Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sirens for New York

Just in time for the UN Global Climate Summit in New York two big beasts in the climate debate have addressed the media. Nicolas Stern is a leading voice of a new report and Naomi Klein has a new book out. Both have been featured in the Guardian by journalists largely sympathetic to them. Fiona Harvey covered Stern, Suzanne Goldenberg Naomi Klein.

Frist of all, what is the summit about? The official website tells us that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked world leaders 'to bring bold announcements and actions to the Summit that will reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015. Climate Summit 2014 provides a unique opportunity for leaders to champion an ambitious vision, anchored in action that will enable a meaningful global agreement in 2015.'

So the emphasis is on vision and bold statements, with the commensurate action to be expected at next year's meeting in Paris.

Looking at the contributions from Stern and Klein they certainly tick these boxes. But there is a noticeable difference which is interesting.

Harvey quotes Stern as saying "Reducing emissions is not only compatible with economic growth and development – if done well it can actually generate better growth than the old high-carbon model". Stern repeats his earlier argument that GHG mitigation costs less than adaptation. The story line is the same with regard to the earlier report which preceded the Copenhagen Summit in 2009 -- that the world has little time to act. However, we still have 10 to 15 years to do this, as we were told 5 years ago. So there is hope: 'The world can still act in time to stave off the worst effects of climate change, and enjoy the fruits of continued economic growth as long as the global economy can be transformed within the next 15 years.'

As before, the remedy offered is a high carbon price to alter the incentive structure in favour of renewable energy (see here why this is wrong, p.32-33). The thinking still seems to be that the required technologies are available to achieve the needed energy revolution. (The report also examines the role and function of cities with regard to climate policies, which is an interesting aspect to which I will return in a later post).

Stern still holds on to the dramatic scenario 'We have just enough time to do it' arguably because recent developments in the renewable energy sector have been positive. The language used is interesting. In comment box next to Harvey's article, Stern writes with Angel Gurria, secretary general of the OECD:

'In energy, we are on the verge of a revolution. The price of solar and wind power has fallen so far that in places as diverse as Brazil, South Africa and Chile, renewable energy can now compete with fossil fuels without requiring subsidies. At the same time, coal has become more costly and less secure...  It is now likely that renewable energy could make up half of all new electricity generation over the period to 2030 – unthinkable just a few years ago.'

There is a lot if wishful thinking in this. Even if solar and wind energy become cheaper and more widespread they need backup, which under current technological arrangements will come from fossil power plants. Unless energy storage technology becomes available, for every GW of renewables you need a GW of fossil energy. The price of coal has dropped, arguably as a result of the shale gas revolution in the US, making it the cheapest source of energy in many countries around the world. And the last sentence ('It is now likely that renewable energy could make up half of all new electricity generation') has two conditional clauses which make for a very weak statement. The language used betrays that the bold statements invited for the New York Summit will be tested against the possibilities offered by reality.

Finally, it is somewhat dishonest when Harvey uses this euphemism to describe the original Stern Review and the Copenhagen Summit: 'That report marked a revolution in thinking on global warming, and was a major factor in the agreements forged in Copenhagen in 2009 by which developed and major developing countries for the first time set out joint measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.' I thought everyone was agreed that Copenhagen was a dismal failure.

Without mentioning Stern, Naomi Klein seems to open a different line of argument in her new book and in the interview with Suzanne Goldenberg.

'Go to the UN climate summit in a couple of weeks and it’s all going to be the new green economy and the head of Bank of America sitting down with the president of Mexico – and we are all going to do it together... That is a dangerous idea at this stage of history. We now have two decades to measure that model. We are not talking about a theory here, we are talking about a track record. I think it’s fair to say: ‘OK, we tried it your way and we don’t have another decade to waste.”

By 'your way' she implies the logic of international negotiations and the promises by big business to implement voluntary regulation (Richard Branson in particular attracts her ire). However, she throws the baby out with the bathwater; being skeptical about the enlightened self interest of capitalists does not mean that there can be no reform within the current system. But she seems to be tied to this fundamental premise, that capitalism is the root cause of climate change and that we must get rid of the former in order to solve the latter. What she has to offer is hope in a radical opposition movement, 'scattered groups of climate organisers, grassroots and indigenous people’s groups that have been ready to take on corporate power in a way that Big Green is not'.

Her critical view of established green groups puzzles the Guardian journalist. Goldenberg says:

'She goes so far as to lump centrist environmental leaders together with groups such as the Heartland Institute, which denies the existence of climate change. “Between the Heartlanders who recognise that climate change is a profound threat to our economic and social systems and therefore deny its scientific reality, and those who claim climate change requires only minor tweaks to business-as-usual and therefore allow themselves to believe in its reality, it’s not clear who is more deluded,” Klein writes in the book.'

From different ends of the political spectrum, Klein and the Heartlanders assume that climate change could threaten the existing capitalist system, with the difference that she wants to abolish it.

While Klein emphasises the size of the challenge she has nothing to offer in terms of pragmatic politics. Stern plays down the size of the challenge, but exhorts leaders to reach a strong international treaty resting on a high and rising carbon price. Two different voices from climate celebrities sharing an alarmist conviction, but both deeply flawed.


Anonymous said...

Nicholas Stern

Karl Kuhn said...

Die Zeit feiert Stern ('Glaub's endlich!'):

Ben Pile nimmt ihn detailliert auseinander:

Anonymous said...

As usual the question is: What exactly is the point of this post? Finding an excuse to call people 'alarmists'?

Anonymous said...

Placing links to the deservedly ignored "Hartwell Paper"?

Anonymous said...

The interesting point is about Naomi Klein kicking the climate dog and meaning the capitalist master, to translate the Sack and Esel metaphor in German. I guess as well that the strong European support for decarbonization is less based on scientific evidence (any European savings are being offset by the BRIC states) but has a technology vision and industry policy approach behind it, which however has failed to carry on. Btw. Nobody mentioned the hartwell paper and I doubt its deservedly ignored ;)

As RG has put it, fracking is a global game changer - the old fossil fuel joke about "Ölkonstante" (petroleum ressources always were predicted as being exhausted in the upcoming 30 years for any given present since 1865) gained the upper hand about any peak fossil doom.

I personally assume that large scale industrial fracking will be introduced with a significant delay, just when its technically ripe and feasible in densely populated areas as in Europe - similar to the introduction of LWR nuclear power technology by Heinrich Mandel as being described by Joachim Radkau.

Glückauf Serten

Anonymous said...

There is a lot if wishful thinking in this. Even if solar and wind energy become cheaper and more widespread they need backup, which under current technological arrangements will come from fossil power plants.
This is exactly the point!
All (without exceptions) energy and utility european companies issued a statetement some time ago basically saying that "We have now enough to loose money on keeping classical power plants in stand by as back up for unreliable solar and wind power. If we don't receive an indemnisation or if the renewable policies don't change, we will start to decommission them."
The difference between these people and Stern is that the former know what they are talking about (and back it with their money !) while the latter has not a clue.
As an incident thought, I am unhappy that Scotland didn't vote for independence.
As the independent had for program to cover 100% of Scotland's energy needs with wind and solar (sic!), I hoped that they implement this program and we'd at last have an example about what happens when somebody really goes beyond the natural and often reasonable 5%-15%.

Sure I am compassionate with the Scots but it's about time that somebody really got whet they are asking for.

Anonymous said...

Now the hype about the scots referendum is an interesting example in several aspects. First its showing what ordinary people seem to really care for - and climate change is an elitist project and very low on the list - and second one of the major points pro independence was the then possible use of the British Oil revenues. You cannot eat the cake and have it, repectively on might claim so, in the political realm but will fail in the real world where rainy day energy neeeds are provided by carbon fuels, fossil and biomass and not much else.


@ReinerGrundmann said...

Nico Stehr has a book review of Naomi Klein ££in Nature££

@ReinerGrundmann said...

From Stehr's review:

'In arguing that the “fundamentalist”
changes to the structure of capitalism have
stymied such a transformation, Klein overstates
the case, however. Although privatization
and deregulation triumphed in the
1980s in the United States and the United
Kingdom, they did not in significant parts
of the rest of the world, as she claims. And
whether the US economic order exemplifies
a secular trend towards global dominance
remains an open issue. The conditions
for change could be more favourable than
Klein thinks, especially when it comes to
the removal of ideological roadblocks to
improving the ethics of markets on the basis
of moral rather than mere monetary motives
of production and consumption.'

