Capitalism vs. Climate Change: The Big Debate

16th November 2011

Our economic culture's most cherished ideas are no longer viable, she writes, as she argues that the hard-right and their capitalist beliefs are the driving force for climate change denialists.

"The right… has had a free hand to exploit the global economic crisis to cast climate action as a recipe for economic Armageddon."

For hard-right ideologies, climate change is simply an ideal issue designed to successfully advance many of the issues dear to the left, she says, such as higher taxes and greater regulation.

Klein writes: "Denialists gained traction by making climate about economics: action will destroy capitalism, they have claimed, killing jobs and sending prices soaring.

"But at a time when a growing number of people agree with the protesters at Occupy Wall Street, many of whom argue that capitalism-as-usual is itself the cause of lost jobs and debt slavery, there is a unique opportunity to seize the economic terrain from the right. This would require making a persuasive case that the real solutions to the climate crisis are also our best hope of building a much more enlightened economic system-one that closes deep inequalities, strengthens and transforms the public sphere, generates plentiful, dignified work and radically reins in corporate power…"

So what does Klein suggest?

In summary, the entry from the left-wing Canadian activist urges us to "break every rule in the free-market playbook and that we do so with great urgency". She writes that, as a collective force, we need to rebuild the public sphere, reverse privatisations, and relocalise large parts of the economies. We must scale back consumption, and heavily regulate and tax corporations, and there must be a state-enforced end to the "cult of shopping". Our economies must be based on "collective priorities rather than corporate profitability".

"The bottom line is that an ecological crisis that has its roots in the overconsumption of natural resources must be addressed not just by improving the efficiency of our economies but by reducing the amount of material stuff we produce and consume. Yet that idea is anathema to the large corporations that dominate the global economy, which are controlled by footloose investors who demand ever greater profits year after year. We are therefore caught in the untenable bind of, as Jackson puts it, "trash the system or crash the planet."

The reactions…

James Delingpole writes in the Daily Telegraph that Klein's proposal is "scary". He says: "And the rationale for doing all this stuff would be what, exactly, Naomi? Some new devastating proof you've managed to unearth, perhaps, showing once and for all that the measurements are wrong and global warming didn't stop in 1998? A dazzling refutation of Svensmark's cosmic ray theory? Surprising new data showing that, contrary to the false consciousness promoted by the running dog lackey capitalist pigs who write our history books, totalitarian planning regimes of the kind you advocate in fact brought nothing but bounty, happiness and environmental loveliness to Stalin's Soviet Union, Hitler's Germany, Mao's China, Pol Pot's Cambodia and Kim Il Sung's North Korea?"

At the time of writing, Klein's discourse had attracted a total of 82 comments.

These range from those singing Klein's praise, to the sceptics enraged by her proposals.

One of the first comments on the article, by Jeffrey Hobbs, clearly a Klein supporter, says: "I can't say enough good things about this article. It's a manifesto for the next 100 years. Corporate capitalism is doomed by the immutable fact of finite resources; it will require planning and sharing to sustain civilization in the future, which is heretical thinking in the boardrooms of elite capitalists."

We need a global cultural shift, Rangiora adds: "Most of those who register their disagreement with it seem to have read it through a filter of preconceptions they cannot bring themselves to question. The issue is not really global warming; it's rather the need for a profound global cultural change. Global warming is actually useful as a way to add urgency to a revolution that would be necessary even without it."

However, Connie40023 says: "The whole notion that we have to have a drastic change in ideology to prepare for global warming seems absurd. Capitalism should never have been allowed to go unfettered by government… Capitalism without regulation will consume itself, and is well on the way to doing so. At various times in civilization, it has been necessary to have an economic reset, where debt is forgiven, and the cycle begins again. We may be there."

And what about the evidence for Klein's proposal?

Generating a flurry of responses, Windpowered adds: "The underlying premise of this article is that centrally-planned economies will solve the world's problems. And not just everyday centrally-planned economies. Instead world-sized centrally planned economies. And yet, every shred of evidence we have – based on huge decades long nation-sized experiments – tells us that this will not work. Naomi even notes in a throw-away remark that the centrally planned economies were worse at carbon consumption than non-centrally planned economies and then blithely forges on with her version of utopia."

Theshadowknows adds in response to another commenter: "You say she "adds all of her data up for the reader, complete with references and sourcing". Where is this data? Where do you read this? Are you reading another article? There is no data on global warming whatsoever in her article, just a polemic against the right. Now polemics against rightwing nonsense and falsehoods
are fine with me as long as they are not used to simply cover up neolib nonsense and falsehoods, as Klein does here."

…and anyway, it hasn't worked elsewhere…

Econ101ab writes: "Let's have a debate that's rooted in reality. Between India and China, representing about 35% of the world's population, they're lighting up 3 new coal fired plants every 10 days. Oops. And who's going to tell the rest of the developing world to spend their scarce financial on inefficient and expensive alternative energy technologies when fossil fuels are still plentiful and relatively inexpensive."

Catfitz adds: "China is communist — and Naomi Klein has written critically on China — yet it has not saved itself from in fact increasing carbon emissions. Japanese had a new socialist government at the time of the tsunami and nuclear explosions — it didn't suspend capitalism where it had it."

Mindful Money would like to hear your view – Do you think capitalism can be blamed for climate change? Is our economic culture the real problem behind this issue?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *