April 10, 2015
Editor’s note: The second paragraph has been revised since original posting to correct an error that described the 2°C rise in temperature as annual.
If you are planning to read a book this year I strongly suggest Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything. Climate change and global warming are real, tangible and undeniable, the evidence is concrete and it is planet-wide. The only serious question remaining is whether or not something can be done to slow or otherwise mitigate it in the face of powerful political opposition. This book reminds me of Ralph Nader’s Unsafe At Any Speed: the sounding of an alarm reflexively resisted by vested interests but of vital interest and value to everyone else.
The international climate goal for some time now had been to hold warming to a 2°C rise in temperature. This number was developed and agreed upon as far back as 2009 by several international environmental organizations and scientists. Alarmingly, 2°C is no longer deemed sufficient and 1.5°C is now believed to be the critical limit. This new limit was agreed on by a UN climate group in 2014 as being necessary to avoid melting most of the Arctic ice to keep sea level rise below 2 feet. Rise is a measurement across time of movement from a lower position to a higher one. In the case of climate change and global warming this means that globally the overall temperature of the earth and its atmosphere cannot become more than 1.5° to 2°C than it is presently and sustain life as we know it. Controlling temperature in a dynamic system as complex as this planet is naturally, with no help from humans, is in and of itself an awesome challenge on many levels.
If you like numbers, concrete examples and statistics, This Changes Everything will satisfy. The writing is clear, concise and non-technical; the arguments are well documented. Beyond the numbers the narrative is conversational, insightful, and oftentimes witty as well as startling. Good guys and bad guys (and some in between) are identified and numerous specious proposals for remediation called out. Klein’s skilled writing makes the complex issues readable and, more important, understandable in non-technical language. Her thesis is, I think, best summed up thusly: “… our economic system and our planetary system are now at war. Or, more accurately, our economy is at war with many forms of life on earth.” Klein deftly demonstrates how everything is connected to everything else from ecosystems to economic systems and the dangers of ignoring this fundamental principle.
Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, made himself into a world-class laughing stock, forbidding Florida state employees to use the term climate change or global warming. Scott is now followed by Louisianna’s Jindal and Wisconsin’s Walker, two leading lights of contemporary right-wing political leadership. One has to wonder and be concerned when politicians dissemble and deny, and ask who is paying them to perform. Denial seems to be as contagious as it is profitable. When the phrase “money is the root of all evil” was coined they hadn’t yet heard of PACs, ALEC or the Koch boys’ numerous political organizations to funnel money into politics. Climate change has, until recently, been below the general public’s awareness, and now, for good measure, it is being denied, suppressed and politicized. This Changes Everything carefully details the players and the plays.
Nowadays it is extremely difficult to avoid being cynical as we witness the political and, not in the least, moral compromises and betrayal of public trust, even with matters of such universal import as climate change. Both for the amusement and the ensuing disbelief, I suggest you direct your web browser to the following URL: <http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/florida-official-climate-change-video>. The right-wing response to the difficult issues at hand seems to be, don’t talk about it and it will go away. Well, it won’t. Denial of the obvious seldom gets very far though it is, nevertheless, a favorite ploy of politicians of every stripe as long as they have an audience wanting to hear only what they want to hear. Politicizing science as Klein well illustrates is a dangerous road to travel, and she has provided an eloquent and thoroughly documented counter argument with This Changes Everything.
This Changes Everything
Simon & Schuster, 2014