Ecosocialist Notebook

Early warning: Bookchin on global warming

Murray Bookchin

Murray Bookchin

I’ve previously explained why I often strongly disagreed with Murray Bookchin. But whatever my  concerns might be, no one can deny that he was a dedicated defender of humanity and the earth against capitalist ecocide, long before it was fashionable.

I recently came across the following remarkable warning of future destruction, written and published by Bookchin in 1964, many years before anyone else on the left (not to mention the mainstream environmental movement) even realized that global warming might be a concern.

“As an example of the scope of modern man’s disruptive role, it has been estimated that the burning of fossil fuels (coal and oil) adds 600 million tons of carbon dioxide to the air annually, about 0.03 percent of the total atmospheric mass — this, I may add, aside from an incalculable quantity of toxicants. Since the Industrial Revolution, the overall atmospheric mass of carbon dioxide has increased by 13 percent over earlier, more stable, levels.

“It could be argued on very sound theoretical grounds that this growing blanket of carbon dioxide, by intercepting heat radiated from the earth into outer space, will lead to rising atmospheric temperatures, to a more violent circulation of air, to more destructive storm patterns, and eventually to a melting of the polar ice caps (possibly in two or three centuries), rising sea levels, and the inundation of vast land areas.

“Far removed as such a deluge may be, the changing proportion of carbon dioxide to other atmospheric gases is a warning of the impact man is having on the balance of nature.”

(Murray Bookchin. “Ecology and Revolutionary Thought.” 1964)

He overestimated how long it would take for the ice caps to melt, but otherwise Bookchin got it right, 50 years ago.

UPDATE: Bookchin wasn’t alone. See Early warning 2: Commoner on global warming


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Posted in Ecosoc Notebook, Quotes & Insights

One Response to Early warning: Bookchin on global warming

  1. Ulli Diemer June 11, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    Another thinker who was already awake to the dangers of global warming and climate change in the 1960s was Victor Papanek. In his wonderful book, Design for the Real World (, originally published in 1970, Papanek cites the dangers of climate change as one of the many problems caused by an economic system based on waste and the multiplication of useless or harmful commodities. Papanek bubbles with ideas for better design based on human needs, and especially the needs of the two-thirds of the world’s population who live in poverty.

    Specifically addressing the problems caused by burning fossil fuels, he suggests we need to look at tidal, solar, and wind power. He points to the energy consumed by long-distance transportation of commodities as one issue that needs to be addressed, and suggests that we need to explore adapting older technologies to modern needs. He mentions zeppelins and computer-guided sailing ships as two possible options to consider.