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Where Naomi Klein goes wrong

Well, trying to narrow it down a bit from “everywhere” of course.

I always think about climate justice as multitasking. We live in a time of multiple overlapping crises: we have a health emergency; we have a housing emergency; we have an inequality emergency; we have a racial injustice emergency; and we have a climate emergency, so we’re not going to get anywhere if we try to address them one at a time. We need responses that are truly intersectional. So how about as we decarbonise and create a less polluted world, we also build a much fairer society on multiple fronts?

Many environmentalists hear that and think: “Well, that sounds a lot harder than just implementing a carbon tax or switching to green energy.” And the argument we make in the climate justice movement is that what we’re trying to do is to build a power base that is invested in climate action. Because if you’re only talking about carbon, then anybody who has a more daily emergency – whether it’s police violence, gender violence or housing precarity – is going to think: “That’s a rich person problem. I’m focused on the daily emergency of staying alive.” But if you can connect the issues and show how climate action can create better jobs and redress gaping inequalities, and lower stress levels, then you start getting people’s attention and you build a broader constituency that is invested in getting climate policies passed.


As the Stern Review pointed out humans do less of things that are more expensive. More of things that are cheaper. So, trying to solve climate change and everything else at the same time is more expensive. So, humans will do less solving of climate change.


This is actually all in the Stern Review. If climate change is a civilisation wrecking and immediate problem then we should solve it at lowest cost – because that’s the necessity.

If, however, climate change is equal in importance to solving the servants problem – with subsidised childcare – then it’s just one of the many things we need to muddle through to optimise society, isn’t it? At which point the urgency of solving cliate change rather goes away – because we’ve also just said that it’s about as important as solving the servant problem. And if there’s no urgency to it then most of what is demanded we do about it can bugger off, can’t it?

The logic employed here by Klein – as always of course – simply doesn’t work. Climate change is really, really important – OK, let’s solve it, as cheaply as possible, because that’s the way to get humans to do something. Or, there are all these problems that need to be solved – OK, that makes climate change not very important, doesn’t it? Reducing the effort that should be put into it and reducing the burden we should be willing to bear to solve it. Again just because that’s how humans work.

Is climate change important? So, deal with it. It’s only as important as all these other things? Less effort on climate change then. QED.

35 thoughts on “Where Naomi Klein goes wrong”

  1. Here’s another idea. If the decarbonising and environmental changes are important, try them on the blacks first. Ban them from using cars and planes and any products brought to them by processes which pollute. Insist they use the green economy of wind, sun, local produce, and 15 minute cities.

    That way, they will be the first to benefit from the changes, and the rest of us can follow suit when we see how well it works.

  2. Sam, a less’discriminatory’ method would be to mandate that all those in favour of net zero have all the costs of going green added just to their energy bills and wear a badge to show how virtuous they are (a green star maybe?).
    The rest of us can have the green taxes removed from our bills and walk around sans badge, demonstrating our utter callousness and disregard for the planet.

    And no matter how many times you reference Stern, it is a simple (“simple, obvious and wrong” – H.L. Mencken?) solution to a non problem, so can get fucked.

  3. So how about as we decarbonise and create a less polluted world, we also build a much fairer society on multiple fronts?

    We did, but progressives and conservatives killed it with toxic migration and progressive political and economic ideas.

    The future, therefore, isn’t the Luxury Gay Space Communism of Star Track The New Generation. The future is Children of Men meets Mad Max meets Dunston Checks In (to your local hotel, to rape the locals).

    Ageing Jewish MILFs kvetching about corporate branding is a 90’s luxury nobody can afford anymore.

  4. MILF? Are you really sure there Steve?

    One might hope that her approach will keep them all rushing around ineffectually so we can just get on with life. Sadly I think that may be too optimistic.

  5. “…I’m focused on the daily emergency of staying alive.”

    That’s not a problem we have in the UK. It is a problem faced by many millions in the third-world, the solution to which, at least in part, is cheap abundant energy. That this might (might) have an impact on the climate in 30 or 50 years time isn’t something that over-rides the priority of being alive tomorrow.