@ReinerGrundmann said...

Richard Tol has a review of Stern at The Conversation, here's an excerpt:

'“A strong … international agreement is essential,” the Stern report says, calling for an international treaty with legally binding targets. Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Since 1995, the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change have met year-after-year to try and agree on legally binding targets – and they have failed every time.

The reasons are simple. It is better if others reduce their emissions but you do not. No country likes to be bound by UN rules for its industrial, agricultural and transport policies. The international climate negotiations have been successful in creating new bureaucracies, but not in cutting emissions.

Stern also argues that “[d]eveloped countries will need to show leadership.” The EU has led international climate policy for two decades, but without winning any followers. The broken record that is Stern 2.0 is unlikely to inspire enthusiasm for more expensive energy.'

Anonymous said...

I believes Klein rethoric sounds more radical as the changes or goals she actually stands for.

She asks for a better use of the "commons", "Allmendes" and functioning local community structures. Some American fear or in case of Klein hope communism will start with minor cooperative / communitarian structures, which are completely normal or even oldfashioned for continental Europeans or, worse, southern Germans and Swiss.

I currently face some resistance against updating the "tragedy of the commons]] article with sources from first Joachim Radkau and AT Grove and Elinor Ostrom) but they are being deemed all out of Bielefeld and this non-existant nor relevant.

Users prefer the neomalthusian approach of Garret Hardin, which believed ecological commons were generally bound to fail. I though don't think the non interest in a global climate treaty is a sign of failure of politics. Its just showing that climate change is being dealt with already elsewhere, on the local level and the commoners are not willing to accept the sort of global authoritarian leadership requested. Its worth while to read Klein thoroughly, a pity Stehrs review is behind bars, she seems to be annoyed by the large corporate climate ativism of the likes of Al Gore and I share that feeling.

Anonymous said...

last comment was by Serten ;)

Anonymous said...

@ Reiner Grundmann

dead link to Richard Tol's review of Stern at The Conversation.

Better try Richard's blog ...

V. Lenzer

Anonymous said...

Sigh, I had a problem with the captcha ;(
First I believe that Klein makes some interesting points - she is annoyed by "Big Climate Change" and as well the authoritarian aspects of the "Big leadership" requested. Me too.

One has to translate as well some of her rethorics into "Continental European". As I registered with respect to the "Tragedy of the Commons" at Wikipedia, a lot of brits and Americans do not understand how far mediveal and old school "Commons", Allmende and communitarian / cooperative structures are alive and flourishing in continental Europe. I assume Americans either fear or wish (as Klein) communism starts with such structures, that are quite boring and outdated in this country but quite revolutionary in the anglosaxon realm. The senate of the freie und Hansestadt Hamburg is nothing revolutionary for us, but compare scotlands strife for a parliament and more local rule, something like a Stadtwerk, allowing municipalities to care for utilities is completely anathema for most anglos.

The funny thing is that Americans that really start to deal with such topics are able to get and deserve a Nobel Prize for it - see Elinor Ostrom. I would be interested what she thinks about the issue.

Now its me - Serten

@ReinerGrundmann said...

This is from Pilita Clark's book review in the FT:

'Still, her arguments about why leaders have failed to respond adequately are not always persuasive. She points out that during the years in which governments were unable to enact a tough, legal framework requiring lower greenhouse gas emissions, they managed to set up the World Trade Organisation with clear rules and penalties. But WTO members have also spent more than a decade unsuccessfully trying to finalise a global deal to reduce tariffs as part of the equally tortuous “Doha round” of negotiations, largely because of differences between rich countries and emerging economies that have likewise bogged down the climate talks.
And some of her prescriptions for how a shift to a fairer, renewable energy-based economy might be achieved – phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, raising the price of carbon – are precisely what groups from the IMF to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development have long proposed. Indeed, her book is published on the same day as a year-long study commissioned by the UK and six other governments which argues that falling renewables costs and other shifts mean climate change can now be tackled without sacrificing economic growth – let alone the entire edifice of capitalism.
Klein would say we no longer have time to see if such centrist prescriptions will work. A centrist might say we don’t have time to wait for capitalism to be dismantled to find out. But the longer the world waits for any meaningful response to a changing climate, the more appealing her arguments may become.'

Anonymous said...

@ Grundmann

"... any meaningful response to a changing climate"

"The world" doesn't wait for such an answer. Ingenious people all over the world have developed solutions adapting to climate change for many thousand years.

We rather trust this buttom-up approach than any of the political top-down attempts which show no benefits except for their prophets, including Stern & Klein and the vastly growing bureaucracies.

The childish or religious belief in CO2 being sort of a primary control knob for climate and extreme weather events is a shame for civilized societies, especially for their allegedly enlightened elites.

V. Lenzer

@ReinerGrundmann said...


Elinor Ostrom died in 2012 but has written on the topic, see here:

Werner Krauss said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Werner Krauss said...

Es ist interessant, diese Debatte hier um Naomi Klein zu verfolgen. Sie macht zumindest eines deutlich: Das Lager der Alarmisten ist alles andere als sich einig. (Unter Alarmisten verstehe ich hier alle, die den Klimawandel für ein ernstes Problem halten und daher Handlungsbedarf sehen).

Um Nico Stehrs Kritik an Klein zu verstehen hilft es zu wissen, dass er ein Buch über die Moralisierung der Märkte geschrieben hat. Er geht, laut einer Kritik in Die Zeit, davon aus, dass der Mensch auch als Konsument keinesfalls ein reiner homo oeconomicus ist. Vielmehr ist der Markt gezwungen, sich nach den ethischen und moralischen Bedürfnissen der Kunden zu richten, die z.B. Bio haben wollen:
"Ganz konsequent spricht Stehr von einer neuen »Ära der Marktverhältnisse« und einer historisch neuen Stufe der Marktentwicklung. Die Moralisierung setze dabei weder das Nützlichkeitsprinzip außer Kraft, noch schwäche sie die produktiven Energien des Kapitalismus (...) Nicht der Markt, nicht die Flanellträger unserer tollen Großkonzerne verformten die Tugend der Gesellschaft, sondern die moralische Gesellschaft forme den Markt. Für die Kultur- und Kapitalismuskritiker wäre das ein schöner Trost. Auch wenn sie sich als ewige Verlierer fühlen, so wären sie in Wahrheit viel einflussreicher, als sie es wahrhaben wollen."

Nico Stehr ist neben Reiner Grundmann auch einer der Autoren des Hartwell papers, auf das Reiner oben etwas verschämt unter "pragmatic politics" verlinkt. Das Hartwell paper hält, wie ja auch Reiner oben sagt, den Kapitalismus für durchaus reformierbar.

Nun kennt die ansonsten doch immer auf der Höhe der Debatte argumentierende Naomi Klein offensichtlich weder das Hartwell paper noch Reiner oder Nico, dafür aber einen anderen Autoren des papers, Ted Nordhaus vom Breakthrough Institute. Über diese schreibt sie:
For isntance, the Breaktrhough Institute - a think tank that specialized in attacking grassroots environmentalism for its supposed lack of 'modernity' - is forever charting this self-styled middle path, pushing nuclear power, fracked natural gas, and genetically modified crops as climate solutions, while attacking renewable energy programs. And as we will see later on, some greens are even warming up to geoengineering. Moreover, in the name of reaching across the aisle, green groups are constantly 'reframing' climate action so that it is pretty much anything other than preventing catastrophic warming to protect life on earth. Instead climate action is about all things conservatives are supposed to care about more than that, from cutting revenues to Arab states to reasserting American economic dominance over China."

Werner Krauss said...

Und hier gehts weiter in Kurzform:

"The first problem with this strategy is that it doesn't work (wie die letzten Jahre Klimapolitik gezeigt haben);

"The far more troubling problem with this approach is that rather than challenging the warped values fueling both disaster denialism and disaster capitalism, it actively reinforces those values. Nuclear power and geo-engineering are not solutions to the ecological crisis; they are doubling down on exactly the kind of reckless, short-term thinking that got us into this mess."

