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Klein writes: "According to Elizabeth Kolbert's review of my book, This Changes Everything, humans are too selfish to respond effectively to the climate crisis. 'Here's my inconvenient truth,' she writes, 'when you tell people what it would actually take to radically reduce carbon emissions, they turn away.'"

Best selling author/activist Naomi Klein. (photo: Anya Chibis/Guardian UK)
Best selling author/activist Naomi Klein. (photo: Anya Chibis/Guardian UK)

The Ethics of Climate Hope

By Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything

06 December 14


o the Editors:

According to Elizabeth Kolbert’s review of my book, This Changes Everything, humans are too selfish to respond effectively to the climate crisis. “Here’s my inconvenient truth,” she writes, “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.”

Kolbert’s only proof for this sweeping judgment is her partial account of a single Swiss research project that began in 1998. The researchers behind the 2,000-Watt Society, as the project is known, determined that if humans are to live within ecological limits, then every person on earth will need to keep their energy consumption below 2,000 watts. They created several fictional characters representing different lifestyles to illustrate what that would entail and, according to Kolbert, “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.”

From this Kolbert concludes that my argument—that responding to climate change could be the catalyst for a positive social and economic transformation—is a “maddeningly” optimistic “fable.” Fortunately, Kolbert’s grim conclusions are based on several mischaracterizations of the most current research on emissions reduction, as well as of the contents of my book.

Let’s start with the Swiss project. It is indeed difficult to reach a 2,000-watt target while living in a society that systematically encourages wasteful energy use (through long daily commutes, for instance) and when energy is overwhelmingly derived from fossil fuels. But that’s precisely why we need the kind of bold energy transformations described in my book and already underway in some countries: there is no need to accept the outdated fossil-fueled infrastructure that we have now, let alone what we had in 1998.

Big investments in renewables and efficiency, as well as re-imagining how we live and work, can deliver a low-carbon, high quality of life to everyone on this planet. And as I write on page 101, “In 2009, Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, and Mark A. Delucchi, a research scientist at the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis, authored a groundbreaking, detailed road map for ‘how 100 percent of the world’s energy, for all purposes, could be supplied by wind, water and solar resources, by as early as 2030.” Today, low-emission living is considered so achievable that the city of Zurich has adopted the 2,000 Watt Society as an official government target, a piece of good news Kolbert chose not to share.

To make sure I wasn’t missing something, I ran Kolbert’s invocation of the Swiss study by one of the world’s leading experts on radical emissions reduction, Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the U.K.’s Tyndall Centre on Climate Change Research. He was also baffled by the reliance on such out of date assumptions. “Arguably back in 1998 there may have been some merit in the sole focus on energy consumption as an adequate proxy for emissions—as the prospect of large-scale low carbon alternatives was still a long way off—both technically and in terms of economics. Sixteen or so years later and many of the alternatives are now sufficiently mature to compete with fossil fuels.” In short, the world has moved on.

It is true that it will take time to roll out the infrastructure and technologies to get off fossil fuels, and we will burn a lot of fossil fuel in the process. As a result, those of us who consume a great deal now will need to consume less in order to drive emissions down. In the book, I explain that, “we would need to return to a lifestyle similar to the one we had in the 1970s, before consumption levels went crazy in the 1980s.” The majority of the world’s population, however, would be able to consume more than they do at the moment.

Kolbert’s review makes the quite extraordinary claim that my book “avoids looking at all closely at what [emission reduction] would entail.” In fact the book contains an in-depth discussion of emission reduction strategies employed by large economies like Germany and Ontario. It dissects the policies that work and those that do not and explores how international trade policy needs to change to make such policies more effective. It delves into which agricultural practices carry the most climate benefits, goes into detail about how to pay for green transitions (from luxury taxes to public control over energy grids). It calls for a revolution in public transit and high-speed rail, for shorter workweeks and serious climate financing so that developing nations can leapfrog over fossil fuels. It also calls for moratoriums on particularly high risk forms of extraction—and much, much more.

I know Kolbert didn’t miss all of this because that would have meant missing hundreds of pages of text. It seems she would prefer me to have written a book focused on individual consumer behavior: how much people can drive and turn on their TVs. Yet there have been dozens of books that reduce the climate challenge to a question of individual consumer choices. My book is about the huge public policy shifts needed to make those low carbon choices far easier and accessible to all. It is therefore, a book first and foremost about ideology, and the need for a dramatic move away from the dominant free-market logic that has made so many of these necessary policies seem politically impossible.

This part of my thesis has been well understood by a great many reviewers, yet strangely ideology was not even mentioned by Kolbert. Her bleak conclusion, however, is confirmation of precisely why no real solutions have a chance unless this ideology is challenged. Right now we have an economic system that encourages and relies on selfishness and rampant consumption. Unless we change, well, everything, many of us can be counted on to cling to our HDTVs as the screens flash ever more apocalyptic images of a world in collapse. It may be wild optimism, but I insist on believing that humanity can do better.

Naomi Klein

After submitting this letter, someone pointed me to a review Kolbert wrote several years ago of a very different kind of climate change book, No Impact Man by Colin Beavan. Beavan’s book could scarcely be more different from This Changes Everything. Indeed No Impact Man does exactly what Kolbert criticizes me for not doing: it spells out in minute detail exactly what comfortable, middle-class Americans would have to give up in order to dramatically lower their emissions. And yet in her long New Yorker review, Kolbert mocks Beavan quite mercilessly for turning his life into a low-carbon P.R. “stunt,” taking shots at several other writers focused on personal carbon consumption along the way (Beavan’s response is here).

