Greta Thunberg Is the Climate Heroine We Need

Greta Thunberg was dying from depression and starvation when she had a nightmare about climate change that saved her life. It might just save all of us.

Lionel Bonaventure/Getty

ROME–When Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg was 11 years old, her body had started to shut down due to severe self-starvation tied to debilitating depression. She spoke to almost no one but her immediate family. She was afraid of crowds. She was lost in her own world, and the world very nearly lost her.

But thanks to the formal diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome coupled with high-functioning autism and obsessive compulsive disorder, the now-16-year-old Swede has become quite literally the poster child for the generation that will have to deal with the destruction of our planet. Once she started receiving multifaceted treatment, Thunberg was able to channel her anxiety into something we should all be concerned about: the health of the planet and the science behind apocalyptic warnings of its demise.

In October 2018, Thunberg started having anxiety-ridden 3 a.m. nightmares, but unlike before, they were not about her. The recurring nightmares were about the impact of global warming on the planet, according to the book, Scenes From the Heart, she wrote with her parents and sister Beata, who also suffers from many of the same emotional conditions.

This time, instead of holing up in her bedroom as she did before treatment, she decided that her anxiety about the climate needed to become everyone else’s, too. One of the aspects of her complicated diagnosis is obsession. Her family says she just wouldn’t let the idea go that the planet was burning up and there was ample science to prove it. She did not understand why no one was doing anything. She could not comprehend why adults and policy makers were ignoring the issue.

She started skipping school on Fridays to protest, all alone, on the steps of the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm where she grew up. Slowly–and in some ways inexplicably—the protests, which were dubbed Fridays for Future, caught on and soon she was joined by tens, then scores, then hundreds of Swedish children demanding that adults start paying attention to science when it comes to climate change.

Soon, the girl who once would not leave her bedroom was traveling across Europe to draw her peers out of the classrooms and onto the streets for the sake of the environment. Since she began not even a year ago, the protests have been held in 100 cities by teen activists. Her intensity has become her secret weapon and her now-famous speeches at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, in front of the British Parliament and at the United Nations’ COP24 Climate Talks, landed her a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize this year.

“You have ignored us in the past, and you will ignore us again,” she told the World Economic Forum in Davos. “You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.”

“Those who will be affected the hardest are already suffering the consequences,” she scolded the British Parliament. “But their voices are not heard. Is my microphone on? Can you hear me?”

When she was invited to speak at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York to be held later this month, she was faced with a dilemma. Would she look like a hypocrite hopping on a jet, leaving the very carbon footprint she had won such acclaim railing against? Instead, she took a state-of-the art carbon-zero yacht called the Malizia II, and made the journey by sea.

The Malizia II is owned by German property developer Gerhard Senft. It was built as a high-tech racing craft that was designed to collect data for scientists studying rates of ocean acidification from carbon emissions. Senft offered use of the boat and crew when he heard Thunberg wanted to sail across the Atlantic to address the climate summit.

In the 14 days at sea, some of them in inclement weather, the crew didn’t turn on the motor once. The Malizia II crew was led by Pierre Casiraghi, who happens to be the grandson of Monaco’s Prince Rainier III and actress Grace Kelly. The yacht is kitted out with solar panels and hydro generators, meaning it is completely emission-free. But its spare design doesn’t have a functioning toilet, shower or other amenities.

Not everyone wants to hear Thunberg’s message and there is a growing chorus of people who say she and her obsessive condition are being exploited for political purposes. Thunberg has been the object of cruel attacks from climate change deniers who have used her medical conditions against her. Arron Banks, a prominent British businessman who bankrolled the drive for Brexit, tweeted, “Freak yachting accidents do happen in August.” He later said the tweet was a joke, but he has not removed it from his feed. Far-right groups across Europe have chided her and her message, referring to the “apocalyptic dread in her eyes” and saying many other things far too cruel to repeat.

There is an argument to be made that climate deniers tend to be men and climate activists, with the exception of Al Gore, tend to be women, sparking debate whether there is a misogynistic element to the debate. A 2016 study in the Journal of Consumer Research,“Is Eco-Friendly Unmanly? The Green-Feminine Stereotype and Its Effect on Sustainable Consumption,” backs up the theory. “Men may shun eco-friendly behavior because of what it conveys about their masculinity,” the authors write. “It’s not that men don’t care about the environment. But they also tend to want to feel macho, and they worry that eco-friendly behaviors might brand them as feminine.”

