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Naomi Klein calls out Trudeau on “pretending to care” about climate change

SFU lecture features well-known activist criticising recent environmental policy

Friday night's lecture at the Vogue Theatre was part of the SFU Vancouver Speaker Series.
Friday night's lecture at the Vogue Theatre was part of the SFU Vancouver Speaker Series.
Image Credits: Kevin Rey

What is something that former Prime Minister Stephen Harper has over Justin Trudeau? According to Naomi Klein, “at least he didn’t pretend to care” about climate change.

On Friday, the prolific writer and environmentalist spoke to the danger of a government that did not take climate change seriously at an event hosted at the Vogue Theater by the SFU Vancouver Speaker Series in partnership with SFU Department of Philosophy. The sold out show drew environmentalists, students from SFU’s semester in dialogue, as well as SFU President Andrew Petter himself.

“Is what happened in Paris a [. . .] breakthrough or an ecological disaster?” asked Klein, referring to the United Nations Climate Change Conference that took place in the French capital last year. At the end of the conference, 195 countries agreed to the Paris Agreement, which set the goal of limiting global warming to two degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels.

However, there are many criticisms against the agreement, including that it is non-binding, and may not be ambitious enough to prevent sea level rise that would wipe out some coastal nations. Klein argued that “these people [. . .] have a right to exist,” and that the lack of real effort to act in the Paris Agreement is not only disingenuous, but is “genocidal.”

This idea of social justice beyond borders is part of what brought Klein to Vancouver. Dr. Sam Black, professor of philosophy at SFU, organized a President’s Dream Colloquium course in spring 2013 that explored the idea of global social justice, and Klein’s latest book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, links social justice and climate change. In it, Klein explores the link between the rise of neoliberalism in the 1980s with the dramatic increase in carbon emissions and emphasized the need to take immediate action on climate change.

The complexity of addressing climate change, Black explained in an interview with The Peak, is partially because of how far removed the issue may seem. While Vancouverites may be moved to address homelessness because they see human suffering first hand, “in the case of global climate change, we’re talking about enduring sacrifices now for the sake of people who don’t even exist yet.”

On Friday, Klein criticized a recent statement by Trudeau that pipeline projects will pay for the transition to a low carbon economy. Klein said that the emissions resulting from projects like the proposed Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) terminal on Lelu island or the TransMountain pipeline expansion would break Canada’s carbon budget. Said Klein, “The science is clear and the numbers do not add up.” Recently, a group of 130 scientists have submitted a letter to the federal government criticizing the environmental draft report on the LNG terminal.

However, Klein ended her talk by offering some good news for those hoping for climate action.

She spoke to the gathering speed of divestment movements across North America, taking a moment to comment that so far, no major Canadian universities have committed to divest from fossil fuels. Other movements have been gaining steam however, including the extremely rapid conversion of Germany’s energy grid to renewable energy.

By tackling the multi faceted causes of excessive emissions, Klein argued that countries have an opportunity for dramatic social and economic change by promoting social programs and creating sustainable jobs.
She explained that that future is “not just better than the world if we don’t act [on climate change]; it’s better than the world right now.”

  • Earl Salzman

    We need to get serious about pressuring the government. Civil disobedience, legal action. And we need to educate as many people as possible now. 39% of Canadians don’t believe climate change is a problem.

    • mememine

      Science agreeing a CO2 Armageddon was only “99% real” makes 35 more years of debate and climate action delay certain and unstoppable.

      REAL is; “as real as science already agrees smoking causes cancer”.
      Were the science gods you exaggerated also only 99% sure the planet wasn’t flat?
      The only crime was wanting this misery to have been real.

    • ViralOutrage

      Good point, if Trudeau can’t be the man to change our ways, he should at least bring that awareness level up a few notches…

  • Andrew

    Thats it im running for the next prime minister.

  • Andrew

    Theres no preventing it… Humans are just too smart for their own good… I feel terrible for future generations who will walk an earth full of garbage wearing air masks everyday. Theyll look back at us as monsters.

    • dave bainard

      CO2 is NOT a pollutant.

      • Andrew

        An example of why humanity is heading there due to people like you

        • Gallilao

          It is the gullible, scientifically illiterate, unwashed masses, like yourself that are the real problem. You don’t understand the science, which comes as no surprise since neither do the so called climate scientists, so you don’t know the difference between environmental pollution and climate.

          The ignorant leading the blind and stupid!

