This Changes Everything Summary

Naomi Klein

This Changes Everything

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This Changes Everything Summary

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This Changes Everything, a work of nonfiction by Naomi Klein, seeks to explore every side of the global debate on climate change and its complexities. A journalist, Klein investigates this hot-button topic, as well as debunking misinformation surrounding this issue. The conservative sides presented in her discussion of climate change include the idea that climate change is not real, that it is real but it is cyclical and therefore not influenced by human actions, or that it is a hoax. The book was inspired by Klein’s attendance at a meeting of the Heartlands Institute, a right-wing think tank. Klein points out that those who believe climate change is a hoax think it is an attempt to replace democracy with Marxist socialism.

From her discussion of the Heartlands Institute, Klein shifts gears to discuss the other side of the coin—the scientific community. She states that most climate scientists—a whopping 97%—believe climate change is real and that human actions can and do affect it. Greenhouse gas emissions are choking the earth, and it is barely surviving as a global ecosystem. This struggle has an impact on not only the animal kingdom, but also plant life on the planet. Klein lays out the results from computer models that show the consequences that will come from ignoring climate change. Those consequences would be dire and spell the ultimate destruction of the earth.

Because of this, the United Nations has set target emissions reductions internationally. According to the science of climate change, these targets must be met within a decade in order to save the earth. Meeting these targets would keep global warming from exceeding the two-degrees-Celsius mark, in order to avoid climate crises. The agreement to meet these targets is non-binding, which means there are not any penalties for failing to meet them, according to Klein’s research. She adds though that while the UN will not issue any punishments, the planet itself will issue punishment for failing to meet the target in time.

With both sides of the climate change debate presented, Klein considers how those targets can be met. She examines how some governments are working with activists and the scientific community to find renewable energy solutions. The world’s reliance on fossil fuel puts the planet in danger of too much greenhouse gas, so using less of it would help the world hit the targets set forth by the UN. Klein discusses how this debate has shifted from one of climate conservation to one of capitalists vs. non-capitalists, since the fossil fuel industry is a major player in capitalist economies worldwide. Klein posits that those who deny climate change—namely modern conservatives on the side of big oil and coal—follow Sir Francis Bacon’s view that the earth exists to serve man, and will continue to do so; in other words, the earth’s resources are limitless.

Next, Klein turns her discussion to the history of climate change activism. She points out that while it moved to the back burner for some time, it has experienced a recent surge in popularity, led primarily by indigenous peoples around the world. They have taken to protesting, blockading, and bringing the fight with big energy into the court systems. Courts often rule in their favor. Finally, Klein considers how the world might proceed. She points out how both environmentalists and capitalist big oil companies are butting heads and are unlikely to convince the other to change their opinions or ways.

The answer, Klein suggests, lies in developing an alternate economy that would protect the earth’s climate without bankrupting those who side with capitalism and big oil. In This Changes Everything, Klein insists that as helpful as alternative energy is, it can only make a dent in saving the planet. It’s treating a symptom, not the disease. Instead, the world needs to focus on changing the economy, and then the benefits will trickle down to include protecting the earth and all who dwell upon it.

Published in 2014, This Changes Everything presents a big-picture view of the climate change debate and suggests that if we are to rely solely on alternative energy, the world—especially the two biggest contributors to global warming, China and the United States—would need to hit UN-set targets by 2024. Major themes in this book include resource depletion—the idea that the earth either has or does not have infinite resources for humans to use—and the importance of economy. Economies of the world have an impact on more than just money—they have an impact on everything; they are the lifeblood of global interactions, and provide a framework of supply and demand. Klein’s bottom line is this: the status quo is no longer an acceptable way to live. The world needs to change, to adapt in order to save the planet.