Thunberg’s most vocal critics, it has to be said, are all men, but many of them actually go beyond misogyny and come very close to shaming her for her Asperger’s.

Steve Milloy, a former Trump staffer and full-time Thunberg obsessive, regularly tweets about the “climate puppet.” He claims that the “the world laughs at this Greta charade,” often posting pictures of the teenager in awkward poses.

Her response has always been swift to her 1.4 million Twitter followers and 3.1 million followers on Instagram. “I am indeed ‘deeply disturbed’ about the fact that these hate and conspiracy campaigns are allowed to go on and on and on just because we children communicate and act on the science,” she tweeted in August. “Where are the adults?” MORE

Naomi Klein: The Struggles Against Climate Change and Racism Are Inseparable

Author, social activist and filmmaker Naomi Klein speaks to hundreds in Union Square in New York City on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria.
Author, social activist and filmmaker Naomi Klein speaks to hundreds in Union Square in New York City on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria.ERIK MCGREGOR / PACIFIC PRESS/LIGHTROCKET VIA GETTY IMAGES

Naomi Klein, author of the new book, On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal, talks about solutions to the climate crisis, Greta Thunberg, birth strikes and how she finds hope.

Natalie Hanman: Why are you publishing this book now?

Naomi Klein: I still feel that the way that we talk about climate change is too compartmentalised, too siloed from the other crises we face. A really strong theme running through the book is the links between it and the crisis of rising white supremacy, the various forms of nationalism and the fact that so many people are being forced from their homelands, and the war that is waged on our attention spans. These are intersecting and interconnecting crises and so the solutions have to be as well.

The book collects essays from the last decade, have you changed your mind about anything?

When I look back, I don’t think I placed enough emphasis on the challenge climate change poses to the left. It’s more obvious the way the climate crisis challenges a rightwing dominant worldview, and the cult of serious centrism that never wants to do anything big, that’s always looking to split the difference. But this is also a challenge to a left worldview that is essentially only interested in redistributing the spoils of extractivism [the process of extracting natural resources from the earth] and not reckoning with the limits of endless consumption.

What’s stopping the left doing this?

In a North American context, it’s the greatest taboo of all to actually admit that there are going to be limits. You see that in the way Fox News has gone after the Green New Deal – they are coming after your hamburgers! It cuts to the heart of the American dream – every generation gets more than the last, there is always a new frontier to expand to, the whole idea of settler colonial nations like ours. When somebody comes along and says, actually, there are limits, we’ve got some tough decisions, we need to figure out how to manage what’s left, we’ve got to share equitably – it is a psychic attack. And so the response [on the left] has been to avoid, and say no, no, we’re not coming to take away your stuff, there are going to be all kinds of benefits. And there are going to be benefits: we’ll have more livable cities, we’ll have less polluted air, we’ll spend less time stuck in traffic, we can design happier, richer lives in so many ways. But we are going to have to contract on the endless, disposable consumption side.

Do you feel encouraged by talk of the Green New Deal?

I feel a tremendous excitement and a sense of relief, that we are finally talking about solutions on the scale of the crisis we face. That we’re not talking about a little carbon tax or a cap and trade scheme as a silver bullet. We’re talking about transforming our economy. This system is failing the majority of people anyway, which is why we’re in this period of such profound political destabilisation – that is giving us the Trumps and the Brexits, and all of these strongman leaders – so why don’t we figure out how to change everything from bottom to top, and do it in a way that addresses all of these other crises at the same time? There is every chance we will miss the mark, but every fraction of a degree warming that we are able to hold off is a victory and every policy that we are able to win that makes our societies more humane, the more we will weather the inevitable shocks and storms to come without slipping into barbarism. Because what really terrifies me is what we are seeing at our borders in Europe and North America and Australia – I don’t think it’s coincidental that the settler colonial states and the countries that are the engines of that colonialism are at the forefront of this. We are seeing the beginnings of the era of climate barbarism. We saw it in Christchurch, we saw it in El Paso, where you have this marrying of white supremacist violence with vicious anti-immigrant racism. MORE

As We Transition Away From Fossil Fuels, We Must Also Tackle Inequality

A worker looks onward at a chemical processing plant
A just transition to a low-carbon future must offer support not only to displaced fossil fuel workers but also to the surrounding communities that have suffered the negative environmental consequences of fossil fuel use for decades. WITTHAYA PRASONGSIN / GETTY IMAGES

Two truths lie at the heart of efforts to transition away from fossil fuels. The first is that to stave off the worst impacts of climate change, we must rapidly and dramatically reduce our carbon dioxide emissions. The second is that the resulting decrease in fossil fuel use and extraction will cause displacement of workers and the loss of tax revenue for many communities, and in some cases, it will eliminate entire tax bases.

