We know this script’: Naomi Klein warns of ‘coronavirus capitalism’ in new video detailing battle before us

In a new video from The Intercept, author and activist Naomi Klein explains how the Trump administration and other governments across the globe are “exploiting” the coronavirus outbreak “to push for no-strings-attached corporate bailouts and regulatory rollbacks,” and urges working people worldwide to resist such efforts and demand real support from political leaders during the ongoing crisis.

Klein, author of the 2007 book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, notes that President Donald Trump has pushed for a payroll tax cut that could bankrupt Social Security; promised help to major polluters like airlines, cruise companies, and fossil fuel firms that are driving climate disruption; and met with executives of private health insurance companies—in the words of Klein, “the very ones who have made sure that so many Americans cannot afford the care they need.”


“Look, we know this script. In 2008, the last time we had a global financial meltdown, the same kinds of bad ideas for no-strings-attached corporate bailouts carried the day, and regular people around the world paid the price,” says Klein. “We know what Trump’s plan is: a pandemic shock doctrine featuring all the most dangerous ideas lying around, from privatizing Social Security to locking down borders to caging even more migrants. Hell, he might even try canceling elections. But the end of this story hasn’t been written yet.”

“Instead of rescuing the dirty industries of the last century, we should be boosting the clean ones that will lead us into safety in the coming century,” Klein says, pointing to the Green New Deal. “If there is one thing history teaches us, it’s that moments of shock are profoundly volatile. We either lose a whole lot of ground, get fleeced by elites, and pay the price for decades, or we win progressive victories that seemed impossible just a few weeks earlier. This is no time to lose our nerve.”

Klein also discussed the COVID-19 pandemic on the Tuesday episode of Intercepted, a podcast hosted by The Intercept co-founder Jeremy Scahill.

SOURCE

Economic response to COVID-19 pandemic: go big, go fast

Image: NIAID/Flickr

The health emergency created by the COVID-19 pandemic is of course the primary concern of Canadians, and the first priority for government to address. But it is increasingly clear that the economic fallout from the pandemic is also going to constitute an emergency. And it requires government to respond as urgently and powerfully in the economic sphere, as they are attempting for public health.

I was invited onto CBC Radio’s special broadcast today to discuss the economic consequences of the pandemic, and needed policy responses — and also to comment on the policy announcements made by Finance Minister Morneau, Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz, and superintendent of financial institutions Jeremy Rudin at a special joint news conference.

Here are some quick thoughts on what we can expect in coming months, the nature and dimensions of the policy response, and — of course — how we pay for it!

What we’re in for

There is no doubt that the macroeconomy, already near-stagnant at the end of 2019, will now slide into recession. The immediate spillover effects of cancelled transportation, cancelled tourism and entertainment events and services, and reduced output in many different industries are knocking GDP backward right now. Second-order effects will be experienced across a wide swath of the economy, as both consumers and businesses scale back their purchases dramatically. Even a short-term surge in purchases of groceries and essentials (including toilet paper!) won’t offset that shock decline in aggregate demand.

Another category of impacts will be felt through disrupted supply chains. Imported parts and supplies from overseas producers (especially but not exclusively China) have been seriously disrupted, and that will have a ripple effect on Canadian production — even assuming we are allowed to go to work in the first place. All that will be enough to produce a serious, but not unusual, recession: a loss of two-four per cent of real GDP, lasting for two-four quarters, driving unemployment up to perhaps eight per cent.

However, if we end up facing a full-out lockdown (as experienced in China or Italy) then the downturn takes on a new order of magnitude. We could see a decline in second-quarter GDP of perhaps 10 per cent (at annualized rates), and an enormous jump in unemployment (well into double digits). In fact, if government statisticians are also on lock-down, we won’t even be able to measure how bad it gets. How soon and how sharply production begins to recover is unknown, depending first and foremost on how quickly people are allowed to begin leaving their homes and resuming normal activity (including working and spending). And if the experience of the “Great Recession” — a decade of slow growth and underutilization that followed the 2008-2009 GFC — is any indication, we would then likely face an extended period of hardship, perhaps lasting another decade.

Another dimension of the crisis could be its potentially dramatic effects on financial stability. It was out of that concern that the announcement today featured all three critical government players (Morneau, Poloz, and Rudin) at the same podium – and why all their announcements were focused on the goal of maintaining credit flows (through emergency lending for small and medium-sized companies, lower interest rates and relaxed credit quality controls). Since the 2008-2009 crisis, the private credit system has behaved in predictably Minskian fashion: first cautious, then (as memories of the meltdown faded) expansive, and finally speculative (entering Minsky’s “Ponzi” phase). This time the debt bubble in the U.S. was concentrated in places other than real estate (the focal point of the 2008-2009 meltdown). Risky (“high-yield”) corporate debt is the most fragile link in the current financial daisy chain: already high-yield bond markets have seen interest rate spreads explode (to seven-eight percentage points above normal corporate lending), and credit is starting to seize up. With many fragile companies, some of them very large, unable to borrow (even for routine or “overnight” purposes) just as their cash flow evaporates from the recession, they will face quick collapse. Other financial weak spots exist in the U.S., too (including credit cards, student debt and some oversold equities).

In Canada, as in 2008-2009, the financial system has been less adventurous and hence is not as fragile. The biggest risk here would be a serious downturn in inflated housing prices (the main legacy of our own debt expansion), with cascading impacts on consumer spending, household financial stress and ultimately the stability of banks and other financial institutions. Stopping that kind of contagion quickly is almost as important to the government, as stopping the spread of the actual virus.

How government should respond

I look forward to working with other progressive economists to imagine and describe a fulsome, comprehensive, ambitious and concrete vision for responding to this crisis. Here are some of the obvious areas:

Immediate Mobilization of Resources to Protect Health: Obviously governments and health authorities must now throw every possible real resource into protecting health, as much as they can, including:

  • More staff at health facilities.
  • Alternate off-site or mobile testing capacities.
  • Home support for people quarantined or recovering at home.
  • Quick expansion of capital equipment (including buildings and equipment), as much as possible.

This mobilization will cost many billions of dollars, and constitutes an unfortunate form of “stimulus.”

