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Jonathan Franzen on Facing the Facts of the Climate Crisis

In this special event for Intelligence Squared Jonathan Franzen explored what can we do once we accept the idea that it is too late to ‘save the planet’

Let’s face it, argues Jonathan Franzen: The climate apocalypse is coming. We’ve already messed up the planet. The polar bears are running out of ice to stand on. Australia and California will burn again. Temperatures keep rising. Our chance to prevent the radical destabilization of life on earth has already come and gone. According to Franzen, one of America’s most celebrated writers, there are two ways we can think about this. We can keep on hoping that catastrophe is preventable, and feel ever more frustrated or enraged by the world’s inaction. Or we can accept that disaster is coming, and begin to rethink what it means to have hope.

In this special event for Intelligence Squared, Franzen explored what we can do once we accept the idea that it is too late to ‘save the planet’. Is there still a case for reducing carbon emissions? Is it still worth fighting for a more fair and just society? And how can we find meaning and hope in a world where we have no future?



Jonathan Franzen

Award-winning novelist and essayist, whose latest publication is the essay What If We Stopped Pretending?

Author of five novels, including Freedom and The Corrections, and five works of nonfiction and translation, including The Kraus Project and Farther Away. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the German Akademie der Künste, and the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Matthew Taylor

Chief Executive of the RSA

Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), and former head of the Number 10 Policy Unit under Prime Minister Tony Blair.


Speakers are subject to change.