The second truth does not change the first, and the costs of inaction will far outweigh the cost of decarbonization. But, for a just, low-carbon future, the solutions to climate change cannot exacerbate existing inequities by leaving workers displaced and communities without economic resources. A “just transition” — an energy transition that addresses and mitigates the challenges fossil fuel workers and communities face in a decarbonized world — will be a complex process. It will often require difficult trade-offs. However, proactive planning and organizing can help equitably transition these workers and communities into a low-carbon future.

The Reliance on Fossil Fuel Extraction

There is an increasing acknowledgement that fossil fuel workers must be provided with support during the carbon transition, as evidenced by policies in the Green New Deal and several Democratic presidential candidate climate plans.

Less discussed is the role that fossil fuel extraction plays in economically supporting local and state economies. In Wyoming, the top coal-producing state, taxes on coal extraction provide a substantial amount of the state’s annual budget. As journalist Andrew Graham detailed in the independent outlet WyoFile, coal companies pay the state through four different streams. These include:

      1. Severance tax: There is a severance tax paid to the state when coal is removed from the ground. Wyoming’s 7 percent tax on surface mined coal is one of the highest in the nation.
      2. Federal mining royalties: Approximately half of mining royalties paid to the federal government for coal mining on federal land are returned to the state.
      3. Sale of coal leases: When coal leases are sold, a lump sum payment is paid to the state.
      4. Ad valorem: A type of property tax, ad valorem taxes are paid at the county level and redistributed throughout the state. These taxes and fees are in addition to employing thousands of miners at high wages.

While steadily declining, in 2017, coal contributed more than $891 million in taxes, royalties and fees to the state’s economy. The estimated revenue in the state for the same year was $2.1 billion. While the state is attempting to diversify its economy through initiatives like ENDOW and Next Generation Sector Partnerships, there are steep challenges to attracting industries that can provide the same tax revenue and wages as the coal industry. In 2016, the average wage of a coal mining worker was more than $85,000, nearly twice that of the average for all industries combined. The role the coal industry plays in providing an economic base for the state cannot be overstated….

Who Gets a Just Transition?

The focus on fossil fuel communities and workers can feel misplaced. Other communities, in particular, those that have experienced environmental racism that left them with the negative environmental consequences of fossil fuel use without its benefits, are justifiably wary of the attention and resources devoted to transitioning extractive communities….

Just transition for fossil fuel workers and communities must be in addition to, and not instead of, transition programs targeted at under-resourced, marginalized communities that are hit first and worst by the impacts of climate change. These overlapping transition challenges can be met through expansive programs that both address the challenges specific to the cessation of fossil fuels and mitigate the historic burden placed on marginalized communities from fossil fuels.

Recent research provides a framework of principles that can guide just transition policy development. The principles were developed by analyzing just transition efforts around the world and understanding the short-term (i.e. immediate wage, benefit and revenue replacement) and long-term (i.e. economic diversification and retraining) needs that workers and communities will face. The principles include strong governmental support, dedicated funding streams, strong and diverse coalitions, and economic diversification.   MORE


Let’s Make Friday the Biggest Day of Climate Action in Global History

Teens paint a huge banner in preparation for a climate action
Pupils of the “Fridays for Future” movement paint banners and signs for their worldwide day of action on September 20 at the town hall market in Hamburg, Germany. MARKUS SCHOLZ / PICTURE ALLIANCE VIA GETTY IMAGES

What do Ben and Jerry’s, an 800,000-member South African trade union, countless college professors, a big chunk of Amazon’s Seattle workforce, and more high school students than you can imagine have in common? They’re all joining in a massive climate strike this coming Friday, September 20 — a strike that will likely register as the biggest day of climate action in the planet’s history.