Da ist sie natürlich bei den Richtigen gelandet: Das Breakthrough Institute schießt wütend zurück :

"The Left vs. the Climate: Why progressives should reject Naomi's Klein's pastoral fantasy - and embrace our high-energy planet". Und danach folgt ein furioser Rant gegen die "climate celebrity" (Reiner), der sich gewaschen hat. Die Linke ist superdoof und der eigentliche Feind des Klimas (dass sich Klein ebenfalls von der alten Linken distanziert, wird hier mal eben übersehen, fällt aber nicht weiter ins Gewicht), die deutsche Energiewende wird als Disaster beschrieben, gefolgt von einem Loblied auf Amerika, die Kernenergie, fracking usw. Bitte selber nachlesen, zuviel Arbeit das in Häppchen zu präsentieren...

Auf jeden Fall eine interessante Debatte. Mich überrascht, wie wütend das Breakthrough Institute hier reagiert - offensichtlich ist Naomi Klein als Aktivistin eine ernsthafte Konkurrenz im Kampf um die Diskurshoheit.

Werner Krauss said...

Leider nicht online eine Kritik in der SZ von Jörg Häntzschel unter dem Titel: "Kapitalismuskritik: Unsere letzte Chance ist die Klimakatastrophe". Es ist verblüffend, wie sehr sich diese durchweg positive Rezension von den vorherigen unterscheidet.

Häntzschel listet aus Kleins Buch auf, was bisher klimapolitisch nicht funktioniert hat: Fracking ist keine Alternative zur Kohle; es gibt keine Wundertechnologie bisher, um CO2 aus der Atmosphäre zu saugen; die Initiativen der Superreichen wie Bill Gates oder Richard Branson kann man vergessen, ebenso Al Gore. Also: wir müssen was anders machen.

"Klimaschutz ist nicht möglich ohne eine grundlegende Reform des Kapitalismus. Die rechten Agitatoren gegen den Klimaschutz, vor allem in den USA, haven das verstanden. Doch die Linken, so Klein, machen sich und der Welt weiter vor, es sei Engagement genug, die Lage ernst zu nehmen - und das Auto mal stehen zu lassen. Diese Lebenslügen haben eine lange Geschichte in der Umweltbewegung (...). Von ihren Anfängen als dem Projekt weißer Gentlemen, die um die romantischen Landschaften fürchteten, bis hin zu Kapitulation vor den Konzernen."

"Clever pendelt (Klein) zwischen hohem Ton, maximalistischer Rhetorik und pragmatischen Vorschlägen hin und her. Eben schien sie die Weltrevolution auszurufen, dann führt sie überzeugende historische Vorbilder für Kollekitvanstrengungen an" - Großbritanniens Kampf gegen Deutschland, die Bürgerrechtsbewegung in den USA, die Abschaffung der Skalverei.

Und warum sind wir dann noch nicht umgestiegen auf erneuerbare Energien etc? "Schon um zu verstehen, warum das längst nicht passiert ist, brauchen wir dieses Buch", so Häntzschel.

Ich habe übrigens damals an die jungen Leute gerne No Logo von Naomi Klein verschenkt: kam immer großartig an, alle sind was geworden (vor allem: keine Konsumidioten). Vielleicht sollte man nun dasselbe mit dem neuen Buch machen - bei allen berechtigten Einwänden? Ich denke schon. Schon allein um ein paar gute Argumente zur Hand zu haben, wenn der Skeptikeronkel mal wieder zu Besuch kommt. Und ob nun Breakthrough oder Hartwell oder doch lieber Occupy: das kann man ja dann später noch im Seminar mit den Professoren diskutieren -:)

MikeR said...

Somewhat off topic, but wow:
In case most of you don’t know Steve Koonin – I do. He was a professor at Cal Tech when I was a student there, known as one of the brilliant young physics professors. He was scary smart. His book on Computational Physics is one of the classics in the field.

Why is one more op-ed important?
That was quite a few months ago, and I’d wondered what the APS was going to decide to do. The head of the APS committee: Steve Koonin. If the APS turns, that would be a game-changer, no?

Werner Krauss said...

Everybody seems to join the People's Climate March in New York today. Naomi Klein is there, of course, and everybody else, too (for example Ed Crook from the Financial Times who twitters to Breakthrough that there is even a 'pragmatist section' on the march: "What do we want? Prudent investment in low carbon technology").

MikeR said...

"Nearly 500 buses brought marchers from South Carolina, Kansas, Minnesota and Canada, while a “climate train” transported participants from California."

“Our biggest problem is the financial power of the fossil fuel industry,” said Bill McKibben...“We can’t match that money." I think you can. In fact, I doubt that the skeptical groups in America could afford the 500 buses, much less all of this multimillion-dollar spectacle.

Peter Heller said...

Naomi Klein is cited as follows:

“Between the Heartlanders who recognise that climate change is a profound threat to our economic and social systems and therefore deny its scientific reality,..."

This ist not the position of the Heartland Institute. In fact they say just the opposite: Global warming is real but it is not a "profound threat". From their website:

"The burning of fossil fuels to generate energy produces carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas which, everything else being equal, could lead to some warming of the global climate. Most scientists believe the Earth experienced a small rise in temperatures during the second half of the twentieth century, but they are unsure how large a role human activities may have played.

The important questions from a public policy perspective are: How much of the warming is natural? How sure are we that it will continue? Would continued warming be beneficial or harmful?

The answers, in brief, are: Probably two-thirds of the warming in the 1990s was due to natural causes; the warming trend already has stopped and forecasts of future warming are unreliable; and the benefits of a moderate warming are likely to outweigh the costs.

Global warming, in other words, is not a crisis."

@ReinerGrundmann said...


"Unter Alarmisten verstehe ich hier alle, die den Klimawandel für ein ernstes Problem halten und daher Handlungsbedarf sehen"

ich denke da waren wir schon mal weiter. Alarmisten sind alle, die die Gesellschaft wegen des Klimawandels alarmieren (d.h. sie meinen die Leute müssen wachgerüttelt werden und die Gefahren die von Klimawandel ausgehen müssen ihnen vermittelt werden).

Viele halten den Klimawandel für ein ernstes Problem und sehen Handlungsbedarf, ohne deshalb Alarmisten zu sein, Hartwell, Breakthrough, Richard Tol zum Beispiel.

Ich fand den Klein Verriss von Boisvert nicht wütend. Er ist energiegeladen aber durchaus sachlich. Ich kann verstehen wenn man Ambitionen einen Riegel vorschieben will, Klein's Buch zur Klimabibel zu machen.

S.Hader said...

@RainerGrundmann: " Alarmisten sind alle, die die Gesellschaft wegen des Klimawandels alarmieren (d.h. sie meinen die Leute müssen wachgerüttelt werden und die Gefahren die von Klimawandel ausgehen müssen ihnen vermittelt werden).

Viele halten den Klimawandel für ein ernstes Problem und sehen Handlungsbedarf, ohne deshalb Alarmisten zu sein, Hartwell, Breakthrough, Richard Tol zum Beispiel."

Und Sie meinen, dass die Autoren des Hartwell Papers oder Richard Tol nicht der Ansicht sind, die Menschen über die Gefahren des Klimawandels zu informieren?

Anonymous said...

@ MikeR

“Our biggest problem is the financial power of the fossil fuel industry,” said Bill McKibben...“We can’t match that money"


During the last century we have seen all kind of people marching and most of these movements led to a sad end. While global warming sceptics have been called names like "deniers" or "conspiracy theorists" when they pointetd out the watermelon character oft the green movement – green on the outside with a red core – its true nature is no longer hidden nowadays ...

30 years after the collapse of socialism (which left behind enormous ecological damages) the ghost is out of the bottle again, welcomed by people still stuck in the past and counting on the short memory of the public opinion.

V. Lenzer

Anonymous said...

First Kudos to RG for his quick answer with appropriate sources. Ostroms "A Polycentric Approach For Coping With Climate Change" is quite worth while to take into account. "Single policies adopted only at a global scale are unlikely to generate ... trust ... so that collective action can take place in a comprehensive and transparent manner... Furthermore, simply recommending a single governmental unit to solve global collective action problems is inherently weak because of free-rider problems."

