Home | About | Donate

Climate Change Is a Crisis We Can Only Solve Together


Climate Change Is a Crisis We Can Only Solve Together

Naomi Klein

This speech was delivered on June 6, 2015, in Bar Harbor, Maine, as the College of the Atlantic commencement address. It appeared at The Nation on June 17.

First of all, a huge congratulations to all the graduates—and to the parents who raised you, and the teachers who guided you. It’s a true privilege to be included in this special day.


We live in a world where Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” turned one-hundred years old as it became illegal to take video in animal facilities. Progress does not come easily.


Thanx, Naomi! Good speech! -

“In fact, the very idea that we—as atomized individuals, even lots of atomized individuals—could play a significant part in stabilizing the planet’s climate system, or changing the global economy, is objectively nuts.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself …(smile)


Overpopulation is the world’s top environmental issue,
according to a survey of the faculty at the SUNY College of Environmental
Science and Forestry (ESF). (Science Daily April, 2009)“Overpopulation is
the only problem,” said Dr. Charles A. Hall, a systems ecologist. “If
we had 100 million people on Earth - or better, 10 million - no others would be
a problem.” Current estimates put the planet’s population at more than six
billion. Other faculty at ESF said: “Overpopulation means that we are
putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than we should, just because
more people are doing it and this is related to overconsumption by people in
general, especially in the ‘developed’ world.” “But, whether
developed or developing, everyone is encouraged to ‘want’ and perceive that
they ‘need’ to consume beyond the planet’s ability to provide.” Climate
change was cited as the second most-pressing issue, with the need to develop
renewable energy resources to replace fossil fuels coming in third. Rounding
out the top 10 issues on the ESF list are overconsumption, the need for more
sustainable practices worldwide, the growing need for energy conservation, the
need for humans to see themselves as part of the global ecosystem, overall
carbon dioxide emissions, the need to develop ways to produce consumer products
from renewable resources, and dwindling fresh water resources
No politicians dare tackle overpopulation because having children is a basic right. It apparantly trumps life and death issue, famine, terrorism and such. Suggest reading Book 1 of the free series at andgulliverreturns.info


I’ve seen that 80% figure before (though for electricity, not total energy) and I think it is the result of some rather dubious ratcheted accounting which takes all of Germany’s coal electricity production (nearly half of their total electric generation) and adds the coal portion of all the electricity which flows into Germany (imported electricity is about 2/3 of domestic consumption, and nearly half of the Euro grid is coal generated as well). But Germany exports even more electricity than it imports, and the export is disproportionally heavy in renewable energy, so this way of accounting shifts much the credit for German renewable generation onto the neighbors which consume it.

Even so, Klein seems somewhat premature in hailing the German approach as a model of success to emulate. From that Wiki page you cited “In 2013 coal made up about 45% of Germany’s electricity production (19% from hard coal and 26% from lignite)” but lignite production has been increasing, and in some years, coal has reached 50%. Germany is a world leader in both lignite production and consumption, and lignite is a much dirtier coal than bituminous. Germany has also been phasing out nuclear power. The result has been a greenhouse gas profile over time that looks like this during one of the most ambitious wind and solar expansion projects undertaken by any country:

The greatest reductions took place in the 90’s prior to the massive renewables push that Klein is lauding (and back when nuclear power was a considerably larger portion of their electricity generation). The large increases in wind and solar over the last 15 years have not produced similar decreases in greenhouse gases. And actually, this graph is too generous. Germany has been shifting from bituminous production to bituminous imports (including from North and South America), which means the carbon footprint associated with mining and transporting millions of tons of coal has gone up, while Germany is credited with a carbon reduction. This also doesn’t count the carbon from renewable biofuels, even if the fuels in question are forests which are harvested and chipped in other countries (like the U.S.) kiln dried, and then imported, even though each aspect of that process involves either the loss of a carbon sequester or outright carbon emissions–plus the fact that the carbon emitted by burning trees is counted as renewable even though that carbon may not be reclaimed for another century.

Klein also disregards the examples of France and Sweden, which have a much lower per-capita carbon footprint than Germany, thanks in large part to their much larger nuclear shares of generation. So while I think engineerted could have done a better job of critically scrutinizing his source’s numbers, I don’t take that to be an indictment of critical scrutiny generally, and it seems to me there are large holes in Klein’s case which suggest her standards of critical scrutiny have fallen considerably since Shock Doctrine.


But in the end progressives always win.


Did you know that the poorest half of humanity–3 1/2 billion people–emit only 7% of humanity’s greenhouse gases? That’s the only place any significant population growth is happening and even that is slowing, as it has been since the 1960s. It’s widely expected to level off by 2050. Further, much of what the poorest people and countries produce is because of the way they’re forced to live by the rich, and what they produce for the rich.

Climate catastrophe and the larger ecological crisis is a problem caused almost entirely by rich people.

Imagine that everyone on Earth magically disappears and there are only 10 people left. 9 of them live as people did for a hundred thousand years–a completely ecologically attuned stone age life. The other, a former pilot, flies a B2 bomber all over the world dropping napalm on ecologically sensitive areas and nuclear bombs on abandoned nuclear reactors, military nuclear facilities, toxic waste dumps, oil refineries and drilling fields and chemical factories.

The result is that in this scenario humanity as a whole has an even worse impact than we do with our current 7 billion people, and each person has an even worse impact, on average, than we do now. In this scenario do we have a population problem? According to calculations like the IPAT equation, and whatever thinking the people in the survey seem to be using, we do.

The best science shows we have to reduce GHG emissions by at least 90% in the next 15 years for civilization to have a reasonable chance at survival. In the long run it’s important to reduce population growth as fast as possible, and population itself slowly after that, (to avoid the massive disruption that fast reduction would cause). The only non-tyrannical, non-genocidal ways proven to do that are: increasing both political and economic equality; empowering all, especially women; emphasizing education for all, especially women; ensuring security in sickness, old age and hard times; and ensuring free access to contraception. But whatever it’s long term importance, no population solution can be any more than a tiny part of the solution to our current crisis.

This is a problem caused almost entirely by a very small percentage of humanity, and it is a problem that is only fixable by addressing that problem and not being distracted by blaming others who cause almost none of it.


Heartfelt. Thanks, Naomi. :bear:


One thing which seems to have changed since Shock Doctrine is that she now frequently expresses appreciation for her ‘amazing team of crack researchers’. I have to wonder if she handled most of the research on SD herself, and perhaps that made her more circumspect and cautious about getting it right. Surrounding yourself with an enthusiastic team of like-minded individuals can be invigorating, but it also greatly increases the risk of a groupthink dynamic. It can be a short walk from desperately wanting something to happen, to thinking it needs to happen, to thinking it must happen, to (selectively) finding evidence that it is happening. I would actually like to see many of the social reforms Klein wants to see, but her less-than-rigorous perspective and reasoning here has led her to a strategy which I strongly suspect will prove more harmful than helpful.

I don’t know what engineerted’s political stance is (though my impression was he was citing Germany’s coal use as a bad thing–which is not typically a conservative position) but I can see how he looked like a hater trolling. Having come from a position of admiring Klein (and citing her, and referring my friends to her work), I was very reluctant to admit that she had gone of the rails here. So even if I strongly disagree with e-t’s numbers, I think even more realistic numbers would still support his conclusion.