More than this, what they have in common is something they share with much of the rest of humanity: a rapidly growing fear that global warming is out of control and that we must act with remarkable speed if we have any hope of getting our civilizations safely through the century. This growing realization is clear in many places: in the UK, for instance, where Extinction Rebellion began its massive civil disobedience, a campaign now spreading around the world. And in Washington, D.C., where the Sunrise Movement and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have been building powerful support for a Green New Deal.

But the climate strikes, of course, had their genesis in high schools — or, more exactly, outside of high schools, which is where 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg found herself last autumn. Why, she asked the Swedish authorities, should I spend all day in school preparing myself for the future when you aren’t preparing the country or the world for the future? That is a good question — so good that it quickly spread around the planet.

I’ve known school strikers on every continent with schools, and they should give everyone heart: Youth activists are awake and aware and working hard. As usual, those in the most vulnerable communities are leading the way. This is a movement in which Indigenous youth, kids from communities of color, and those who live on sinking islands are on the front line.

But these young activists are also asking for help. On May 23, at the end of the last massive school strike, Thunberg and 46 other youth activists released an open letter to The Guardian urging adults to join in next time. Because, as they pointed out, there are limits to what young people can do on their own. If you can’t vote, and if you don’t own stocks, then your ability to pull the main levers of power is limited. They wrote: “Sorry if this is inconvenient for you. But this is not a single-generation job. It’s humanity’s job.”

People around the world are responding to the call. The biggest demonstrations will probably be in New York City, because of the excitement surrounding Thunberg’s arrival by sailboat to address the UN General Assembly. But there will be rallies in all 50 states (a full list is at Often, they’ll be led by students at local high schools and colleges, but in many cases, the emphasis is on adult participation — shop owners are closing their doors for the afternoon, and chefs shutting down restaurants to feed demonstrators….

Even if we leave climate denial behind us, will we really start to move with the speed we must? The answer to that will lie in how many people truly demand action. We’ll start to find out what the numbers look like on September 20.  MORE


This Is Not the Sixth Extinction. It’s the First Extermination Event.

What we are witnessing is not a passive geological event but extermination by capitalism.
What we are witnessing is not a passive geological event but extermination by capitalism. NASA’S SCIENTIFIC VISUALIZATION STUDIO

From the “insect apocalypse” to the “biological annihilation” of 60 percent of all wild animals in the past 50 years, life is careening across every planetary boundary that might stop it from experiencing a “Great Dying” once more.

But the atrocity unfolding in the Amazon, and across the Earth, has no geological analogue — to call it the “sixth extinction event” is to make what is an active, organized eradication sound like some kind of passive accident. This is no asteroid or volcanic eruption or slow accumulation of oxygen in the atmosphere due to cyanobacteria photosynthesis.

We are in the midst of the First Extermination Event, the process by which capital has pushed the Earth to the brink of the Necrocene, the age of the new necrotic death.

For some 500 years, capitalism’s logic of eco-genocidal accumulation has presided over both the physical eradication of human and non-human life and the cultural eradication of the languages, traditions and collective knowledge that constitute life’s diversity. It necrotizes the planetary biosphere, leaving behind only decay. It burns the practically unrecoverable library of life and eradicates its future masterpieces simultaneously. It inflicts not just physical destruction, but psychological grief and trauma as people witness their lands go under the sea, get immolated by fire, and drown in mud. The First Extermination Event has now produced such a nightmarish world that even temperature maps scream in agony.

The specter of the First Extermination might haunt us all but it does so with stark disparities, mapping the geography of capital’s historical inequities.

Small island states formulate plans to relocate their populations already existentially threatened by rising sea levels. Extreme weather events like Hurricanes Katrina and Maria disproportionately affect low-income and communities of color, producing far higher causality rates comparative to other disasters of their magnitude and whose effects are often doubly disastrous, as nearly half of these communities live in proximity to toxic “sacrifice zones.” Droughts and famines, such as in Syria and Yemen, exacerbate conflicts and force mass migrations of people — the vast majority women and children — while eco-fascists mobilize the affective politics of grievance to turn capitalism’s “climate emergency” to their own advantage, sloganeering about “trees before refugees” while calling for mass murder.

Yet, most popular discussion of the sixth extinction still indulges in sweeping catastrophist pronouncements about “humanity” writ large, often failing even to mention the word “capitalism,” much less account for its centrality to the historical production of mass extinction.

