Climate Change: Is Capitalism The Problem or the Solution? Essay

September 21, 2021 by Essay Writer


The global climatic outlook is an area of concern for many. Climate is perhaps one of the biggest challenges facing humanity today. Its effects are segregate. The poor and the average earners compared to high income earners feel the effects of climate change more. The impact of climatic change has exposed millions of people to poverty and hunger, especially those who rely on agriculture (Adger & Kelly 2000, p. 348).

Economies of many developing countries across the world depend on agriculture. It is the mainstay for the poorest rural households as well as to the economic giants (Abramovitz 2001, p. 12). Failures in crop production, deaths in livestock as result of drought are causing enormous economic losses among farmers. In effect, this has been marked by escalation in food prices and hence deterioration in food security.

At the same time, the countries with big industrial muscles have been aggravating the situation. This is seen in the way they wantonly emit greenhouse gases to the environment, which in turn affects the climate. This has raised concern in the global climate governance. Nations with little industrial muscles are feeling the effects, which does not come from their doing.

At the same time, efforts to mitigate the situations points toward financial muscles. This means that capitalism, which is the ability to produce wealth lies in the solution and also the causes of the current global climatic governance. This paper assesses if capitalisms is the solution or the problem to the current global climatic governance.

Capitalism and the Environment Damage

Capitalism is a viewpoint of an economic system that favors or promotes private ownership of wealth creation factors. It favors individuals, corporations, competitive market, wage labor, capital accumulation, and personal finances and profits. This means that capitalism is not popular to the majority but rather to the few.

The proponents drumming for capitalistic market argue that any business establishment is mandated to making profits for the organization and that such profit ought to be utilized for the good of the business organization and the nation’s economy. However, do the economy and the people benefit? Capitalism promotes individualism and selfishness.

The few in the upper echelon befits whereas the mass in the public suffers. The proponents of capitalistic economy are after personal gains and have propagated the same in the issues of climatic change. Since the efforts of capitalistic economy are to create wealth, the same has been done at the expense of climatic change. In the course of creating wealth, industries emit harmful products to the environment, which later affects the mass (Langford 1995, pp. 145).

Climate-Crisis Capitalism

The quest for wealth creation as a result of capitalism has led to a condition termed climate-crisis capitalism. The term connotes the situation in which the worldwide environmental managerial elites utilize environment-threatening methods to create wealth for themselves.

The wealth created in this case is short term but the environmental damage incurred by the activities is long term. The condition is termed climate-crisis capitalism because wealth created are for the rich few yet the environmental damage realized affects the entire globe. Wealth creation methods being experienced in the world are accomplished via industrial activities. Industries are considered as the muscles for economic empowerment.

The United Kingdom, the United States of America, Japan, Germany, China, and Canada among many are among the leading industrialized nations in the world. Industrial activities from these countries results into emission of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, which is major source of green gas (Bond 2003, p. 16). Green gas has drastic effects as discussed below.

Global Warming Issues and Effects

Since the beginning of 20th century, the temperature of the earth has been rising. The increase has been averaged at 0.8 ◦C with the major part of the increase taking place from the beginning of 1980 (The National Academic Press 2011, p. 16). The averaged increase in temperatures of the earth constitutes global warming.

Because of the fact that major increase in the earth’s temperature has taken place recently, it means that the condition is worsening with the current generation than in the past. This implies that there must be some activities that have heightened the menace. Science has given global warming a detailed description of its causes and impacts. Scientifically, the heating or warming of earth results from blanketing effects of greenhouse gases.

Greenhouse gases are CO2 (carbon dioxide), CH4 (methane), oxides of nitrogen gas among others. These greenhouse gases forms a covering on the upper part of the earth’s atmosphere that traps the sun’s rays in the earth (World Almanac Books 2000, p. 3). Because of the covering or the blanketing effect of greenhouse gases, the earth warms up gradually.

Global warming affects the environment and all living beings. As the earth warms up, temperature in the atmosphere increases. The increased temperatures make some ice on snow-capped mountains to melt. The melted ice forms water that flows to fill up oceans and lowlands. This means that the continued global warming will lead to flooding, which in turn has a devastating effect on plants, human beings, and animals.

Furthermore, global warming affects temperatures of ocean waters that in turns affect the life of sea creatures. For instance, rising temperature of earth warms seawaters that affect the growth of algae, an important producer in aquatic food chain. Because algae are primary producers, their death will lead to death of other aquatic creatures because of lack of food. This will happen when algae die; small fishes will lack food and die as they depend on algae for food.