          • disqusaurus_rex

            Anyone who uses the phrase “so called climate scientists” should really not be talking about the subject of scientific literacy. Just FYI.

          • bcsenior10

            Then why should we listen to some one who writes books? Is she a climate specialist or some one who hates Capitalism?

        • Dennis Mahaney

          What do trees and plants breath and what do they give off you might not be smart enough to understand that

      • tawnybill

        Would you believe H2O is what will do US in?
        Yep! … Simple WATER! … IT through the source of Polar and deep ocean “MELTING METHANE” [which BTW is 90% or so Hydrogen] and this Hydrogen combines with oxygen AT ROOM TEMPERATURE! … With NO … Combustion needed!

        FYI … WHERE do you think the ‘DELUGE rain AND FLOODING’ in the South Central USA originated?

        And those BILLIONS of cubic meters of Hydrogen will sequester so much of EARTHS’ Oxygen that CO2 … Will actually HAVE BEEN a MINOR PROBLEM comparatively … because there are only a few ‘conditions conducive to breaking the water molecule … and that only in miniscule amounts where the water molecule is broken, so that the hydrogen becomes sequestered and the oxygen released back into the atmosphere.

  • disqusaurus_rex

    She’s one to talk – the rest of us have been talking about climate change for decades. Naomi Klein only drifted onto the topic when she realized she could use it to pontificate to the rest of us about her pre-existing economic theories…. even though most of the rest of us have been talking about it a lot longer than she has.

    • Ophita

      So I guess that her decades working for anti-sexism, anti-globalism, anti-totalitarianism, and anti-capitalism doesn’t mean anything? Or that her three best selling books about fascism, corporatism, and environmentalism aren’t worthy accomplishments? Everyone has a different time frame for developing awareness, and we should be celebrating each other’s growth, not sniping about whether we did it fast enough, or if it was done in the right way. We need to work together to build each other up, not tear each other down.

      • disqusaurus_rex

        It means something for those topics.

        But sorry – it doesn’t give her much tenure on this topic, particularly where it relates to political parties that had a serious climate change policy platform long before she even got around to bandwagoning on to climate change.

    • Thomas Conway

      There are always going to be late-comers and glory hounds. No problem. Let them help-out, since real change needs all the help possible. But they are not to be taken too seriously. No one is forgetting the thousands in Canada who did the real heavy lifting on the issue before it became media worthy for people like Ms. Klein. That said, keep talking, it’s all good. She will be gone soon, and others will need to carry-on. This is a multi-generational fight, not something that will be over before we are pushing-up daisies, or Ms. Klein milks it for fanfare. It is good when self-promoters and business gets on the bandwagon. Encourage it. The more noise the better. The more benefits for promoters the better. The Earth does not care, it just needs change.

  • mememine

    CO2 = Y2K²
    Climate Blame Exaggeration Was Liberalism’s Iraq War

    So what’s stopping science from agreeing a CO2 end of days is as real as smoking causing cancer instead of “99% real”?
    Are the science gods you drama queens and goregressives exaggerate also only 99% sure the planet isn’t flat?
    What is stopping another 35 years of climate action delay, debate and global disbelief?

    *REAL progressives know 35 more years is unstoppable and that’s why even Occupy no longer mentions CO2 in it’s list of demands so move on.

    • Peter Block

      What scientist or author said Warming was ‘99% real’? Did you mean 99% agree? because yes, large sums of money and plain old crazy will have a few hacks saying no. so i am sure there are plenty of scientists saying that the earth is flat, and even that germs dont cause illness.

  • Kevin Broughton

    One more thing a Stephen Harper Government would not have sent anyone to Paris at least the Liberals sent someone of substance One other thing non of the screaming meemies of the “divest in fossil fuels” side of things can come up with a inclusive plan on just how we do it and not drive the world into an economic chaos it is bad enough 1 in 9children live in conflict zones now does anyone think that number changes in say Africa if we force fossil fuels off the table on them, 4 billion people live in water deprived zones that is more than half the worlds population folks maybe we should worry about stabilizing our slightly more important problem of feeding the mass of dying people than trying to switch over to electric cars

    • Don Sod

      You’re right. Trudeau wasted tax dollars in this event where he and his government are completely ineffective – essential photo ops for a bunch of politically hungry phoneys. What an embarrasment to our country.

      • Gallilao

        You sure are!