Environmental historian Jason W. Moore’s work has shown that capitalism is not merely an economic system, but a world-ecology searching to exploit “cheap natures,” a process that must perpetually reassemble life to penetrate more and more frontiers of potential profit. Capital must reproduce its means of production through its perpetual destruction.

The fundamental importance of the search for cheap nature and unpaid labor to historical capitalist development has been well explored by scholars. It was not the industrial revolution and its production of the “doubly free” wage laborer, but racialized enslavementmass witch-hunts, and destruction of Indigenous peoples and ecologies that produced the conditions for capital to thrive.

Through to the present, accumulation of capital has proceeded by the violent dispossession or outright murder of peoples, followed by the necrotic extraction of resources that destroys its local ecology for the sake of accumulation. The cumulative results of this process, replicated across the globe, have come to affect deep-time transformations to life at the planetary scale through its very erasure. MORE


Marc Jaccard: Emissions will rise under the Conservative climate plan

Conservative climate plan shows emissions will rise, as the proposed tools are not proven to work.

Image result for policy options: Emissions will rise under the Conservative climate plan

Unfortunately, Canadian politicians have rarely implemented the essential carbon pricing and/or regulatory policies. Instead, they offer lists of activities and programs that are either silent on policy or suggest that non-compulsory policies, like information campaigns or subsidies, will cause significant reductions – which is not the case. The Conservative Party’s proposed climate plan fits this pattern, and my modelling suggests it would ultimately result in increased GHG emissions between 2020 and 2030….

Ottawa’s current GHG forecast

In several past evaluations, I and my research associates have correctly forecast when government policies would have negligible effect, even though governments at the time claimed they would have a significant effect….


I limit this evaluation to one metric: GHG reduction. The Conservative Party has emphasized that its climate plan saves money for Canadians. This might be true, but it is important for Canadians to know whether the reason is because the plan does not reduce emissions. A plan that has little effect on emissions might well have lower energy costs. In this case, however, one would expect an honest politician to say, “My climate plan allows GHG emissions to keep rising so that energy costs do not.”

In contrast with the Liberal climate policies, the Conservative climate plan is more challenging to model because its emission and technology claims are assumed to happen without carbon pricing and mostly without regulations. Each of these claims must be assessed individually before combining the policies to perform a simulation. Thus, in the evaluation that follows, I shift from discussing actions (like fuel switching or energy efficiency) to discussing the effectiveness of the proposed policies for causing these actions to happen.

  1. The Conservative climate plan would eliminate the federal backstop carbon price. This means that while provincial government carbon prices applied to consumers and firms in Quebec and BC would remain, carbon pollution would be free elsewhere in Canada. A price on carbon pollution causes more adoption than otherwise of low-emission vehicles, electricity plants, buildings and industrial equipment. Unless the removed carbon price is replaced with regulations that require increased adoption of technologieFs like the zero-emission vehicle mandate of Quebec and BC, such GHG-reducing actions would decline, and emissions would rise.
  2. The Conservative plan would eliminate the Clean Fuel Standard and instead “work to increase the availability and use of renewable fuels.” The CFS is a regulation that increases the use of renewable fuels and electricity. Decades of evidence shows that this increase will not occur voluntarily in energy markets, which is why carbon pricing and regulations are essential. Removal of the CFS regulation would decrease renewable fuel use, and emissions would rise.
  3. The Conservative plan would eliminate the Output Based Pricing System, which charges industry the backstop carbon price for emissions in excess of an emission standard. The Conservative plan claims it would also have emission standards for large industry, but does not say whether these would be more or less stringent than those in the current Output Based Pricing System. One must assume they would be less stringent because if they were as stringent (or more stringent), the plan would say this. Where industry fails to meet the standards, the Conservative climate plan would require industry to make investments under a new Green Investment Standards Certification program. It is impossible to estimate with confidence whether this program would reduce emissions from what they otherwise would be. History has shown that industry can appear to be reducing emissions simply by making emission-reducing investments that would have occurred anyway. The replacement of the Output Based Pricing System with this program will increase emissions.
  4. The proposals of the Conservative plan for each key sector reveal that the intent is to replace the carbon pricing and regulatory policies of the federal government with information and subsidy policies, although this is never stated explicitly. An example is the plan’s lead slogan “green technology, not taxes.” This sounds alluring. But independent experts have frequently explained and empirically demonstrated why green technology innovation is most effective when incentivized by carbon pricing or regulations that make these technologies financially attractive. Based on the evidence, it would be irresponsible to assume that the following subsidies and voluntary initiatives would reduce emissions:
  • The proposed Green Technology and Innovation Fund should have very little effect on emissions and would be difficult to measure because of the inability to know whether the investments that are funded would have occurred anyway.
  • The proposed Green Home Tax Credit would likewise have little effect on emissions because most recipients would receive the credit for investments they would have made anyway. A large literature shows the high free-riding effect in such programs.
  • The proposed Green Patent Credit is based on the myth that a dearth of low-emission technologies prevents us from reducing GHG emissions. In fact, it is the low cost of burning fossil fuels (and the low or zero cost of CO2 emissions) that prevents us from running vehicles, heating homes and processing materials with known, commercially-available zero-emission technologies that use electricity or bioenergy. The green patent credit is likely to have no effect on emissions.
  • The proposed Green Home Retrofit Code is an information program that, like others, will have negligible effect in the absence of carbon pricing or regulations.
  • The proposed Net-Zero Ready Building Standard will have no effect. A significant percentage of buildings already use electricity for space conditioning (heating or air conditioning) and water heating, and virtually all buildings can be converted to be 100 percent electric or a mix of electricity and bioenergy at any time. They will shift to net zero when carbon pricing or regulations make it economical to replace natural gas and heating oil with electricity or to substitute biomethane into the natural-gas grid.
  • The proposed Energy Savings Performance Contracting program is a subsidy program in that it reduces financing costs for people investing in energy efficiency upgrades that are paid off through bill savings. Such programs have existed for decades. Research consistently shows that they have a negligible effect since the extra financial leeway also enables home retrofitters to expand floor area and energy-related services.
  • The proposed Greening the Grid initiative uses words like “foster” and “pursue.” If the coal plant phase-out regulation of the Liberal government is rescinded (the Conservative plan is silent on this), and the Output Based Pricing System is eliminated, the effect will be significantly greater GHG emissions in the Canadian electricity sector relative to the scenario in which all policies are frozen at their 2019 condition.

