Naomi Klein has a new book out. Having failed to rally the forces of socialism with No Logo and The Shock Doctrine, she’s now saying that capitalism needs to go because it’s destroying the environment.
Yes, she is writing these words in 2014 as if this were a brand new thought. But the greens have been pushing this anti-capitalism line for fifty years. The anti-capitalist sentiment got so putrid that Patrick Moore left the organization he’d founded — Greenpeace — in 1986. But Klein feels like she’s onto something. And that something, as far as I can tell, is to make the state of the environment a hell of a lot worse:
She wants to ban fracking, nuclear power, genetically modified crops, geoengineering, carbon sequestration, and carbon markets, thus turning her back on some of the climate-friendliest solutions currently on offer. She wants to block the Keystone pipeline, which would transport petroleum from Canadian oil sands to U.S. refineries; she would pressure pension funds and endowments to divest from fossil fuel companies; and she thinks we should transfer trillions of dollars to poor countries to pay off the rich countries’ debt for dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Klein is a socialist of the first order and she see massive crushing socialism as the solution for everything — inequality, the recession, the environment, or the collapse of the Braves in the NL East. But those of us with memories longer than an episode of Family Feud will remember the environmental record of the Communist block. It was horrifying; far worse than anything that was ever seen in the West. In his book All the Trouble in the World, P.J. O’Rourke describes the nightmare that confronted the Czech Republic after the Cold War was over. Soviet-era “innovations” made the Aral Sea disappear while capitalism was bringing the Great Lakes back to life. Communist projects clearcut massive swathes of Eurasia while North American forest were booming.
Hell, you don’t even need a memory; you just need eyes. China — still nominally communist — is one of the worst polluters in the world and has soaring greenhouse gas emissions. In the meantime, the evil capitalist United States has seen its carbon intensity drop thanks to innovation, fracking and market forces.
She wants a “Marshall Plan for the Earth” as a lot of environmentalists do. I’ll let Ronald Bailey give you the grim math on that:
Well, if the world were to begin deploying these renewable energy technologies next year that would mean erecting approximately 250,000 wind turbines each year for the next 15 years. As of the end of 2012, there were a total of 225,000 wind turbines operating around the world.
Similarly, the world would have to install 113 million rooftop solar panel systems per year in order to meet the 2030 goal of 1.7 billion. In 2013, the U.S. installed a record 4,751 megawatts of solar panels, which would be roughly equivalent to 1.6 million 3-kilowatt rooftop solar panels. As of 2013, the entire world had installed 100 gigawatts (100 million kilowatts) of solar photovoltaic panels. Combining the rooftop and solar panel proposals, this hyper-solarization would mean deploying more than 10 times the current installed capacity of photovoltaic panels, not just once but every year for the next 15 years. And never mind that there are virtually no commercial wave or tidal energy production systems currently operating.
This would entail, by their conservative estimates, turning 10% of global GDP to alternative energy construction. Good luck getting China to go in on that. And that’s even assuming the materials and rare earth metals exist in sufficient quantities. Or that such a massive endeavor could be done without causing further environmental damage. And it still wouldn’t work because we have no way of storing and transporting energy to account for cloudy and/or windless days around the globe. The enviros made a big deal because Germany recently provided half their power from alternative energy. Buuuuut:
It got half its power from solar on a single, very sunny day that also happened to be a national holiday, so consumers were at the beach and most of its commercial and heavy industrial plants were shut down. That’s very exciting, but you cannot save all of your electricity consumption for very sunny bank holidays.
This isn’t “economics”. This is science fiction.
And thankfully, Klein is on the fringe. There is a growing push toward market forces being aligned toward improving energy efficiency and making alternative energies viable. There’s even been some movement on nuclear power. Bailey again:
In 2013, climate researchers James Hansen, Kerry Emanuel, Ken Caldeira, and Tom Wigley—people not known for soft-pedaling the threat of global warming—issued an open letter challenging the broad environmental movement to stop fighting nuclear power and embrace it as a crucial technology for averting the possibility of a climate catastrophe through its supply of zero-carbon energy. The letter states that “continued opposition to nuclear power threatens humanity’s ability to avoid dangerous climate change.” They add, “While it may be theoretically possible to stabilize the climate without nuclear power, in the real world there is no credible path to climate stabilization that does not include a substantial role for nuclear power.”
Look, I think most environmentalists are genuinely concerned about the planet. But there is a faction that are what the conservatives have long described as “watermelons” — green on the outside; red on the inside. These people really don’t care about the environment. When cold fusion was briefly a thing, they reacted with fury not hope. They care about crushing capitalism and private property.
Take that idea of the evil west sending trillions of dollars to the poor benighted third world to compensate them for global warming. That’s something the radical left has been flogging for decades. And it would do nothing, nothing to save the planet. It would arguably make things worse, given the environmental record of developing countries.
There are two possibilities here (not mutually exclusive). One, Klein is a moron. And two, she’s just your garden-variety watermelon, someone who sees environmentalism as a way to push her beloved anti-capitalist agenda.
The only remaining questions are why now? Why is she suddenly pushing this capitalism vs. the environment line like it’s an original thought? And why are she and her books so popular (it’s already selling well, has five-star ratings and is getting rave reviews from the likes of RFK, Jr.)?
As always, Lee had the the answer:
I actually read Klein’s No Logo about six years ago. It astounds me that a third-rate intellect like hers could be so wildly popular with the radical left. Then again, maybe it shouldn’t.
This isn’t a serious proposal. It’s not serious commentary. And it’s certainly not economics or science. It’s something for progressive to whack to. It’s something they can read and say, “Yeah! That’s what we should do!” so they can feel a little better about not being the kind of scientists and engineers who could actually do something about climate change.
Meanwhile, those of us living in the real world can go about actually saving the planet, one fracking well at a time.