Jonathan Franzen is, of course, correct here

Rather a large number of people are shouting at Jonathan Franzen over his recent piece on climate change:

Many climate scientists, however, feel that despite the number of scenarios it has run – 10,000! – the Franzen Brain Model could do with a bit of tinkering. “Franzen’s modeling isn’t scientific modeling at all. It’s DAYDREAMING,” wrote volcanologist Jess Phoenix on Twitter.

“Dear @NewYorker,” added water conservation specialist and MacArthur fellow Peter Gleick. “The fact that pretty much every single person who actually understands & writes about #climatechange for a living is dunking hard on the new piece by Franzen is an indication that you shouldn’t just publish a piece because it’s written by Franzen.”

Dr Genevieve Guenther, founder and director of, says that “Franzen doesn’t understand how climate science works”. His essay, she adds, “distorts the science”, is “completely apolitical”, and “contradicts itself: is the apocalypse coming or should we all start local farmers markets?”. “I get it, I guess, climate science is hard. But if you’re going to write about climate science for the New Yorker, you should really get it right,” she says.

The thing is, his central contention is absolutely correct:

Call me a pessimist or call me a humanist, but I don’t see human nature fundamentally changing anytime soon. I can run ten thousand scenarios through my model, and in not one of them do I see the two-degree target being met.

Not so much the two degrees but the human nature part.

The basic truth over history of attempts to make new people to suit the mores of the day being that the New People never do turn up. It didn’t happen for New Soviet Man, Pol Pot didn’t create a happily peasant society and the desired class communalism of mid-20th century Britain created I’m All Right Jack.

The art of this governance thing is to recognise the fractious, sometimes greedy, often lazy and above all human people being governed. Insistences that better people must turn up to match the plan don’t work.

Which is why the radical transformation of human society to beat climate change isn’t going to work. We humans have’t agreed to live that way any time in the last 10,000 years and we’re not going to start now either. Sure, it’s possible, over time, to deal with the fossil fuel emissions themselves through advancing technology. But the call that we all make ourselves deliberately poorer to pleasure Gaia just isn’t going to work.

Simply because human nature doesn’t work that way and isn’t going to change to do so.

The larger point being that whatever your desires and or plans they’re only going to work if they go with the grain of those being planned for, us humans. Our evidence is the litter in history of attempts to deny this.

For example, markets and trade, these are simply things humans do. They’ve done them everywhere and everywhen to whatever extent law and available technology allow - and in defiance at least of the law as well. Any plan to solve anything therefore has to accept, at least, their existence and for any level of useful effectiveness harness them rather than ignore or ban them. Otherwise there’s not going to be a place for humans nor their activity in your plan, is there?