But with hindsight, the most striking part of Kolbert’s piece on Beavan is her conclusion about the kind of book she would preferred to have read: “The real work of ‘saving the world’ goes way beyond the sorts of action that ‘No Impact Man’ is all about,” she writes. “What’s required is perhaps a sequel. In one chapter, Beavan could take the elevator to visit other families in his apartment building. He could talk to them about how they all need to work together to install a more efficient heating system. In another, he could ride the subway to Penn Station and then get on a train to Albany. Once there, he could lobby state lawmakers for better mass transit. In a third chapter, Beavan could devote his blog to pushing for a carbon tax. Here’s a possible title for the book: ‘Impact Man.'”

Kolbert, in other words, wanted Beavan to write a book about movement building and big policy shifts—a little like the book that I actually wrote.  Which makes it particularly strange that she now longs for me to write a book a lot more like Beavan’s.

Or maybe there is something else going on here. Kolbert’s review contained a couple of digs at my lack of earlier engagement with climate change. Including this painfully revealing line: “Back in 1998, which is to say more than a decade before Klein became interested in climate change…” (This was the set up for her invocation of the Swiss study.) So… yes, Kolbert has been writing about climate change longer than I have. And it’s quite true that, back in 1998, I was writing a book about consumption and corporate power, not climate change specifically. But does this kind of petty turf-protection really have a place in the face of a collective crisis of such magnitude? Personally, I much prefer the spirit of the slogan of New York City’s People’s Climate March: “To Change Everything, We Need Everyone.”

Writing this response has not been fun. I have long admired Elizabeth Kolbert’s vivid reporting from the front lines of ecological collapse and the climate movement unquestionably owes her a debt of gratitude. Which is why I find it particularly troubling that someone so intimately aware of the stakes in this struggle would devote so much intellectual energy to describing why change of the scale we need is a “fable.” Why should hope—even deeply qualified hope like mine—be maddening?

I have yet to meet anyone professionally focused on the science of our warming planet who does not wrestle with despair, myself included. Yet surely the decision about whether to maintain some hope in the face of an existential crisis that is still technically preventable is not just a matter of cold calculation. It’s also a question of ethics. If there is any chance of turning the tide, and if taking action could actually lead to all kinds of ancillary benefits, then it seems to me that those of us with public platforms have a responsibility to share that good news, alongside all the painful truths.

At the very least, we should refrain from digging up fictionalized residents of Swiss nursing homes to make responding to the climate crisis seem infinitely more grim and punishing than it actually is.

Despair in the face of difficult odds is understandable. It is also highly contagious.

UPDATE: The New York Review of Books has just posted my letter, followed by a response from Elizabeth Kolbert. You can read that here. Sadly, much of Kolbert’s response is based on a complete misreading of my letter. As readers can clearly see, I did not criticize the 2,000-Watt Society itself, but rather the way she misrepresented the project in her very partial treatment of it in the review, cherry picking results and using them to support a message of despair. (I was quite clear about this, objecting to Kolbert’s “partial account” of the project and her “mischaracterizations of the most current research”—if my problem was with the project, I would not have hesitated to say so. As for the implication that I can’t even master Wikipedia, oh my…)

Kolbert has written in more depth about the 2,000-Watt Society elsewhere, but in her review of my book, she completely fails to mention that it envisions a robust, rapid transition to renewable energy, one that is looking more feasible every year. That leaves readers unfamiliar with the project (and that would be most readers) to conclude that reducing individual consumption is the primary lever we have, and, moreover, that the researchers are calling for us all to live like elderly Swiss shut-ins. It’s a selective account that supports a message of political hopelessness, when the laudable goal of the project is precisely the opposite.

Obviously, I’m well aware that the project does not paint such a bleak future—as I state, the city of Zurich has officially embraced the goal of a 2,000-Watt Society, and Swiss researchers are not the only ones who have concluded that drastically expanding efficiency and renewables *in tandem with* reduced consumption can deliver a very high quality of life. Of course politicians are not doing nearly enough get us there, which is why my book argues that success depends on social movements.

Finally, my observation in the book about returning to a 1970s lifestyle was not a specific analysis of per capita US energy consumption. The point was a much broader one—namely, that a big part of radical emissions reduction is cracking down on the out of control consumption of the super-rich. As Dr. Kevin Anderson explains here, returning as soon as possible to the lower emissions levels of the 1960s and 1970s would impact the wealthiest most of all, and there is no reason to doubt that as long as we are focused on equity, industrialized countries could make those reductions while maintaining a perfectly acceptable quality of life. your social media marketing partner


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+21 # perkinsej 2014-12-06 12:32
The vast majority of American citizens are not willing to do much about halting global warming because they do not presently see any negative effects. When Manhattan and Florida start to go underwater, then -- only then -- will be see any action to reverse the trend. Sad, but true.
+18 # bdeja 2014-12-06 13:24
They already have. It was very clear during Hurricane Sandy. New Yorkers saw flooding they had never seen before.
0 # Malcolm 2014-12-07 03:08
A common misunderstandin g. New York has had flooding higher than they experienced with Sandy in the past-clearly not affected by climate "change". Google it!
0 # Malcolm 2014-12-07 03:12
I googled it for you.

Reaching the City on September 3, 1821, the storm was one of the only hurricanes believed to have passed directly over parts of modern New York City. The tide rose 13 feet in one hour and inundated wharves, causing the East River to converge into the Hudson River across lower Manhattan as far north as Canal Street. However, few deaths were attributed to the storm because flooding was concentrated in neighborhoods with far fewer homes than exist today.

The most powerful hurricane known to have made landfall nearby — a category 3 hurricane — occurred in 1938. Its eye crossed over Long Island and into New England, killing nearly 200 people. The storm killed 10 people in New York City and caused millions of dollars in damage. Its floods knocked out electrical power in all areas above 59th Street in Manhattan and in all of the Bronx, the new IND subway line lost power, and 100 large trees in Central Park were destroyed.

