Climate Radicals

Climate Radicals
Why Our Environmental Politics Isn’t Working

Are radical climate activists hurting the cause?

Germany should have been a global leader in combating climate change­—its voters consider it a major issue and accordingly back the world’s most powerful Green Party. Yet, Germany’s climate policies have been disappointing, with its relatively weak carbon reduction efforts. What happened?

In Climate Radicals, Cameron Abadi profiles the fascinating activists of Letzte Generation, known for gluing themselves to street intersections and throwing food on works of art; Ende Gelande, which demands the immediate phaseout of coal by occupying mines; and the German leaders of the global coalition Fridays for Future, which organizes school strikes (on Fridays) and many other large-scale demonstrations.

Abadi finds that the groups’ uncompromising stances and outrage over narrowly defined policy failures have led them to extreme acts of publicity that feed their sense of urgency, but have alienated most of the German public, who are increasingly withdrawing their support for significant steps forward, contributing to an impasse. The German government even dissolved some binding carbon-emission targets.

In contrast, Joe Biden’s American Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 represents the most significant move toward green energy in US history. The law did not impress groups like Letzte Generation, but Climate Radicals shows that old-fashioned political compromise and incremental progress might be the only way for governments to fight climate change.

Read CGR Director Nicholas Lemann’s Letter to the Reader

Climate Radicals
  • ISBN: 9798987053645
  • Price: $18.00
  • E-book ISBN: 9798987053652
  • On Sale: September 10, 2024
  • Pages: 192


“Climate action may seem obvious, but that doesn’t make it easy. Cameron Abadi’s illuminating case study is also a distressing reckoning: why, as the crisis of warming intensifies, are those calling attention to its urgency increasingly mocked, vilified, and marginalized? This book is a necessary accounting.” —David Wallace-Wells, author of The Uninhabitable Earth

“Why does radical protest not lead to policy change? How can real policy change happen without movement on the streets? As a highly original guide to climate politics, Abadi’s Climate Radicals, comparing Biden’s United States and climate-friendly Germany, spurs us to think afresh about democracy, science and the climate crisis. Abadi’s new book is essential reading.” —Adam Tooze, professor of history, Columbia University, author of Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crisis Changed the World

Climate Radicals is an eye-opening book. When reading it, I had an almost physical sensation of the most popular cliches of climate politics starting to melt down.” —Ivan Krastev, author of The Light That Failed and contributing opinion writer for the New York Times

Climate Radicals is a concise, accessible, and revealing study of the dilemmas climate activists face as they seek to rally public support and pressure overly cautious leaders. Democratic governments must face pressure to act, but confrontational tactics and calls for radical change risk provoking a public backlash and leaving the status quo unchanged. The book is a sobering reminder that successful climate action requires a political solution, and that success is far from guaranteed.” —Stephen M. Walt, Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs, Harvard University

“Once seen as anti-establishment radicals, green campaigners in Europe and the US now seem to be stuck. Should they work within the Establishment or fight against it? Should they advocate sweeping change or incrementalism? In this powerful assessment of climate change activism in Germany and the US, Cameron Abadi describes the many dilemmas it is facing. Mixing vivid on-the-ground reporting with deep research, he describes a movement facing resistance on a number of fronts, while retaining resilience about its future.” —John Kampfner, author of Why Germans Do It Better and In Search of Berlin

“Abadi’s close-up study of German climate politics reveals an obsession with performance over policy.” Kirkus Reviews


Four Questions for Cameron Abadi — German Center for Research and Innovation New York

About the author

Cameron Abadi
© Britta Schumacher

Cameron Abadi is a deputy editor at Foreign Policy and co-host of FP’s Ones and Tooze podcast. He previously worked as an editor at the New Republic and Foreign Affairs and as a freelance correspondent in Germany and Iran. His writing has appeared in Bloomberg Businessweek, the New Yorker, the New Republic, and Der Spiegel. He lives with his family in Berlin, Germany.