This is the first of a number of posts on Ian Angus’ seminal “Confronting the Climate Change Crisis” on his blog, Climate and Capitalism.
His primary point is that capitalism, due to its inherent structure, can not and will not be able to solve global warming.
Why? One reason is because greenhouse gas emissions are an externality. They do not affect the businesses that produce them, nor do businesses have to pay for the damage they cause. Instead, that get foisted on the public to pay. Plus, under capitalism, there is little reason for companies to cut down on GHG emission. Worse, especially in the US, a company could conceivably be sued by stockholders for spending money on remediating global warming because it would cut into profits. Short-term greed and self-interest should not be allowed to trump the long-term good, yet under capitalism, that’s precisely what happens – all the time too.
Sure, there are an increasing number of companies trying to do the right thing and be green. But there are also millions of companies that aren’t. They will go to another country that lets them pollute if they need to. Also, to do all this in a coherent manner will require massive planning and the ability to mandate that those changes occur.
That’s why the solutions to global warming need to be worldwide and top down. That can’t happen in the hugely atomized and chaotic system that is capitalism.