Income Protection for Workers: The pandemic has exposed a frightening and dangerous aspect of the new precarious labour market. Only about half of employed people now work in a “standard” full-time permanent job with benefits — like sick leave. So when people are instructed to stay home from work to avoid spreading the virus, many incur a major and immediate financial loss. Unfortunately, that will compel some to ignore the health advice and keep working — with catastrophic health consequences. This pandemic is reminding us that the wellbeing of everyone, depends on the wellbeing of everyone else. The short-sighted responses of some business leaders, complaining about the cost of sick leave and that workers “whine” or “fake” their conditions, is as morally repugnant as it is clinically destructive. (For a despicable example, see Howard Levitt’s comments about workers imagining illness on CBC’s The Current).

An obvious place to protect workers whose incomes are being interrupted by the pandemic is through the EI system, but it needs immediate and far-reaching emergency changes (I listed some of these in my recent Toronto Star column):

  • Waive the 1-week waiting period for EI (the government has already said it will).
  • Waive the qualifying hours requirement for the period of the pandemic (and, of course, it should be fixed long-term anyway).
  • Consider special emergency payments (similar to EI’s existing natural disaster provisions).
  • Consider special payments to contractors, gig workers and others not normally entitled to EI.
  • Accelerate work-sharing arrangements to allow more people to keep their jobs.

In addition to extending EI and other income supports, workers need other protections in the coming period: including waiving requirements to fetch doctors’ notes and other red tape and having full job protection during the pandemic (so their jobs are not at risk for following health advice). All of this highlights the need for big reform in Canada’s existing laws governing sick pay (only Quebec ensures minimum paid sick leave), STD and LTD measures, and job protection. These problems were already glaring; the pandemic has now brought them to everyone’s attention, and reminded everyone that their personal health depends on collective well-being.

Other ways to put spending power directly into the pockets of low- and middle-income Canadians, reducing the financial barriers to staying at home, could include direct one-time payments to all households (as Australia did in 2009, with great success), or more targeted income assistance to reflect and offset the economic impact on more financially vulnerable households. One option in that regard would be to expand and accelerate payments of GST credits and Canada Child Benefit cheques.

Debt Relief: Morneau and his colleagues moved quickly today to assure businesses that they can continue to access credit to maintain operations and stave off bankruptcy. There will likely be a need for more hands-on support for firms in many industries (including airlines and other transportation and tourism providers). It makes sense to keep businesses from going bankrupt at a time when unemployment is rising anyway, but those interventions need to learn from the mistakes of past rescues. Conditions must be attached to protect employees at these firms right through the crisis (like no layoffs), and to ensure that rescued companies are held to long-term performance requirements (including future Canadian production and employment). The memory of major banks and automakers that were bailed out at the public’s expense in 2009, and then quickly returned to their bad old ways (speculative lending and industrial disinvestment, respectively) reminds us to leverage our support during times of crisis into long-run influence over their subsequent activities. The best approach in that regard is to take public equity stakes in these businesses as a condition of financial support (as some European countries did with banks and other major bailed-out businesses).

At the same time, other segments of society also need protection from their creditors, as their ability to work and earn disappears. There should be restrictions placed on foreclosures and evictions (for both homeowners and renters), and deferral periods for personal and credit card debts.

Other Short-Term Fiscal Stimulus: The federal government will need to consider other ways to inject immediate spending power into the economy in its March 30 budget, or earlier. Expanded transfer payments to the provinces for health-related expenses is an obvious option. Other ideas are helpfully catalogued in the annual “Alternative Federal Budget” documents.

Longer-Run Reconstruction: On the assumption that the coming recession is harsh and its after-effects long-lasting, the government will need to play a leading role in the longer-term reconstruction and reorientation of the economy. The traditional tools of stabilization (monetary and fiscal adjustments) are clearly not capable of addressing the scale of the problem. Monetary policy, indeed, has already lost most of its effectiveness: with interest rates near zero, and borrowers scared deeply about what lies ahead, the emergency interest rates cuts announced by the Bank of Canada this week will have virtually no impact on real economic activity in the coming year or longer. (It probably won’t even reignite house price inflation, which has been its dominant “achievement” of late.)

And fiscal interventions will need to go far beyond counter-cyclical stabilization. Canada’s economy will need to rely on public service, public investment and public entrepreneurship as its main “engines” of growth, to recover from the coming downturn, prepare for future health and environmental crises, and improve conditions in our communities. The abysmal failure of private business capital spending in recent years — which has fallen by one-third as a share of GDP since the turn of the century, despite hugely expensive corporate tax cuts — was already indicating a growing role for public investment to lead the way. Now, in this moment, it is laughable to imagine that private capital spending or exports will somehow lead the reconstruction of a national economy that will experience an unprecedented and scarring shock.

There is no shortage of urgent rebuilding required in our economy and our communities: sustainable transit, green energy, non-market housing, expanded public services (including aged care and early child education) and any number of other urgent priorities. The case for mobilizing those resources, under the leadership of governments and other public institutions, is compelling. We can put people to work, repair the damage of this crisis (and better prepare for the next one), and deliver valuable services. All we need is the willingness to imagine a different model of organizing and leading economic activity.

Last nail in coffin of deficit-mania?

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Incredibly, Conservatives like Jason Kenney and Pierre Poilievre have still been scare-mongering about deficits, even as the public-health emergency gathered momentum. Kenney in particular should be politically shunned for his incredible decision to attack Alberta’s doctors and rip up their employment contracts (alongside his other attacks on public-health workers) — just as we ask them to risk their lives, to save ours. This tired old deficit-mania will have zero resonance with the public in coming months: they are quite rightly preoccupied with more important things.

Nevertheless, long-standing indoctrination in the ideology of austerity will hold back the government response to the crisis. Mainstream proposals for fiscal stimulus will be too small to make a significant difference. For example, bank economists today are suggesting injections worth one per cent of GDP; that wouldn’t put a dent in the more daunting recession scenarios I described above. It is not unusual for national governments to experience deficits equal to five per cent or more of GDP during severe economic downturns. That works out to $120 billion for the federal government. Anything less than that, and the government is literally not doing its job in trying to protect Canadians from this downturn.

Interest rates, already rock-bottom, have plunged in the last month. The government of Canada can now issue 30-year bonds for well below one per cent annual interest. That is negative in real terms (ie. lower than inflation). So quite literally, the government will save money by borrowing more (paying back less in real terms, after 30 years, than they borrowed) — to say nothing of the economic and social good that would be done by putting that money to work in emergency public projects and services.