  6. Do you ever stop to consider, Tim, that the Stern Review is probably one of the most damaging documents of all time. Why did the idiot ever consider producing it? Why include a worst case scenario? Didn’t he realise that would be the one that would be used?
    Economics is supposed to be the science of how people interact. So why don’t economists understand how people interact? That produce a document like that, those with the incentives to do so will chose the parts justify what they want to achieve & ignore the parts that don’t. Didn’t he understand what motivates people. It’s not to create a better world for all. It’s to create a better world for them.

  7. ‘trying them for their crimes against humanity and suspending them from gibbets, right?’

    I think you’ve got it Ted.

  8. Further to BiS… ISTR you (ie Mr Worstall) totally eviscerating Stern when it was first released and basically deriding it as “a load of dingo’s kidneys” (C) D. Adams (PBUH). What’s happened to make it more palatable and/or correct?

  9. Because it’s the starting point from which all of the current shouting stems. That’s just my style – OK, fine, starting from the evidence you’re using you’re still wrong.

  10. Tim @ 11.41: But Stern still begins with a delusion – that CO2 IS a problem / has costs and that these costs need to be included in the price. Calling it ‘the best solution’ doesn’t make the ‘problem’ any less of a delusion and the solution unecessary.

    So long as you engage with their illusion, those pushing it will take it as evidence they are right.

  11. Decades have passed and still vast swathes aren’t buying your warble gloaming bullshit Tim. No matter how you try to rationalise it.

    Call us sceptics or call us deniers, but I’ve still seen no evidence that this is anything more than the natural variability of the climate.

    Therefore Stern et al are just mechanisms to steal money from the general public and you support this because…reasons?

  12. I see the problem as this Mr Galt. Both Naomi Klein’s witterings & the Stern Report were motivated by the same thing. The personal gain of the authors. (Why, you’re telling me he did it for free?) And that’s the problem with the whole climate thing right from it’s inception as scientific surmise. All the way it’s been entangled with the personal advantages of its participants. Both reputational & financial. That’s just how people are. We’ve had entire religions built on the same basis. Sure there may be the impartial altruistic amongst them. But which ones? And how many of them are simply mistaken?

  13. Decades have passed and still vast swathes aren’t buying your warble gloaming bullshit Tim.

    Are we reading the same blog? Tim’s position is pretty clear and pretty constant – let’s not do stupid and damaging things in response to the issue of climate change, whether it’s real or imagined. I’ve seen some “this must be global warming” joke posts in response to cold events, but I don’t recall ever seeing anything mocking climate scepticism.

  14. No matter how many “yes, but” Tim puts on the caveats for Warble Gloaming, acceptance of Stern is acceptance of the delusion.

    Tim accepts Stern and therefore the delusion. Sure, he might not be as delusional as Greta, but still gives support to mugging Joe Public through a Carbon Tax.

  15. PJF, yes Tim has been consistent – He has consistently opined: ‘let’s, just for the sake of argument, accept that angels can dance on the head of a pin’ and then gone on to tell us the best way for us plebs to pay for it.

    We’ve been told for the last 40 years AGW will cause melting ice caps, melting glaciers, heatwaves, droughts, wildfires etc. etc.
    If your predictions are wrong on a regular basis (Neil Ferguson, Harold Camping, JW’s, where are you?) you’re shite at predictions, should not be entertained and absolutely worthy of ridicule. “.

  16. I’m quite happy to accept that Stern is delusional. Or the avarice explanation. Doesn’t make any difference to the outcomes.

  17. In commerce, we presume all the players are acting to their own advantage. Where we trust, we do so because we presume it is to the advantage of the trusted to be trustworthy.
    So why do we suspend this attitude in so may other areas?

  18. As my dearly departed Granddad used to say: If the government could find a way to tax the air we breathe, they would.

  19. The only actual emergency we face comes as the natural consequence of the progressives declaring and then addressing illusory “emergencies.” They’re deconstructive efforts, and they’re succeeding.

  20. Dennis, Inconveniently Noting Reality

    I’m old enough to remember when Global Cooling was all the rage. You know, the New Ice Age caused by… MANKIND’S THOUGHTLESS DEVASTATION OF THE PLANET.

