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In 2012, The New Yorker published a cartoon by artist Tom Toro. You’ve likely seen it before, either reposted on a celebrity’s Instagram account or reproduced for a protest picket sign.
It shows a campfire scene in front of a ruined cityscape. Three disheveled children sit before a businessman, whose knee pokes from torn suit trousers.
“Yes, the planet got destroyed,” he tells the kids. “But for a beautiful moment in time we created a lot of value for shareholders.”
The cartoon sums up climate pessimism in the early 21st century. As calls to reduce carbon emissions grow in number and urgency, it often feels that big business is doing too little, too late, to avoid the worst consequences of global warming.