If only more people had been reading The Nation! That’s the melancholy conclusion that emerges from a review of the hundreds of climate-related articles we’ve published over the last 20-plus years. Writers like Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, Mark Hertsgaard, James Hansen, and Chris Hayes have produced some of the most farsighted reporting and analysis of the climate crisis to appear anywhere. They remind us that solutions have long been available, and that our failure to apply them might still be remedied. Herewith, The Nation’s top 10 articles on climate change, all of them worth reading—and acting on—today.
1 Bill McKibben
“Too Hot to Handle”
November 10, 1997
America’s foremost climate writer was educating readers more than two decades ago about climate change, the scientific method, and the need to push politicians and journalists alike to meet the emerging challenge. McKibben’s critique of the mainstream media’s reliance on industry propaganda could have been written yesterday.
2 Mark Hertsgaard
“A Global Green Deal”
February 1, 1999
Further challenging the conventional wisdom, Hertsgaard argued that “repairing our ravaged environment could become one of the biggest economic enterprises of the coming century.” Just as FDR’s New Deal lifted the United States out of the Great Depression, a Global Green Deal to renovate buildings, vehicles, and farms in communities rich and poor across the planet could generate millions of jobs. Nearly 20 years after planting it, this idea emerged in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s congressional campaign as a call for a “Green New Deal.”
3 James Hansen
“Why We Can’t Wait”
May 7, 2007
The NASA scientist whose 1988 US Senate testimony put climate change on the national agenda explained that the source of the problem is the influence of special interests over government policy. With unsettling prescience, Hansen warned that if their influence was not overcome, in as little as 10 years the human race would find itself living “on what I would call a different planet.”
4 Mark Hertsgaard
“Adapt or Die”
May 7, 2007
Reporting from Bangladesh and New Orleans, Hertsgaard was the first journalist to advocate a paradigm shift in climate policy: In addition to reducing heat-trapping emissions, humankind also had to adapt to the storms, droughts, and other impacts that were guaranteed to intensify in the coming years. And the wealthy nations whose emissions had caused the crisis should aid the poor, who suffer first and worst.
5 Naomi Klein
“Capitalism vs. the Climate”
November 28, 2011
“Most leftists have yet to realize that climate science has handed them the most powerful argument against capitalism since William Blake’s ‘dark Satanic mills,’” Klein argued. With climate change the ultimate example of how capitalism drives environmental as well as social destruction, climate activists would have to embrace an agenda of jobs, equality, and justice.
6 Chris Hayes
“The New Abolitionism”
May 12, 2014
Why is stopping climate change such a daunting challenge? Because leaving most fossil fuels in the ground, as climate science requires, would deprive powerful people and institutions of roughly $10 trillion, Hayes calculated. The only comparable precedent is the outlawing of slavery, which triggered the bloodiest war in US history. Climate activists should recognize that they are making an equally far-reaching demand.
7 Wen Stephenson
“On the Front Lines of Climate Justice”
October 26, 2015
To be serious about climate change is also to be radical, Stephenson argued, because the reforms that the science dictates imply revolutionary shifts in economic and political behavior. But the mainstream climate movement has been “driven by comfortable people, rich people, white people,” and it’s “about keeping things more or less the same,” said civil-disobedience activist Tim DeChristopher, who added: “We need…a movement that’s about taking power and changing power structures at a fundamental level.”
8 Rebecca Solnit
April 6, 2015
Rejecting a despairing outlook on the climate crisis, Solnit noted that many important events—like the collapse of Soviet communism or, in the climate sphere, the defeat of the Keystone XL pipeline—initially seemed impossible. But they occurred nonetheless because countless people worked and fought for change. The lesson? “You don’t act because you know what’s going to happen; you act because you don’t.”
9 Bill McKibben
“The Active Many Can Overcome the Ruthless Few”
December 19/26, 2016
Pondering what to do after Trump’s election, McKibben quoted former Nation contributor Jonathan Schell: “Nonviolence is a means by which the active many can overcome the ruthless few.” Drawing on his activism with 350.org, McKibben argued that “The real point of [movements] is less to pass specific legislation than it is to change the zeitgeist.” And attracting more people to the climate movement is crucial, for the ruthless few can only be defeated by building political power.
10 Leehi Yona
“Climate change Is the Issue of My Generation”
August 4, 2017
The Nation has long nurtured emerging journalists, including Leehi Yona, whose essay won the 2017 Nation Student Writing Contest. Notwithstanding the ubiquitous bad news about climate change, Yona wrote: “When I think about the thousands of young people working endlessly to give future generations a fighting chance, I can’t help but stand in awe.”