Fortunately, New York City experienced the weaker "left side" of the 1938 hurricane — the City was 75 miles from the eye when it passed over Long Island. The hurricane could have caused far more deaths and damage if it passed closer to the five boroughs.

An excellent history of the 1938 hurricane is provided at Scott Mandia's website: The Long Island Express: The Great Hurricane of 1938.
+16 # Eliza D 2014-12-06 15:31
Absolutely. I have made the mistake of asking people to turn off their idling cars, with the air conditioning running, while they wait for family members to shop or whatever and been subjected to foul and loud screaming. But worse is our spineless Congress who refuse to mandate anything environmentally sound and our hugely depressing capitalist society which constantly bombards us with messages, both overt and subliminal, that consuming will bring us happiness. NOT!
+5 # beardog 2014-12-07 00:04
They don't see because they don't look beyond their backyards. If they could see the plights of other Americans already experiencing climate change, like the Inuit and other indigenous communities in Alaska and put themselves in their shoes you can be sure more would be happening. People don't see the bad news because America's corporate infotainment downplays realities these folks live with every day.
+28 # Thinking 2014-12-06 12:41
Climate stabilization requires we address
2)individual actions
3)public policy
We need diverse efforts in every regard and there is great potential in each area.
+8 # lfeuille 2014-12-06 18:23
Quoting Thinking:
Climate stabilization requires we address
2)individual actions
3)public policy
We need diverse efforts in every regard and there is great potential in each area.

I would reverse the order. Public policy could insure that individuals would not have energy wasting options in the market place. If there are no gas guzzlers for sale, no one can buy one. Energy efficiency requirements have to be continuously strengthened as the shift toward clean and renewal (these words are not synonyms) goes forward.
+43 # Blackjack 2014-12-06 12:49
More likely is that Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and other industrialized societies, having been hard at work for years with utilization of various forms of sustainable energy while still allowing their citizens a reasonable lifestyle, will overtake the U.S. with its overconsumption and lack of sustainable energy utilization. We will then be playing catch up on every conceivable front, being left in the economic and environmental ditch we are digging for ourselves.
+3 # ritawalpoleague 2014-12-06 14:39
And, Blackjack, dig we do with geoengineering going on, without the knowing of we the sheeple. Pull up: AlterNet, and search for: The Real Reason This Week's Massive Ice Storm is So Unusual. Take the time to view the documentary attached to the first/oldest comment made. Lots and lots we need to learn about the geoengineering that now goes on. 'Chemtrailing' is but one part of all the thrusting into the atmosphere of chemicals for the purpose of weather control.

Time for us/U.S. to all wake up to what is going on - endless greed and need for power over all by the evil villainaire actual rulers, while Mother Earth and all life on it, including our drinkable water, is being destroyed. The 'fossil foolers' will control weather any way whatsoever, in order to keep sale of and profits from their fossil fuel. Period.
+2 # mozartssister 2014-12-08 09:13
YES--with one correction. They are already lightyears ahead of us, and have already left us in the dust. I am seeing in the U.S. NOW minimal changes re things that were already ubiquitous, such as motion-detector lights in stairwells and hallways, recycling, etc.--when I went to Germany as an exchange student in 1979.

We refuse to pay attention, thus we will lose everything, above all our coveted status as the "greatest" not to mention our overbloated "lifestyle." It's over for us, but maybe not for the rest of the world--at least not those countries that operate with a modicum of sanity and an actual eye toward self-preservati on, as opposed to our self-congratula tory self-aggrandizi ng myth-based "freedoms" that enable us to continue to ignore REALITY in favor of The Infinite Grab. Of course, in the end, climate change is going to shut us all down . . .
+5 # Seadog 2014-12-06 12:49
Naomi Klein speaks like any parent. Take away hope and what's left? Or, is it like John Malkovich said in the "Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe" film, "Hope is what you have left when reality leaves you no other options." Honestly, I go back and forth every day weighing these two thoughts as regards humanities fate. The 20th Century knocked a lot of the stuffing out of hope, didn't it? Still here we are and yes Mom ( she always called me Chicken little) the sky is actually about ready to fall down on us, nevertheless we soldier on. As we have for the last 5 mil. or so years.
+4 # 6thextinction 2014-12-06 15:41
Naomi Klein's feelings are hurt because of Elizabeth Kolbert's negative response to her earlier article and its hopeful tone. I'm a decades-long climate change activist, and Kolbert is right: We're sunk because we don't want to hear about it, much less do anything about it.
+18 # cordleycoit 2014-12-06 12:55
Sounds to me that the envelope givers have bought a new allie. When an author prints an inconvenient truth the bring up the pencil necked critics to attempt to castrate the truth. Creating false arguments is a time honored way of sweeping the problem under the carpet.
The great American desert is growing. The short grass prairie is drying up the aquifer polluted with uranium and human waste. Our answer to build more houses. Back East the bunkers I used to play in on Gay head and Katamia are under thirty feet of water.The real estate mob says it's a dry spell not a drought and we'd best click our heels together and get back to Kansas. Where we can beg the Koch Brothers for forgiveness and largess. Dear MS Kline you are as usual; spot on.
+15 # Roger Kotila 2014-12-06 13:28
When your house is on fire and your family is in it, you must take immediate action.

Naomi Klein has the right idea for us to take dramatic and immediate action to deal with climate change rather than to be paralyzed by despair.

We must do what we can in the present geopolitical system and even take it a step further than Klein advocates. Klein describes many concrete steps that can be taken, and correctly states we must "change everything"

Klein's warning that we must make a "huge public policy shift" should be heeded. I agree with her that we need a new economic model. But I would add that we must simultaneously change the geopolitical system that is obstructing our ability to put out the fire.

Professor Glen Martin's new book "The Anatomy of a Sustainable World" argues that we must establish a new geopolitical system so that we can cope with (corrupted) nation states and multinational corporations (Big Money) -- a big part of the problem when trying to deal with climate change.