The following figure provides my estimate of the evolution of Canadian GHG emissions under the Conservative climate plan. As expected, the removal of carbon pricing and key regulations, and their replacement with voluntary programs and modest subsidies, would lead to Canadian emissions that continue to increase between 2020 and 2030. And this is even under the assumption that oil sands production in Canada would not grow appreciably.

The climate plan unveiled by the Conservative Party of Canada in June 2019 is a throwback to an earlier era in which climate-insincere politicians tried to trick climate-concerned citizens into believing that they were taking action to reduce GHG emissions with information and subsidy programs alongside vague statements about GHG-reducing actions that somehow occur without carbon pricing and/or regulations. In reality, carbon prices must rise or regulations for technology and energy must become more stringent. There is no other way to significantly decarbonize the economy. The world’s leading independent experts all agree on this. MORE


Billionaires hurt economic growth and should be taxed out of existence, says bestselling French economist

  • A popular French economist says billionaires are harmful to economic growth and would be effectively abolished under his tax plan,
  • In an interview with the French magazine L’Obs, Thomas Piketty calls for a graduated wealth tax of 5% on those worth 2 million euros or more and up to 90% on those worth more than 2 billion euros.
  • Piketty says the notion that billionaires create jobs and boost growth is false.

GP: Thomas PikettyFrench economist Thomas Piketty poses during a photo session in Paris on September 10, 2019. Joel Sagat | AFP | Getty Images

A popular French economist says billionaires are harmful to economic growth and would be effectively abolished under his tax plan, according to an interview.

Thomas Piketty, whose 2013 book on inequality, “Capital in the 21st Century,” became a global bestseller and bible for tax-the-rich progressives, just published a 1,200-page follow-up book called “Capital and Ideology.” It won’t be published in English until March. But in an interview with the French magazine L’Obs, Piketty called for a graduated wealth tax of 5% on those worth 2 million euros or more and up to 90% on those worth more than 2 billion euros.

“Entrepreneurs will have millions or tens of millions,” he said. “But beyond that, those who have hundreds of millions or billions will have to share with shareholders, who could be employees. So no, there won’t be billionaires anymore. How can we justify that their existence is necessary for the common good? Contrary to what is often said, their enrichment was obtained thanks to these collective goods, which are the public knowledge, the infrastructures, the laboratories of research.”

Piketty added that the notion that billionaires create jobs and boost growth is false.