That said, Ostrom is sceptical about the IPCCs role and impact and the believe in bold global one-cure-its-all-solutions but not at all about climate change as a problem that should and could be dealt with.

The IPCC is made as being working for a world government, while the reality is polycentric, pluralist or even along lines of polyracy. It however should cover reality and not a fancy dream.

Werner Krauss said...


dann fasse ich mal die Diskussion zusammen: wir müssen also einen Riegel vorschieben, damit Naomi Kleins Buch nicht zur Klimabibel wird. Die Hartwell-Breakthrough-Tol Fraktion sind keine Alarmisten, weil die Bevölkerung über mögliche Gefahren des Klimawandels nicht aufgeklärt zu werden braucht. Boisvert stellt fest, dass die deutsche Energiewende die eigentliche Klimakatastrophe ist. MikeR hat zudem entdeckt, dass der Klimawandel gar nicht stattfindet. V.Lenzer sieht wieder das Gespenst des Kommunismus durch die Straßen ziehen, und Serten warnt vor einer IPCC Weltregierung. Und das alles wegen einem Buch, dass kaum einer der hier erwähnten gelesen haben dürfte.

Tja.Irgendwie läuft da was schief. Aber was?

Anonymous said...

@Werner Krauss

bisschen übertreiben sie schon... aber ich finde diese Diskussion ist sehr typisch für die Zwiebel, in der ja gegen "antidemokratische Prediger" und "Extremisten" gekämpft wird. Warum also nicht gegen Weltregierungen, kommunistische Gespenster, Bibeln oder Alarmisten ins Felde ziehen?

Wer ein so hohes und nobles Ziel, nämlich uns vor der Tyrannei zu bewahren, sollte sich doch nicht mit Fakten aufhalten oder?

Meiner Meinung nach hat sich die Zwiebel längst von ihrem Anspruch verabschiedet... bzw. hat an nie wirklich erfüllt. Man merkt ja auch, dass keiner mehr hier Lust hat.


Werner Krauss said...


danke fürs Feedback. Ja, ich habe übertrieben, aber so oder ähnlich stehts doch in den Kommentaren, oder? Ihre Kritik ist so gesehen schon auch etwas berechtigt, allerdings wäre sie feiner mit einem alias. Und ganz so schlimm kanns ja auch wieder nicht sein, sonst wären Sie uns nicht so lange gefolgt?

Werner Krauss said...

Here Mike Hulme's review. He makes an excellent point: If her narrative appeals to you, read the book. If you are not sure, read and find out. If it doesn't, forget about it. He shortly sums up her narrative; I try it even shorter: "Capitalism vs the Climate" - now it is your choice.
Interesting review, as it recognizes Naomi Klein not primarily as a competitor in the field of science and technology (as the Breakthrough review), but as an activist in the field of popular culture.

Freddy Schenk said...

Seems that I missed the dimension of "The Biggest Climate March Ever!" The picture collection looks quite impressing. Obviously, it was well organized.

Is this march a life style happening or do many of them really care?

@ReinerGrundmann said...


as you repeatedly insist on the question "have you read it?" Hulme provides a timely answer. I venture a guess: he did not really want to, but had promised the New Scientist to do a review.

I am not keen to read it, after all I read *about it*. I am just wondering where you fit in the picture, given Hulme's choices:

- "To carry forward the defeat of free market capitalism requires the release of new moral vigor and altruistic sacrifice amongst ordinary people. If not, then all hope is extinguished. If this narrative appeals to you, if it strikes you as a faithful interpretation of the world you see around you, then This Changes Everything must be read - now, today."

- "But what if this narrative does not immediately appeal to you, what if it does not accord with how you see the world? And even for those of you for whom it might strike a chord of truth – ‘yes, this is what I’d like to believe’ – will it persuade you to join the populist movements which Klein desires to be drawn from both the left and the right? Well, you too should read the book and find out for yourself whether this particular story of climate change resonates, whether you find it to be persuasive."

Werner Krauss said...


my approach is a different one: it derives from my interest in popular culture. I like the titles of her books, like "No logo" or "Disaster capitalism". "This changes everything: Capitalism vs Climate" is epic. Naomi Klein is one of the very few activists with style in the climate debate. Reading her book is like listening to Meat is murder. In the reviews, she is "the darling of the new left", the "beast of climate", the "climate celebrity" - obviously, she has something others have not. Remember when she was judged here on klimazwiebel by her looks? Those guys simply ran out of arguments when she opens her mouth.

I am half way through the book. It's punk rock, old school. She provides the adequate and just answer to the chorus of skeptics here on Klimazwiebel - or to your tea-party or AfD affiliated professor in your school or seminar. Once you grow up, you will be a little embarrassed, maybe, but that's the way it goes. And all those Breakthrough or Hartwell pragmatics should be happy about the book - pragmatism is for old people who once have been young.

Werner Krauss said...


the correct title is: "This changes everything: Capitalism versus The Climate".

Mike Hulme calls her "darling of the radical Left" (not: new left).

Karl Kuhn said...

@ Krauss:

congrats for having found another fountain of youth in Klein's book, but whatever your approach to Klein is, to me it does not seem to be an overly critical one. When others criticize Klein, it makes you obviously angry, and you aggressively dismiss their efforts. Nevertheless you claim to find the debate on Klein interesting? Really? Then why don't you engage with the arguments proposed by Klein and her critics? Or do you comfortably leave this to the evil white men in climacterium? Or is this book just a piece of entertainment for you, some leftist pop-culture that makes fans feel good, yourself included? Was that all Klein wanted?

Nick Stevenson said...

I agree I think Klein is punk rock. The idea of her book is less to provide rational policy analysis and more to stir things up. The book is clearly not written as an appeal not to everyone but instead is written to appeal to activists. It says want to do something about climate change then get in the streets and get orginsed. This is exactly what other social movements like the labour movement, feminism etc have done. Also the argument is not just get rid of capitalism. However she wants to argue that nature/climate is fundamentallly at odds with neoliberal capital. Surely this is correct. Here argument is in the first stages for a progressively socialised capitalism where it becomes progressively regulated and where nature is increasingly placed under democratic control. This is what the argument about the idea of the commons is about. In her view the rule of private prperty and privatisation can never be sustainable. Again I find this hard to disagree with. We have toi start imagining a civilisation beyond capitalism...the idea of the commons with its emphasis upon sharing rather than competition helps us do just that. I was not sure which punk rock song her book most resembles...may be the Dead Kennedy's 'Lynch the Landlord'.

Karl Kuhn said...


thank you for this constructive attempt to interpret Klein's book. (It needed 37 comments to arrive here, funny.) Do you think that Klein would openly agree to your assessment that it is not a rational policy analysis, and that it is preaching to the choir?

@ReinerGrundmann said...


thanks for joining the discussion, small world ;-)

I thought ageing punks went on to do things like "I'm a celebrity, get me out of here"?

Joking apart: you make an interesting point about social forms and nature/climate when you say:

"Here argument is in the first stages for a progressively socialised capitalism where it becomes progressively regulated and where nature is increasingly placed under democratic control. This is what the argument about the idea of the commons is about. In her view the rule of private prperty and privatisation can never be sustainable. Again I find this hard to disagree with. We have toi start imagining a civilisation beyond capitalism...the idea of the commons with its emphasis upon sharing rather than competition."

It sounds plausible but isn't. On this abstract level it is not clear which system will "protect nature" better (for want of a better term): private property or public ownership. The argument about the commons, at least as analysed by Ostrom et al., shows that it depends on many institutional design features, not a simple private/public dichotomy. To make the case against public ownership you could argue that under common property everyone has an incentive to free ride (overuse the resources of nature). Conversely, people who own property want to preserve it. (BTW: I discussed this in my book Marxism and Ecology).

The term capitalism is too coarse to tell us much about social reality because there are many variants of capitalism (there used to be variants of socialism, too, none of which had a better record with regard to environmental problems).

Nick stevenson said...