Martin's public policy change is that we should adopt the Earth Constitution -- it lays out a plan and structure to protect the whole world community.

The Earth Constitution is the first "green" constitution ever drafted. It is designed to replace the flawed United Nations Charter. The UN has obviously been unable to "put out the fire."
+9 # Shorey13 2014-12-06 13:29
Hope is for suckers. This merely reinforces Plato's assertion in The Republic that the fatal flaw in democracy is the false assumption that all citizens are equally capable of self-government , and that Sophists (we call them spin-doctors) could be hired by the elite to use their rhetorical skills to convince those who are not capable of self-government to vote against their own self interest. Sound familiar?
+13 # Providence 2014-12-06 13:36
Yadda yadda yadda. The inconvenient truth is that there are over 7 billion people on Earth, MORE THAN twice as many as there were only 50 years ago. Most of them are living at little more than a subsistence level now, but will demand a higher standard of living rather than a lower one in the years to come. As the Earth's population continues to balloon and demands for higher standards increase we'll deplete resources at an increasing, rather than decreasing, rate. It's not that complicated. We have too many people.
+7 # Eliza D 2014-12-06 15:23
I don't think we will have to worry about overpopulation for much longer. Fukushima radiation ought to take care of the western US within a decade while GMOs will cause mass infertility within two decades. Droughts ought to wipe out many Africans and Middle Easterners and there's sure to be a pandemic within the decade. In the meantime, as Ms. Kolbert documents in The Sixth Extinction, climate change will wipe out so many habitats that there won't be many species for humans to dominate and consume. Not that I mean to be pessimistic. Sigh. In every previous extinction at least 10% survived.
+7 # Wally Jasper 2014-12-06 15:33
As others have commented, we also have to re-think what we mean by "higher standards." The general thought is that "higher standards" refers to the amount of "inane shit" (to quote a friend) we want and buy. When you imagine the mountains of products, most of it plastics and other synthetic chemicals, we purchase and throw away regularly, and where they all end up: in landfills, water and land contaminants, burned into our air and how we're continually encouraged and seduced into buying more and more, it's no surprise we're in the predicament we're in. And yes, the capitalist/comm unist system (two sides of the same coin) is built on this model and thrives on it. And now it's globalized. So yes, population is an issue, but also the voracious appetite for Stuff, most of which is totally unnecessary and distracts us from recognizing what is most beautiful and vital and essential to our sense of well-being.
+5 # Floe 2014-12-06 13:37
The underlying cause of climate change (and indeed of many other human ills such as poverty, exploitation, mind control, selfishness, etc) is...wait for it...

Capitalism!!! Dah da! Big drum roll and trumpets!

And when I say Capitalism I mean money based on greed which Communism was also based on.

The idea that money needn't be based on greed is very alien to us. We think of money as something akin to physics if we think of money at all. We are in a money spell.

Money can still be used to trade with each other and to value effort, but it doesn't have to be based on greed. It can be based on anything we like. It is purely an arbitrary system. We could have dollars represent carbon sequestration so that growing plants, using renewable energies, inventing technologies that help us to do those things, could be the mechanism that determines the rewards system (instead of greed) Why base our incentive system on greed of all things, one of the seven deadly sins? We can base our motivational system on something much loftier don't you think?

Naomi Klein is a stalwart defender of the environment and kudos goes to her! She is yet to have the penny drop in her own mind, however as to the genesis of the motivations for all that we do in this so-called modern society.
+5 # Activista 2014-12-06 13:37
Human made killing:
Human Population Growth and Extinction
Center for Biological Diversity
We're in the midst of the Earth's sixth mass extinction crisis. Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson estimates that 30,000 species per year (or three species per hour) are ...
and where are our "leaders" congress/govern ment - planning new wars ...
+4 # Activista 2014-12-06 13:40
E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation » The Diversity of Life
I have said that a fifth or more of the species of plants and animals could vanish or be doomed to early extinction by the year 2020 unless better efforts are made ...
people are brainwashed - shopping - and our planet is dying ...
+9 # Shorey13 2014-12-06 13:38
Sadly, the basic premise of sites like this one is that reasonable discussion can influence public policy. Talk is cheap. We are only preaching to the choir, which is getting smaller by the hour. Power only respects and responds to equal and opposite power.

Those who are benefiting from this economic system (which would collapse in moments if we actually did what we have to do to prevent climate disaster) have made very effective use of spin doctors to make sure nothing and no one will derail their plans.

Upton Sinclair wrote that it is very difficult to convince someone of something his salary depends on not believing.
+7 # Wally Jasper 2014-12-06 13:39
Thanks and kudos to Naomi Klein for her skillful, generous and non-defensive response. Kolbert's egoic "turf-protectio n" critique is not only the last thing we need; it precisely illustrates the dysfunctional human condition that has created the world sickness we are now witnessing. Folks, we have to realize that life is not about "Me," whether on an individual level or a national level or a global level. And whether the symptom is environmental degradation, climate change, social injustice, the corporate take-over of government and our policies, etc. it all boils down to a self-centered, self-serving relationship to life. The shift out of that mind-set is the essential factor in the systemic change that Naomi refers to. That's the foundation, and then our energy consumption, our political choices, and the whole way we envision the world and our place in it will shift the whole bloody apparatus that ego has constructed to reflect its delusory view of life.
+3 # neis 2014-12-06 14:12
Perhaps Elizabeth Kolbert is nothing more than the personification of the despair that prevents any effective action. That's her psych problem. Maybe retirement should be a consideration if the kitchen -- er, planet -- is too hot for her.
+3 # Shorey13 2014-12-06 14:24
Floe, it is not money that is the root of all evil, but the fact t hat everything must have a price. The first rule of "Free Enterprise" is that nothing can ever be "free." Per Milton Friedman, not even lunch can be free. People in Detroit have had their access to water cut off because they are not paying for it. Soon, we will have to pay for the air we breathe.
+2 # Thinking allowed 2014-12-06 14:32
Kolbert is realistic. Klein doesn't address our coming Republican Congress and how it will stymie the change that she wants, both nationally and internationally . Will others give up their lifestyles? Only when it's too late, and it's too late already. See Dahr Jamail's article in Truthout on 12/1/2014 about human extinction.
+2 # lfeuille 2014-12-06 18:39
Quoting Thinking allowed:
Kolbert is realistic. Klein doesn't address our coming Republican Congress and how it will stymie the change that she wants, both nationally and internationally. Will others give up their lifestyles? Only when it's too late, and it's too late already. See Dahr Jamail's article in Truthout on 12/1/2014 about human extinction.