Of course, we can and should consider alternative financing mechanisms (like quantitative easing and other methods of directly harnessing public credit institutions to finance public works). That genie was let out of the bottle in the 2008-2009 crisis, but so far has been used in a stinted, one-sided way: using central-bank-created money to purchase financial assets from investors and institutions, in hopes they then spend or lend their excess cash to get the economy moving. A much better approach — perhaps called “people’s quantitative easing”? — would be to use created funds (from the central bank or other public banks) to directly finance needed investments and services, thus putting the new money directly into the projects and people that need it most. That would have much more economic bang for the QE buck. But it would constitute a sacrilege against the traditional property relationships embedded in private credit banking.

A turning point?

Image result for turning pointGreat crises like this are frightening and dangerous. Our economic, social and democratic institutions are still damaged and fraying after 10 long years trying to recover from the last meltdown. Dangerous populist and authoritarian impulses have sprouted from that hardship. Progressives are not sufficiently united, confident and focused on what needs to be done, to turn the tide in our favour.

But a crisis can also be an opportunity. The failure of financialized, neo-liberal capitalism will be laid bare more clearly than ever in coming months. For example, the inability of rich countries (like the U.S.) to provide even rudimentary coordination and communication during a public emergency, resulting in thousands of preventable deaths, starkly highlights the enormous misallocation of human and economic capacity under capitalism, and its inherent and repeating coordination failures. The private sector will definitely be unable to get the economy back on its feet after this crisis. So we need to look elsewhere for economic leadership.

Just as the Second World War “solved” the Great Depression by mobilizing enormous resources in an urgent attempt to meet a huge threat (global fascism), we now need another, peaceful war — a war on poverty, on epidemics and on pollution. And by organizing ourselves as society to fight that war, we will actually make ourselves better off right now: creating jobs and incomes, providing needed care and services, generating taxes. And we will benefit in the long-run by winning those “wars,” and building a safer, sustainable world.

This is the time to develop and advance a progressive vision for a massive, public-led reconstruction agenda. Parts of it already exist, in various forms:

    • The “High-Investment Sustainable Full-Employment Economy” I describe in Chapter 28 of my Economics for Everyone.
    • The various incarnations of the Green New Deal program that have been proposed in various countries.
    • The CCPA’s Alternative Federal Budget.
    • The “Jobs You Can Count On” strategy developed by the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
    • And many more…

Conservatives and the wealthy they serve never let a crisis go to waste. They follow well the advice of Milton Friedman:

“Only a crisis actual or perceived produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.” (Capitalism and Freedom, 1982, p. xiv)

Naomi Klein showed us how the powerful take advantage of crisis to reinforce their power, even when it was their power that caused the crisis. We gotta know they will try to do the same with this crisis: pushing their well-known agenda of austerity, privatization and inequality into still more frightening and authoritarian directions.

So we desperately need our own courageous, ambitious, holistic alternatives. And if we do a good job educating, organizing and mobilizing around that more hopeful and democratic agenda, then it too can become politically inevitable. That’s the silver lining to this very scary moment.

SOURCE

Jim Stanford is economist and director of the Centre for Future Work, and divides his time between Vancouver and Sydney. The article originally appeared on the Progressive Economics Forum

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal: The Canadian Connection

How Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis are helping AOC reboot US politics.

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Echoes of the ‘Leap Manifesto’: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez addresses the Road to the Green New Deal Tour final event at Howard University in Washington, May 13, 2019. Photo by Cliff Owen, AP Photo.

Avi Lewis put the final touches on his script draft, hit send, and waited to find out if he’d be making history with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Lewis is the filmmaker and former CBC host who has collaborated on documentaries with his spouse Naomi Klein, famously the author of global bestsellers No LogoThe Shock Doctrine and This Changes Everything.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — or AOC as her many supporters call her — broke all the rules when she knocked off a powerful, 10-term Democratic member of Congress by running as a “democratic socialist” to win her Bronx and Queens seat.

At age 29, AOC was the big story on election night in November 2018 and still is, thanks to her deft use of social media and her bold policy proposals, notably the Green New Deal, her resolution to transition the American economy off fossil fuels by 2030 and guarantee a green job to anybody who wants one. When Klein proposed she be central to a short film about what could result, Ocasio-Cortez expressed interest.

Not long after Lewis sent off his try at a script, he received a call from AOC.

“One day my phone rang,” Lewis tells The Tyee, “and it was a Facetime with her communications director and I answered it and all of a sudden I was in her office with her.” The final product, released in April, was a video called A Message from the Future, meant to win public support for a Green New Deal.

Though AOC has been in Congress less than a year, her gigantic social media following helps make her one of Washington’s most influential politicians. These days, during any given news cycle, major Democratic contenders for president say that they support her Green New Deal vision in principle. Prominent Republicans scramble to offer their own plans in response. Global temperature rise, for the first time, is a defining issue of a U.S. presidential election primary.

Less known is how Lewis and Klein contributed to this moment, driven by last October’s dire report from the United Nations, which calculates we must roughly halve global emissions by 2030 to preserve any kind of climate resembling normal. “The stakes are incredibly high,” says Lewis.

Fox News is one media outlet to zero in the Canadian connection — albeit with its own torque. Justin Haskins argues in an opinion piece on Fox’s website that “there is strong evidence to suggest that much of the draft text of Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal is merely a revised version of the ‘Leap Manifesto,’ a socialist green-energy plan pushed by far-left environmentalists in Canada.”

Haskins, who is the executive editor and a research fellow at the Heartland Institute, an Illinois-based think tank that questions whether humans are causing climate change, is not totally out to lunch. His piece fails to mention that the term “Green New Deal” was first used by Thomas Friedman in 2007; that the idea of a Second World War-style mobilization to fight climate change was described as early as 2009 by Bolivia’s Angelica Navarro Llanos in a speech to the United Nations; or that the movement for a Green New Deal properly began when young activists with the U.S.-based Sunrise Movement occupied Nancy Pelosi’s office after the 2018 U.S. midterms.

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Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival for the debut of This Changes Everything, an award-winning documentary Lewis adapted from Klein’s bestseller of the same name on how climate change demands a new political economy. Photo by Aaron Vincent Elkaim, Canadian Press. 

