The New York Times has published a remarkable article by Nathaniel Rich about the decade from 1979 to 1989 when it appeared that climate change could have been addressed. The story centers on environmentalist Rafe Pomerance and scientist James Hansen and their efforts to publicize the climate change issue and then to work toward legislation to address it in the 1980s. Obviously, they were unsuccessful. The article gives some hint as to why, but stops short of what we know to be the real reasons: Republican intransigence and the beginnings of a concerted effort by fossil fuel companies to cast doubt on the science. (In fact the author literally says that Republicans weren’t to blame, despite his own reporting that suggests otherwise.) In the intervening 30 years from the end of the story, humanity has nearly doubled its annual burning of CO2 causing materials.
Naomi Klein has an excellent rebuttal here. In her view, it is not “human nature” that we failed to stop climate change. Rather, she explains: “It is absolutely true that the global unleashing of the unbound form of capitalism known as neoliberalism in the ’80s and ’90s has been the single greatest contributor to a disastrous global emission spike in recent decades, as well as the single greatest obstacle to science-based climate action ever since governments began meeting to talk (and talk and talk) about lowering emissions.”