As I recall, part of the reasoning in that article was that coal would replace oil as the dominant fuel in the near term. There was no explanation of that prediction given and I find it hard to believe. Wind and solar are on course to become more economically competitive than coal before oil gives out.

As to the Republican Congress, she might just see it as a temporary setback. Her book was written before we knew that it would happen.
+2 # Vardoz 2014-12-06 14:37
Just reducing car emissions. Ever notice the rivers of cars on the highways? Also develop energy saving jet fuel and no more burning coal. We must increase our wind, solar, thermal and tidal energy as well as solar towers. I bed the Caldera in Yellow stone could make a gigantic amount of energy as could other volcanos that give off thermal heat like in Hawaii.
+6 # Swanloco 2014-12-06 15:01
Excellent response by Ms Klein. What most folks seem to be missing is how rapidly alternatives are growing — exponentially. Moreover, there is a widespread presumption that the federal government is the source of such change. Since 1981 over 50 US cities have been new light rail systems, largely with local, state and some federal grants. In the same time frame US freight railroads have returned to the fore, and several railroads are now busy adding second tracks and upgrading their infrastructure, almost entirely on their money. Plus GM has spent billions developing a hydrogen-electr ic car, and other automakers have also invested in the tech, which is expected to be on the market next year. And all that is just a small part of all the changes happening. Do searches for ecological restoration, agroecology, permaculture, or photovoltaics, solar-thermal and fuel cells. Much of what is happening is either being done as locally funded or private sector. The Congress is evidently unaware of all of be it. We can create a new world, reverse climate change and have a good life. It is possible, very possible, and the transformation has already begun.
+4 # willsud24 2014-12-06 15:11
If climate change is real and I believe it is, it means we have to transform our culture and values to the extent that we stop rewarding producers and stop judging success by how much money one makes or how much stuff they accumulate. Everything has to change, not just the type of energy that we use.

I constantly argue with today's progressives about this, because most progressives think that capitalism and environmentalis m can co-exist. They cannot. The premise of capitalism is to produce, create, sell and consume as MUCH stuff as possible and to maximize profits. An eight year-old can figure this out, but today's Republicans and moderate Democrats cannot.

In order to fight climate change, we will have to look at welfare recipients as hero's and business owners as criminals. He/she who uses, owns and does less is our friend. Success, as previously defines by our culture, must become the new enemy #1. The techno-fascists that have taken over the liberal movement don't seem to get this. Keep making those i-phones and your precious apps...I'm sure the biosphere will be kind to us because the consumption is coming from liberals.
+2 # motamanx 2014-12-06 16:27
Those who blame "liberals" for everything that's going wrong, simply aren't paying attention; or else they have no idea what the definition of a liberal is. They have been told that liberals are the enemy and for some reason they believe it, when, in fact, the reverse is true. Big Business is not "liberal".
+5 # billhabedank 2014-12-06 15:29
Any of us who have lived longer than 40 years, like me, should have no doubts that world (and local) climate have changed. We know there are solutions but most Americans are like deer in the headlights - frozen by fear and hopelessness.

Most of us like to leave a place better than when we found it and climate should be no different.

I told a group of Citizens Climate Lobby #202 in a meeting today that parents always want to see their children in a better place than they themselves live in. Parents work hard to give their children a good education so the children will have a good living. Very commendable but it is time to see to the welfare of their children by protecting the environment they will be living in. Of what use will a good education be if the children cannot have good air to breathe, good water to drink and at temperatures that sustain life.
-21 # brycenuc 2014-12-06 15:34
It is not "ethical" to foreclose arguments against the "evil" of carbon which is what the proponents of the contrived carbon alarm do. The are plenty of competent scientists who do no accept the consensus view or that the science is settled. They deserve the same access to the media as the alarmists have, but they don't get it.
+4 # motamanx 2014-12-06 16:38
Quoting brycenuc:
They deserve the same access to the media as the alarmists have, but they don't get it.

Sure they do: they're called spin doctors.
-13 # BKnowswhitt 2014-12-06 16:51
Absolutely correct and more disagree .. she uses warming again it ain't happenin '' false crisis ..
-14 # MidwesTom 2014-12-06 17:22
To be a SCIENCE one must be able to offer a hypothesis and from it predict events that actually come to pass. This has not happened in Climate research.

Australia just cut their Climate research budget by 80%; probably because Antarctic ice is at RECORD levels.

Then now comes word that Arctic Ice has been growing and appears to be returning to normal.

Yes that are a lot of scientific trained professionals who do not believe that the climate is changing anymore than normal when viewed over a long period of time.
+6 # Dust 2014-12-06 18:08
Are you really invoking science? True, you've referenced a decent source this time, as opposed to the Daily Mail, but your comprehension of "science" appears fairly shaky.

But please - tell me what on that link you cited supports the idea that human beings do not affect climate. Especially, please, look at Figure 3 (that's the simplest one there). The same sort of uptick about which you are screaming was also observed in 2008, 1990, and 1982. Did it change the trend? No.