But Haskins is correct that several of the Canadian thinkers responsible for the Leap Manifesto, a 2015 plan to completely shift Canada away from fossil fuels by 2050, are now playing pivotal roles in shaping and promoting the U.S. Green New Deal. First and foremost: Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis.

The Canadian power couple have “been pushing far-left environmental policies in the United States for quite some time,” the Fox News contributor wrote in an email to The Tyee. “Although Lewis, Klein, Bill McKibben and others aren’t household names, they are incredibly influential in eco-socialist circles, and it appears that their fame and influence are growing in the United States in the wake of the rise of politicians like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.”

The clearest example of Lewis and Klein’s impact on the U.S. climate debate is A Message from the Future, which quickly went viral. In it, Ocasio-Cortez describes what U.S. society could be like if the ambitions of the Green New Deal were ever fully realized. The idea for the video came out of a conversation last December between Klein and Molly Crabapple, an illustrator, writer and filmmaker.

“The question was: How do we tell the story of something that hasn’t happened yet?” Klein recounted on the Intercept, where she is a columnist. “We realized that the biggest obstacle to the kind of transformative change the Green New Deal envisions is overcoming the skepticism that humanity could ever pull off something at this scale and speed.”

She and Crabapple discussed creating a short film that could “help win the battle for hearts and minds that will determine whether [the Green New Deal] has a fighting chance in the first place.”

Around that time the Intercept ran a widely-read piece by journalist Kate Aronoff describing in vaguely utopian prose the life of a young woman named Gena in the hypothetical Green New Deal world of the year 2043.

“Crabapple and I decided that the film could do something similar to Aronoff’s piece, but this time from Ocasio-Cortez’s vantage point,” Klein wrote. “It would show the world after the Green New Deal she was championing had become a reality.”

The Intercept said it would produce the film. Ocasio-Cortez agreed to narrate. And Lewis was brought on to write the script with AOC. To Lewis it was an exciting and daunting opportunity. “My co-writer was literally one of the most famous people in the political world,” he told The Tyee.

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‘Our plan for a world and a future worth fighting for.’ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks May 13, 2019, at the wind-up town hall event of the Green New Deal tour organized by the Sunrise Movement. Other speakers included presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Naomi Klein. Photo via Shutterstock.

The goal was to have the film done for April, so that it could debut in Boston for the first stop of a U.S. tour promoting the Green New Deal that was being planned by the Sunrise Movement. Taking a cue from Aronoff’s Intercept piece, Lewis focused his first draft mainly on the generous social programs and environmental progress that Americans in the future might see under a Green New Deal. “It was a totally different creative muscle than I’ve ever exercised,” he says.

Lewis sent the draft off to Ocasio-Cortez. Then came the Facetime phone call. She liked the draft but thought it needed work. “‘We have to do not just the vision of the future,’” Lewis recalls her saying. “‘We have to do the past, how we got here, the present, the fork in the road, the deciding point that we’re in now.’”

A few weeks later her communications director texted Lewis a photo — it was a printout of his script with Ocasio-Cortez’s comments in handwriting. “Over the next couple months I got like line-by-line edits from her as photographs,” he said.

The hard work seemed to pay off. “By the time I met her in Washington, D.C., at the Intercept’s studio, it was her words,” Lewis said. “I was really pleased when we recorded the narration. She was able to locate a more internal and reflective tone.”

This was crucial for the narrative of the film, Lewis explained, “because the whole thing really does take place in her head.”

The video debuted on the Intercept on April 17. That morning, Ocasio-Cortez shared A Message from the Future on her Twitter account. “Climate change is here + we’ve got a deadline: 12 years left to cut emissions in half. A #GreenNewDeal is our plan for a world and a future worth fighting for. How did we get here? What is at stake? And where are we going? Please watch & share widely,” she wrote.

The post now has more than 96,000 likes and the video has been viewed 6.7 million times.

With those views came national media coverage. “AOC sends a stark climate message from the future,” reported Mashable. TeenVogue described it as a “powerful video offering a vision of a Green New Deal future.” Outlets like the Washington Post, Fox News, Huffington Post, the Hill and the Washington Examiner offered takes. Slate reached out to futurist Amy Webb to dissect it.

Meanwhile the Sunrise Movement took it on the road during an eight-city tour attempting to make the Green New Deal a top priority in the 2020 election. “At most of the tour stops across the country we were showing the video,” said Stephen O’Hanlon, a Sunrise spokesperson. At the final sold-out tour stop in Washington, D.C., 1,500 people squeezed into the Cramton Auditorium at Howard University.

Among the speakers that night were Ocasio-Cortez, Democratic senator Ed Markey and Bernie Sanders. Klein also spoke. Varshini Prakash, the executive director of the Sunrise Movement, introduced the Canadian author as “a personal hero of mine.”

Klein told the crowd, “We have all been raised in a culture bombarded with messages that there is no alternative to the crappy reality we have today.” She added, “If we’re going to win a Green New Deal we’re going to have to start telling different stories about who we are and about the kinds of futures that are within our grasp.”

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Naomi Klein (seated) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are throwing open the window of expectations people have about what can be done, says Avi Lewis. ‘Of course, turning this stuff into concrete action is the epic work of many lifetimes.’ Photo via Shutterstock. 

For years, right-wing politicians in Canada and their fossil fuel industry backers have been obsessed with the fact that some environmental groups have received a portion of their funding from U.S. sources. Fox news contributor Haskins frets about the “grave threat” that “radical environmentalism” poses “to individual liberty.”

Lewis argues that the true threat to our freedom is an economic system that’s destabilizing the foundation for all life on Earth. “I think we’re all carrying a huge amount of climate grief and fear about what we know we’re doing to our only home.”

Some viewers of A Message from the Future told Lewis they cried while watching the video. “It’s just so interesting psychologically and such an important clue for activists that hearing more bad news and watching walruses hurl themselves off cliffs on Netflix — that somehow doesn’t move us the same way as letting ourselves actually having a brief flicker of hope that we could do something about it,” he says. “That seems to open the floodgates of our repressed grief and emotion.”

Lewis marvels at the speed of the political changes he’s witnessed and participated in over the past several months. The Overton window is the name given to the range of views taken seriously in public discussion. When it comes to climate change solutions, Lewis says, “I’ve been thinking that the Overton window hasn’t been cracked open, it’s been knocked off its freaking hinges, in terms of permissible political speech.” He pauses and adds, “Of course, turning this stuff into concrete action is the epic work of many lifetimes.”