On the first point. I think Klein's work is rather like that of other New Left figures like E.P.Thompson. The argument is deliberately polemical. Written to gain a reaction in the audience while making a stand. She is not as good a writer as Thompson but like him is trying to reach a wider public who can be mobilised for change. This makes her book rather different from an academic intervention.

I also think she introduces the idea of ownerership and control. In this she goes beyond the categories of public and private and introduces ideas of the commons versus private property. I think this has some purchase in our world. Of course the precise set of ownership relations is going to be different in different contexts but she makes a strong argument against neoliberal capitalism. Here I think (like punk) she is asking who owns nature (or music) and in whose interest is it run. Her view is that sustainability is better served by a radically democratised world than that which serves the global 1%. This points to a political tradition related to anarchism and libertarian socialism. I liked this as it pushed the argument in a direction much policy debate will find threatening.Again like punk her aim is to unsettle while linking to a broader anti-capitalist movement from below. This is all really valuable at a time when much political debate is privatised by elites.Whether in the end this would be less predatory and exploitative than capitalism no one can know for sure. Yet as the Gang of Four once sang about life being organised like a factory..the idea would be to try and do things differently.

PS thanks for letting me join in...

Anonymous said...

After the various rebrandings – from "Global Warming" to "Climate Change" and then to "Climate disruption" we finally learn what the whole thing is really about: "System Change". OK, good to know.

But when some people start calling for a "civilisation beyond capitalism", supposing that "nature/climate is fundamentallly at odds with neoliberal capital"– then just let me remember: we had it already in Russia e. g., Eastern Germany and Europe, China, Cambodia etc. and we still can study such wonderful systems in North Korea, Belarus or Cuba. All these so called "civilisations" were/are far away from being "sustainable" or somehow "good" for nature and environment.

While some commenters seem to be fascinated by the american lefts' poster child Naomi Klein, they simply overlook the damage shee's doing to "the cause", dissociating people from the real consensus – of alarmists and skeptics – that nature and environment deserve protection and ecological sustainability, respect and integrity.
Klein follows the path of political segregation and alienation, kind of "Othering" to speech in ethnological terms ; -)

V. Lenzer

Werner Krauss said...

Karl Kuhn,

the problem is: not only Naomi Klein preaches to her choir; our celebrity reviewers of her book do so, too - all of them. This is the good thing about her book: she brings back politics into the climate debate. There is no "rational policy analysis" that can decide those questions; the only possibility is to negotiate. The People's March on Sunday in New York might serve as an example: people came together, from Breakthrough pragmatics to Naomi Klein radicals. We should find out how that is possible. If we find out we will know more about what or who will replace climate science in climate politics, when they will lose their influence.

And thanks for bringing back attention to the gender issue, I almost forgot! Isn't it amazing how language helps us to replace missing arguments with gender-stereotyping, again and again?

Karl Kuhn said...

Dr. Krauss, please read my reply to Nick properly - I did not imply that Klein is preaching to the choir, but Nick did, and I questioned that this is Klein's intention. This is just a side issue - an argument remains an argument. And I take issue with your refusal to engage with the content and key arguments of this discussion. Instead you constantly switch between the roles of the allegedly impartial observer (briefly), and of the uncritical fan insulting the critics of Klein as old, narrow-minded pragmatists (extensively). I am sure you do better, and, being one of the hosts here, you also [b]should[/b].

Why not discuss concretely what Klein and her critics both put considerable effort into? For instance, I find Klein's keyword of 'extractionism' quite catching. On the other hand, she is accused of 'everythingism' - also a quite interesting point.

We all have lots of real work to do and thus little time to engange in this discussion, which may explain a lot of the hand-waving going on (probably my own posts also qualify for that). Considering this, all the more thanks to Nick and Reiner for their willingness to discuss Klein's key message.

Nick Stevenson said...

On the argument that we have tried all this before just look what happend to the Soviet Union...I dont agree. Klein's argument is not the state controlled and centralised world where everything is run from the centre. The argument is about the radically democratised and decentralised society. Her position is less Stalin and more New Left critique. In this view state control and capitalism have a great deal in common as it is rule from above. She is very clear about this. Of course it is entirely reasonable to object that this is unworkable etc etc...but she is a radical democrat and not an authoritarian.

@ReinerGrundmann said...


I grant your point, also made by Nico Stehr in his book review. However, the issue (for me, perhaps not for V Lenzer) is the property relations which are assumed to be crucial. I don;t think this is self-evident as environmental issues are cutting across established ideological and political constellations.

Take for example, George Marshall's comment in today's Guardian where he has something interesting to say about political mobilisation of social movements. I use this example as Klein (and Werner, and NIck) emphasize this aspect. Marshall says: "So my fellow advocates for action create this enemy narrative with dramatis personae from our past struggles – corrupt politicians, malignant corporate executives, fat bankers, lazy journalists, slippery lawyers and an apathetic public."

The movement recycles a story line and a mobilisation narrative which does not work for climate change. Marshall sees this reason:

"In experiments, children as young as three can tell the difference between an accident and a deliberate attack. Climate change confounds this core moral formula: it is a perfect and undetectable crime everyone contributes to but for which no one has a motive.

There is no outsider to blame. We are just living our lives: driving the kids to school, heating our homes, putting food on the table. Only once we accept the threat of climate change do these neutral acts become poisoned with intention – so we readily reject that knowledge, or react to it with anger and resentment."

In terms of a credible narrative it seems that not (only) evil oil needs to be blamed but ourselves (everyone, regardless their political positions) who depend on fossil fuels. Every child knows that a nation would go to the dogs if we left the stuff buried in the ground.

Klein's Extractionism and Blockadia don't do the trick.

Werner Krauss said...


"Klein's Extractionism and Blockadia don't do the trick." This is, of course, a harsh and devastating judgement, but you totally ignored Naomi Klein's argument. In her book, she discusses at length the argument as presented here by the Guardian. I would be really interested to hear your opinion about her specific standpoint, as she seems to anticipate your judgement right at the beginning and takes it as a starting point to develop her own argument.

In my opinion, there is no higher force that can decide which standpoint is right or wrong, yours or the one of Naomi Klein. And in my opinion, there is also no need to do so. The Hartwell paper - and you argue here permanently as a (stealth) advocate for it - is for policy advice, and Naomi Klein writes for social movements. So the question is what is useful for which context, and not so much whether Naomi Klein is right or wrong.

Werner Krauss said...

Karl Kuhn,

In my comments, I presented the reviews in a fair way and at length, and I did not insult the reviewers. And I am interested into following the different lines of arguments and how they form a web of relations and meanings - all related to the issue of climate change as currently discussed in New York. I am sorry that my interest does not meet your expectations. As a host, I want to make my guests happy, of course.

Nick stevenson said...

I cant think of a social movement historically that has acheived its aims or at least mobilised huge numbers of people that did not depend upon a narrative that worked on ideas of solidarity (an us) and an understanding of groups who opposed them. The labour movement? Feminism? Protests for Civil Rights? Austerity? All them opposed dominant groups in society who sought to defend their power and privilege. Klein's book is important because she is saying that climate change is no different. You might want to argue that climate change is like CND in the 80s as resistance against the cold war was not a class issue. But even here there was an idea of political elites who were prepared to use Europe as a nuclear theatre and did not respect the lives of ordinary people. However Klein's book demonstrates just how implicated capital is in maintaing the current status quo not to mention the miltarism also required to make the world safe for accumulation. Sorry the idea we are all responsible sounds like the stuff peddled by the state after the banking crash. We had all apparently lived beyond our means. This is really misleading. The banking crisis was a failure of democracy given the extent to which the financial sector had been progressively deregulated and left to itself. Yes we all depend upon oil, but if we follow Klein's argument it is interesting to see who is funding the think tanks etc behind the sceptic lobby. This is a story about a certain kind of capitalism and how it is trying to enclose the commons. The history of this goes all the way back to the original enclosure acts in the eighteeth century.

Karl Kuhn said...


No, we don't and currently can't afford to leave the stuff (fossil fuels) in the ground, but if we just leave it at that, we will eventually face two uncomfortable alternatives:

1. Either the 'stuff' will run out soon, at least at affordable extraction costs. Given the availability of coal and gas, this is rather unlikely.

