With the prevalence of greenhouse gas emissions resulting to global warming, books on climate change now number in the hundreds, if not thousands. One of the most thoroughly researched analysis on the subject is by Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate. Despite its publication more than nine years ago, the book remains relevant to the present day for its thorough exposure of the tangled web of links between climate change and global capitalism, accounting for every stakeholder to informed choices toward a sustainable, net-zero carbon emissions.
As the title of the book suggests, it raises awareness on the overlooked global issues of capitalism and denial of climate change. Against the backdrop of market fundamentalism, Klein confesses her denial on the imminence of catastrophic climate change. By so doing, she highlights all signs of climate change and global warming, such as tropical cyclones, droughts, heavy precipitation, and extreme heat waves. The author cum environmentalist uses the example of Flight 3935 to provide evidence of increasing global temperatures (Klein, 2014). Her illustration provides sufficient evidence on how climate change is affecting city residents. Klein appeals to high-level consumers to change their lifestyles toward conservative ways. From the onset, the book calls on her readers to face the climate crisis now before reaching permanent atmospheric conditions.
Klein divides the book into three parts – Really Bad Timing, Magical Thinking, and Starting Anyway. In part one “Really Bad Timing”, the book juxtaposes a myriad of issues that contribute to little or no change toward abating the climate crisis. First, there is a lack of comprehensive technological innovation to provide immediate sustainable solutions. In addition, non-government organizations such as the UN are struggling to get together world governments to agree on initiatives, such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement, which will accelerate investments and actions to a low carbon future. Furthermore, it is part of human nature to postpone actions in the face of remote threats. The three scenarios form “Really Bad Timing”, explains why there is little action to end the climate crisis.
In Magical Thinking, the book analyzes the overreliance on technological innovation to change the status quo on climate change. The author exposes the corrupt structure of environmental conservation groups where some non-governmental institutions praise their corporate sponsors on minimal achievements to secure financial aid (Klein, 2014). Apart from the UN, other environmental conservations lack the independence to challenge the corporate world into investing in renewable energy sources and reducing carbon emissions. In addition to the overreliance on affordable fuel, it is magical thinking to assume that the world will achieve net-zero emissions by 2035. Despite the harsh reality, part three “Starting Anyway” encourages societies to end exploitative use of scarce resources endorsed by capitalistic economies. The book suggests that positive change is achievable by embracing new thinking away from scarce natural resources. Klein proposes “Blockadia” movement relying on interpersonal action to enact positive change. Collectively, the author offers the status quo, in terms of the traditional problems, current challenges, and possible solutions.
Klein begins her book with a powerful insight from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), demystifying widespread assumptions about climate change. The AAAS report reveals how conventional projections of climate change may be misleading. Most people and some institutions assume that the extreme weather events will worsen incrementally depending on the volume of emissions (Klein, 2014). However, as the United Nations (UN) Secretary General warns in climate conferences, the world is nearing a point of permanent change, where a subtle change in weather conditions may trigger a sudden, irreversible imbalance of global ecosystems. At this point, zero emissions of harmful gases will have insignificant impact in harsh and unpredictable weather patterns. The introductory piece from AAAS shared by the author serves as a powerful insight and campaign for immediate conservative measures before human interventions have little impact in controlling extreme climatic conditions that threatens life on earth.
The publication of Klein’s book on climate change comes at a critical time when capitalistic ventures are influencing unprecedented weather patterns in a global scale. There is no doubt that it addresses one of the most defining issues of the 21st century – global warming and the climate crisis. Today, extreme atmospheric conditions threaten to disrupt food production and availability of fresh water to more than a billion people in Africa, Asia, and some parts of Latin America. With the current degradation and potential devastation in the future, Klein’s publication popularizes the anti-extractivism “Blockadia” movement relying on grass root coalitions toward environmental conservation. Hardly anyone is exempt from contributing in the journey to renewable energy and net-zero emissions. Although Klein published her book more than nine years ago, it remains relevant in challenging the status quo toward introducing environmentally viable capitalistic ventures.
While incorporating all stakeholders and illuminating their duties, the book provides connectivity and scale of its kind in addressing the tangled links between modern capitalism with the climate. The author reveals oil companies are continuing to pump billions of dollars in crude oil out of Niger Delta, Nigeria, and the Middle East despite warnings on the effects of carbon emissions from internal combustion engines (Klein, 2014). Deep water drilling and mountaintop coal mining are increasingly degrading the environment with frequent ocean oil spills and abandoned minefields. Furthermore, swelling landfills are polluting rivers, lakes, and even oceans with non-biodegradable waste from plastic coffee cups, bottles, and electronics. From the book, it becomes apparent that more than a century of capitalism is disrupting the environment and exceeding the optimal balance of greenhouse gases and their benefits to the planet.
People blame multinational corporations with mega factories for their swelling carbon footprint, ignoring their high consumer lifestyles that create demand from these companies. The New York Times bestseller challenges city dwellers to adopt conventional lifestyles that will reduce carbon emissions. For instance, the proposed shift to electric vehicles will reduce the overreliance on limited natural oil reserves, whose combustion pollutes the environment, leading to global warming. A change in consumer demand from internal-combustion engines to automobiles using renewable energy sources will significantly discourage automakers from producing diesel-powered vehicles. Against this backdrop, consumers have a critical role to play in the path to renewable energy and reduced carbon emissions. Generally, Klein calls on her readers to become more conscious of their consumer choices and their environmental impact.
In summary, Klein thoroughly addresses the tangled web of links between climate change and global capitalism. Hardly anyone is exempt from the detailed analysis of economic activities and their environmental impact. Specifically, the author addresses the addiction on fossil fuels to power capitalistic ventures and their influencing in global warming and environmental degradation. However, the widely celebrated book is not all doom and gloom as it steers shareholders toward renewable energy sources, away from exploiting scarce natural resources.
Klein, N. (2014). This changes everything: Capitalism vs. the climate. Alfred A. Knopf Canada