We don’t have lifetimes. If we’re not able to achieve the unprecedented emissions cuts called for by the United Nations, we could be locking ourselves into global catastrophe — the implications of failing are unthinkable. You don’t have to tell Avi Lewis. “It’s got to happen,” he says, “in 10 years.”  SOURCE

Public money for environmental justice

We’ll never fund a transformative Green New Deal with money designed for capitalism

Fearless Girl statue, facing the Wall Street bull. Image: Alex Proimos CC BY-NC
The Green New Deal is perhaps the most audacious plan to ever seriously address the grave social and environmental challenges we face. By identifying “systemic injustice,” the plan is sweeping in its scope. Yet, while the plan discusses public banks in a reference to adequate capital, the plan fails to see the commercial banking sector as one of the structural causes of, and impediments to solving, the problems we face. Importantly, the Green New Deal fails to articulate exactly why a nationalized banking system is critical to the success of the programs its proposes.

Money is created in modern economies when commercial banks extend interest-bearing loans to individuals and corporations. The money in those loans does not exist before the loan is generated but is created when the bank marks up the borrower’s checking account. This is in stark contrast to the general notion that money is a finite resource, such as gold, that is allocated to its best economic use by the Central Bank.

When money is created by the private sector in the manner discussed above, it is seen as a private resource. Accordingly, public use of money for government spending is viewed as wasteful expenditure rather than productive investment. In the case of the Green New Deal, the massive price tag is seen as cannibalizing the productive private sector. It is for this reason that opponents of the Green New Deal argue that it will hurt the economy, and its proponents argue to “finance” the plan by moving money from one sector to another, e.g. from Wall Street to Main Street.

Money is a social relation. It is an abstract measure of what we all owe to one another.

Money, however, is not a private resource. And it is not a finite commodity. Money is a social relation. It is an abstract measure of what we all owe to one another. Think of it as a tally of everything you owe and are owed, for all the work you do and all the purchases you make. Now extrapolate that to the whole country, let the government manage it—just like it does with laws and other contracts—and you’ve got a monetary system!

The role of the government is crucial in managing the money system. Since money is a social relation, the government is responsible for the money system. Think of what happened in the Great Depression, the Savings and Loan crisis, and the 2008 Financial Crisis: the government always stepped in to repair the money system. And as guarantor of the social relation, it always will.

Monetary theorists understand the government’s monetary prerogative in three ways. First is the government’s ability to choose the unit of account that is used in the country—dollars in the United States and Canada. Second is the government’s ability to issue those units of account into circulation. Third is the benefit of first use that comes with issuing money. This last right is called seigniorage and can be thought of as the profit of creating money above the cost of printing and distributing that money.

Money has existed as a state-managed tally of owing and being owed (of credits and debts in theoretical parlance) for thousands of years. In fact, a lot of evidence suggests that such monetary systems existed for thousands of years before coins and markets—and might even be the reason humans began to settle in the first place! (See Money: The Unauthorized Biography.) Capitalism is a relatively new manner of social organization and is characterized by a transition from state-created money to bank-created money.

Think about that for a moment. Capitalism is about bank-created money! For thousands of years, the state, for better or worse, controlled three monetary prerogatives discussed above. The state created money by spending it into existence and guaranteed its value by levying taxes in the unit of account in which it spent. Beginning around the twelfth century, however, states began to expand beyond what their power to tax could justify and so they asked private merchants for loans. (See Brown 2013, p.111, and Davies 2002, p.261.) Slowly but surely, states lost the majority of their power to create money and the seigniorage benefit that came with that creation. States only kept the power to determine the unit of account. But with that power came the responsibility to manage the stability of the unit of account.

There has been precious little discussion on ending or reigning in the commercial banking industry’s money-creation power.

It is this strange conflict of interest with which this paper is most concerned. The state is forced to ensure a stable dollar, but it isn’t able to determine how—or for what—dollars enter society. So while much of the discussion surrounding the Green New Deal concerns ending or reigning in capitalism, there has been precious little discussion on ending or reigning in the commercial banking industry’s money-creation power.

While capitalism is often thought of as the private accumulation of surplus, the manner in which that accumulation is enabled is often ignored. Commercially created money means that production surpluses remain within the private sector. Were the state to take back the power to create money, and the seigniorage benefit that comes with such creation, it would severely limit the extent to which the private sector could accumulate surplus. In fact, nationalizing money creation would align the right of the state to create money with the responsibility it bears to manage money’s stability.

Perhaps most importantly, by regaining the monetary prerogative, the state could influence the direction of the economy by spending and lending money into existence in accordance with its goals. In the case of the Green New Deal, these goals would be social justice and environmental sustainability. This would mean that the tenets of the Green New Deal—from healthcare and education to healthy food and sustainable energy—would become structural components of a just and sustainable economy and not simply regulatory mechanisms of an extractive capitalism.

The Green New Deal, as currently written, is an end-of-pipe regulatory framework that relies upon taxing bank-created money to finance social and environmental spending.

This is a huge difference! By avoiding a discussion of a nationalized money supply, the Green New Deal, as currently written, is an end-of-pipe regulatory framework that relies upon taxing bank-created money to finance social and environmental spending. A nationalized money supply would transform government spending into the monetary creation mechanism and embed justice and sustainability as hallmarks of how we manage our national economy.

SOURCE

 

Over 55 Climate Scientists Call BS on Joe Biden’s Claim No Scientists Support Bernie Sanders’ Climate Plan

Former Vice President Joe Biden, left, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, right, at a January 2020 presidential primary debate in Des Moines, Iowa.

Over 55 scientists have signed an open letter rebuking Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden’s claim that the climate plan rival contender Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders supports, the Green New Deal, isn’t supported by anyone in the scientific field.

Sanders has proposed spending $16.3 trillion through 2030 to radically reshape the U.S. economy, including $2.37 trillion to renewable energy and storage, over $2 trillion in grants for low- and middle-income families as well as small businesses to buy electric vehicles, and $964 billion in grants for those groups to electrify gas and propane heating systems. His plan also calls for $526 billion on a smart electric grid and hundreds of billions on replacing diesel trucks and buses and new mass transit and high-speed rail lines.