      • Mike Risk

        Do the math. The delegation Canada sent (no, you CANNOT do these negotiations via teleconferencing) cost, incl. airfare, about $300/day. Your rant embarrasses only you.

      • Thomas Conway

        Most of us our proud and not embarrassed. Maybe you should get your problem checked.

      • Hope Ludlow Aldridge

        Get over it – the CONs lost. The sooner you accept it and stop your silly sulking the better.

  • Don Sod

    Trudeau’s was able to fool about 39% of the population. He’s a buffoon alright, but he was smart enough to get himself elected. So far not looking to good … hope our country survives 🙁

    • Moohamed

      Still better then Harpo the clown actively BURNING scientific Data!

    • Gallilao

      If we can survive a traitor like Harper, we can survive anything.

    • Thomas Conway

      I think we know who the fool is.

  • good to hear about what Germany is doing to lead the way for carbon-free energy and that a 2 degree-allowed increase in temps is still disastrous….

  • Gallilao

    Ms Klein is an author not a scientist and since the farce known as climate science, still hasn’t got a functional working theory of climate change, neither are qualified to advise anyone on climate matters.

    The climate has been changing since the dawn of time and climate change today is no more serious than it has ever been.

    The climate is going to change, that is an indisputable fact.

    Get over it! There is no real threat. Yes there will be natural disasters and some people will suffer. That is a fact of life on this planet.

    Get over it and get on with it!

    • Peter Block

      sane people stopped reading at ‘farce known as climate science’. But not me, I read the rest, and it didn’t get any better.

    • disqusaurus_rex

      The “climate changing” and “the climate changing because of anthropogenic effects” are two wholly different things. The former typically happens over thousands of years (it can be abrupt, as it was in the Younger Dryas, but usually isn’t.)

      The latter appears to be happening very rapidly, and the problem with human caused climate variation is that the life that inhabits various parts of the world can’t change fast enough to adapt to new conditions. That means a lot of extinctions – which aside from being bad for the affected species is very bad for us. The loss of a few pollenating insects, for instance, would basically end us. Or the desiccation and desertification of equatorial regions would regionally end human habitation – which would mean a lot of those immigrants north american conservatives are so un-fond of.

      • Gallilao

        Since there is no working theory of climate change the fact of AGW is pure speculation, at best. This is all just unfounded, fear mongering. Neither you nor anyone else can predict the future! Give it a rest.

        If the climate is warming, GREAT! A warming climate means more atmospheric moisture. Which means more precipitation and less desertification. A warmer climate means the opening up of new agricultural regions that have sat fallow since the beginning of time. The riches most fertile lands on this planet.

        Global warming means, more arable land, more atmospheric moisture, more food and more, more, more.

        • Thomas Conway

          Apparently it also mean more idiocy in your case. You are not working from science or empirical fact. You are operating from wishful thinking. Sorry, even you will have to change.

        • Hope Ludlow Aldridge

          Repeating your words do not make them any more believable.

        • bobloblaw

          Science and reality don’t wait for laggards, and will move on without you.

    • Thomas Conway

      Lol. Functional working theory of climate change has been explained millions of times. But, the again, you would need to actually read the stuff and not wish it away with the one term you seem to know “functional working theory of climate change”… There is much more than that. There is vast empirical agreement in the global science community that it is not just theory but actual demonstrated fact in the temperature data.

  • Optimist58

    Klein enjoys a nice capitalist lifestyle selling books and flying around the world giving expensive talks and preaching that we all have to go back to the dark ages. This is just more socialist nonsense mixed with The Climate Cult which is just religion for the people who think they are too smart for religion. The recent peer reviewed papers have revised the climate sensitivity to CO2 down to less than 2 C. The Crisis is over(never was!) and we can still use all the oil we need. Klein needs to find a new End of the World Crisis to exploit.

    • Thomas Conway

      You have no idea what you are talking about. Your position is one of anger, others don’t want that world.

  • Gallilao

    W hen are people going to see past the sensationalism and understand that Global Warming is a BLESSING and we need to embrace it, NOT fear it!

    • Mike Risk

      You are an embarrassment. Present rates of sea-level increase are accelerating. In the next 50 years, sea-level could rise by 6m, displacing hundreds of millions of people. Tell them it’s blessing.
      And, please, don’t compound the error by saying CO2 increases with cause food increases, until you understand the difference between C3 and C4 plants. Food production goes down, not up.