To be a SCIENCE [sic - you meant 'scientist'], one must have sufficient intelligence and intellectual integrity to analyze data.
+4 # Dust 2014-12-06 20:45
And besides - you weren't screaming that human beings *were* affecting climate during the annual *declines* in Arctic ice, (2004 - 2006, 2008 - 2010), so why does an increase (of small magnitude relative to the overall trend of Figure 3, prior examples of which did nothing to alter the trend itself) of sea ice (ignoring the drivers) suddenly serve notice that human beings *don't* affect climate?
-7 # BKnowswhitt 2014-12-06 21:05
Because arctic ice only was disappearing at the periphery .. those same weather conditions that caused the melting also caused more weather and snow distribution at the center and while the edges melted the center masses actually increased contrary to NAT-GEO NBC MSNBC and CNN's false and inflammatory under-mis-leadi ng-false-report ing ....
+3 # Dust 2014-12-07 02:15
1. Are you then admitting that local effects can express observed data that appear to be in contradiction to general trends, but actually aren't if people understand the system?

2. Periphery ice melts due to increased water temperature; increased snow is a product of increased water vapor in the atmosphere which comes from... oh, dear... higher temperatures.

3. Increased melt produces fresh water layers on top of salt water, which is heavier. Fresh water, however, freezes faster than salt water, with the result that increasing temperatures can, for a time, produce more ice than colder temperatures.

4. As vague as your post is, nothing in it supports the idea that human beings do not affect climate. If you don't like NBC or the others don't consult them for science (and that includes FOX). Go read scientific papers.

5. Do you have a citation for your assertion that Arctic ice was increasing "at the center"? Do you have a time frame and locations? Are you including Greenland and the Canadian Archipelago? I'm not contesting your assertion at all - just curious as to your source.
+3 # beardog 2014-12-06 23:25
I pretty much despise plusses and minuses as anything but the most gross evaluation of a comment. You however have misrepresented the NSIDC assessment. There are always ups and downs in the extent of Arctic ice cover, to wit:

We simply cannot hang our hats on natural variability. The trend in Arctic ice cover is clearly down over the long term.
+5 # Dust 2014-12-06 18:11
Please cite ten peer-reviewed scientific papers that suggest human beings do not affect climate.

If you insist they are out there but that all the big mean scientific journals are ignoring them, you haven't the vaguest idea how of science publishing operates (with the exception of medical/biomedi cal research - that is a massive cesspool I'd not want to touch, precisely because of money).

No worries - I know you'll never respond and I know you don't have any science to cite.
0 # Corvette-Bob 2015-01-09 22:05
98% of climatologist are convinced that we have a big problem. How is it that the other 2% say their is not the slightest chance that we have a problem and they seem to be employed by the fossil fuel industry. If they have a study with supporting evidence that we do not have a changing climate, publish their findings in a peer review science journal and see if their study can be verified and withstand the review. The Koch Brothers hired a scientist who held himself out as a skeptic and after he conducted his study, he concluded that climate change is a worse problem then he realized.
+1 # 2014-12-06 16:55
Vardoz, the Caldera that IS Yellowstone is how we are all going to die
0 # Corvette-Bob 2015-01-09 22:07
Luckily it is not scheduled to erupt for several hundred thousand of years. Climate change is effecting us now.
+2 # easter planet 2014-12-06 17:40
The big problem is, there are vastly MORE people now than in 1960/1970, and they are all looking toward the goal of the "good life" in America. In doing so, they are now "in poverty" which I define as "sulking in a state of denied affluence". But what we in the West need to do immediately, is make a big announcement, an apology and an admission - "Sorry, World, we have made a huge mistake, please forget about ever wanting what we have done, and we pledge to amend our ways." Then we can begin to face the absolute challenges of population/cons umption control so that we in the West are not consuming 1000 times the electricity of the people of Sierra Leone, for example. We must have an absolute limit on per-capital energy consumption, and simply "decarbonizing" that over-consumptio n does nothing to solve the equation, the laws of thermodynamic still apply - there is far to much entropy being emitted. We have over-consumed millions of years of accumulated solar power in the fossil fuels burnt in the past 200 years. The environmental costs of adequate solar/wind/wave /hydro power are not zero as frequently assumed. Get back to the title please - "This Changes EVERYTHING".
(see part two below)
-5 # easter planet 2014-12-06 17:41
(part two)
Naomi Klein, along with Bill McKibben, both exemplify the quote in the Bridge column in today's papers ("One man is as good as another until he has written a book" - Benjamin Jowett). That is where we see that "those of us with public platforms" thoroughly isolate themselves so that there is no way to send them a comment from us "pubes" of the public, so I am writing this here where perhaps she will deign to come back and read these comments. As well, these god-like writers may at their discretion, totally ignore items which are published online instead of in their beloved books. In that way, she has ignored my writing on this exact topic of "this changes everything" on my web page ( which describes that all of our old human religions (human mind "operating systems") are exactly the problem that has brought us to this point, and what I had written there, years ago, amounted to the new gospel, the new Koran, by which we now have to live in order to live in harmony with this planet. And that's exactly the main point, the end goal - to live in harmony with this planet, rather than as Klein writes, to keep re-making it to solve our energy desires. Yes, I have actually bought a copy of her book.
+4 # L. Sabransky 2014-12-06 18:07
I just finished a fascinating conversation with someone who is very spiritually invested in the land and the earth, and is trying to fight industry encroaching in his area. He kept coming back to one thing - that our human systems are colonial and have been for thousands of years, if not since the human species has been around. That is to say that those in power are concerned about one thing - losing power. And that they always act to preserve and expand power.

The act of extraction of finite resources is how many have achieved power, and we are coming to an end of those resources. At the same time, most people - certainly in industrialized countries - have completely bought into the colonial system.