Biden’s plan, while still more sweeping than any prior federal effort to address climate change, calls for $1.7 trillion in new spending and only arrived after immense pressure from environmentalists to detail a concrete approach. Biden has also called for ending fossil fuel subsidies across the G20, a stark departure from his tenure in the Obama administration, when domestic crude oil production skyrocketed by 77 percent. It’s far from nothing, but that hasn’t blunted criticism that it’s not as ambitious as it claims to be on the tin.

But the vice president is insisting that doing more isn’t realistic. Last week, Biden attacked Sanders’ plantelling reporters in New Hampshire that “there’s not a single solitary scientist that thinks it can work,” adding that he doesn’t think zero emissions by 2030 wasn’t possible (note that Sanders’ plan actually calls for 71 percent cut in domestic emissions by that date). 57 scientists from universities and research institutes responded to Biden’s comments in an open letter in support of Sanders released Tuesday.

…“The top scientific body on climate change, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), tells us we must act immediately to bring the world together to stop the catastrophic impacts of climate change,” the scientists wrote. “The Green New Deal you are proposing is not only possible, but it must be done if we want to save the planet for ourselves, our children, grandchildren, and future generations.”

“Not only does your Green New Deal follow the IPCC’s timeline for action, but the solutions you are proposing to solve our climate crisis are realistic, necessary, and backed by science,” they added. “We must protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the planet we call home.”

Several of the signatories told Earther that Sanders’ plan recognizes that the U.S. is running out of time to cut emissions and adapt to a changing climate, which will require a massive amount of resources. They also emphasized that continuing to operate in a business-as-usual fashion (which could put the Earth on path to a 3 degrees Celsius rise in global average temperatures or more by the year 2100, far more than the Paris Agreement targets) would have dire consequences. MORE

 

Why overlooked green energy sector is an economic powerhouse: Don Pittis

As politicians declare themselves open for business, they may have a blind spot

Workers build zero emission school buses at Lion Electric in Saint-Jérôme, Quebec. The sector is fragmented but is growing and creating jobs faster that the rest of the economy. (Lion Electric Co.)

As Alberta’s new government considers how to boost its traditional fossil fuel economy, research released today claims politicians and other Canadians have a blind spot when it comes to the job-creating power of green business.

The report declares that while Canadians obsess about pipelines and shrinking employment in coal, oil and gas, they and their leaders have been ignoring a sector that is outgrowing the rest of the economy, attracting billions of dollars in investment and creating more jobs than either the fossil fuel or mining sectors.

This isn’t the effects of some fancy Green New Deal. Instead, the report, called Missing the Bigger Picture consists of a relatively prosaic tabulation of the growing contribution of clean energy to the existing Canadian economy.

It estimates the clean energy industry accounts for about three per cent of Canada’s GDP, more than agriculture and forestry or the hotel and restaurant industry, and employed 298,000 people in 2017.

“It’s the most comprehensive look at Canada’s clean energy sector that’s been done to date, so it looks at the number of Canadians that are employed in this sector and the economic contribution the sector provides,” said Joanna Kyriazis, with Clean Energy Canada, a non-profit think-tank based at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

What it finds is revealing. As well as being big and growing, attracting more than $35 billion in investment in 2017, the clean energy business sector is invisible to most Canadians and not even classified in most statistics as a sector at all.

Today’s report is compiled from data assembled by Navius Research, a Vancouver-based business that has a reputation for collecting reliable data to guide companies exploring developments in the green sector. In any business, fudged data is a recipe for ruin, and the environmental sector is no exception.

An electric tram arrives in Toronto by rail from Thunder Bay, a component of the job-creating clean energy sector that many might overlook. (Don Pittis/CBC)

Part of what Navius has done is to try to create strict rational criteria for what to include in its assessment of the clean energy economy, exclusively targeting firms where the primary business was clean energy, whether in energy production or in improving energy efficiency.

As the executive director of Clean Energy Canada, Merran Smith says in her introduction to the report, “Put simply, it’s made up of companies and jobs that help to reduce carbon pollution — whether by creating clean energy, helping move it, reducing energy consumption, or making low-carbon technologies.”

Whereas fossil fuel energy data has been accumulated for more than a century, and is clearly identified in government and market statistics, companies contributing to the green energy economy have never been classified as a group. As such, what’s in the category, such as traditional hydroelectric production or power storage or public transit alternatives to cars, or what’s out, may yet be disputed.

Blinkered view

That will work itself out over time, but the concern of Smith and her group, and the reason for assembling today’s report, is the blinkered view of many Canadians that the energy industry and the economy are somehow in conflict with green principles.

Instead, as long predicted by advocates of the green economy, businesses that may initially have been motivated by regulation have begun to find new market-based incentives as the world seeks low-carbon alternatives.

“Instead of being in the compliance part of a company’s brain, all of a sudden it becomes part of the profit part of a company’s brain,” Stewart Elgie, professor of law and economics at the University of Ottawa, told me in a 2015 interview on the future of the business-led green economy.

This has certainly happened as demand in the global green power sector, from components of electric cars to tools and techniques for energy efficiency, reach critical mass.

Economic research has shown that making the world more energy efficient is exactly what successful businesses have done throughout history, because energy is a cost, and cutting costs is what thriving businesses do.

An electric vehicle charging station at the Canadian International Auto Show. As the green energy sector grows it reaches a critical mass of economic activity. (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

“The clean energy sector isn’t just about fighting climate change — it’s also about using Canadian innovation to create better and cheaper solutions for everyday life,” said Smith.

If current trends continue, the Navius research says that the effect of the green energy sector will become harder to miss in the economy. Studying the period from 2010 to 2017, not only did the sector outgrow the entire economy by more than one full percentage point, but jobs in that component of the economy increased by 2.2 per cent a year, compared to an annual increase of 1.4 per cent in jobs overall.

Part of the reason why the clean energy sector is not visible is because we think of it under different categories such as public transit or hydroelectric generation. But a second reason is that as a sector, clean energy is fractured into smaller players. It is unlike the fossil fuel industry, which is backed by decades of lobbying success and established connections to political elites.

The clean energy category has no giant business voice or industry group to represent it. Even the firms defined in this report as being clean energy businesses may not see themselves as part of this sector. Perhaps the report will help change that, and will help them get the economic respect they deserve.

