air travel or air conditioning or HDTV or trips to the mall or the family car or the myriad other things that go along with consuming 5,000 or 8,000 or 12,000 watts. All the major environmental groups know this, which is why they maintain, contrary to the requirements of a 2,000-watt society, that climate change can be tackled with minimal disruption to “the American way of life.” And Klein, you have to assume, knows it too. The irony of her book is that she ends up exactly where the “warmists” do, telling a fable she hopes will do some good.

Read the full review: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/dec/04/can-climate-change-cure-capitalism

 

[Elizabeth Kolbert is a staff writer for The New Yorker. ?Her new book, The Sixth Extinction, was published earlier this year. (December 2014) ]

 

“Changed Everything?”

Evaluating the Climate March on its One Month Anniversary

Counterpunch

A month ago today, 300,000 people descended on New York City for the “This Changes Everything” People’s Climate March. While the parade infamously made no demands/no measurable way of gauging success, there is one inconvenient truth that can be measured. In the past month, the US spewed another 461,000,000 metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere, up 2.5% from the same month last year. And some tons of it came from flying people to and from the march. March organizers, when asked, begrudgingly admitted that “around 3000” flew in, but the number is at least ten times that. Much carbon was also disgorged from buses, trains and private vehicles traveling to the event.

When asked about the “renewable” energy product fair’s huge carbon footprint, angry celeb Mark Ruffalo stated, “Oh brother. That is a question you shouldn’t be asking here today because that defies the spirit of what this is about.”

He went on to say that anyone who questions the carbon spewed by the celebs that flew in on private jets “is either a coward or an ideologue.”

It is precisely the question that “should be asked.” The fossil-fuel-based-foundation-funded (headed by the Rockefeller Bros. Fund) spectacle of flying people on Wings of Tar Sands across the continent – roasting polar bears – so they could witness a six-figure salary professional green in a polar bear suit get arrested and post selfies with the stars “changed” nothing when it comes to actual reduction of carbon  pollution. In fact, it increased it.

As long as the Climate “Movement” is funded and run by elites seeking to control the message; seeking to cash in on “renewables”(which is what the  entire fossil fuel divestment scam is all about) while assiduously avoiding (or condemning a la Ruffalo) any mention of actual carbon consumption, nothing changes and collapse is inevitable.

The entire Environmental Movement is funded and neutered this way. Addressing Population and Consumption is off-the-table – THE  elephants in the Boiler Room – for a reason. Recently, it came out that HALF of the species on the planet have gone extinct in the past 40 years. The Big Green groups collectively raised and spent over $20 Billion (with a “B”) during that same time period. (What’s that definition of insanity, again?)

Bottom line: we could run the grid on unicorn farts, but if we keep on consuming at the same (or more likely, higher rates), we still eat the planet.

remote

This changes everything

polar This was a fund-raiser

 

 

MICHAEL DONNELLY might be an “ideologue” when it comes to protecting Gaia, but he’s no “coward.” He was offered a plane ride from Oregon to the parade. He gave up flying for good six years ago after crunching the numbers on how jet travel is the single largest contribution an individual can make to carbon pollution/Climate Chaos.

 

 

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