mark hertsgaard

Independent Journalist & Author


California Leads on Climate While US Sleeps

Does the road to a global climate deal at the Paris 2015 conference lead through California? That’s what Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown, the former and current governors of the world’s eighth biggest economy, argued yesterday in Sacramento, where they contrasted California’s pioneering, bipartisan example with the denial and paralysis in Washington. Read more in this piece for Bloomberg Businessweek:… Read more


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The $28 Trillion Climate Write-Down

I have the lead story in this week’s issue of Businessweek, drawing attention to president Obama’s (oddly overlooked) recent statement that, yes, two-thirds of the earth’s fossil fuels must be left in the ground to avoid catastrophic amounts of climate change: This strikes me as by far the most important statement Obama has made about climate change during his presidency: if enacted, it would revolutionize global energy practices; halt all exploration for additional deposits of fossil fuels; effectively rule out fracking (the whole purpose of which is to access those two-thirds of reserves that conventional drilling can’t get); and affirm the importance of the fossil… Read more

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Will Jerry Brown Frack California?

The latest climate science says humanity must leave two-thirds of the earth’s proven fossil fuel reserves in the ground, unburned, if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. This imperative in effect rules out fracking–the practice of injecting water, sand and chemicals underground to force previously inaccessible oil and gas to the surface–because fracking is all about accessing those two-thirds of reserves. All of which creates a dilemma for governor Jerry Brown, a self-identified climate champion who nevertheless allows fracking in California. See my print piece The Nation here: Radio versions of the story aired locally on KALW, one of the two NPR stations in the Bay… Read more

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Honest, But Constructive, Talk on Climate Change

After I posted my Harper’s piece on Monday pointing out how Obama’s moving of the goalposts made the new EPA carbon regulations much less ambitious than claimed, I was dismayed that some readers viewed my piece as an attack on the regulations, others as demonstrating the futility of demanding government action at all. In this new piece for The Nation, I respond, “To write honestly and constructively about climate change in 2014 is as challenging as it is necessary,” and I try to show how:… Read more

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Moving the Goalposts Undercuts Obama’s New Carbon Regulations

The Obama administration is moving the goalposts again on climate policy, which helps explain why presidential adviser John Podesta predicts (in a 7,000 word forthcoming article of mine in Harper’s) that History will judge Obama’s record on climate change as sadly insufficient. I preview the article (from the magazine’s July 2014 issue, on sale next week) in this Harper’s online post, which explains that under the correct goalposts the 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that the administration is now promising shrinks to a mere 7.7 percent:… Read more

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New Orleans Drops Charges in Mother’s Day Shootings

I was one of 20 people sent to hospital when gunmen sprayed bullets into a second line parade last Mother’s Day in New Orleans, as I described here: As the one year anniversary of the shootings approached, I learned that all 20 attempted murder charges filed in the case had been dropped. They were replaced with federal drug and gun charges, a decision mayor Mitch Landrieu defended in an interview with me:…. Read more

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Latest Book


By now, almost everyone knows what Edward Snowden did: leak top secret documents revealing that the US government was spying on hundreds of millions of people around the world. But if you want to know why Snowden did it, the way he did it, you need to know the stories of two other men.

The first is Thomas Drake, who blew the whistle on the very same surveillance ten years before Snowden did and got crushed. The other is The Third Man, a former senior Pentagon official who comes forward in this book for the first time to describe how his superiors repeatedly broke the law to punish Drake—and unwittingly taught Snowden how to evade their clutches.

Pick up your copy at: | Barnes & Noble

About Mark

Independent journalist Mark Hertsgaard is the author of seven books that have been translated into sixteen languages, including Bravehearts: Whistle Blowing in the Age of Snowden; HOT: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth; and A Day in the Life: The Music and Artistry of the Beatles. He has reported from twenty-five countries about politics, culture and the environment for leading outlets, including The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Time, Mother Jones, NPR, the BBC and The Nation, where is the environment correspondent. He lives in San Francisco.