Climate change and capitalism are perhaps the two most argued topics in this modern era. Several countries, corporations as well as individuals have taken sides on this debate.
The arguments are unending, with the anti-capitalism side championing sustainable investing and social profits.
On the other hand, pro capitalists continue fighting for their “freedom” to support and accumulate wealth by exploiting natural resources.
The question of capitalizing on climate change presents a somehow neutral ground for all climate change stakeholders. It champions for corporations to take the leading role in curbing climate change.
Capitalizing on climate change would see capital enterprises investing millions in environment conservation. The key focus of their efforts would be to optimize social profit. But is it sustainable?
Responding to our question,
Should climate change be capitalized?
No, climate change should not be capitalized. Private capital enterprises are the leading cause of environmental destruction. These firms’ operations are motivated by maximum profit accumulation with no regard for climate conservation.
Regulation authorities should enforce and strictly implement policies that will regulate direct capital activities to ensure that their existence works in favor of climate conservation.
What Is Capitalism?
Capitalism can be defined as a system where some or all production methods are controlled by private enterprises competing for market profit.
In this system, the private sector operates with minimal if any regulation on its methods of production. Demand and supply are the determinants of the prices of commodities.
This, coupled with the stiff competition for market share, forces firms to innovate ways of maximizing efficiency at low costs. This is why capitalism is considered a profit-driven system.
With proper regulation on firms’ activities in an economy, capitalism can stimulate economic growth and foster economic growth.
This is because private firms control a huge chunk of the world’s economy. Since they have access to financial resources, these firms can easily win the war on climate conservation if well regulated.
What Is Climate Change?
Climate change is the occurrence of variations in the average weather conditions, mainly concerning precipitation and temperature over time.
The use of fossil fuels is considered to be the number one cause of climate change. These furls are burnt in combustion engines to produce mechanical energy to drive cars and power machines.
Combustion of these fuels gives carbon (IV) oxide as a by-product. This harmful gas is then released into the atmosphere, causing the greenhouse effect.
Capitalism As A Cause Of Climate Change
Capitalism works well in stimulating economic growth. However, some competing firms take shortcuts to boost their profits. Such unethical capital practices are the leading cause of climate change.
The last couple of decades have seen an increase in the number of processing and manufacturing industries. An increase in the world population equates to more demand for products, necessitating increased production activities.
These industries pollute our environment with uncontrolled CO2 emissions from their operations. The sad reality is that the trend will not stop anytime soon. If no adverse measures are taken to regulate capital activities, the planet will experience climate collapse.
Many scholars around the world have published research papers linking capitalism to climate change. George Monbiot argues that capitalism is the root cause of climate change.
He clearly outlines that capitalism as a system is built on features that inevitably lead to the destruction of the environment. So, what are these features of capitalism that make it a root of climate change?
Growth is an essential feature of capitalism. Without growth, capitalism will most certainly fail. The rising growth in consumption is the most desired outcome of any profit-seeking activity.
To meet the rising demand for products, capitalism seeks perpetual economic growth on a finite amount of resources on the planet. The outcome of this quest is nothing but eternal environmental destruction.
Some researchers argue that there can be an inverse relationship between economic productivity and environmental impact. However, findings continue to disapprove of this theory as an impractical argument regarding material resources.
Some nations have enacted viable policies on environment conservation and have continued to enforce them strictly. Such countries have put in lots of money to research and develop alternative sources of clean energy.
However, their efforts are being counteracted by global economic growth. As the world’s population increases, so do the energy required to power people’s lifestyles. It also means that more forests have to be destroyed to create more space for food production.
In any capitalist economy, any efforts to conserve the environment by reducing resource depletion while the economy is growing are equivalent to running down a rising escalator.
Money Equates To Resource Ownership
Capitalism operates with the assumption that money in one’s account gives them the right to own as much natural resource as they can afford.
Most industries are built and operated with this principle in mind. This assumption gives them the power to drill mines all over the surface of the planet to search for coal and burn as much carbon as their infrastructure can. They do so because they can afford it!
Those with the money have the “freedom” to exploit natural resources. These actions, if not regulated, can lead to the destruction of the environment. The sad thing about it all is that those who don’t contribute to climate change suffer the most.
For instance, third-world countries have the smallest number of industries as compared to advanced nations. However, third-world countries record the highest number of deaths from floods caused by continuously melting glaciers.
This is because these countries do not have the financial resources to build infrastructure to control floods. During these floods, hundreds of thousands of people lose their homes and are forced to dwell in inhabitable slums.
Living conditions in these slums are usually inhumanly characterized by malaria and waterborne diseases.
Most of these countries also rely on traditional farming practices, with only a handful of them having the resources to embrace irrigation farming. The onset of drought in these regions is a death sentence by starvation as people in the said regions do not have alternative food sources.
Aspiration To Private Luxury
Every capitalist aspires to private luxury by accumulating wealth. This is impractical as there are not enough material resources for everybody to thrive in luxury.
The only reason why some people can do it is that others don’t. If everyone lived the lavish one percentile lifestyle, then the world would record unimaginable resource depletion.
The wealthiest one percent in the world uses one hundred and seventy-five times as much carbon as the poorest ten percent. What would happen if everybody used the same amount of carbon.?
A Case For Capitalism
These policies should be well crafted to make capitalism work in favor of climate conservation by weeding out harmful capital activities and letting capitalists decide how best to achieve climate conservation.
For instance, regulation authorities could ban the manufacturing and use of internal combustion engines and leave it to competing capital firms driven by the profit motive to work out how to build electric cars efficiently.
Competition between such firms will push them to be more innovative and develop economically viable products. These firms also have access to money that can be used to fund research on clean energy and decarburization technologies.
Impact Of Climate Change On Humans
The Paris agreement calls on governments to keep temperature levels well below 2 degrees. It also directs them to enforce policies that will further reduce temperatures to 1.5 degrees.
An increase in temperature leads to loss of life. At 2 degrees, there is a total loss of coral reefs. These structures act as breeding grounds for thousands of fish species around the world. If destroyed, there will be devastating consequences on aquatics ecosystems in water bodies.
A collapse in marine ecosystems will most definitely have a significant impact on food security. These fertile fishing grounds will no longer produce fish to feed the world’s ever-growing population.
Some counties have their economies built around marine tourism and seafood processing industries. Such economies are bound to take a brutal hit and collapse as marine life loss will take away their livelihoods.
Climate change has also led to multiple breadbasket failures. This refers to a significant drop in productivity from the world’s most crucial food production zones. These regions are affected by the ever-increasing temperatures making it hard to grow and produce foodstuffs.
Even the slightest decrease in food production from these regions has a massive impact on global food security. As it is now almost half of the world’s population is struggling with the high cost of food, imagine what it would be like if all the land would become unproductive.
Capitalism is a gun pointed at the living world. It’s not impractical to sustain a habitable climate and sustain capitalism at the same time. The world needs a system based on different principles that would bring sufficiency to individuals and luxury to the public domain.
If shared, natural resources are enough for everyone; otherwise, there will be scarcity and overexploitation of the natural environment if people continue accumulating for profit.
These changes cannot be made while the system is still called capitalism. All capitalist activities should be capped and strictly regulated to allow life to continue; else capitalism will stop life.
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