The death of small fish will lead to the death of larger animals, which depends on them for food. The process will in turn affect human being as they will lack what to eat. Global warming is also linked to acid rain experienced in many places. When it rains, the rainwater dissolves some of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which in turn falls as acid rain.

Acid rain is harmful to plants and properties. Global warming is also linked with common human catastrophes such as forest fires. The warm climate dries up small plants and leaves of large trees in the forests, which easily catch fire (The National Academic Press 2011, p. 5). This means that the world is at threats as a result of environmental damage caused by global Warming. The effect is widespread and affects everyone yet it is the few that are causing the same (Bojö, Green, Kishore, Pilapitiya & Reddy 2004, p.10).

Global Climatic Governance

Global climatic governance entails policy measures and diplomatic mechanism directed toward guiding social systems or setup toward adaptation or preventions of climatic risks resulting from manmade activities. Since 1980s, climatic concerns resulting from manmade activities have been on the rise.

The concern was triggered by the world climatic conference held in 1979 by the World Meteorological Organization. Intergovernmental Panel on Climatic Change (IPCC) was established in 1988 and it consisted of environmental specialists and diplomats from different nations. During the world climatic conference of 1990, IPCC released a report stating that the world has been warming for some time and the future warming is likely.

As a result, the world was jerked to the reality of environmental dangers resulting from manmade activities including industrialization. In 1992, officials from 154 nations converged at a conference in Rio and deliberated over climatic changes, which culminated into signing a pact by the same. In 1997, Kyoto protocol was agreed on. The protocol brought together 38 countries that were highly industrialized and required each nation to reduce it’s greenhouse gas emission by at least 5.2% by 2008.

The global reporting initiative was also launched at the same time and was mandated with responsibilities of disclosing Greenhouse gas emission. However, the United States of America withdrew from the protocol in 2001. Despite the withdrawal of the U.S., other nations went ahead to implement the protocol, which was later declared unbinding to the member countries in 2011 (Bernstein, Betsill, Hoffmann & Paterson 2010, p. 163).

From the information on the timeline development of the global climate governance, it indicates that capitalistic nations including the 38 countries that signed the Kyoto protocols are aware of the dangers posed to the environment by their capitalistic activities. They have gone ahead to form a coalition to fight the global climatic dangers. However, there has not been some commitment on their part. The United States, which is among the leading in industrial emission pulled out of the protocol.

At the same time, the member nations of the Kyoto protocol decide to dilute the protocol by declaring the pact as non-binding. This indicates the inability of these nations to adhere to climate preservation. Globally, there is no serious climatic governance but instead, there are some claims against global warming concept. Despite the warning reports by the by the IPCC on the seriousness of greenhouse gases, the Kyoto protocol was declared unbinding.

Capitalism as a Problem to Global Climate Change

Capitalism is attributed to the problems of climatic change. In fact, without capitalism, there will be little or no climatic change. In the first place, capitalism aims at utilization of available resources for creation of wealth for those involved in the same. As a result, capitalistic nations’ main focus is to use the available resources with the purpose of creating wealth.

This has been evident in many aspects. For instance, china has been focusing its economic growth in textile sector. It has invested in all major cities and even minor cities like Tibet, Mongolia, and Xinjiang, which has been attracting more investment hopefuls. The country depends so much on fossil fuel and the trend has been heightened since 2007, an action that has increased its carbon footprint (Martin & Morrison, 2008, p. 5).

From the analysis of the industry, the majority are in hands of private investors meaning that the wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few yet the environmental damage is widespread to all. In England, the situation has been the same. The country is highly industrialized and has concentrated its wealth in the hands of the few capitalist.

The situation had reached its heights in 2011 angering the Britons. Cameron, though belonging to the capitalistic party, agreed to the evils and damages capitalism has plunged Britain into by coining a slogan ‘let capitalism RIP’ implying that capitalism should die, in his speech on January 19 2012.

Capitalism is also a problem to global climatic change as a result of its policy of profit making. The chief principle of capitalism is to make maximum use of available resources to make maximum profits. This means that the proponents in this industry would wish to see more pennies trickling in rather than being spend. In this case, no money is spent for environmental conservation because doing so would mean reducing profits.

At the same time, some simple and shortcut methods of production are employed for the sake of maximizing profits. Capitalism in the United Kingdom is deeply immersed into profit maximization to the point that even the factors of production are hardly provided in the required quality and quantity. In the wake of David Cameroon’s famous 19th January speech titled let capitalism RIP, industrial workers in the UK had gone on strike in protest of the evils of the capitalistic employees.

