Death of the climate change movement?

Derek Wall

2010 may be remembered as the year that the climate change campaign movement, at least in its current form, officially gave up and died. The mortal injuries were inflicted at Copenhagen in December 2009, and since then it has been slowly dragging its decaying corpse towards the open grave at Cancun, where it will finally be interred next month.

The US, EU, and China made much lip service about fighting climate change but in the end backstabbed any meaningful agreement. This includes Obama who played a major role in insuring that the Copenhagen attempts of 2009 would be a failure.

Fighting climate change is about making social and political reforms that would cut to the heart of the capitalist system.

It means that long-term goals would trump the short-term profit motive and that companies and governments would become genuinely socially responsible. This could actually help the companies, not hurt them.

Long time antiwar and Green Party activist Peter Camejo also ran an investing business. In his 2002 book, The SRI Advantage, he argues that investing in socially responsible companies provides a better return, saying:

Company by company, what a social screen does is remove risk. Its overall impact is therefore to lower liability. Social screens will remove companies that tend to violate the law or market products that have questionable value or are most likely to lead to litigation, such as tobacco. Social screens knock out companies that engage in discrimination or are in conflict with their local communities or their workforce. Elimination of these companies reduces a specific kind of risk, what we can refer to as “company-specific risk.”

In 2010 this is clearly true of the financial sector too. Their overwhelming bloodlust for ever-increasing profits led them to take seriously risky and probably criminal actions, and it exploded in their faces, causing shareholders to lose hundreds of billions and cratering the economy too.

Companies that are socially responsible probably aren’t going to engage in criminal actions. If such practices were adopted widely, business itself would become healthier and more trustworthy. While this certainly isn’t smashing capitalism, it would be a welcome step in the right direction because then working to end climate change becomes a basic part of business too.

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