Being radical in the climate emergency

Start here: The climate emergency requires extreme measures, including but not limited to global governance for GHG removal and remediation beyond anything the world has ever seen before. Only then, the argument goes, can the long term and the green infrastructure get the priority. To lay my cards on the table, I’m more than willing to believe radical agendas are needed.

This is my question, though: What other scenarios would you also expect to find but are very rarely identified in the calls for radical action? Answers are important because there are already increasing demands for broad-based civil disobedience, sabotage, and violence to stop the Big Polluters. Against this background, why any reticence at all?

In answer, I can think of one very worrisome scenario–this too rarely discussed–but easily assembled. To cut to the quick:

A global climate emergency calls for global climate security. Security is what militaries do—and a well-funded military is one of the few government organizations that routinely does long term planning and often takes that planning seriously.

And who is most ready to invest in the urgently-needed global-wide green infrastructure? Blackstone and Vanguard and the other asset management titans! Nothing, they say, would be more attractive to them than picking and choosing where to invest their trillions and trillions and trillions in publicly supported infrastructure programs geared to reducing climate risk—because for them climate risk is, well, investment risk; it is financial risk.

And who better than the deep-pocket departments of defense and the global asset managers to prototype and fund climate change modeling down to the grid level of the politician’s constituency? The premise here, as a realist put it, is “climate models will start to really matter when the grid scales get to the size of a congressional district.”

Accuracy need be no more be an issue at this small scale than is the continued reliance at the global scale in global climate change models of the RCP 8.5. That is a Pathway trajectory for high emissions many consider not to be realistic but still a good worse-case scenario just in case it really gets bad. Imagine then global asset titans being the first to sponsor “just-in-case-it-really-gets-bad” climate scenarios for marketing to key voting constituencies.

Not the radical action scenario climate activism envisions, is it? I’m not saying the above is likelier to happen than other “new governance” scenarios. I am asking you to wonder how this really-existing climate emergency can be acted upon via radical action, when radical action is to be undertaken by others orthogonal to the way climate activists want.

It’s one thing to call for radical resistance against the major polluting nations. It’s another thing to lay out how the next wave of environmental activism includes cadres of digital hackers ready to take on, say, Xi Jinping and the CCP. China reportedly is responsible for an estimated one-quarter of annual global GHG emissions, largely due to its massive fleet of coal-fired power stations. Where is the hacktivism ready and able to disable these plants? Or disable the real-time operations of, say, the “Big 3” credit rating agencies (S&P Global, Moody’s and Fitch) for their insanely positive ratings of the economies fueling climate change?

In what world is unprecedented global governance of the consumption and production of 7.5 billion people easier than, say, mobilizing the Chinese proletariat of some 220 million or disrupting the operations of the Big 3 CRAs, both for the planet’s survival? Answers, I believe, are part of what we should expect to find but are not talked about—except perhaps inside the respective departments of defense and global asset managers.

So, what’s to be done?

I start from the proposition that the radical action above isn’t radical enough. Those agendas stop short and end up exaggerating their cases by leaving out what’s to be pushed further.

I set out my case for pushing further in the earlier blog, “Surprising climate change.” An uncontrolled climate change globally exhibits already a large array of local coping and managing responses. We know from research that global climate change is complex, because local activities and responses are so heterogenous and diverse. We also know the large array of local cases form a distribution across which practices could emerge for local transformations, if not for scaling up.

What I am saying is that the agenda for addressing the climate emergency would establish as its benchmark the really-existing diversity of climate responses and related practices (including militancy) already underway. Now, that would be radical!

Yes, more is needed by way of other-level policy and management, but the “more” would be evaluated against this benchmark and not some other even more imperfect one.

Principal sources

Afanasiev, V. and C. Di Leone (2021). “01.11 For Planetary Governance: Building Climate Knowledge Infrastructure.” Interview with a lead author of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, Paul N. Edwards in Strelka Mag (accessed online on January 23, 2022 at

Agnew, H. and R. Wigglesworth (2022). “BlackRock’s Fink rejects accusations of being ‘woke’”. (accessed online on January 23 2022 at

Braun, B. and A. Buller (2021). “Titans: Tracing the rise and politics of asset manager capitalism.” (accessed online on January 23 2022 at ttps:// )

Buxton, N. (2021). A Primer on Climate Security: The dangers of militarising the climate crisis. Transnational Institute, Amsterdam. (This is a very informative must-read, if only because it addresses the fateful question: What if global climate change does not lead to global conflicts?)

Davis, M. (2011). “Spring confronts winter.” Editorial. New Left Review 72.

Griffith-Jones, S. and M. Kraemer (2021). “Credit rating agencies and developing economies.” DESA Working Paper No. 175. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, New York.

Sovacool, B.K. and A. Dunlap (2022). “Anarchy, war, or revolt? Radical perspectives for climate protection, insurgency and civil disobedience in a low-carbon era.” Energy Research & Social Science 86 (

Transnational Institute and Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (2021). Energy Transition or Energy Expansion? New York and Amsterdam.

Wallace-Wells, D. (2021). “Climate Reparations: The case for carbon removal.” (Accessed online on January 23 2022 at

Highly recommended: “Blow up pipelines? Tadzio Müller and Andreas Malm on what next for the climate movement” (listen to the very end; you’ll find it moving)

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