February 23, 2020

The Problem with Our Climate Change Narratives

“Here are two sets of statements from far-distant opposites in the climate change debate.

The first is from Naomi Klein, who in her book This Changes Everything paints a bleak picture of a global socioeconomic system gone wrong: “There is a direct and compelling relationship between the dominance of the values that are intimately tied to triumphant capitalism and the presence of anti-environment views and behaviors.”

The second is from Larry Bell, professor of architecture and climate skeptic, whom Klein quotes in her book. He argues that climate change “has little to do with the state of the environment and much to do with shackling capitalism and transforming the American way of life …”.

Let us put aside whether we agree or disagree with these statements or are offended by them. What concerns us is their scope: Both attach a breadth of narrative to climate change that far exceeds what is, at base, a relatively well-understood set of climate mechanics (human-produced carbon emissions are changing the composition of our atmosphere and warming the planet) and a well-developed set of solutions (renewable and possibly nuclear energy, efficiency improvements, consumer education, and the appropriate pricing of carbon).

Each side of the climate debate accuses the other of exaggeration and suffers from its own. Skeptics ignore basic climate facts and perils, while those who point their finger at capitalism itself discard one of the best tools at their disposal. It is in part market forces, after all, that have produced a thousand-fold reduction in the cost of solar power over the past three decades (guided by policy).”

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