Kyriazis says she hopes today’s report will make people more optimistic. Usually when we hear about energy in the media, it is bad news such as a lack of pipelines, falling prices, shrinking jobs or gloom over the effects of climate change, she says.

“The clean energy sector, here, it’s obviously a big success story that is not making the headlines,” she said. SOURCE

James Hansen: No Time for Despair

We have no time for despair.  Nor is there good reason to despair.  Yes, as I noted recently the Wheels of Justice turn slowly.  But they can be turned, and we will achieve justice soonest if we are smart and have a realistic view of the world.

“Shell’s Crude Awakening” in the 27 January issue of Time provides reasons for optimism, as well as need for continued resolve and hard work.  Shell is beginning to bend under the pressure of the Dutch public, but additional pressure is needed before it will be transformed into an energy company that will be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

As Dan Galpern, my legal adviser, and I argued at the recent COP25 meeting in Madrid, it is important to use lawsuits to ratchet up the pressure on the fossil fuel industry.

Roger Cox, pictured on the right above, deserves accolades for his success in the Urgenda (Urgent Agenda) case in the Netherlands and continued pressure on Shell.  Upon returning from a trip to the Netherlands in 2012 to help launch that case, I was irritated (Galileo and the Fireflies) by Roger’s decision to base Urgenda’s challenge to federal policy on the 2°C IPCC ‘guardrail’ target for limiting global warming.  It turns out he was right: the international target assured that even conservative Dutch scientists supported him.  Seven years later, Urgenda won their historic case, requiring the Dutch government to phase down emissions faster.  As wheels of justice go, that was pretty fast.

The other historic case, by Our Children’s Trust against the U.S. federal government, suffered a setback last week when a federal appeals court voted 2-1 to dismiss the case.  That is not the end of the story, though.  As Joe Robertson points out, the opinion of the two majority judges is logically incoherent: the Court exists to redress grievances protected by the Constitution, yet they conclude they are not empowered to do so.  The more reasoned opinion of dissenting Judge Staton includes “…plaintiffs’ claims adhere to a judicially administrable standard.  And considering plaintiffs seek no less than to forestall the Nation’s demise, even a partial and temporary reprieve would constitute meaningful redress.”

Our requested redress no doubt flummoxed the majority judges.  However, as both a Plaintiff and Expert Witness in the case, I note that our “ask” is based on science that the Defendants will not be able to refute: a plan is needed to reduce atmospheric CO2 to some value south of 350 ppm, if we are to avoid unacceptable consequences such as eventual loss of coastal cities.

Thanks to the slow pace of the wheels of justice, we can no longer achieve that CO2 target in an acceptable period solely by reducing the rate of fossil fuel emissions.  But that is no reason to despair.  And we should not be frightening vulnerable young people with gloom and doom pronouncements.  The problem can still be solved.  Our planet has a bright future.

The ridiculous climate statement – even from politicians – goes something like: “we have 10 years, 7 months, x days until the carbon budget is used up and we are doomed!”  IPCC should be censured for initiating that nonsense, and wrongly frightening young people.  We are already in carbon overshoot, but that does not mean that the problem is unsolvable.

Instead of despair, we should celebrate how far we have come.

I was stunned to hear U.S. Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg precisely describe Carbon Fee & Dividend as the central pillar of his plan to address climate change.  Underlying economic forces unleashed by a rising carbon fee will do more to move us to a clean energy future than all the laws and regulations that can be imagined.  The public would accept a rising carbon fee/tax, if and only if 100% of the money is distributed to the public so as also to address wealth disparity.

That is not enough, however.  The fossil fuel industry, if we allow them to get away with it, will build an infrastructure that locks young people into a future of gas + renewables – and increasing climate change.  The fossil fuel industry is spending large amounts of money campaigning against nuclear power, for the purpose of locking in gas + renewables.

Massive amounts of power will be needed for drawing down atmospheric CO2, for producing liquid fuels, and for desalinization, as well as for an electricity-dominant energy system.  Young people will get fracked and gassed, if there is no viable alternative for baseload electric power.

Andrew Yang is the one candidate in Iowa who seems to have the most complete understanding of the energy and climate story.  Yang, of all the candidates, gave the shortest, best answer to the Des Moines Register question about their climate policy: Carbon Fee & Dividend.

In addition, with Cory Booker’s withdrawal, Yang is the one remaining candidate with an understanding of the crucial role of United States leadership in nuclear technology.  That technologic leadership, and our young people’s future, depend upon investment and support from the government comparable to the support that brought down the cost of solar energy.

Yang’s party, unfortunately, has a history of hostility toward nuclear power, our largest source of carbon-free energy, with smallest environmental footprint, as discussed in Fire on Planet Earth.  Some candidates espouse a ‘Green New Deal,’ characterized by limited understanding of the energy/climate problem, but by an $XX trillion price tag.  One thing is assured: if they get the nomination, they will lose the election.

Yes, I know, young people are afraid of hurting their Boomer hippie grandparents’ feelings.  Of course, they meant well when they paraded against nuclear power.  It was identified as the next villain, after the Viet Nam war ended.  But what is more important: their feelings or your future?

As with Obama, it is said that Yang has no chance.  But a message can be sent to the other 49 states: we all had best take a closer look at this guy, for the sake of the future of young people. SOURCE

Activist Naomi Klein Tells Women’s March Crowd That Climate Change Is a Women’s Issue

“All of these issues are interrelated.”

naomi klein giving speech

Getty Images

The fourth annual Women’s March happened on Saturday, and around the globe, people came together to advocate for change across critical social justice issues. Some of the principles the official Women’s March lists in its mission include civil rights, immigrants’ rights, workers’ rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, environmental justice, and more. These issues are not separate — they are all intertwined, and many believe we need to take an intersectional approach to the development and implementation of solutions. Canadian author, filmmaker, and activist Naomi Klein is one such believer.

Before introducing senator and presidential nominee Bernie Sanders to the crowd at the Portsmouth, New Hampshire Women’s March, Klein took the stage and spoke about why climate change — and many of the natural disasters occurring as a result — is a feminist issue.

