The center cannot hold off climate catastrophe

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Daniel C. Esty. Photo courtesy of Daniel C. Esty.

As the world reels from a manmade climate crisis, many are trying to come up with solutions for one of the greatest challenges humanity has faced. Some, like Daniel C. Esty, have been worried about the environment for much longer than others, and while he’s written several books on the subject, his most recent tome takes on a new urgency. The editor of “A Better Planet: Forty Big Ideas for a Sustainable Future,” which includes 40 contributors’ proposals for combating climate change, joined Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer to discuss our environmental challenges on his podcast.

Offering a mix of pragmatism and idealism, Esty, who is Yale University’s Hillhouse Professor of Environmental Law and Policy, explains the goal of this latest book.

“The spirit of this effort is to say that while the world is battling politically,” says the law professor on the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” “that there's actually a lot of interesting work being done, and thoughtful suggestions being put forward, about how to advance the environmental agenda.

“One of the fundamental premises of this volume,” Esty goes on to say, “is this: It has been the case that when we've made environmental progress, it was almost always on a bipartisan basis.”

Scheer, however, points to certain issues with the position of “radical centrism” from which Esty is tackling the climate crisis.

“I've always been suspicious of [centrism], because frankly, it smacks of opportunism or careerism,” Scheer says to Esty. “You know, how do you advance an idea that the people of power will accept. Some people, [such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren,] approach the whole climate issue as a moment for extreme action, and almost panic. Your book [on the other hand] reeks of moderation. And thoughtfulness, I dare say.”

Esty’s thoughtfulness comes into discussing ways to integrate different methods and expertise, as well as unify efforts across the U.S. as opposed to leaving the environment to just a few agencies. On a broader scale, Scheer and Esty disagree on the hypocrisy behind the Western approach to developing nations’ environmental records, but agree about a fundamental problem with climate change that no American can ignore: the climate crisis is a global issue, which, as Esty does point out, will require an international effort to address.

Listen to the full debate between Esty and Scheer on whether centrist solutions can save the planet in the limited timeframe scientists estimate humanity has left to stave off the worst of an irreversible catastrophe.



Joshua Scheer