New Yorker Reporter Elizabeth Kolbert: Global Boiling Inaction Is A ‘Total System Failure’

In an interview with Yale Environment 360, New Yorker reporter Elizabeth Kolbert explains that everyone, from journalists and scientists to politicians and economists, are responsible for the inability of the United States to respond to the threat of climate catastrophe:

This is a total system failure, okay? We’re not talking about an isolated little problem, and that’s the problem. It’s a total system failure that we’re in this situation and it’s a total system failure that we can’t seem to steer away even when the evidence is absolutely overwhelming that we better do something.

Discussing the “terrible heat wave” and “terrible drought” in Australia that has led to hellish wildfires, Kolbert notes:

And it has woken the Australians up pretty quickly, and there’s a lot of coverage on climate change issues if you are reading the Australian media. So unfortunately, I think it does take something that’s very, very palpable, really affecting people’s lives. And as I say, precisely the message that scientists have been trying to give us is, do not wait until that drought hits you, because that’s too late.

California, Nevada, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin are in moderate to severe drought, with large swathes of Texas in an exceptional, multi-year drought.


Kolbert, the award-winning author of Field Notes From a Catastrophe, makes a special call for “scientists to make their voices heard.” Although she is “not at all optimistic” that we’re going to do what actually needs to be done, she admits she “was one of those people who was pessimistic about Obama, the prospect of electing a black president seemed to be not that plausible, and here we are today. So things do happen that surprise you.”