Climate leviathan, Geoff Mann and Joel Wainwright, verso, 2019
Mann and Wainwright’s work offers a unique framework for viewing solutions for tackling the approaching climate crisis, and diagnoses the failures of neoliberal politicians in their efforts to tackle it. They argue that the most likely outcome is some form of capitalist hegemon which will dictate what recourses are allocated where, and who is allowed to pollute the environment. More importantly, they identify this will not be a “one world government” but rather a dominator-dominated relationship. They also argue that the “stupefying” inequalities make it almost impossible to use some form of democratic system to achieve a meaning shift away from the carbon intensive economies of today toward a more sustainable economic system. They state that this is largely because many of the worst effects of climate change will be focused on the global south which, by virtue of being far poorer, has less say even though they have only produced a limited amount of greenhouse gasses and also are far less developed than the global north.
They discuss the 2016 Paris agreements and why despite making some gains in the fight for climate justice, they would be unable to achieve the necessary change as they are ideologically incapable of confronting that fact that the roots of the crisis lie in a crisis of capitalism. They note that even many of the ruling class have noted this contradiction but are doomed to failure as they cannot provide a solution within the contemporary political-economic framework, and cannot seriously tackle to growing threat.
They also propose three other forms of governance that could be produced by the climate crisis. A “climate behemoth” which is a largely isolationist and reactionary system. An Asian centred “climate Mao” which relies heavily of state power and authoritarian coercion, although in no longer capitalist, and a “climate X” which they argue is some kind of localised democratic non-capitalist response, although they consider this the least likely outcome.
The book is clearly written and makes its case clearly, the authors do not try to gloss over the glaring problems of climate change with appeals to a technocratic solution, rather make clear that this is a crisis of capitalism and cannot be tackled within a capitalist system. The authors also point out that little has actually been done to prevent climate change, only to adapt to it, and this is not a luxury afforded to many in the global south. In this regard they are extremely clear that the only solution is some level of wealth redistribution which would be unimaginable within a capitalist system. There are few appeals to “sensible pragmatic approaches” as they show that such thinking simply does not correlate with the scientific data. It is refreshing to see a work that so clearly acknowledges the roots of the crisis, rather than just dancing around them.