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The summer of 1988 was the worst of my life. I was not yet 23, I had just been misdiagnosed with Aids (more on that in the second part of this essay, published next week) and New York City was melting around me. It was the hottest summer yet in American history, reports Nathaniel Rich in Losing Earth, his book about how “we could have stopped climate change” in the 1980s. While I was having panic attacks under a wheezing fan in steamy Brooklyn, the world’s leading climate scientist, Jim Hansen, testified before Congress that global warming had begun.

Twenty-eight years later, in 2016, Hansen was an author of a study concluding that, at our current carbon emissions rate, we could anticipate “the loss of all coastal cities, most of the world’s large cities, and all their history” — possibly by the end of this century. This is reported in On Fire, a collection of Naomi Klein’s fierce and fluent writings on the subject...

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