9: The Climate Emergency and Neoliberal Nihilism

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This chapter considers the potential impact of climate change and environmental degradation on the economy and society, as well as how this is perceived by the public. A key argument here rests on the perceived incompatibility between the current global neoliberal economic growth model and environmental sustainability. Of particular interest is the growing gulf between those preoccupied by and active on environmental issues, and the large constituencies who appear to either deny that there is an issue or that it is particularly relevant to their everyday lives. Questions on the influence of the fossil fuel industry, neoliberal politicians, and the wide range of commercial and financial interests that have employed a range of strategies to forestall climate action, putting profit before people and the planet, are addressed. This includes a discussion of the way in which the neoliberal right has established climate concerns as a wedge issue in the so-called ‘culture wars’. Finally, there is a focus on the broader question as to how we might respond to substantial shifts in climatic conditions over the longer term, including potential echoes of pre-Holocene patterns of forced migration in a world where rising nationalism and anti-immigration sentiment is a growing phenomenon.

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The Great Decline
From the Era of Hope and Progress to the Age of Fear and Rage