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Naomi Klein: By Not Holding Climate Debate, DNC Fails to Grasp “Intersectional Nature of the Crisis”

Web ExclusiveSeptember 17, 2019
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Renowned activist and author Naomi Klein evaluates the 2020 Democratic presidential field and the climate platforms of leading candidates. She says the Democratic National Committee’s refusal to hold a debate specifically on the climate crisis reveals “a fundamental failure to understand the intersectional nature of this crisis,” making it crucial for the candidates to be vocal about their plans.

“If you say you support a Green New Deal, … then you can’t wait for the moderator to ask you specifically about climate change. This is your economic plan. This is related to what your foreign policy is. This is related to your racial justice platform,” Klein says. “This is really the story of the next economy. So the candidates need to seize the reins.”

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. Naomi Klein is out with her new book today. It’s called On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal. And she joins us in studio for Part 2 of our conversation.

Naomi, we ended Part 1 of our conversation by talking about the presidential candidates, playing a clip of Bernie Sanders talking about the Green New Deal, playing a clip of Senator Elizabeth Warren. I want to get your overall picture now about this debate within the Democratic Party —


AMY GOODMAN: — how much to focus on the climate crisis, with the DNC holding a vote — the Democratic National Committee — Tom Perez, the chairman of the DNC, prevailing, that there would not be a debate specifically on the climate crisis, because, as he and others say, before you know it, there will be a debate on every other issue.


AMY GOODMAN: How do you respond to that?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I think it’s a fundamental failure to understand the intersectional nature of this crisis, right? I mean, the climate crisis impacts everything from economic inequality to international relations, to war, to, you know, whether or not we’re going to have a fair economic system, to femicide. I mean, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, we have seen a huge spike in domestic violence, in murders of women. Basically, climate change makes everything worse. Right? Whatever the stresses your society is under, you add climate stresses on top of that, and it gets worse. So there are ways of talking about climate change — indeed, we need to be talking about climate change in an intersectional way that shows how, you know, we can’t pry it apart from all of these other issues.

In the absence of a DNC that gets this, that is going to create a platform for candidates to talk about how these issues are connected, we really have to rely on the candidates themselves who say they support a Green New Deal to do it, you know, in their stump speeches, in the nonclimate-themed debates. They can’t wait for moderators to ask them about climate change. I mean, if you say you support a Green New Deal, which most of the candidates say they do now — not Biden, but most of the other leading candidates say that they do — then you can’t wait for the moderator to ask you specifically about climate change. This is your economic plan. This is related to what your foreign policy is. This is related to your racial justice platform. So, this is really the story of the next economy. So the candidates need to seize the reins. And I think some of them are doing a better job than others. I think, actually, frankly, all of them have a lot of work to do to really weave this into the stump speech, so that you’re not waiting for the DNC to hand you the opportunity to talk about your holistic vision.

AMY GOODMAN: So, evaluate the candidates’ positions on the climate crisis, where you think they stand.

NAOMI KLEIN: OK, well, I don’t have time to, like, go through each one. I think that the idea that Joe Biden is a safe choice is not true on any level. I don’t think he’s safe electorally, but I also don’t think that he’s safe when it comes to climate, because he’s still within this paradigm of, you know, “We can’t spend too much. We can’t do too much,” you know, this incrementalist approach, that actually leads us to this incredibly unsafe place, which is a warming world of 3 to 4 degrees, you know, additional warming. So, let’s set Biden aside. I don’t think it’ll come as a huge surprise to your listeners and viewers that I’m not a Biden fan.

I think the biggest difference that I would point to has to do with Sanders and Warren as it relates to climate and war, and to climate and international affairs. You know, I think they both have some very, very strong climate policies. I think it was very good that Warren adopted so much of Inslee’s platform. Sanders is talking about spending a lot more money. That is significant. But he’s also talking about spending a lot more money internationally.

One of the things that we’re hearing from a lot of different candidates, including Warren, is that the U.S. can lead by example. And Warren talks about “economic patriotism” as it relates to the green economy, so, basically, spend a lot of money converting U.S. manufacturing to — you know, from manufacturing the infrastructure of a fossil fuel economy to a green economy — so, solar panels, wind turbines — and then sell those products to the world. Right? I don’t think that’s economic patriotism; I think that’s economic imperialism. I think the U.S. doesn’t lead by example. The U.S. has to lead based on historical responsibility.

The U.S. is the world’s largest historical emitter. It is embedded within the treaties that the U.S. has signed, the climate treaties the U.S. has signed, that the U.S. owes a debt to the Global South to have the resources to develop their own economies. So, they don’t have to just buy made-in-the-U.S. solar panels. They need to be able to develop their own green manufacturing. And they do need resources from the U.S. and other large historical emitters to leapfrog over fossil fuels, to get to that economy, and also to prepare for the impacts of climate change that are already locked in.

So, I think Sanders, honestly, is the only candidate that is really reckoning with that historical responsibility. He’s talking about spending $200 billion for climate financing. And this is really the first time we’ve had that type of approach.

You know, another big difference that I think is worth really wrestling with has to do with what Sanders has talked about in terms of greening the military. It is true that the U.S. military is a major procurer of goods, and it would make a big difference if it was procuring goods that were low-carbon. But the fact is that war itself is an ecological disaster. And most of the wars that the United States fights are in areas with a whole lot of oil. And that is not by coincidence.

So, I think this idea that, you know, we battle climate change by painting the military green, frankly, is a bit of an absurdity. I understand why people think that it is more politically palatable. But I think we need to be honest about the fact that, you know, we need to get a lot of the money that is currently being spent on arms, you know, on these disastrous wars, disastrous on every level — first and foremost, humanitarian disasters, but also ecological disasters — we need to move that money over to building a peaceful and just and zero-carbon economy.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, I want to thank you for being with us. People should go to Part 1 of the discussion that Juan González and I have with Naomi Klein on her new book, out today, On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal. Naomi Klein is the renowned author, also author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate and The Shock Doctrine and No Logo and more. She’s a correspondent at The Intercept and the inaugural Gloria Steinem chair of media, culture and feminist studies at Rutgers University. To see Part 1 of our discussion, go to democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much.

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