Overheated How capitalism broke the planet--and how we fight back

Kate Aronoff

Book - 2021

"In the past few years, it has become impossible (for most) to deny the effects of climate change and that the planet is warming, and to acknowledge that we must act. But a new kind of denialism is taking root in the halls of power, shaped by a quarter-century of neoliberal policies, that threatens to doom us before we've grasped the full extent of the crisis. As Kate Aronoff argues, since the 1980s and 1990s, economists, pro-business Democrats and Republicans in the US, and global organizations like the UN and the World Economic Forum have all made concessions to the oil and gas industry that they have no intention of reversing. What's more, they believe that climate change can be solved through the market, capitalism can be... a force for good, and all of us, corporations included, are fighting the good fight together. These assumptions, Aronoff makes abundantly clear, will not save the planet. Drawing on years of reporting and rigorous economic analysis, Aronoff lays out a robust vision for what will, detailing how to constrain the fossil fuel industry; transform the economy into a sustainable, democratic one; mobilize political support; create effective public-private partnerships; enact climate reparations; and adapt to inevitable warming in a way that is just and equitable. Our future, Aronoff's book makes clear, will require a radical reimagining of our politics and our economies, but if done right, it will save the world"--

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New York : Bold Type Books 2021.
Main Author
Kate Aronoff (author)
First edition
Physical Description
418 pages ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • Introduction: From Great Acceleration to Great Transformation
  • Part 1. New Denial Old Ideas
  • 1. Climate Denial Is Dead
  • 2. Long Live Climate Denial!
  • 3. First as Tragedy
  • 4. Parallel Worlds
  • 5. New Scenarios
  • Part 2. Green Dreams Versus Eco-Apartheid
  • 6. Pick Good! Be Smart!
  • 7. Planning for a Good Crisis
  • 8. Power to the People
  • 9. A Postcarbon Democracy
  • 10. Toward a Nonviolent Economy
  • 11. Managing Eco-Apartheid
  • 12. Emergency Internationalism
  • Conclusion: We Can Have Nice Things
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Index
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Aronoff (co-editor, We Own the Future), a staff writer at the New Republic, delivers an urgent and persuasive study of the links between neoliberal economics and climate change. According to Aronoff, every presidential administration since Ronald Reagan's has prioritized market-based solutions to environmental issues, and has sought the fossil fuel industry's input on its own regulation. The result, Aronoff argues, has been little to no progress on an existential threat to humankind. She critiques the notion that carbon taxes alone can curb greenhouse gas emissions to the degree necessary, and details how Waxman-Markey, a 2009 bill that would have established a cap-and-trade program in the U.S., was undermined by poor messaging from the Obama administration and handouts to fossil fuel companies and Wall Street. Aronoff also sketches the history of the New Deal to argue that the Green New Deal can restore the economy after the Covid-19 pandemic and help Democrats build an electoral coalition to "bat off challenges from the right," and examines grassroots campaigns to "reassert democratic control" over publicly owned energy utilities. Though Aronoff covers familiar ground, she does so from a fresh angle, and offers brisk yet detailed analysis of why the U.S. approach to climate change has fallen short. Policy makers and environmental activists will find much food for thought. Agent: Ian Bonaparte, Janklow & Nesbit. (Apr.)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

Our environmental future depends on radical economic change. Drawing on government documents, interviews, environmental studies, and reports from a wide range of media sources, journalist and New Republic staff writer Aronoff mounts a compelling indictment of capitalism for making climate change reform impossible. The fossil fuel industry, representing "the most powerful and politically entrenched companies on earth," has hijacked such reforms, she asserts, funding climate change deniers, influencing governmental policy, and blocking any measures that would affect the industry's financial growth. "The line between what constitutes an official US governmental priority versus that of its biggest companies is a thin one," writes the author. To undermine politicians who seek reform, for example, the industry has engaged in "fearmongering" about how measures such as cap and trade, designed to limit carbon emissions, "would kill jobs and raise fuel costs." Portraying fossil fuel executives as opportunists, Aronoff reveals that from 2000 to 2018, despite "selling themselves as climate champions," energy companies invested less than 4% of their capital expenditures in low-carbon technologies. To counter the pernicious effects of capitalism, the author proposes "low-carbon populism" that sets out goals "other than the boundless accumulation of private wealth." As in her previous book, A Planet To Win, Aronoff champions the Green New Deal as a flexible, responsive framework "for reimagining the fractured social contract upon which this country was built" and for acknowledging the connection between racism and environmental vulnerabilities. Reprising the achievements of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, Aronoff suggests nationalizing the fossil fuel industry, turning to unions to train workers for clean energy jobs, and spurring technological innovation. "The New Deal's throughline wasn't socialism or even big government," she asserts, "but a thoroughly democratic political economy." The business model of the fossil fuel industry, she concludes in this well-documented and necessarily provocative book, is "incompatible with a livable future." An informative, urgent, and sure to be controversial argument. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.