      • Gallilao

        Anyone or anything, that can’t outrun sea level rise, doesn’t deserve to survive and good riddance. And who cares if a few ugly rich, loose some of their overpriced real estate? Tough titty!

        “until you understand the difference between C3 and C4 plants. Food production goes down, not up.”
        What claptrap! This planet has had far higher CO2 levels in the past and by all account had far more robust ecosystems then, than we have today.

        Gullible idiots everywhere.

        • Gisela

          So all those people who live in low-lying Bangladesh, various islands, and huge areas of delta & coast around the world are just supposed to up and run (swim?) somewhere else? Where exactly do you recommend that these hundreds of millions go? Is your house available? Climate change and sea level rise will disproportionately affect the poor & marginalized — it’s not about the rich and their “overpriced real estate”. “Good riddance” you say? What kind of a monster are you? And to head off your inevitable response, no, I am not a gullible idiot. I am doing a post-grad in sustainability science (you know, that stuff that scientists do, and check each others work to make sure it’s correct). What are your academic qualifications, other than the fact that you’ve misspelled the name of an early hero of science as your username?

          • Gallilao

            If all those people are willing to lie down and wait for the sea level to rise over top of them and drown or if they are too feeble to outrun a rise of a few millimeters a year,………… tough Rocks!

            Give your head a shake. Is there anything loose up there?

            When……… and if………. sea levels do rise, because the evidence is so far imperceptible, then we can worry about displaced people.

            At this point in time it is far more important and far more meaningful to try to help those in the middle of wars, and all the refugees in need.

            But you don’t give a shit about the people who are really in need, you just want to pontificate and act like you are superior or important because you take a phony course at the local college. Big Deal!

            I have a lifetime of scientific research and study and I know more about math, physics and chemistry than you ever will.

            And peer review is just a euphemism the old boys use to quell and restrict dissenting views. Purely self-serving!

          • Gallilao

            You are a gullible idiot if you think sea level rise is a threat. Most people will simply step back if the water touches their feet. If they are too stupid to step back, we don’t need them!

  • Gallilao

    Ms Klein is an idiot. Yes we need to clean up our environment, a dog doesn’t shit where it sleeps and neither should we. Pollution is a crime and a sin but we need to be able to tell the difference between pollution and the beneficial emissions of CO2.

    Pollution is a threat to our environment and so, a threat to us as well but climate change is a normal and natural process and is only a threat, if the climate is cooling. If the climate is warming, it is reason to cheer. It means we may yet be able to accommodate the coming hordes as the planet’s population explodes.

    • Bart_R


      Nitpicking the definition of pollution?

      Claiming a benefit for wastes dumped in our air that most of us never asked for, would never ask for, and would certainly not pay for?

      Do you have any actual scholarly evidence to back up your claims of ‘benefit’ that would pass muster in peer review?

      A trespass is a trespass, however you dress it up. Dump your ‘benefits’ in our front yard under cover of darkness and scurry away, and it’s still a trespass. Leap out from a dark alley and ‘benefit’ us from behind against our will, and it’s still a malicious act of assault.

      Keeping in mind, regardless of direction of change, this change is fifteen to two hundred times faster than any global climate warming we can confirm from geological evidence, ever. Even the Younger Dryas cooling falls short of the dramatic rate of current warming.

      What sort of mind promotes fossil waste dumping with such persiflage?

  • Thomas Conway

    Klein’s role is propagation of an idea, not science or policy expertise. But, that said, we need it all, including the message being repeated until more real action occurs.

    • Gallilao

      What we need is some legitimate science to explain climate change. Until they understand the mechanism of climate change, everything is based solely on speculation. It is this exact formula, of acting out based on ignorance that got us here in the first place and now everyone wants to do it again.

      Until there is real scientific understanding of the mechanism of climate change, Less is more!

      • Thomas Conway

        The science is very well established. The time for action is now.

        • Gallilao

          Please, tell us, what is the theory of the mechanism of climate change?

          • Going but not gone

            Look up “greenhouse effect.” Then stop talking for a while. Your future smarter self will thank you.

          • Gallilao

            Look up “Eunice Foote”.

  • Dennis Mahaney

    Canada is 2 % of the world ghg or co2 so you want to kill jobs and tax the shit out of Canadians while a 1000 new coal fired plants are built around the world and let China and India and Russia off the hook and that will force our industry to leave and make canada a third world country.

    • Gallilao

      This is just conservative hate mongering!