2. Or it turns out that enough 'stuff' is there for centuries of current and future consumption, a prospect which even a lukewarmer like me finds frightening. This is a very likely scenario.

So I believe that mankind will not get around actively managing extraction and use of the stuff in the longer run. At some point we will need energy sources that replace fossil fuels, and it is well possible that the climate constraint will start biting earlier than the availability/price constraint. This means that we can't wait until the 'stuff' runs out, but we will have to do something pro-actively before.

A. Merkel once minted the term 'bridge technology' for nuclear power until wind and solar etc can take over. My take is that wind and solar will be unlikely to do the job, and that rather fossil fuels are the bridge technology until safe nuclear options become available.

On that background, the term extractionism by Naomi Klein strikes a chord with me. Canadians are free to decide one day to restrict tar sand extraction, because they are getting tired of turning their country upside down in the quest for the last drop of oil. This would decrease the supply of oil from Canada and drive up world prices. The question then is what the consequences could be:
- Canadian tar oil will be replaced by Chinese or Russian or IS or some other 'authoritarian oil'?
- Tar oil will be replaced by something destilled from gas or coal?
- Non-fossil fuels will replace tar oil.

Unfortunately, the first two 'fossil options' are way more likely than the last, so blockupy in Canada is unlikely to to have a positive climate effect. Never ever will all countries in the world simultaneously agree to stop extracting the 'stuff', particularly not if the current push for authoritarianism will not abate.

The better alternative would be to mildly tax such extraction and use these funds to finance research into safe and effective alternatives to fossil. Inventing and developing these alternatives is much more likely to happen in a market economy than in a world society of commons.

So I share Naomi Klein's feelings about unecessarily ruining landscapes for minerals. I do not share her enthusiasm for the commons, as I do not believe that they can provide the incentives required for the technological challenges ahead.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

Karl Kuhn

in case there was a misunderstanding, I am not saying that we should extract all the fossil stuff there is. It is a time issue, how much, when, to replaced by what? I agree with what you are saying, very much in line with the Hartwell perspective which I openly defend (not at all as a stealth advocate, as Werner thinks).

What is useful for a social movement is a tricky question because of the nature of the climate issue. Nick I don't think your appeal to solidarity will carry far. If you think it through, who is 'us' and who is 'them'? You acknowledge that we all depend on energy but you reject the consequences this has for politics. I can see how Klein appeals to a North American/European middle class perspective which is concerned about the environment and wants their governments and buisinesses to do curb emissions more drastically, and to envisage new forms of living etc. But these countries will reach their peak emissions soon. Will the new enemy be those countries whose emissions will grow much faster? And how would a social movement with global reach look like?

The labour-movement-solidarity-narrative transposed onto climate activism is misguided. It is not primarily profit seeking which drives the efforts for cheap energy but the growth imperative. All social Utopias (especially the socialist workers utopia) presuppose that the next generation should at least be as well off as the present one. What political movement can aim for success on a storyline that demands less for the future? Pension funds and private houses are major drivers of growth expectations. How popular would it be to demand a devaluation of these assets? Who is 'us' and 'them' in these political battles?

Nick Stevenson said...

Lets leave the SWP out of this...Less for the future is tough. Not all utopias fit with your description there are others. Juliet Schor has tried to explore this idea through a redefinition of ideas of plentitude. More equal, less work, basic income and more public, more play and free stuff generally. Its going to be tough but she has made a start. Also much of this is closely connected to Andre Gorz, Erich Fromm and Murray Bookchin a while back. In a way that is Klein's point...this is not a world within which aggressive capitalism can easily find a place. Is the world ready to hear this...of course not. Would it better than what we have now? Who can tell. Is it worth a try...yes.

Karl Kuhn said...

@ Nick, you said:
"Is it worth a try...yes."

But please first try it on a smaller scale or, at best, personally, there are plenty of opportunities (that our open societies do not supress). Just join e.g. a Camphill community for a year or so. Maybe you will like it and find that it's exactly your thing. It lived for a year on an organic community farm where everyone was paid 100 Euro per month (plus free housing and food, health insurance, and, funnily, subsidised driving with the farm diesel car). I liked this experience, so I am sympathetic to this way of life. But when bourgeois city creatures like Klein suggest to impose that on the entire planet, we gotta run.

Anonymous said...

As Eduardo may recall I´m no very much convinced by the continuous advocate admonitions about “the end of the Earth coming due to CAGW”. Still I try to keep informed on this topic and the other day, to my dismal, I read in El Pais –a newspaper I used to have great respect for- the following comment on the march of New York:

“A high emotional climax event took place on 6th Avenue about 1 p.m., when a minute of silence was held for the victim’s of Climate Change”.

Just one question: Have I missed something? I thought that there is not a single “climate event” (hurricanes, floods etc) that has been found –with certainty- to be linked (i.e. directly derived) to CAGW.

-Am I wrong wrt to this understanding?
-How many victims are we talking about?

Althogh OT, but in a more humorous tone, I imagine you all know about the Twitter #askDrMann debacle last week

My favourite ;-)

“Although you're a young scientist, what *so far* do you regard as your greatest contribution to our ignorance about nature?”

I like to think that the well deserved questions addressed to him are more likely directed against the part of the “scientific establishment” that –at least some of us, observers, think was/is corrupt- and tried to cheat on us some time ago.

I won`t forget Eduardo´s brave first reaction to the leakage of the climategate mails from CRU (Which earned my deep respect for him).

Best regards


Werner Krauss said...


maybe "stealth" is the wrong word, but how would you call it? Imagine this discussion as a typical policy adviser situation: whatever the stakeholder (in this case: Naomi Klein) might say, you don't care, you even don't listen, but you call it "deeply flawed" and in the end, you recommend the Hartwell paper.

Karl Kuhn,

you got this wrong: community farm life is your fantasy about what the city creature Naomi Klein says; to my knowledge, she doesn't suggest to impose this kind of life on the entire planet.

Naomi Klein: celebrity, darling, poster-child, beast, city creature ... a fantasy figure for all of our projections and dreams.

Werner Krauss said...

BUT I have to add: I also enjoyed enormously Nick's wonderful comments and the ongoing discussion. So thanks to all; maybe a sign of the times, too, for a change in the climate debate. Finally, it is about climate politics and not only about science vs. the rest of the world.

Karl Kuhn said...


"to my knowledge, she doesn't suggest to impose this kind of life on the entire planet."

Perhaps not that all people live on farms, but the communitarian organisation is certainly an ideal of hers that she would like to see emerging globally. Or what else is it - enlighten us!

@ReinerGrundmann said...

Werner -54

It would be good if you could point Klein's arguments that I am ignoring. And I do think it matters if she is right or wrong, especially if it is about politics as you say. We should be aware of advice to social activism if it is misguided.

The more I think about the Punk analogy the more I become doubtful. Punk was an outcry against a blocked future, at a time when the postwar consensus in welfare states came to an end. The punks' anthem was 'No Future!' as an angry accusation. The spirit could not be more different to the one that is supposedly present in Klein. Who is projecting?

Werner Krauss said...

Naomi Klein "This changes everything: Capitalism vs The Climate", 7.99 Euro, kindle shop.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

What a childish way to close a conversation.

Anonymous said...

passend zum thema:

There is thus now solid peer-reviewed evidence showing that the underlying forcing and heat uptake estimates in AR5 support narrower ‘likely’ ranges for ECS and TCR with far lower upper limits than per the AR5 observationally-based ‘likely’ ranges of: 2.45°C vs 4.5°C for ECS and 1.8°C vs 2.5°C for TCR.

also bitte, wo bleibt der weltuntergang?


michael m.

Anonymous said...

aso, das paper gibets hier:

oder hier:

@ReinerGrundmann said...


for what it's worth, everyone can see that I engaged with Nick's points in post 48 and he replied to that. I don't complain that he or you have not enagaged with everything I said, that's the nature of blogging.

You want to raise points without making them by constantly saying Read the book, read the book, it's all in the book. I am baffled to be honest. My post does not claim to do a book review but to summarize points from a Guardian interview. You seem to have misunderstood the purpose of the post. If you think Klein's position is not captured in the interview (or in my comment) you should point out the arguments yourself. Instead you play a refusal game (because I have not read the book and have not done a book review).

