Klein Makes a (Fact-Poor) Case for Environmental Socialism: Review of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate

Published October 21, 2014

Klein Makes a (Fact-Poor) Case for Environmental Socialism Review of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate, by Naomi Klein; Simon & Schuster, September 16, 2014, 576 pages; ISBN-10: 1451697384 ISBN-13: 978-1451697384, $22.89 on Amazon.

This is one of the strangest books I have ever reviewed. Naomi Klein is an avowed socialist who apparently wants her work to appear on bookshelves alongside the works of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, and Saul Alinsky.

Klein mentions The Heartland Institute (which publishes Environment & Climate News) on no fewer than 34 pages, essentially dedicating the first 64 pages to our work. She may have launched the book while attending The Heartland Institute’s 2011 International Conference on Climate Change in Washington, DC, where she interviewed Heartland’s President, Joseph Bast. She calls it a “deniers” conference, vilifying virtually all the speakers, including Willie Soon, Ph.D.; S. Fred Singer, Ph.D.; Christopher Horner, J.D.; Robert Carter, Ph.D.; Patrick Michaels, Ph.D.; and even Vaclav Klaus, Ph.D., who was then president of the Czech Republic.

Klein criticizes Bast for deriding collective action against climate change when she argues only collective action on “an unprecedented scale” can rein in “the market forces that are responsible for creating and deepening the crisis.” She repeats false claims about oil money going to support global warming skeptics, writing, “scientists who present at Heartland climate conferences are almost so steeped in fossil fuel dollars that you can practically smell the fumes.” The truth is most skeptics receive no funding from oil companies. Industry gives far more too global warming alarmists.

Klein glorifies researchers whose mathematical models she believes prove man has been destroying what was once a healthy climate. She deserves credit for the great amount of research she cites to prove her arguments. The book contains 790 footnotes. Its narrative, however, reminds one of Fidel Castro’s relentless four-hour speeches, very repetitive and brain-numbing.

Saving the World

For Klein, NASA’s James Hansen and former Vice President Al Gore are among a pantheon of those attempting to save the world. However, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) gets harsh treatment for doing too little to save the earth.

The only good part of the book criticizes rich environmental organizations that have thrown their lot in with industry, making money through environmental activism. Klein attacks Fred Krupp of Environmental Defense for his financial schemes and the Nature Conservancy for allowing oil production on some of their lands. She spends nearly 30 pages exposing Richard Branson of Virgin Airways as a hypocrite. Branson pledged $3 billion to stop global warming but then spent only $248 million of it, on projects benefiting his personal finances. Then he had the temerity to cry financial hardship and his inability to do more.

Klein spends another 30 pages attacking free trade saying, “The connection between pollution and labor exploitation has been true since the earliest days of the industrial revolution.” To take control of the climate, she argues, governments must take away from individuals and business all decisions about how we live.

Socialist Convictions on Display

Klein’s socialist convictions are on display everywhere. A typical example: “Many degrowth and economic justice thinkers also call for the introduction of a basic annual income, a wage given to every person, regardless of income, as a recognition that the system cannot provide jobs for everyone and that it is counterproductive to force people to work in jobs that simply fuel consumption.”

Elsewhere she writes,

“The collusion between corporations and the state has been so boorishly defiant that it’s almost as if the communities standing in the way of these projects are viewed as little more than ‘overburden’—that ugliest of words used by the extractive industries to describe the ‘waste earth’ that must be removed to access a tar sand or mineral deposit. Like the trees, soil, rocks and clay that the industry’s machines scrape up, masticate, and pile into great slag heaps, democracy is getting torn into rubble too, chewed up and tossed aside to make way for the bulldozers.”

She makes every effort to be a major go-to source for anti-fracking groups, quoting one horror story after another, none with merit.

Elitist Attitude

Klein also argues disadvantaged people in undeveloped nations are or can be happier without the advances modern industry can bring.

Though Klein is not optimistic the world and its people can be saved, she states, “Fortunately, it is eminently possible to transform our economy so that it is less resource-intensive, and do it in ways that are equitable, with the most vulnerable protected and the most responsible bearing the bulk of the burden.” For Klein, there is no question wind and solar energy can offer all the energy the world needs and nothing good ever comes from what she calls the “extractive industries.”

She claims citizens across the country are voting to take their electric grids back from industry and into community ownership, calling these movements collectively “blockadia.” From there she begins to imagine a future utopia, which readers with a better grasp of history and economics will recognize as a dystopia.

Readers who want to see what currently passes as politically correct commentary may wish to read this book. Though Klein’s politics are skewed and her science almost entirely incorrect, she has a poetic way of expressing herself. Perhaps Klein set out to write the left’s answer to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. If so, I think she succeeded.

Jay Lehr, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is science director of The Heartland Institute.