Greta Thunberg calls capitalism and market economics a ‘terrible idea’ for stopping climate change in new book

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by Rachel Koning Beals at

‘Leaving capitalist consumerism and market economics as the dominant stewards of the only known civilization in the universe will most likely seem, in retrospect, to have been a terrible idea.’

That’s the latest criticism of the established world order from Greta Thunberg, arguably the best-known face of the climate movement and perhaps of Gen Z politics writ large.

If capitalism created the crisis, as Thunberg suggests, then leaning on its mechanisms to fix the crisis is a flawed idea, she says.

Her takedown of capitalism features in a new book out Tuesday: “The Climate Book: The Facts and the Solutions,” which includes a kickoff essay by Thunberg, then leans on meteorologists, engineers, oceanographers and historians to make the case that there’s still hope to prevent a climate catastrophe.

Last month, Thunberg slammed corporate bigwigs holding their annual meetings in Davos, Switzerland, for “fueling the destruction of the planet” by investing in fossil fuels CL00, -1.61%  and prioritizing short-term profits over people affected by the climate crisis.

Divided into five parts — How Climate Works, How Our Planet is Changing, How It Affects Us, What We’ve Done About It and What We Must Do Now — the book features 105 guest essays covering everything from ice shelves to economics, from fast fashion to the loss of species, from water shortages to respecting the sovereignty of Indigenous people over their time-tested sustainable practices.

And it looks ahead, tackling the future of food production and implementing carbon budgets, which are intended to limit the huge gap between a polluting, industrialized and actively developing world and the poorer nations that are being tapped for their resources yet bear the brunt of droughts, extreme heat, dangerous storms and eroding coastlines.

Contributors include veteran scientists such as Johan Rockström, Michael Mann, Katherine Hayhoe, Friedrike Otto, Stefan Rahmstorf, Saleemul Huq and Carlos Nobre. Novelist Margaret Atwood has an essay, as does David Wallace-Wells, whose 2017 essay “The Uninhabitable Earth” remains the most-read piece in the history of New York magazine.

Thunberg says sobering facts must be the starting point.

“If you are one of the 19 million U.S. citizens or the 4 million citizens of China who belong to the [wealthiest] top 1% — along with everyone else who has a net worth of $1,055,337 or more — then hope is perhaps not what you need the most. At least not from an objective perspective,” Thunberg writes.

She goes on to say that while progress is welcome, she doesn’t entirely trust the way those in power log those changes.

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