Naomi Klein keeps coming up with fresh new ideas about how to spark an elusive mass social movement against capitalism and corporations. In her 2000 bestseller No Logo, the progressive journalist attempted to harness the nascent anti-globalization movement to unleash “a vast wave of opposition squarely targeting transnational corporations.” In 2007, her book The Shock Doctrine bogusly asserted that free market institutions spread only by taking advantage of coups, wars, and natural calamities. The book debuted at the beginning of a massive recession and featured economist Milton Friedman as its chief villain. But still no dice.
Now comes Klein’s newest screed, This Changes Everything. “Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war,” she asserts. Climate science, Klein claims, has given progressives “the most powerful argument against unfettered capitalism” ever. If the stresses of globalization and a massive financial crisis cannot mobilize the masses, then the prospect of catastrophic climate change must.
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. . . a 2011 Reason Foundation report found that deaths from all “extreme weather events globally has declined by more than 90 percent since the 1920s, in spite of a four-fold rise in population and much more complete reporting of such events.” This is mostly good news, despite This Changes Everything‘s scaremongering.
Klein’s list of remedies is more alarming than her exaggerations of climate change’s present-day effects. She wants to ban fracking, nuclear power, genetically modified crops, geoengineering, carbon sequestration, and carbon markets, thus turning her back on some of the climate-friendliest solutions currently on offer. She wants to block the Keystone pipeline, which would transport petroleum from Canadian oil sands to U.S. refineries; she would pressure pension funds and endowments to divest from fossil fuel companies; and she thinks we should transfer trillions of dollars to poor countries to pay off the rich countries’ debt for dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
“We need a Marshall Plan for the Earth,” Klein declares, updating one of the most tired historical metaphors for her purposes. “It is entirely possible to rapidly switch our energy systems to 100 percent renewables,” she asserts. As an example of “one of several credible studies” showing how such a vast energy transformation could be achieved, she breezily cites a 2009 Energy Policy paper by two researchers, Mark Jacobson of Stanford and Mark Delucchi of the University of California, Davis. Jacobson and Delucchi think we can replace all coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power by 2030 with wind, solar, and hydropower while fueling a fleet of electric cars. How? By deploying 3.8 million 5-megawatt wind turbines, 5,350 100-megawatt geothermal plants, 500,000 1-megawatt tidal turbines, 720,000 0.75-megawatt wave power generators, 1.7 billion 3-kilowatt rooftop solar panels, 40,000 300-megawatt solar panel farms, and 49,000 300-megawatt concentrated solar power plants.
Sound easy? Well, if the world were to begin deploying these renewable energy technologies next year that would mean erecting approximately 250,000 wind turbines each year for the next 15 years. As of the end of 2012, there were a total of 225,000 wind turbines operating around the world.
Similarly, the world would have to install 113 million rooftop solar panel systems per year in order to meet the 2030 goal of 1.7 billion. In 2013, the U.S. installed a record 4,751 megawatts of solar panels, which would be roughly equivalent to 1.6 million 3-kilowatt rooftop solar panels. As of 2013, the entire world had installed 100 gigawatts (100 million kilowatts) of solar photovoltaic panels. Combining the rooftop and solar panel proposals, this hyper-solarization would mean deploying more than 10 times the current installed capacity of photovoltaic panels, not just once but every year for the next 15 years. And never mind that there are virtually no commercial wave or tidal energy production systems currently operating.
Klein never ever discusses how much her solutions to the climate crisis will cost. But Delucchi and Jacobson estimate a price tag of about $100 trillion for their program. That entails spending about $6.6 trillion per year from now until 2030, more than 11 percent of the entire world’s 2013 output of $75 trillion. Such a crash plan for global energy transformation might be possible, but it would be a massive shift from our current course. Bloomberg New Energy Finance projected in July 2014 that $7.7 trillion total will be invested in building new power plants between now and 2030, of which renewables will get around two-thirds. And Klein accuses the proponents of free markets of “magical thinking”?
Read the whole thing, which is devastating, and which reveals Klein as–surprise!–a seller of snake oil. Of course, if Klein were truly interested in doing right by the environment, she would embrace capitalism as her ally. But that would require a predilection for honesty, wouldn’t it?