The Pope has invited the socialist green activist Naomi Klein to the Vatican to co-chair a conference on climate change, alongside Cardinal Peter Turkson. Left wing activists are joining religious leaders today to march through the Vatican on their way to the conference in celebration of the Pope’s recent encyclical on climate change. Klein has accused the Pope’s detractors of racism for not backing his economic stance.
Klein is likely to be a highly controversial choice as co-chair, not only because it is unusual to see a non-religious figure leading sessions in the Vatican, but because she is staunchly socialist in her outlook: her most recent book is entitled This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.
In it, she insists that the only way to save the planet from annihilation by climate change is to abandon capitalism. “In order for us to make the kind of progress we need to make in the short amount of time we have left we must confront the reigning, unquestioned ideology that sees privatization as always good, and doesn’t question the logic of austerity, doesn’t question the logic of pro-corporate, free trade deals that have stood in the way of progress on climate,” she told Macleans last year.
“That’s not necessarily the most popular message. But emissions are up 61 percent since we started trying to fix this problem in the early 1990s. Obviously, that strategy isn’t working.”
Her views chime with those of the Pope, who used the 180-page encyclical to call on rich countries to hand over large sums of money to poor countries as payment for their “grave social debt”.
“The foreign debt of poor countries has become a way of controlling them, yet this is not the case where ecological debt is concerned,” Francis wrote. “In different ways, developing countries, where the most important reserves of the biosphere are found, continue to fuel the development of richer countries at the cost of their own present and future.
“The developed countries ought to help pay this debt by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy and by assisting poorer countries to support policies and programmes of sustainable development.”
Klein has praised the Pope for that stance, telling the Observer: “The fact that they invited me indicates they’re not backing down from the fight. A lot of people have patted the pope on the head, but said he’s wrong on the economics. I think he’s right on the economics.”
She added that the Pope’s unique position as a “moral voice” gave him leverage to unite campaigners fighting for a common goal. “The holistic view of the encyclical should be a catalyst to bring together the twin economic and climate crises, instead of treating them separately,” she said.
And she tacitly accused his detractors of racism, suggesting that the Pope was being opposed on the economic arguments because he’s from the Southern hemisphere, saying: “There are a lot of people who are having a lot of trouble in realising there is a voice with such global authority from the global south. That’s why we’re getting this condescending view, of ‘leave the economics to us’,”
Unfortunately for Klein (and the Pope), her writing makes it clear that she has little grasp of basic concepts used in science such as cause and effect or numbers. Four years ago she attended the Heartland Institute’s climate conference in order to critique it.
The Australian climate blogger Jo Nova quickly and comprehensively destroyed her critique, however, saying: “Naomi Klein was the wrong person to send to a heavy-weight science conference — in “Capitalism vs Climate” she notices hundreds of details, but they’re all the wrong ones.
“The lights are on and no brain is home. Unpack the loquacious pencraft and we wallow in innumerate arguments that confuse cause and effect, peppered with petulant name-calling. She can throw stones, but she can’t count past “one”.”
“Klein thinks the answers to feeding the poor lies with “Big Government”, but rational thinkers know that more than anything, the fate of the poor depends on clear thinking, real evidence, and polite debate. None of which is on offer [from Klein].”
Today, Klein will be joining the protestors gathering in the Vatican to march from the French embassy – symbolic because Paris is the be the setting for the UN’s climate summit this December – to the conference venue. The churchmen, activists and scientists attending will discuss the best way to achieve action on climate change.