Web Letters | The Nation

Capitalism vs. the Climate

Too many people

Brava, Naomi Klein! Your article cuts to the heart of the issue. Unfortunately, you fail to discuss population control. Isn’t reduction or elimination of world population growth a critical element of achieving a sustainable, livable planet earth? I know this tends to be a toxic issue, but it seems to me that any and all other remediations could be swamped out by continued population explosion.

Charlie Bergstedt

San Francisco, CA

Nov 11 2011 - 8:26pm

Capitalism vs. the Climate

No, the deniers are wrong about climate and capitalism too

Klein’s article is spot-on in describing the ideological forces driving anthropogenic global warming (AGW) deniers. She goes astray when she agrees with the deniers about what responding to climate change means for our society.

(It’s important to note that I think a skeptical position towards global warming is perfectly legitimate. The case for AGW is strong but not to the point of total certainty. It’s the large group of people that are religiously sure that AGW is impossible that are the problem in the United States.)

Deniers see AGW as a device for bringing government intrusion into the economy. This might be a more compelling position if the government weren’t already a dominant actor in the economy. The United States is a leading emitter of CO2 because people commute on government-built roads to suburbs founded on GI-bill loans. Those commuters drive in cars with government mandated seatbelts, cars which must meet government pollution standards.

The partisans of unfettered free enterprise can’t get the government out of the economy because most government interventions are pretty popular. Good luck running on a pro-smog platform. Climate change, on the other hand, is easy to ridicul, because it is a relatively diffuse, uncertain, abstract and slow-moving threat. Sometimes it seems that all the energy of the anti-AGW partisans is coming from displaced anger over the last hundred years of political history. The anti-regulatory fear of the deniers is a case of “keep the government out of my Medicare.”

Its dangerous to go along with portraying efforts to fight global warming (carbon tax, cap-and-trade, alternative energy subsidies, efficiency mandates) as a radical departure from the past. There’s no need to concede the point.

Now it is possible that ultimately we will have to make significant changes in our lifestyle to really reduce AGW. On the other hand, our society is so energy-inefficient now that there are still plenty of big and pretty painless changes we can make. It’s far better to point out the easy things than to say we need a revolution in order to deal with climate change.

Barry Klinger

Potomac, MD

Nov 10 2011 - 8:10pm