Naomi Klein: "This changes everything"


Canadian author, filmmaker and social activist Naomi Klein visited the OECD on 24 November 2015, giving a talk on why climate change changes everything. Part of The Coffees of the Secretary-General series, you can read the complete transcript of Ms Klein’s presentation below. 

I would like to thank you for being so welcoming and open to different ideas. I feel a little like I have been invited to the lion’s den but I will hold up my end of the bargain. I called my book This Changes Everything, not because the book changes everything, but because when we talk about climate change in 2015, we talk about climate change in a very particular situation. That situation is that we have waited and procrastinated for too long and in the meantime the problems have become so much worse that we find ourselves in a very awkward situation. That situation is: there are no non-radical options left on the table. 

So one way or another, everything is going to change. We can choose between some pretty radical options, but one of the options before us is not keeping the status quo. What I mean by this is that if we stay on the road we are on, the road that is often described politely as "business as usual" it leads to some pretty unusual things. It leads to warming of 4-6°C above pre-industrial levels–this is not a figure that comes from Greenpeace or from–it comes from the World Bank. The International Energy Agency actually says it will potentially be 6°C; PricewaterhouseCoopers also says that we are headed towards a 6°C world. 

We know that there will be a big meeting about climate change in less than one week, but we also know that if governments do what they are pledging to do–and whether it will be legally enforceable–those pledges add up to warming, not of 2°C, which is what was agreed to in Copenhagen in 2009, but to 3°C. That is a radical future, it is a future in which a great deal, if not everything about our physical world changes. A 3 to 4°C warming world is a world of major crop failure; it is a world of sea-level rise that threatens the existence of low lying island nation states; it threatens major coastal cities around the world and it intensifies conflict.

Some people look at these changes to the physical world that we are bringing on and propose some really radical engineering changes. There is increasingly serious talk of climate engineering or geo-engineering or planet hacking–this idea that we could physically turn down the sun by spraying sulphur into the stratosphere and fertilise the oceans. These are technologies that are fraught with risks, they are untested and fundamentally untestable because you cannot build a physical model of the earth’s atmosphere; all you can do is deploy. One of the book’s chapters looks at the geo-engineering solutions, particularly the most serious one, which is sulphur in the stratosphere or often referred to as the Pinatubo option because it imitates what powerful volcanoes do. We do know, for example, that they lower temperatures; and we also know from historical records that they interfere with the summer monsoons in Asia and Africa. 

The good news is that it is not too late to avoid these radical, physical changes. We could give ourselves a very good chance of keeping temperatures below 2°C, we could even set a target of 1.5°C and decide that is what caution demands. That is what I personally believe. But doing so requires changing a great deal about our political and economic system. 

Get the full trasncript here

Short biography

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, syndicated columnist and author of The New York Times. Published worldwide in 2007, her international bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism has been published in 30 languages with over one million copies in print. It appeared on multiple "best of year" lists including as a New York Times Critics’ Pick of the Year. Rachel Maddow called The Shock Doctrine, "The only book of the last few years in American publishing that I would describe as a mandatory must-read."

Naomi Klein’s first book, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies was also an international bestseller, translated into over 25 languages with more than a million copies in print. The New York Times called it "a movement bible." In 2011, Time Magazine named it as one of the top 100 non-fiction books published since 1923. A tenth anniversary edition of No Logo was published worldwide in 2009. The Literary Review of Canada has named it one of the hundred most important Canadian books ever published. A collection of her writing, Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalisation Debate was published in 2002.

In 2007, the six-minute companion film to The Shock Doctrine, created by Alfonso Cuaron, acclaimed director of Children of Men, was an Official Selection of the Venice Biennale, San Sebastien and Toronto International Film Festivals. The Shock Doctrine was also adapted into a feature length documentary by award winning director Michael Winterbottom and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010. In 2004, Naomi Klein wrote The Take, a feature documentary about Argentina’s occupied factories co-produced with director Avi Lewis. The film was an Official Selection of the Venice Biennale and won the Best Documentary Jury Prize at the American Film Institute’s Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Her critically acclaimed new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, is the 2014 winner of the prestigious Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction. An instant bestseller when published in September 2014, it debuted at #5 on the New York Times list and was named to multiple Best of 2014 lists, including the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2014. It was also shortlisted for the 2015 PEN Literary Awards in the nonfiction category. This Changes Everything is being translated into over 20 languages. 

Naomi Klein is a contributing editor for Harper’s and reporter for Rolling Stone, and writes a regular column for The Nation and The Guardian that is syndicated internationally by The New York Times Syndicate. In 2004, her reporting from Iraq for Harper’s won the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. Additionally, her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times, The Globe and Mail, El Pais, L’Espresso and The New Statesman, among many other publications. Naomi is a member of the board of directors for, a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis. She is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute and a former Miliband Fellow at the London School of Economics. She holds an honorary Doctor of Civil Laws from the University of King’s College, Nova Scotia.


©OECD Observer February 2016

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