Werner Krauss said...


sure, it's boring, I'll stop it.

My point was: I just wanted to switch from the routine of bashing alarmists (see #28) to an interest in a different reading of "the sirens of New York". Like the New York Times today, for example. I suggest being interested instead of the usual right / wrong debate. Maybe something is going on, and we don't know what it is yet...

I mentioned "punk rock" in order to suggest a different reading, that is, in terms of cultural studies. I am interested how Naomi Klein relates body / planet / climate, see here for example. This is different from political analysis in the traditional sense. Like "Meat is Murder", her book is popular culture and can be interpreted like that. It is symbolic, agitprop, extremely personal, both surprisingly insecure and professional, all in one. And remember that even Hartwell argues in the name of values like "dignity", or Mike Hulme in terms of "Christian values" and so on. She is not unique in this mix, and as a non-academic, she can be more open about it. (And even our hardcore climate realists and skeptics love to discuss "soft" questions like meat or veggies, political correctness, masculinity and so on.)

That's why I suggested to read the reviews also as both political and cultural statements. They all want to change / to keep / to be part of the (political / cultural) system.

All in all, this was my idea: the sirens of New York mean a change in the climate debate, maybe, and I suggested to change our critical perspective accordingly.

Hope this helps to understand my position.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

Thanks for the clarification Werner. There is nothing in your last post I disagree with but I still have the impression we are talking past each other.

The title of my post Sirens for New was chosen to indicate that two highly visible protagonists have stepped forward to alarm the public in the run-up to the next Climate Summit in Paris. The New York meeting was a warm up for this. My background assumption was that the dominant approach in climate policy (global treaty) will lead to a re-run of the Copenhagen situation, that world leaders, and grassroots movements will try to build momentum and raise expectations, so that this time the breakthrough will be possible. I am deeply sceptical about this strategy.

Yes, Klein, Hulme and Hartwell make reference to non-scientific values (solidarity, virtue, dignity) and in so far are advocating specific approaches to climate policy.

Matt Nisbet has a nice paper in which he analyses these types advocates (which he calls public intellectuals). He distinguishes between

Ecological Activists, Smart Growth Reformers and Ecomodernists.

Klein is in the first category, Stern in the second, Hartwell in the third. Maybe the root of our misunderstandings can be found here: while we both argued for an opening up of the debate between skeptics and alarmists, there are differences nevertheless. Perhaps you have become more sympathetic to the eco-activist position?

Anonymous said...

How do you open up a debate by (name-)calling people who care about climate change 'alarmists'? Are those talking about doomsday scenarios such as 'world domination' also 'alarmists'? Why do you use this label?

Werner Krauss said...


no time to read Nisbet right now, but the categories make sense to me. I do not consider them as mutually exclusive; they are all "alarmist", but designed for specific purposes, I guess. They are also shaped very much by disciplinary and national cultures (Breakthrough for example is hyper-American - they are as ignorant about the background of the Energiewende as if they were American tourists -:); Stern comes from economy; Klein is a Canadian activist and journalist - ain't it funny that a German journalist in the SZ sympathizes spontaneously? What exactly does connect them so easily?

Reading today's NYT editorial, I think that different approaches like hope for a breakthrough in Paris; or opting for bilateral cooperations between US and China, or for regional activities (low carbon cities) etc - these approaches are also not mutually exclusive because climate change has to be tackled on all levels. And there is also no need to pin down a diverse movement. As I mentioned somewhere above: there were Breakthrough pragmatics and Naomi Klein on the same People's March. Things have changed, maybe, and so should we and our approaches. It doesn't make much sense anymore to attack "alarmists" and to not criticize those skeptics who simply jump on the Zwiebel bandwagon. Most of all, because the influence of climate science is in decline. Climate change is politics, finally.

Anonymous said...

Nisbet distinguishs between different sort of activists but leaves out all sort of agnostics and sceptics. Is that useful?

I believe the "umbrellas of Hong Kong", those defending the strong combination of free market and free speech there are much more of importance than current sirens and weathermen of New York.

Kleins book explain nothing about the HK protests. If climate change and "buy her book" are the only means to fight capitalism, capitalism does not have to care much.


Anonymous said...


The author cannot understand your question because the moral values are different here. The authors here, except Werner Krauss, think, that it is okay to defame people as alarmist, fraud, exremist, antidemocratic preacher, or nazi alike. All of these terms are used without an consideration of the persons who are being insulted by the Zwiebel authors.

Different people, different moral values. I am not here to judge, but it is disturbing...

No alias

@ReinerGrundmann said...

Alarmism in the climate discourse is a term widely used. I quote from a British publication which analyzed different linguistic repertoires:

'The alarmist repertoire is typified by an inflated or extreme lexicon. It incorporates an urgent tone (‘We
have to act. Now. Today!’) and cinematic codes, with images and ways of speaking that are familiar from
horror and disaster films ‘astonishing scenes that might have come straight from Hollywood’ (Catt 2005)).
It employs a quasi-religious register of doom, death, judgement, heaven and hell, using words such as
‘catastrophe’, ‘chaos’ and ‘havoc’.
It uses language of acceleration, increase, intractability, irreversibility and momentum (‘temperatures shot
up’, ‘process of change… surged ahead’, ‘a tipping point beyond which break-up is explosively rapid’
(Leake and Milne 2006)). It allows for no complexity or middle ground – it is simply extreme. Metaphors
and omens or predictions of war and violence extend the physical threat into a societal threat: ‘the
breakdown of civilisation’.
Climate change is most commonly constructed through the alarmist repertoire – as awesome, terrible,
immense, beyond human control – and this repertoire is not just evidenced in the tabloids. In fact, it is seen
everywhere, and is used or drawn on by many, including many of those seeking to bring about attitude or
behaviour change on this issue. It is common in campaigning materials – from the Stop Climate Chaos
website to the Climate Challenge online video produced by the Department for Environment, Food and
Rural Affairs (Defra).
The alarmist repertoire does try to bring climate change close to people’s lives, through shock tactics such as the image of a boat in a UK suburban street (in Boscastle, for example).'

The other repertoires found in the British press are:

British comic nihilism
Rhetorical scepticism
Free market protection
‘Expert’ denial
Warming is good
David and Goliath
Small actions

Anonymous said...

Thanks for alerting us to this interesting study. It was published in 2006, almost a decade ago. It maps various ways of talking about climate change at that time. Curiously, the study does not seem to include scepticism yet as a 'linguistic repertoire'. As far as I can tell, the Klimazwiebel uses 'alarmists' (which is not the same as 'alarmism') in opposition to 'sceptics'. This gives the word 'alarmist' a special type of meaning. 'Alarmist' seems to be used almost as a cover term for anybody who is not a sceptic or a so-called 'realist'. Interestingly, the study quoted also says that alarmism "excludes the possibility of real action or agency by the reader or viewer. It contains an implicit counsel of despair – ‘the problem is just too big for us to take on’." This certainly does not apply to the 'linguistic repertoire' adopted by the two authors discussed in this blog, Stern and Klein. So at least in this instance the term 'alarmist' seems to be used in error.

Anonymous said...

A certain K.M., Privatdozent aus Trier claimed that stellt sich die Menschheit immer nur Aufgaben, die sie lösen kann, denn genauer betrachtet wird sich stets finden, daß die Aufgabe selbst nur entspringt, wo die materiellen Bedingungen ihrer Lösung schon vorhanden oder wenigstens im Prozeß ihres Werdens begriffen sind.

Seems an alarmist is someone who claimes, that we can solve the problem. There are not much alrmists around tsunamis, which is a m uch larger risk, since we seemingly cannot deal with them.


Werner Krauss said...


meanings of words change over time. At a certain time, the term "alarmist" made sense to instigate a debate about the dangerous relationship between (alarmist) climate research and climate politics.

But if we follow Oliver Geden's recent policy analysis, alarmist science lost its influence in shaping climate politics. Instead, the problem is to get out of the alarmist position (2 degree goal etc) without losing face.

Seen from this perspective, the term alarmist has lost its heuristic value. There is no "innocent" use of it. Climate pragmatism or realism is NOT a position between alarmist and skeptic; it is a position that takes climate change and its effects seriously and does not get lost in the blame game between institutes, scientists and political ideologies. We can leave this to other blogs, in my opinion. Klimazwiebel can do better.

