Alarmists Realize They’re Selling Global Warming All Wrong

by Greg Pollowitz

David Roberts of the enviro-mag Grist writes, “Are climate campaigners doing it wrong? I review a book that answers ‘yes’.” An excerpt:

What if the problem with international climate negotiations is not this or that recalcitrant country but the very foundation the whole enterprise is built on? What if climate campaigners are fixated on a set of frames and strategies that are doomed to failure? Wouldn’t that suck?

Yes. Yes it would suck. Nonetheless, that’s the situation we’re in, according to scholar David Victor’s new book, Global Warming Gridlock: Creating More Effective Strategies for Saving the Planet. It’s a painstaking, soup-to-nuts critique of the strategies at the heart of the international climate movement, along with a fairly elaborate sketch of what a new approach might look like. This is not incremental stuff: Victor thinks we need to wipe the slate almost clean and start over. If that makes you feel slightly panicky, well, just wait ‘til you’ve read the thing. Chipper it ain’t.

Anyway, I have a new essay-slash-book-review in the latest issue of The American Prospect — “A Way to Win the Climate Fight?” — that mostly focuses on Victor’s book, though it also touches on Eric Pooley’s The Climate War (which I reviewed in Grist).

I really, really encourage you to read this book review. Victor’s book is incredibly thought-provoking and dense. And if it’s right, climate hawks need to do some serious rethinking.

And here’s an excerpt from the book review mentioned above:

If the picture Victor paints of progress is accurate — bottom-up, halting, and slow — one unsettling conclusion is unavoidable: 2 degrees is probably already out of reach. Substantial climate change is already “in the pipeline,” and further deterioration is all but inevitable. Consequently, the international community needs to get much more serious about adaptation and, in the event of climate emergencies, the fallback option of geo-engineering.

Adaptation has played a large role in the international discussion, but Victor argues that the climate community is unduly focused on the creation of a large adaptation fund for vulnerable developing countries. Preparing for and responding to climate changes are not discrete activities; they are largely coterminous with economic development more broadly. The strong institutions that societies will need to coordinate climate response are the same ones that yield economic growth and security. “Mainstreaming adaptation into traditional well-managed development assistance is probably the most effective and moral strategy,” he says. However, just as providing effective economic-development assistance has been challenging, so it is with adaptation funding. The unpleasant truth is that there’s probably not a great deal rich countries can do to help poor ones prepare for climate change, no matter how well-meaning the wealthy nations may be. The economic and institutional reforms that yield development and resilience tend to arise from inside a country, not outside.

I like it! A working title for the movie, perhaps: Dr. Strangelove II or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Warming.