by Naomi Klein
Simon and Schuster, September 2014
The problem of global climate change is beyond urgent. Climate change poses an existential threat to life as we know it, and it is staring us in the face. Our national leaders – not just the U.S., although its example has been pathetic – ought to have egg on their faces for promoting a status quo that, five years after a “commitment” to limit global temperature increase to two degrees Celsius by 2100, has taken us headlong in exactly the opposite direction.
The problem is, of course, that too many governments are bought and paid for by a fossil fuel industry which, no matter how clear the evidence that we need to leave carbon in the ground, is fighting for its continued dominance in the global marketplace.
Klein speaks of two factors that have exacerbated the problem of climate change. First, after three decades of failing to take meaningful countermeasures, we have come to the point where meeting the Copenhagen goal of two degrees Celsius will require massive shocks to the “normal” workings of capitalism and global trade, and to the ideology of nations blindly pursuing maximum economic growth, in competition with one another, on an annual basis. Second, in their struggle to extend the era of coal, oil, and gas as the engine of our economy, these behemoth fossil fuel companies are investing in – even doubling down on – extreme extraction technologies (like tar sands, hydraulic fracturing, and mountaintop removal) that have accelerated our dumping of carbon dioxide and methane into the earth’s atmosphere, as well as putting our water supply at risk and endangering the health and safety of millions.
I don’t mean to steal Naomi Klein’s thunder (as if I could possibly do that). There’s far more to This Changes Everything, and none of it gets any less alarming. The devil is in the details, which Klein recounts so compellingly. In fact, she writes, the dilemma of climate inaction is part and parcel of decades of growing income inequality and the modern assault by multinational corporations upon our democracy. We can’t solve one of these threats without confronting the others.
Ignore this book at your peril. It is one of the most important literary works of the twenty-first century.