Along with him, I have a long view of history. We see many civilizations that have perished, and I feel that this little experiment we've been running on the planet was fated...and its time is coming to an end.

I have been an activist on climate/environ mental issues in the 80s and again since I saw Chasing Ice two years ago, I continue to be. I am able to both see the writing on the wall about what is happening to the human race as well as - while at the same time - fight for change. We will be - and are - entering a very dark period before we (or the planet) emerge and I have known this since 9/11.

Unfortunately, as Naomi points out, human egos are still taking precedence in this fight.
0 # brux 2014-12-07 02:43
Compared to changing human egos, global warming ought to be a snap! Don't look for people to change any time soon.
+2 # Wally Jasper 2014-12-07 14:04
Brux, it's inevitable. The shift in human consciousness is what the universe is calling for, and calling forth. It is already happening. I see it in the global online activism, the growing condemnation of injustice and atrocity from Ferguson to NYC to Israel/Palestin e, the increasing urgency of demands for climate justice and finding a true moral compass in all our dealings with each other and the planet. I see it in the shift from reliance on so-called "political leaders" and from the monkey-business of corporate government to a localized/globa lized grass-roots movement to reclaim the conditions of our lives, from labeling GMOs in our food, replacing agribusiness with local organic food and restoring our ailing soil, air and water, to finding alternatives to the fossil fueled grid and to the militarized police state. It is happening. You won't see it on TV or any of the mainstream media. But the tide is turning and change is brewing. We are joining our voices together all over the earth. We know what we want and the new consciousness will win because it is aligned with life itself.
+3 # L. Sabransky 2014-12-06 18:23
I didn't realize that Kolbert was the author of the Sixth Extinction until I saw someone else mention it. I have not read her book nor Klein's, but have heard from fellow climate activist friends that both are extraordinary and that I need to read both. I understand Kolbert to be a successful author/writer,a s well as Klein.

So why did Kolbert feel the need to criticize Klein, and why did Klein feel compelled to respond, when there is evidence that both are being listened to and admired?

Seems to me that both are letting their egos take precedence over their messages, and that is a shame. I find it especially sad in the environmental movement when I see human egos flare, because what (I thought) we are fighting for does not have ego. The earth has no ego.

This behavior is so at odds with the natural order, that it hurts our movement when egos get in the way, but also, because industrial capitalists benefit every time they do.

Really destructive...l et's hope our movement can learn from the planet how to get along.
+1 # drew 2014-12-06 23:23
Not sure about Kolbert, but Klein is responding in order to clarify and set the record straight about a critical part of her thesis. That the transition is not only essential, but it's quite attainable! Kolbert's characterizatio n that we go back to our lifestyles of 50 years ago is simply wrong, and I totally get why Klein felt compelled to speak up.
-2 # BKnowswhitt 2014-12-06 21:07
Naomi is a nice person her heart is in the right place because of the manner in which she cares and by her personal strides to take action. She is one hell of a public servant .. she has been unfortunately mislead on this .. however some good will still come out of it all .. as we must clean up the air and man's footprint .. that i am for ..
+1 # drew 2014-12-06 23:09
Ms Klien - I have studied climate & clean energy issues for 25+ years and you are just about the first person to reach the same conclusions as me (which is a large part of why I so appreciate you!). While our current trajectory is quite grim, if we all were on-board to set about the task of transitioning to a clean energy economy we could unleash an incredibly bright future economically, strategically, morally! We'd catalyze the greatest economic expansion in history, for sure, because when humanity has a huge task to do (and all the tools to do it), economic energy and lots of jobs ensue. We can let our planet heal and have clean air & water and green cities, all without sacrificing our lifestyles one iota. A key part of the solutions include eradicating the most crushing poverty and improving the treatment of women around the world (keeping birth rates down). We already see the squeeze low oil prices puts on many of our (more thuggish) adversaries (ie. Putin, Iran) - in a clean energy economy they'd be completely defanged! And on & on. Thanks so much for your courageous voice at this critical time!
-1 # brux 2014-12-07 02:36
My take on Global Warming is that it is happening,

But the best way to fight it would be to start to remediate the planet.

Start to transform factory farms into organic permaculture model farms where more jobs with great lifestyles could exist. More education and experiments to improve our food.

Stop wasting water, and reverse desertification . Plant more trees, in fact plant many more trees than we need so we have cheap lumber in the future and do not have to go into the old growth forests.

Stop polluting the land and air. Put in taxes on carbon, small at first, and international, global in some agreed on format, and have a way to complain if a business of country is treated unfairly.

There is so much we can do besides just tell everyone to cut, and buy solar and wind - because that is not going to do it.

2000 watts is a lot of energy, It's like running an 83 watt light-bulb 24 hours a day. But fairly bright LED bulbs use just 8 watts. A cellphone or tabley could easily come in under this limit.

Then there are things like washing, heating, but all of our industrial processes are getting more efficient, just not in time. The way to do this is to make the environment greener so that it is counteracts the CO2 and sunlight, and we have great beneficial side effects.
0 # Malcolm 2014-12-07 04:00
2000 watts is like running twenty, 100 watt light bulbs 24 hours per day. Or twenty-four, 83 watt bulbs. You're confusing watts with watt-hours.
0 # RobertMStahl 2014-12-07 08:45
-2 # neorat 2014-12-07 12:30
The debate between Naomi Kleine, (delightfully naive as to human nature, as it is revealed by history and studies in economics)and Elizabeth Kolbert,(appare ntly totally unaware of recent developments in historical geology regarding the cyclical nature of the Pleistocene Ice Age)and the comments of readers is most entertaining. There are far more serious threats to mankind lurking in the near future than a 4 degree rise in atmospheric temperature. I am too old to to worry unduly, but it is amusing to observe how unrealistic humans are.
0 # Dust 2014-12-07 13:22
So I'm a wee bit curious - no contest on your assertions regarding Klein or Kolbert, as I am not intimately familiar with their writings. Also no contest on people being unrealistic on many fronts.

