by Judith Curry
Naomi Klein explains how environmentalists may be more damaging to their cause than climate change deniers.
Salon has a provocative post Naomi Klein: Green groups more damaging to cause than climate change deniers. Naomi Klein is author of two books: No Logo and The Shock Doctrine. She is currently working on a new book about climate change. Excerpts from the Salon article, which is from an interview by Jason Mark at the Earth Journal:
Well, I think there is a very deep denialism in the environmental movement among the Big Green groups. And to be very honest with you, I think it’s been more damaging than the right-wing denialism in terms of how much ground we’ve lost. Because it has steered us in directions that have yielded very poor results. I think if we look at the track record of Kyoto, of the UN Clean Development Mechanism, the European Union’s emissions trading scheme – we now have close to a decade that we can measure these schemes against, and it’s disastrous. Not only are emissions up, but you have no end of scams to point to, which gives fodder to the right. The right took on cap-and-trade by saying it’s going to bankrupt us, it’s handouts to corporations, and, by the way, it’s not going to work. And they were right on all counts. Not in the bankrupting part, but they were right that this was a massive corporate giveaway, and they were right that it wasn’t going to bring us anywhere near what scientists were saying we needed to do lower emissions. So I think it’s a really important question why the green groups have been so unwilling to follow science to its logical conclusions.
And I think where that really came to a head was over fracking. The head offices of the Sierra Club and the NRDC and the EDF all decided this was a “bridge fuel.” We’ve done the math and we’re going to come out in favor of this thing. And then they faced big pushbacks from their membership, most of all at the Sierra Club. And they all had to modify their position somewhat. It was the grassroots going, “Wait a minute, what kind of environmentalism is it that isn’t concerned about water, that isn’t concerned about industrialization of rural landscapes – what has environmentalism become?” And so we see this grassroots, place-based resistance in the movements against the Keystone XL pipeline and the Northern Gateway pipeline, the huge anti-fracking movement. And they are the ones winning victories, right?
I think the Big Green groups are becoming deeply irrelevant. Some get a lot of money from corporations and rich donors and foundations, but their whole model is in crisis.
I should say I’m representing my own views. I see some big changes as well. I think the Sierra Club has gone through its own reformation. They are on the front line of these struggles now. I think a lot of these groups are having to listen to their members. And some of them will just refuse to change because they’re just too entrenched in the partnership model, they’ve got too many conflicts of interest at this stage. Those are the groups that are really going to suffer. And I think it’s OK.
JC comments: I find Klein’s statements to be very insightful, particularly given the context that she seems sympathetic to the broader green goals. The big insight for me is the growing importance of local efforts, whereby individuals in a particular locale work to secure the quality of their local environment. The success of these local initiatives brings to mind the following book, of which I am a big fan:
This book provides a perspective on the failure of international and national policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the need to open the established climate change regime to additional approaches to science, policy, and decision making. In contrast to the scientific management approach (e.g. UNFCC emissions targets), adaptive governance is a bottom-up approach with a focus that is more local/regional and is focused advancing the common interests on contested issues. I read this book twice, taking notes the second time around. This book has definitely changed the way I look at the policy challenge. Brunner’s ppt presentation on this is here.
I also find the conflict between ‘management’ of the big green groups versus the rank and file members. ‘Pure environmentalism’ seems to be a very big enemy of actually making progress on reducing CO2 emissions through its opposition to nuclear energy, tracking, and even through its opposition to a short term focus on methane and soot.
In the midst of all this, big green remains focused on ‘science denial’. Amazing.