The employees were only after profits to the point of giving their workers some meager salary. In acting in such manner, it shows that such capitalist may not be willing to spend their money on expensive process of environmental conservation. At the same time, environmental conservation means cutting on the energy expenditure polluting the environment. However, cutting on energy expenditure in some cases may result in reduction in production capacity or low prestige, which is not acceptable in capitalism.

Capitalism as a Solution to Global Climate Change

Although capitalism is seen as the problem for climatic change, it is also the solution to the same. A capitalistic regime is a wealth creating regime, which every country is aiming to be. Wealth created is essential for the mitigating climatic change. According Dolsak (2001, p. 419), mitigating climatic conditions is very expensive.

Using the top down micro economic approach, the cost of stabilizing carbon dioxide emission of the levels experienced in 1990 would lead to a reduction of 0.5 to 0.6 percent in GDP. This means that attempts to mitigate climatic change needs immense wealth. Given that capitalism entails wealth creation, such regime will be the one who can help in mitigating climate as a result of their financial muscles.

In capitalistic regime, the rich are in control of the law. These means that they are in a good position to create laws for mitigating climatic change and at the same time install legal institution in place to ensure that all adheres to the laws. Several laws were drafted in the Kyoto protocol.

On top of that, other countries led by the UK have been implementing laws and penalties to mitigate the effects of climatic change. The green tax in the United Kingdom has been implemented to mitigate the effect of climatic change (Policy Network 2009, p. 14).

The capitalist nations also hold the key to building a long-lasting consensus for a future with low carbon emission. This is was also part of the global deal in Copenhagen. Through such deals, cash and technology can be transferred to developing economies to aid in mitigating climatic change.

At the same time, non-governmental organizations may be included in the long-lasting consensus for a future with low carbon emission deals. Such organizations are backed by capitalist personalities or nations and thus they have the financial muscles to assist in mitigating climatic changes (Duwe 2001, p. 178).

Conclusion: Is Capitalism The Problem Or The Solution?

From the analysis seen above, capitalism is the main cause of environmental pollution. Capitalistic regime focuses on accumulation of profits using available wealth. In their quest for the same, they leave behind environmental damage that affects the whole society. At the same time, capitalistic regimes are better placed to handle the rigors of global climatic governance.

They hold the key for the enactment of laws in the same and at the same time have the financial muscles to implement modalities for mitigating climatic change. The world cannot progress without industrialization, which is mainly propagated by capitalist. This means that we cannot do away with capitalist for the reason that they are agents of environmental damage instead there should be a consensus on global climatic governance. The world should borrow a leaf from David Cameron.

While tackling the challenges of capitalism, the prime minister did not propose a completely non-capitalistic economy but rather suggested a balance on the same using popular capitalism (Watt 2012, p. 4). In popular capitalism, everyone should have a fare share in mitigating climate change. Therefore, capitalism is both the problem and also the solution of climatic change.

List of References

Abramovitz, J 2001, Unnatural disasters world watch paper158, Worldwatch Institute Publishers, Washington.

Adger, N & Kelly, P 2000, Theory and practice in assessing vulnerability to climate change and facilitating adaptation, Climate Change, vol. 47,no. 4, pp.325-352.

Bernstein, S, Betsill, M, Hoffmann, M & Paterson, M 2010, A tale of two Copenhagens: Carbon markets and climate governance, Millennium-Journal of International Studies, vol. 39, no. 1, pp.161-173.

Bojö, J, Green, K, Kishore, S, Pilapitiya, S & Reddy, R 2004, Environment in poverty reduction strategies and poverty reduction support credits, Environment Department Paper Journal, vol. 102, no. 1, pp.1-19.

Bond, P 2003, ‘Climate-crisis capitalism, global environmental governance and geopolitical competition in emissions laxity, World Development Journal, vol.2, no.1, pp. 249-69.

Dolsak, N 2009, Mitigating global climate change: why are some countries more committed than others? Policy Studies Journal, vol. 29, no. 3, 414- 436.

Duwe, M 2001, The climate action network: a glance behind the curtains of a transnational NGO network, RECIEL, vol.10, no. 2, pp. 177-189.

Langford, H 1995, The potential effects of climate change on winter mortality in England and Wales, International Journal of Biometeorol, vol. 38, no. 3, pp.141-147.

Martin, M & Morrison, W 2008, China’s “hot money” problems: CRS report for Congress, Congress Library Research Press, New York.

Policy Network 2009, The politics of climate change: our role in the debate. Web.

The National Academic Press 2011, The America’s climate choices, National Academies Press, Washington.

Watt, N 2012, David Cameron pledges era of ‘popular capitalism’. Web.

World Almanac Books 2000, Environment global warming and greenhouse effect, World Almanac Books, Mahwah.

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