But while Kolbert may be unaware of cyclical ice ages, inherent in your observation is that climate researchers are also unaware of such things, as they continue to suggest that the current temperature increases are indeed sufficiently significant to address.

Did I misunderstand your post?
-1 # neorat 2014-12-07 15:10
No. Since my retirement in 1999 I have spent my time studying humankind from the point of view of following Bacon's rules of scientific investigation. I have always been a skeptic of the motifs of the proponents of simplistic theories on matters such as climate, human nature, evolution of human intellect, the abstract human concept of god and subsets such as overpopulation, aggression, and the ubiquitous tendency toward corruption throughout society. To get back to the proficiency of climate researchers, I have found that they tend to deviate from Bacon's rules. A consensus is not a valid proof of a hypothesis, taking an average of a number of models is not the way to solve a hypothesis, and fear of loss of tenure is no excuse for bending before the crowd. If I sound cynical it is because I studied economics and agree that "Man is greedy and lazy" by nature and that these are the driving forces behind material advancement of the species, but also man is (modestly) altruistic. The balance swings between these traits, too little if the last results in corruption and eventual havoc in society. Mr. Gore's success in monetizing the the Carbon Dioxide factor in climate variation to his own financial gain is an example. There are plenty of examples of human foibles displayed in all aspects of society, but many are not recognized.
0 # Dust 2014-12-07 18:06
Well, I'd agree with you on any number of those points, but would submit the following:

1. Gore is not a climate scientist. He conducts no research himself, and his activism in the arena of climate is political, not scientific. His efforts, therefore, have no influence on climatology; nobody cites him as a scientific reference when conducting research or uses his statements as scientific foundations;

2. Most climate researchers are not professors; tenure has no bearing on their conduct;

3. The consensus you mention regarding climate research is replication - when independent researchers analyze the same data with varying hypotheses and methods, but arrive at the same conclusion (human beings affect climate) - that is indeed validation of a hypothesis (statistical uncertainty notwithstanding ). Would that not fall under Bacon's insistence on independent experimentation ? (I am not really versed in Bacon's work, so I might be misinterpreting him);

4. Model averaging has less to do with hypothesis testing than it does precision, accuracy, and forecasting. I can't speak for anyone else, of course, but when (for example) a number of models agree on vector and effect but vary in their assessments of degree, lacking any external control for model selection, averaging (likely a weighted average) is simply a way of incorporating uncertainty into a point forecast, which then should have the attendant uncertainty surrounding it.
+1 # drew 2014-12-07 18:33
Speaking of (knowledge of) human nature, you are off puttingly arrogant, which is no way to influence others. Also, you are flat wrong about the threats posed by climate change. They are existential and trump anything humans have ever faced before, which is why - despite being quite easy to grasp - the fact that continued drought, famine, sea-level rise, loss of the icecaps, loss of species, etc. can VERY plausibly threaten civilization itself is such a huge idea that many (including folks like you, so supremely confident in your intelligence) are literally unable to accept them. Your frontal cortex appears not to be that pliable. Thus the struggle to get everyone aware of the (mountains of) science and on-board in being a part of the solutions continues.
+2 # DaveEwoldt 2014-12-08 00:38
Noami, the reason Kolbert finds hope maddening is because she's a collapsarian and there's just no arguing with some people once they get their mind made up. Collapse is going to happen, nothing to be done about it. It emerges from the myth that humans are only good at making messes, not at cleaning them up. The best that can be hoped for is to come out the other side with a shred of your humanity intact in scattered tribal bands.

And there's pieces of history that give that viewpoint more than a little credence, I'll grant Kolbert that. But there's also evidence to support that we're capable of creating a new story--which is all our entire economy is--and doing it rather quickly. One thing for sure that will keep us from undertaking the systemic change necessary is convincing ourselves beforehand that it isn't possible.

The one thing that so many people across the political spectrum have a hard time imagining is shutting down Industrialism and the free-market ideology that normalizes its insatiable hunger for infinite growth on a finite planet. Minuscule consumer efforts to make materialism more efficient ain't gonna cut it. It must be stopped. Or the collapsarians will be correct--we will end up exactly where we're headed.
0 # drew 2014-12-08 13:51
Collapsarian? That's a thing??
0 # neorat 2014-12-09 12:19
I am sorry if I offended Drew with my arrogance. My view of human nature is from observing the divergence of human behavior from the ideal. for example, watch TV commercials of 400 HP cars racing around closed circuits or Jeeps driving to the top of mountains and contrast this with calls for curbing carbon dioxide emissions! You misunderstand me if you think I do not see the changes in climate evident today. It is just that I judge that the CO2 factor is less important in influencing climate than several other natural trends. Cycles of changes in climate much more severe than those observable today have been the norm throughout geologic time without human assistance. At the moment the greatest hazard for mankind is the escalating conflicts between population groups competing for land and resources. It would only take a volcanic eruption destabilizing the antarctic ice shelves and resulting in a precipitous rise in sea level, to place millions of humans living close to sea level in panic. - Or a fresh virus mutation, or a simple religious conflict, or, as I expect, the start of a new glacial cycle affecting North America, to play havoc with human society. Philosophers are full of "we musts" but history suggests that humans seem to have to learn the hard way. But I am 86, so I do not aspire to influence human behavior! By the way, the redefinition of "Climate Change" to mean only human caused climate change was really arrogant and not very helpful to debate!
0 # AlexBrown 2014-12-12 15:21
2KW per passenger on the planet? Nonsense. "Built on Rocky Mountain Institute’s 30 years of research and work in the field, _Reinventing Fire_ maps pathways for running a 158%-bigger U.S. economy in 2050 but needing no oil, no coal, and no nuclear energy." ...

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