“We have seen in the aftermath of all of the disasters that I’ve mentioned, that rates of domestic violence increase — that femicide, the killing of women increases — so of course, all of these issues are interrelated,” she said. She continued, saying that we need to recognize the work that many women do in these situations. “The other thing that we see is that women on the ground in these disaster zones are actually first responders. That it is nurses who are saving lives, that it is home care workers and teachers who are saving lives, saving the lives of the people they care for, of the kids that they teach in their schools.” Thus, Klein believes that when we’re talking about climate change as a women’s issue, other issues like militarism and workers’ rights need to be considered, as well.

“That’s why it is so exciting that we are finally talking about a truly transformational approach to crisis. And that is what the green new deal represents,” she continued. “It is, of course, a jobs plan. It is, of course, a climate plan. But I also see it as a profoundly feminist project, especially if we do it right the way the senator is proposing, especially if we link it with Medicare for All, right? Especially if we link it with universal childcare.” Klein went on to say that jobs like taking care of children and the elderly are often the most undervalued jobs in our culture because they’re considered “women’s work,” but in reality, they require highly valuable skills.

“We need way more of these jobs, and we need to make sure that they’re well-paying jobs, that they’re unionized jobs, and that we value women’s work,” she said, before introducing Sanders.

While introducing him to a cheering crowd, she said, “Bernie Sanders has been standing with women and defending women’s rights for decades. He has been unwavering in his support for our right to control our bodies.” Sanders then took the stage and spoke about issues such as universal healthcare, raising the minimum wage, abortion rights, and student debt.

He closed his speech by saying, “The men have got to stand with the women. We are in this together…all women and men, gay and straight, black and white and Latino. We are in this together not only to defeat Trump, but to create the kind of nation that you and I know we can become.”

You can watch both of their speeches here.

SOURCE

Critics Say the Green New Deal Is Too Costly. Here’s the Cost of the Status Quo.

Taxpayers are spending billions subsidizing polluting industries.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) at a press conference introducing a resolution calling for a Green New Deal, February 7, 2019. Source: Senate Democrats


Cows. Source: Pexels

Beef and Dairy

There’s enough excess cheese in the US to wrap around the Capitol building. Source: Pixabay
An airport. Source: Pixabay

Air Travel

Airplanes are a significant source of carbon pollution. Source: Pixabay 

The coal gasification plant in Kemper, Missouri. Source: XTUV0010

Coal Power

Coal. Source: Pixabay

The 2014 People’s Climate March in NYC. Source: South Bend Voice

 

Australia Shows Us the Road to Hell

The political reaction is scarier than the fires.

Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

In a rational world, the burning of Australia would be a historical turning point. After all, it’s exactly the kind of catastrophe climate scientists long warned us to expect if we didn’t take action to limit greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, a 2008 report commissioned by the Australian government predicted that global warming would cause the nation’s fire seasons to begin earlier, end later, and be more intense — starting around 2020.

Furthermore, though it may seem callous to say it, this disaster is unusually photogenic. You don’t need to pore over charts and statistical tables; this is a horror story told by walls of fire and terrified refugees huddled on beaches.

So this should be the moment when governments finally began urgent efforts to stave off climate catastrophe.

But the world isn’t rational. In fact, Australia’s anti-environmentalist government seems utterly unmoved as the nightmares of environmentalists become reality. And the anti-environmentalist media, the Murdoch empire in particular, has gone all-out on disinformation, trying to place the blame on arsonists and “greenies” who won’t let fire services get rid of enough trees.

These political reactions are more terrifying than the fires themselves.
Climate optimists have always hoped for a broad consensus in favor of measures to save the planet. The trouble with getting action on climate, the story went, was that it was hard to get people’s attention: The issue was complex, while the damage was too gradual and too invisible. In addition, the big dangers lay too far in the future. But surely once enough people had been informed about the dangers, once the evidence for global warming became sufficiently overwhelming, climate action would cease to be a partisan issue.

The climate crisis, in other words, would eventually become the moral equivalent of war — an emergency transcending the usual political divides.

But if a nation in flames isn’t enough to produce a consensus for action — if it isn’t even enough to produce some moderation in the anti-environmentalist position — what will? The Australia experience suggests that climate denial will persist come hell or high water — that is, through devastating heat waves and catastrophic storm surges alike.

Buildings on the main street of Mogo, Australia, destroyed by fire.
Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

You might be tempted to dismiss Australia as a special case, but the same deepening partisan division has long been underway in the United States. As late as the 1990s, Democrats and Republicans were almost equally likely to say that the effects of global warming had already begun. Since then, however, partisan views have diverged, with Democrats increasingly likely to see climate change happening (as indeed it is), while Republicans increasingly see and hear no climate evil.

Does this divergence reflect changing party composition? After all, highly educated voters have been moving toward the Democrats, less-educated voters toward the Republicans. So is it a matter of how well informed each party’s base is?

Probably not. There’s substantial evidence that conservatives who are highly educated and well informed about politics are more likely than other conservatives to say things that aren’t true, probably because they are more likely to know what the conservative political elite wants them to believe. In particular, conservatives with high scientific literacy and numeracy are especially likely to be climate deniers.

But if climate denial and opposition to action are immovable even in the face of obvious catastrophe, what hope is there for avoiding the apocalypse? Let’s be honest with ourselves: Things are looking pretty grim. However, giving up is not an option. What’s the path forward?

The answer, pretty clearly, is that scientific persuasion is running into sharply diminishing returns. Very few of the people still denying the reality of climate change or at least opposing doing anything about it will be moved by further accumulation of evidence, or even by a proliferation of new disasters. Any action that does take place will have to do so in the face of intractable right-wing opposition.

This means, in turn, that climate action will have to offer immediate benefits to large numbers of voters, because policies that seem to require widespread sacrifice — such as policies that rely mainly on carbon taxes — would be viable only with the kind of political consensus we clearly aren’t going to get.

What might an effective political strategy look like? I’ve been rereading a 2014 speech by the eminent political scientist Robert Keohane, who suggested that one way to get past the political impasse on climate might be via “an emphasis on huge infrastructural projects that created jobs” — in other words, a Green New Deal. Such a strategy could give birth to a “large climate-industrial complex,” which would actually be a good thing in terms of political sustainability.

Can such a strategy succeed? I don’t know. But it looks like our only chance given the political reality in Australia, America, and elsewhere — namely, that powerful forces on the right are determined to keep us barreling down the road to hell. SOURCE