In a recent entry in the New York Times environmental section (Dot Earth), Andrew Revkin writes about an email exchange he had with Naomi Klein concerning the two differing perspectives of how to resolve climate change. Revkin, a notable moderate who trusts in individual agency coupled with careful government intervention and market-based incentives, explains his disagreement with the more radical approaches proposed by Klein and her associates involving a fundamental shift in economic behaviour. The debate perfectly highlights the varying perspectives of climate change proposals in the context of the current climate talks in Durban, South Africa.
Through the prism of the financial crisis, there is little hope placed on any fundamental breakthrough in the COP (Conference of Parties) at Durban this week. Climate activists and policy-makers seem to have resigned themselves to accepting non-binding suggestions and plans for the next meeting instead of a framework for binding carbon reduction targets like those in the Kyoto Protocol. Furthermore, skepticism in the United States regarding the efficacy of climate change science has grown meteorically: polls show general disagreement by almost half the country about the causes of global warming.
For Klein, based on this information, the very foundations of capitalism and our economic behaviour must be radically changed in order to accommodate any hopes of resolving the climate crisis. But Revkin disagrees with many of her conclusions, arguing that incentivized behaviour mixed with moderate government intervention and R&D can offer similar outcomes too without radically changing the American economy.