Theater of Cruelty

The battle is between carbo-fascism and eco-socialism

The Climate Coup
Forfatter: Marc Alizart
Forlag: Polity, (Storbritannia/USA)
CARBON FASCISM / Climate change facilitates economic speculation and political positioning. Against corruption, we must prepare not only for a state of emergency, but for a climate war against declared enemies, writes Marc Alizart.


The outspoken French philosopher Marc Alizart describes the situation in his latest book The Climate Coup: "We" – understood as the left and the environmental activists – have lost. We have not lost because the world's elites have given up the ambition to keep emissions down, because they have never had such ambitions. The problem is not that it is impossible to save the planet, but that it is unprofitable. Climate change, on the other hand, is welcomed as an opportunity for economic speculation and political positioning.

Carbon capture borders on a high-tech bluff.

With reference to Bruno Latour and his thought of climate crisis like world civil war, Alizart points out that "the earth's enemies" are far better equipped for battle than its defenders. The fires in the Amazon and elsewhere are like the Riksdag fire before Hitler came to power, and hopeful compromises and peace agreements with this type of leadership are naive. The right and the entire capitalist system are entering a new phase: carbon fascism – a brutal, power-based politics that is willing to sacrifice everything and everyone, especially the weakest. The left must realize that it does not only have "opponents" – but enemies. The aim must be to force the earth's enemies into unconditional surrender, claims Alizart, because the demands of ecology are today superior to both economics and politics.

A united front

In Alizart's military metaphors, it is crucial to create a united front, to have a declared enemy and to prepare the battlefield for battle. With inspiration from Trotsky, he claims that what is needed is "technology plus hope". He takes his most important example from the fight against AIDS, which for a period was at a standstill because politicians began to believe that it was anyway a disease that "only" affected homosexuals. When the reform movement ACT UP took as its premise that both the technology and the knowledge were there, so that there could be nothing but a fascist contempt for human life that lay behind the lack of medical breakthroughs and measures, the struggle also changed. Politicians began to be referred to as criminals rather than incompetents, they were publicly hanged and forced to answer for themselves. When the elite really appear as corrupt coup plotters, they can also be forced into action or be put out of the game – but not before.

Alizart draws several points from his analogy: Just as sexual abstinence was recommended for homosexuals during the AIDS epidemic, carbon moderation is presented as a solution that also makes the individual responsible rather than the politicians. Such a shift in responsibility has, for example, caused Extinction Rebellion to be skeptical of individual action. If we had asked all people to stop using refrigerators, we would not have succeeded in saving the ozone layer: New types of cooling technologies would be needed. Correspondingly, new technologies, especially for extracting carbon from the atmosphere, are a crucial part of the solution, claims Alizart – and assumes that these exist and can be implemented in time. In doing so, he also shows that analogies have their limits, because the ozone layer and global warming are extremely different problems: If there were simple technological solutions, we would have had them long ago – and politicians' belief in techno-fix approaches is as much part of the problem as of the solution.

Carbon capture

Alizart moves quickly across the field Ecologysk technology, in an attempt at critical blitzkrieg that is only partially successful: Geoengineering will "obviously" be necessary, but the most talked about form, spreading sulfur monoxide (burnt sulfur) in the upper atmosphere is something "we all agree" that "it can be talked about". I myself agree, but no is – and there is still a lot of talk about such dangerous solutions – also on the left. Yes to green geoengineering, says Alizart, but afforestation as a solution is "a joke", as it helps too little – which he is right about – but he should have mentioned how beneficial planting forests is anyway. Carbon capture through genetically modified plants and algae-based air purification machines are rather uncritically mentioned as examples of investment areas, while kelp plantations in the sea, which are extremely promising and feasible, are left out.

New technologies, especially for extracting carbon from the atmosphere, are a crucial part of
the solution.

Alizart emphasizes that we should trade with negative emissions rather than with emission quotas. Many are working on this, but the technological ability to capture carbon by technical means is so far so insignificant that many carbon capture measures border on a high-tech bluff and half-hearted greenwashing from the oil companies. The carbon quota trading regulations are also hopelessly opaque, even for experts. In this field, very little is obvious, and Alizart's eagerness to create clear and united fronts becomes problematic – as simplifications and the declaration of internal enemies in the "climate front" can intensify the conflicts and distort the situation further.

The Green Army

If Alizart, with his aggressive actions, occupies a larger field than he can defend, he must be praised for having the courage of his opinions: He is in favor of a "green army" along the lines of Trotsky's red army, and that we must declare a state of ecological emergency. Alizart's war rhetoric goes so far that he claims we must come to terms with the environmental movements roots in pacifism in the 60s. It must become more combat-ready – if not also militant. The battle is between carbofascism and ecosocialism.

As in his previous book, Cryptocommunism (2020), the strength lies in the wild and hopeful joy of battle of Alizart, where he is completely unconcerned about running the line out and thinking big. The reader must make up his own mind, but will have enough to think about. Ultimately, energy economics is about the Earth's metabolism, about thermodynamic energy flows. The closing chapter is an appeal not to give up the attempts to establish what Georges Bataille called a "cosmic economy", a holistic understanding where work and energy, thermodynamics and entropy are thought of together – to show the unsustainability of an unregulated consumer economy. Man has hijacked the planet's energy flow and has a duty to balance the accounts. A new "era of planning", as Naomi Klein has called for it – may become not just a moral condition, but a condition for morality.

Collective self-control must be a minimum goal, or at least a working goal, for a civilization that wants to master its own destiny – and avoid a common misfortune.

Anders Dunk
Anders Dunker
Philosopher. Regular literary critic in Ny Tid. Translator.

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