For more than a decade, Naomi Klein has been calling attention to the invisible, abstract concerns that hide in the shadows of global trade: the exploitation of far-off workers, the environmental destruction, the corruption that contorts political systems. In her latest book, This Changes Everything, Klein tackles the unintended but inevitable consequence of fueling GDP with oil and gas and coal: a destabilized climate.
These days, the prevailing mood in response to climate change seems to be one of despair. It's too late. The problem is too massive. But Klein sees something else. She sees a possibility: that a more humane economy can be shaped by aggressively combating climate change. I spoke with her about the opportunity to transform society at the precipice of calamity. A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.
Hamza Shaban: You write that climate deniers are wrong on the science, but compared to liberals, are more clear-eyed when it comes to the political and economic consequences of robust climate action. How so?
Naomi Klein: I’ve spent a fair bit of time hanging out with some of the hardcore climate deniers. And I think they’re very open about the fact that what brought them to this issue is not that they discovered a problem with climate science. It’s that they look at what the science is saying and they realize that if the science is true, it would upend their ideological project—because their ideological project calls for deregulation, austerity cuts, privatization of the public sphere, deregulated free trade. And if you just glance at the kinds of policies we would need in order to take the science seriously, it would mean strong regulations of the corporate sector; it would mean big investments in the public sphere to prepare ourselves for heavy weather and to lower our emissions rapidly. It would also mean transfers of wealth, which they’re not very big fans of.