He said per capita income growth was 2.2% a year in the U.S. between 1950 and 1990. But when the number of billionaires exploded in the 1990s and 2000s — growing from about 100 in 1990 to around 600 today — per capita income growth fell to 1.1%.

“We cannot spend our time denouncing ‘populism,’ while relying on fake news, as rude,” Piketty said.

While Piketty’s plans have been popular in academia and the far left, none of his plans has been implemented by politicians. Even France abolished its wealth tax in 2017, saying it discouraged investment.

Piketty said he has gained hope from the presidential campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Warren has proposed a 2% wealth tax on those worth $50 million or more, while Sanders has proposed boosting estate taxes.

“Things are starting to move,” Piketty told the magazine. “Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and the young elected Democrats are resuming the theme of redistribution.”

While avoiding the label “socialist,” Piketty said that the type of free-market capitalism that has dominated the U.S. since Ronald Reagan needs to be reformed.

“Reaganism has begun to justify any concentration of wealth, as if the billionaires were our saviors,” he said. “Reaganism has shown its limits: Growth has been halved, inequalities have doubled. It is time to break out of this phase of sacredness of property. To overcome capitalism.”


Bernie Sanders proposes a big hike in the estate tax, including a 77% rate for over $1 billion


L A Times Editorial: Climate change is already here. 2020 could be your last chance to stop an apocalypse

Climate change opinion series part 1

The world is drifting steadily toward a climate catastrophe. For many of us, that’s been clear for a few years or maybe a decade or even a few decades.

But others have known that a reckoning was coming for much longer. A Swedish scientist first calculated in 1896 that adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere could lead to warmer global temperatures. By the 1930s, scientists were measuring the increase, and in the late 1960s, they had documented the impact of melting ice in Antarctica. By 1977, Exxon-Mobil had recognized its own role in the warming of the ocean, the polar ice melt and the rising sea level.

For obvious reasons, Exxon-Mobil launched a massive public disinformation campaign to muddy the science and downplay the danger. But in retrospect, it needn’t have bothered. Because even after the facts became incontestably clear, the world did shockingly little to protect itself. In the first 17 years after the Kyoto protocol committed its signatories to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, global emissions continued to rise. Decades of studied ignorance, political cowardice, cynical denialism and irresponsible dithering have allowed the problem to grow deeper and immeasurably harder to solve.

Climate change is now simply impossible to ignore. The temperature reached a record-breaking 90 degrees in Anchorage this summer and an unprecedented 108 degrees in Paris. We can watch glaciers melting and collapsing on the web; ice losses in Antarctica have tripled since 2012 so that sea levels are rising faster today than at any time in the last quarter-century. Human migration patterns are already changing in Africa and Latin America as extreme weather events disrupt crop patterns, harm harvests and force farmers off their land, sending climate refugees to Europe and the United States….

It is late — terribly late — for action, but with some luck, perhaps it is not too late to avoid some of the worst impacts of climate change. In nations across the world, people finally recognize climate change as a top or very serious threat, according to the Pew Research Center. In the U.S., even Republican voters — and especially younger ones — are waking up to the realities and dangers of a warming planet.

But today, we are at an important turning point. The changing climate is no longer an abstract threat lurking in our distant future — it is upon us. We feel it. We see it. In our longer and deeper droughts and our more brutal hurricanes and raging, hyper-destructive wildfires. And with that comes a new urgency, and a new opportunity, to act. MORE

This editorial is Part 1 of a three-part series on climate change:


Statistics Canada: Percentage of Canadian Workers Earning Minimum Wage Has Doubled Since 1998

New data from Statistics Canada upends right-wing stereotypes about minimum wage workers

In the gig economy, as extreme neoliberalism advances and accelerates, workers’ ‘value’ consists in being less expensive than the technology required to replace them. 


Welcome to the new economy.

new study quietly released by Statistics Canada finds that between 1998 and 2018, the percentage of Canadians with minimum wage has doubled, with one-in-three minimum wage workers also holding postsecondary degrees.

The data stands in stark contrast to the narratives pushed by right-wing think tanks and other business groups opposed to minimum wage increases who falsely claim the majority of minimum wage workers are teens working at mom and pop shops.

Statistics Canada

According to Statistics Canada’s data, in 1998, 5.2% of all Canadian workers had minimum wage jobs. Twenty years later in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, that percentage doubled to 10.4%.