      • Dennis Mahaney

        It’s not hate mongering it is fact China has a pass till 2030 to do what it wants while the rest of us go down the drain

        • Gallilao

          Maybe you’re going down the drain (which would probably be a good thing?……) but I’m just fine thank you and am not at the least worried about the Chinese; they feel far more threatened than we and will do what ever possible to repair the problem as I have no doubt they are doing. They want to survive just as much as you do and the fact that everyone wares masks, is a pretty good indication of how aware and imminent, they consider the threat to be. They are not like you, able to breath freely as you impugn their character and try to vilify and promote hatred and intolerance.

          I am so grateful we got rid of the Conservatives………… If you had an ounce of humanity, you might pity them and wish them success and hope they find a solution, because no one should have to live like that.

    • Uncle B

      Two wrongs do not make a right. Google even check youtube on Chinese nuclear achievements recently. I a very short time China will have enough reactor power to close soft coal plants forever . . .

  • Uncle B

    Fear not fair lady! NDP is standing in the wings as we speak! They will assure environmentally friendly governance even as the CRAP dies away into corporate obscurity. Trudeau must reverse all of harper’s anti environment/pro corporate deregulations/regulations before long or face an NDP uprising and an Orange Storm ready to draw and quarter him at the first pro corporate give-away he commits against the people of Canada.

    • Dennis Mahaney

      Hahahaha you must be sick because we have the clowns in Alberta and they have killed the province and what do think would happen if the run the whole country there wouldn’t be a job left

      • Gallilao

        Where do you get those drugs? Can I get some?

        • Dennis Mahaney

          Your an idiot do you even have a job or just get money from guys like me that pays your welfare

          • Gallilao

            You ‘re the one paying my welfare…………. and I’m the idiot?

          • Dennis Mahaney

            At least I can get up in the morning and no I help someone in my country not some body from a another country they way things are going now whit this government we have we will all be lucky to feed ourselves we have enough resources that all of us could live very good don’t you think

          • Gallilao

            If you can’t survive here in Canada, with all the advantages you have, both personally, environmentally and internationally…………. Tough Rocks! There are billions, around the world, that would gladly kill for a fraction of what we have, and regularly do.

            This is just more conservative hate mongering from the War-Mongering Murderers Party!

          • Dennis Mahaney

            We can’t worry about them I guess you live in canada we are the best people on the planet but we have to take care of us first help when we can but not till we have our affairs in order

          • Gallilao

            There is no reason for anyone in this country to suffer or starve! No one in this country is suffering because of other nations.

            That is just unbridled bigotry!

            I am beginning to wonder if you are in fact Canadian, since my browser pointed out that you didn’t capitalise Canada.

            Keep your prejudice to yourself.

            This is “CANADA”!

          • Dennis Mahaney

            Ask Ontario how many jobs have gone to Mexico or China I am probably more Canadian then you since I born here 51 years and worked for 33 of them it’s been all out war on north America for the last 16 years and your wrong about people suffering because of other countries

          • Gallilao

            What crap! I am 68 years old, 5th generation Canadian. Except for a few minorities and still much to our shame but, nobody in this country suffers. If you want to see suffering, go to the Middle East, go to Ethiopia, go to any third world country if you want to see suffering. You’re just fat and lazy and think you deserve a free ride.

  • Jake Bonn

    Well, Activism can only go so far … How about approaching the problem with a constructive attitude which offers solutions instead of creating more animosity and politicizing the problem further eh?

    • Gallilao

      Now we’re talking!

      The rational approach.

      • bobloblaw

        Rational approach to what? I thought you said there was no problem?

  • Paul

    Quite possibly it is not possible to stem rising ocean levels enough to save countries such as the Maldives, but having said that there is still time to turn our economy around and actually begin a meaningful switch to green technologies. The TPP that Trudeau wants to sign is going to bury Canada economically in large measure because Canada will have to cede any burgeoning role it might have in developing green tech to the likes of South Korea, Japan and the US. Trudeau is a muppet and has no real voice of his own other than what the big party donors give him. Total bullshit.

  • RDS

    People need to STOP EATING MEAT… We say it is the governments that failed us on Climate change. In part that is true….. But the #1 cause and contributing factor to climate change in our insatiable need to eat meat!! Especially red meat… educate yourself on the why, how and what is the #1 cause and cure for climate change before you blame any Government. Think about it as you chow down on a beef burger or just before you bite into that perfectly cook steak.