    Much like economists, scientists are usually wrong about 95% of the time. And like economists, being wrong never gets scientists to shut the fuck up. That’s because being wrong doesn’t stop the gravy train. Being quiet does. Gotta talk to get grants…

  21. I’m quite willing to accept that ppm CO2 has risen from 260 to 420 in the last 200 years or so. And that it is mankind what done it with discovering you could dig up and pump up what Gaia had put under our feet.
    There’s an effect of that. There are many people who think the rise in CO2 either had nothing to do with humans, or it did but it isn’t harmful overall. I wish they’d make their minds up.
    It can’t be doubted that CO2 has a dipole, and O2, N2, Argon and the other noble gases do not, so the earth cools less at night because some of the infra red gets trapped by the greater atmospheric composition of dipolar molecules. A smidgen more than before. If you deny that, then you are indeed a climate change denialist. If you accept that, at least you’re a realist, and then it’s a question of proportion and how fast.
    Imv of course.

  22. Bongo: yes, that’s basic physics, but by far the greater concentration of dipolar molecules is water vapour. The warmists assume that the slight positive effect of CO2 prompts a much bigger positive effect from water. That’s by no means a done deal. In fact the water cycle must have a significant negative feedback component to have kept the climate within ‘reasonable’ bounds over billions of years. I doubt it’s suddenly lost that just because of a modest increase in CO2. What with the greening effect that’s happening I reckon there’s a net benefit, even if some of what we define as bad weather in recent years has something to do with climate change (from whatever causes).

  23. @TractorGent:
    At least you can be counted among those who say it’s humans wot caused the CO2 level to rise. There are benefits to that indeed such as all that greening, and whether they are more than or less than offset by the downsides needs consideration.
    That’s not the mainstream denialist view imv. It’s that humans didn’t cause it, or if they did then it doesn’t matter how fast it’s happening and only the benefits and not net benefits should be considered.

  24. There are many people who think the rise in CO2 either had nothing to do with humans

    I don’t think that it’s proven that the anthropogenic part of increasing CO2 concentrations is dominant or even significant. We know that CO2 ppm was much greater in previous geological eras, before man was on the scene. So there is undoubtedly a long-term natural variation (or more likely a complex interweaving set of many short- medium- and long-term natural variation effects.)

  25. On a scale of 1 to 50, where:
    1 = ‘all animals die, all trees die, all plants die, because CO2 is too low’, and
    50 = the ‘highest we know CO2 to have been*’, where are we now?

    Answer = 3.

    We have empirical, irrefutable proof that Mother Earth didn’t burn to a crisp when CO2 was 7,000ppm* because it is still here, so why will it burn to a crisp if CO2 reaches 500ppm, 800ppm, 1000ppm etc?

    *Pre-Cambrian “Explosion of Life”. Eh….perhaps there is a correlation between lots and lots of CO2 and more and more flora and fauna…….

  26. Nice to see all the contributions on climate science, but this isn’t about that. It’s about how any changes would affect us.
    So the unknowns:
    Is there any indication the planet is getting warmer due to human activity?
    Would a warmer planet be more or less productive in what we need to survive?
    Would a warmer planet be a more or less dangerous environment?
    Over what timescales?
    The numbers in economic costs/benefits?
    The knows:
    Approximately zero
    As far as the numbers are concerned, it’s not even known if they’re negative or positive.
    There is nothing there to do coherent economics with. Faith economics? Astrological economics? Alchemical economics?
    All you have left is the incentives for the players in the game.

  27. The closest analogy I can think of is a multi-player board game where the players with the dominant positions on the board get to make the rules.

  28. Dear Mr Worstall

    Rich people with too much time on their hands invent problems for which they have the solutions, which require that they spend lots of other people’s money and tell them what to do.

    We appear to be living in the modern warm period of a series of warming/cooling cycles of about 1,000 years during which civilisations flourished and populations grew because benign climates in the warm periods gave longer growing seasons, higher yields and shorter, milder winters. They ended with hunger and plague when the climate cooled and crops failed.

    The modern warm period started about 1850: it may be the first where a civilisation destroys itself to ‘solve’ a phantom climate crisis manufactured by supposed scientists, politicians and bureaucrats out of an entirely natural phenomenon.

    This is the way the world ends.


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