That rise wasn’t steady either — in 2017-2018, the share of minimum wage workers rose from 6.4% to 10.4%.

Statistics Canada

According to Statistics Canada, that spike came from a rapid increase in minimum wage workers in Ontario — Canada’s most populous and wealthiest province — where nearly 15% of the workforce depends on the minimum wage.

The data also proves minimum wage workers in 2018 are not low-skilled teens.

Nearly half (47.7%) of Canada’s minimum wage workers are over the age of 25. And a little over one-third (34.9%) had a post-secondary diploma or above.

There has also been an explosion of minimum wage jobs at large companies. MORE

OPINION | The conversation Calgary needs to have: How does an oil city adjust to a new reality?

There are solutions out there, ones that go beyond building more pipelines or electing the ‘right’ politicians

Calgary faces a future that won’t look like its past and how the city adapts to new realities will be key to its success, or lack thereof, in the coming years, says Max Fawcett. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

What Calgary desperately needs right now is an honest conversation about how it will adjust to the new reality it’s facing, one defined by finite oil demand and seemingly limitless global supplies.

What it’s gotten, unfortunately, is a conversation about how to go back to the old reality — and efforts to attack people who aren’t willing to help recreate it.

But Alison Cretney, managing director of the Energy Futures Lab, is trying to change that. The lab, which brings together people from industry, environmental organizations, local government and academia, seeks to create the kind of conversation that’s been lacking of late.

“The reason that the conversation has been so limited is in large part because of the polarization, which only seems to be intensifying,” she says. “It’s us-versus-them stuff, and there’s no room in that for a solution-based conversation.”

And, believe it or not, there are solutions out there — ones that go beyond building more pipelines or electing the “right” politicians.

New opportunities

Cretney says Alberta is almost ideally positioned to capitalize on the decarbonization of the global economy, both because of the skills and education of its population and the opportunity to apply both to a host of new challenges.

“The core issue isn’t oil and gas itself. The real issue at the centre of this is how we’ve been using them, which is to extract oil and gas and directly combust them,” she says. “And we can get trapped into thinking that the way we produce oil and gas today is the only way to do it.”

Take the Alberta Zero-Emissions Truck Electrification Collaboration (AZETEC), a $15 million project that is testing hydrogen as an alternative to diesel for Alberta’s commercial transportation industry.

David Layzell is a professor and director of the Canadian Energy Systems Analysis Research Initiative at the University of Calgary. (University of Calgary)

As University of Calgary professor David Layzell and Jessica Lof, a research lead at Canadian Energy Systems Analysis Research, noted in an Edmonton Journal story earlier this year, “there is no region in North America that is better positioned than Alberta for cost-effective, large-scale production and distribution of zero-emission hydrogen fuel. Proven technologies already exist for producing hydrogen from fossil fuels. These technologies can be adapted with relative ease and at low cost, to either put the unwanted carbon byproduct back in the ground, or never take it out in the first place.”

Better still, if the province produced and exported hydrogen rather than selling equivalent volumes of oil and gas into the U.S., the provincial economy could generate anywhere from three to 10 times as much economic activity.

The same is true of the outputs, from elements like vanadium and lithium, to carbon fibres and asphalts, that could be created using bitumen.

“The economic estimates on that are huge,” Cretney says. “By 2030, it could add an additional $200 billion-plus in economic activity. We just need to get beyond that view that when we talk about oil and gas it’s extract and burn.”

Women ‘leading the charge’

But in the city’s emerging tech (and, yes, energy tech) space, 30 per cent of company founders are women — a figure that’s double the national average.

Emma May says women have been ‘leading the charge’ in taking Calgary’s business community in new directions. (Charles Real Estate)

That doesn’t surprise Emma May, a Calgary-based serial entrepreneur who worked as a corporate lawyer during Calgary’s boomiest years.

“I’m not surprised that women are leading the charge in terms of doing something new,” she says, “because more women have had to pivot in their careers. More women have had to make different choices, and had to balance competing interests.”

“There’s that generation of 55 and up who have been the beneficiaries for a long time of something that was super lucrative, and there’s an anger and frustration there for them that this isn’t continuing,” says May. “But when you go down in the demographics, to younger people and women, they weren’t necessarily the beneficiaries of the largesse that came from the oil and gas boom, so they aren’t as angry. I feel like there’s more optimism.”