@ReinerGrundmann said...


what makes you think that times have changed in such a way that the term alarmism has no heuristic value? Is this a personal opinion, a hypothesis, or based on research?

In my reading the Sirens for New York have to be seen as an attempt to revitalise the momentum that we saw in the build up to Copenhagen. The hopes associated with such a strategy are naive, as we said many times here on Klimazwiebel. Even if Paris would bring about a global treaty with strong GHG reduction targets ( a big IF), we would not have made progress with regard to real decarbonisation.

MikeR said...

@68. Are you equally disturbed by the lack of morals shown by people who call skeptics "deniers"? Naomi Klein, for instance; I see that the name is used frequently in the book, including the name of a chapter. A brief glance at a few of the sections indicated to me a thoroughgoing paranoia, giving her ideological opponents the worst motivations for everything.
One of the first lines I saw: "Those involved feel free to engage in these high-stakes gambles because they believe that they and theirs will be protected from the ravages in question, at least for a generation or so."
It can't really be that they disagree with her.

Do you find any of that disturbing?

Werner Krauss said...


for different reasons. One is the current debate about the 2 degree target and the possible end of or change in the close relationship between (alarmist) science and climate politics, for example here by Oliver Geden; together with Silke Beck in Nature Climate Change, and only recently the heated debate between Victor / Kennel on the one side and Romm / Rahmstorf on the other, summed up here in - all of these contributions indicate that there is something going on.

And why being only negative about everything? There is a highly diverse social movement; there are city initiatives to reduce carbon emissions; there are bilateral talks and negotiations between nation-states, for example US and China or US and Pakistan (?); and yes, there are still the much hyped global negotiations and expectations. It is true that Stern's focus (and of many others) seems to be exclusively on global solutions; but it is also true that Klein's approach or the Hartwell paper are not. And maybe one doesn't like the left wing / occupy style of Klein or the capitalist Breakthrough approach - this is a matter of taste, of political opinion and so on; but both make more sense to me than discussing on and on that maybe climate change is not a problem at all. Have a look at my summary in #28 and similar statements left undisputed here on Zwiebel - something went wrong here, I guess.

It is true that Klimazwiebel again and again repeated that the global-only approach does not work; maybe we have repeated it so often that we turned into a one-trick pony, with a few skeptics as the only audience left. If you fight alarmism too long, you end up in bed with those skeptics who doubt climate change in general.

I have no problems in discussing critically global-only-strategies or all too simple alarmist rhetoric, but who wants to read yesterday's paper over and over again?

Werner Krauss said...

concerning heuristics: The problem is that "alarmism" as a heuristic device lumps together too many diverse interests, approaches and concepts. It blurs the differences for example between Nisbet's three categories - that are all, from a skeptic's point of view, alarmist. To call someone an "alarmist" for analytical reasons is hardly possible anymore; maybe because it is too much of a political statement itself.

Hans von Storch said...


it is common that the same term is used in different ways in different milieus. No reason for me not to use it anymore, as long as it is well defined in the group within which the communication is going on. (How well the term is in this group of Klimazwiebel, I do not know.)

The same appliles to the term "skeptic" - but you use the term nevertheless as if everybody would relate it to the same "opinion" (?).

Similarly, what consitutes "yesterday's paper" or "todays's paper" may be an issue we should leave with the reader?

@ReinerGrundmann said...


the posts by Geden, Beck and Revkin do not show what you claim.

Geden and Beck make a plea to leave the alarmist posturing behind, especially as 'expressed in the planetary boundaries paradigm' which uses the 2 degree target as an absolute.

Revkin's blog dedicates much space to Victor's rebuttal of Rahmstorf and Romm -- two arch alarmists. I cannot see any change in positions here.

But you are right of course, things always change and maybe there is something afoot. The Guardian reports about a meeting between climate scientists and sceptics which indicates they may be changing tone, style & attitude.

Your re-definition of alarmism is curious (see above @ 18): everyone who is concerned about climate change and wants to do something about it. This is the position of someone who is ... concerned. Alarmism adds a different dimension to it by suggesting that we will be facing catastrophic events if we do not cut GHGs urgently. The rhetoric makes use of apocalyptic visions and thereby moralizes the debate, and demonizes those who see things differently. The tropes are 'it will be too late', 'there are those who are responsible', 'the science tells us'.

I very much doubt that Geden, Revkin, or Beck would adopt the label for themselves.

Werner Krauss said...


no, I do not assume that all skeptics are of the same opinion. In #75, I explicitly talked about "those skeptics who doubt climate change in general". I also don't have any problem in using the term alarmism. I just wanted to suggest to extend the scope of discussion beyond exclusively attacking the "Rahmstorf / Schellnhuber / Great Transformation complex", and beyond providing a platform for those skeptics who think that anthropogenic climate change is no or a minor problem (to be more precise).

And yes, sometimes I am afraid that many of our non-skeptical readers already decided that they don't want to read yesterday's paper anymore; there is - apart from a few exceptions - a certain skeptical (and undisputed) monoculture in our comment section. But maybe this is only my perception.


yes, you are right, Geden & Co maybe really wouldn't like to be called alarmists. My argument was misguided, somehow.

Maybe this way it works better: Seen from the perspective of those who consider anthropogenic climate change a hoax implemented by the left or as a minor problem only which will soon be solved by the industry in a free market society - for them, even those who are only concerned about climate change are already "alarmists".

But yes, there are many reasons to criticize alarmism in the sense you define it, no doubt. But that is no reason to give skeptics (as defined above) a free ride. Because they are even more wrong. In my opinion, of course.

Anonymous said...

First a question to all: Take the Gartner Hype circle, where do you think are we now with Climate change? My guess its been repeatedly falling short to gain productivity. Take and as well "Much of the hype has gone out"

That said, the game of onetrick hobby horse polo has been played by all sides.

Take the exchange and Rahmstorfs notion of "…but to be practical, there cannot be many … goals—one needs to agree on a single indicator that covers the multitude risks."

I agree that its completely wrong, but its not at all surprising - as implied by his counterparts - that "anything as complex and multifaceted as the climate system (was) boiled down to a single crisp goal."
Reiner and others, lets call them the Zwiebelisten, have been rather outspoken, that science applicable in the realm of politics is to be simplier than the actual reality, just to be of practical value.

That said, politics is not annoyed by alarmism or simple solution preachers, it actually looks for terms and problems, that are simple enough to be dealt with. But actually it has other things to do, e.g. with "heated climate" in the middle east and the rather old fashioned battles in Syria and the turkish border.

Greetings Serten

@ReinerGrundmann said...


thanks for the two links about hype cycles. There is a very niche sentence in the Dutch study:

"Policy makers are modernist actors who need to ‘tell themselves forward’. They need to tell stories and make promises about how they will solve problems. This credibility pressure creates willingness to accept certain promises from product champions. It also explains why warnings about feasibility are often downplayed."

Regarding the question 'where are we in the hype cycle of climate change': Looking only at levels of media coverage there has been an overall growth, many ups and downs, and massive peaks in 2007 in 2009. The issue has never gone away and my bet is it will not go away any time soon.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

Niche sentence - nice sentence!

Anonymous said...

Gartner uses the Hype circle in analysing technology trends and predicted the bubble with it. In so far an important device.

The traditional phases see
1.Technology Trigger.
2 Peak of Inflated Expectations
3 Trough of Disillusionment
4 Slope of Enlightenment
5 Plateau of Productivity
Nick Dentons new Hype circle includes failures, the German Transrapid may fall under that as well.

It may compare different market contenders in one plot, e.g. linkedin versus second-life (R.I.P.) and facebook.

Now Hans von Storchs Notion about the prague "same business as yesterdecade" seems to allow for repeated peaks respectively plateaus, but no success in getting to the "slope of enlightement". A similar failure as in the Dutch study for renewables.

Reiner Grundmanns sees the peak in 2007 and 2009, now the question is - what do you think came next? If the visibility is still respectively again high, we fail to get productivity.

Cheers Serten

Anonymous said...

PS.: I luv typos as well ;)