Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate

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Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate

Naomi Klein is concerned with anthropogenic climate change which she had denied for a long time. She is pessimistic about the future:

“We know that if we continue on our current path of allowing (carbon dioxide) emissions to rise year after year, climate change will change everything about our world. Major cities will very likely drown, ancient cultures will be swallowed by the seas, and there is a very high chance that our children will spend a great deal of their lives fleeing and recovering from vicious storms and extreme droughts.”

Klein believes that what is needed to lower emissions fundamentally conflicts with deregulated capitalism. For example, when vicious storms strike land occupied by poor people in small farms and villages, the land is handed to large developers who turn it into luxury resorts and industrial farms. Vast areas of coastline occupied by poor people are left to the ravages of storms while wealthier nations protect their cities with very expensive seawalls and storm barriers. She believes that climate change has no effect on uniting nations or driving haves and have nots closer together.

The introduction of Watt’s steam engine capable of providing enormous power regardless of the season gave rise to enormous, continual growth of mineral extraction – further accelerated later by the development and extensive use of internal combustion engines. Initially, increasing use of steam engines gave rise to rapidly growing demand for coal, but also, in due course, to unprecedented growth in consumer goods production and use. Coal and oil have produced as much power as users needed, whenever and wherever they wanted it. But the damage to land and human health and the atmospheric and water pollution resulting from the extraction and use of fossil fuels and other minerals has already been immense.

Klein admits that she became concerned about global warming because she realised that “it could be a catalyst for forms of social and economic justice in which I already believed”. But it does seem likely that Klein is right that global capitalism is now driving the world economy in some directions which are against the interests of a significant proportion of the world’s population and inflicting unnecessarily severe damage on the environment.

The full version of this review was published in Energy & Environment,Vol 27(5), 2016, pp677-681