Climate Wars

Climate Wars: Why People Will be Killed in the 21st Century, by Harald Welzer, Polity Press, £20.

In the first chapter Harald Welzer explains, “Some books one writes in the hope of being proved wrong.” This volume is certainly one of them. Fortunately for the reader, the author’s pessimism is eclipsed by his unique and powerful argument. Welzer, a sociologist, measures climate change by the amount and extent of violence, as societies search for strategies to adapt to new realities. The Director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Memory Research at the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities in Germany, paints a bleak picture of the future: constant flows of refugees, lack of clean drinking water, deepening injustices within states, between states and regions, as well as outbreaks of civil wars and genocides. Violence, so Welzer says, has always been society’s answer to problems. The real challenge of climate change is therefore not an issue of finding technological or scientific solutions, but rather of social collective action. To do so, we must create a new system of reasoning. The current way of thinking created the problem; hence our current way of thinking will not solve it. One major critique of the book is the author’s rather extensive digression on his apparently favorite topic, the Holocaust. Furthermore, because the book was originally published in German in 2008 some of the statistics are outdated. However, this is not too bothersome, as they are not vital to support the main argument. The book confronts us with our time’s most pressing and uncomfortable issue. However, as Welzer states, the closer we live to danger the more we tend to ignore it and live in a bubble. Or maybe that’s just optimism?