Climate ChangeClimate change today is considered a serious problem worldwide. The problem began many years before the scientists warned us that climate change will have a strong impact on the earth and that the problem will worsen and destroy everything if nothing changes in our behavior.
Climate change originated with humans, and it has been continually worsened by human activity and consumption for many decades. Since discovering subterranean energy reserves, humans have begun to change the composition of the atmosphere. This, in return, alters the climate and the chemistry of the oceans (Kolbert 2). Once humans developed ways to live more conveniently, they began to indiscriminately use fossil fuels, and changes to the system of nature began to fall into chaos. According to Kolbert, there are two sides to climate change, “The excitement of what is being learned as well as the horror of it” (3).
Fossil fuels were a revolutionary discovery, as they made humans’ lives more affluent. In fact, this fuel is one of the most important factors of running our society today. However, on the other side of this comfortable life, there is a very uncomfortable story behind it. Climate change will change everything about our world. Major cities will very likely drown, ancient cultures will be swallowed by the seas, and there is a very high chance that our children will spend a great deal of their lives fleeing and recovering from vicious storms and extreme drought (Klein, 4). Despite the evidence and the effects of climate change intensifying, massive investments in the fossil fuel industry are still being processed and even promoted. While the coal, gas, and oil fuels are still technically in the ground, they are already economically aboveground; companies are borrowing money to mine it and nations are basing their budgets on the presumed returns from their patrimony (McKibben, 8).
Some people might say that climate change is a problem of insufficient technology and not a systemic problem. However, in the world of capitalism, moral deficiencies of individual large corporations and greed for the money earned by the fossil fuel and other industries are much bigger issues than inadequate technology. Therefore, climate change is absolutely a systemic problem.Capitalism Capitalism is an efficient economic system that allows private possession of the majority of the world’s resources for the purpose of generating a profit for those who own those resources.
This system also allocates limited natural resources in the best way in nearly all corners of the world. Since the basic motivation of capitalism is possessiveness, it would be meaningless to imagine capitalism with no growth or expansion. As Foster asserts, “A system that, by its very nature, must grow and expand will eventually come up against the reality of finite natural resources”(179). However, the growth of capitalism would lead people to be more greedy and less moral. For instance, there are new business opportunities that have arisen because the consumers’ needs have been changed by climate change. Klein argues that, “The business opportunities might include the demand for its military products and services as security concerns may arise as results of droughts, floods, and storm events occur as a result of climate change”(8).
People find ways to make money from disasters, which is not surprising because that is how capitalism is built to work. The answer to climate change might be simple, since people could just commit themselves to cut fossil fuel emissions, develop zero-carbon sources of energy, and use types of renewable resources. However, although people know what changes are necessary to lower emissions, they have not done anything on a large scale yet because those changes would fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism and they would interrupt profits gained by the fossil fuel industry (Klein, 16).The theory of capitalism does not only apply to economic systems, but it also applies to political, judicial, and social systems aiming to maintain their system of wealth accumulation. Foster argues that, “The incestuous connection that exists today between business interests, politics, and law is reasonably apparent to most observers”(182).
The connections between capitalism and systems other than economic range from outright bribery to the more subtle connections like buying access, friendship, and influence through campaign contributions and lobbying efforts (Foster, 183). Furthermore, there is a tendency among politicians to think that what is good for business interests is also good for the country. Hence, political leaders increasingly see themselves as political entrepreneurs (Foster, 185). This happens partially because capitalism is connected to each different part of political, judicial, and social systems, which makes it very difficult to ensure everyone puts their own monetary interests aside to conquer problems like global warming. Such actions would be good for the whole, but not necessarily for some individuals.Ignorance About the Seriousness of Climate ChangeA UC Berkeley student, Robert Park, who has internship experience at the Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE) as a research analyst assistant, agrees that individuals these days are not willing to change their lifestyles to prevent global warming, often because they do not know how serious the problem actually is.
In other words, people are not paying much attention to climate change. They are certainly not going to give up conveniences like cheap flights to warm vacation spots if everyone else is still using them. Tackling climate change might be a movement for individuals, since everyone is taking advantage of the still-cheap fossil fuels (McKibben, 8). In addition, people’s ignorance about social problems contributes to the idea that advanced technologies can take care of climate change problems.
Some even make excuses by saying that they are too busy to care about something that is not happening right now, that it is so far away from being an issue that it’s not worthy of their efforts. Furthermore, it is not just individuals who are uninterested in climate change, but our leaders, the politicians, do are uninterested as well. Foster argues that, “Donald Trump has filled the ranks of his transition team and cabinet with climate science denialists and fossil-fuel industry shills”(195). Fossil Fuel Industry Fossil fuels are one of the biggest reasons climate change is happening. Climate change occurs as a result of excess greenhouse gas caused by burning fossil fuels. Greenhouse gas is mostly composed of vapor, methane, and carbon dioxide, and whenever fossil fuels are burned, carbon dioxide is created. Therefore, as the demand for fossil fuels increases, climate change gets worse. Unfortunately, since people have incentives to invest and develop these fossil fuels under the current capitalistic system, it is inevitable that people will not stop abusing fossil fuels until they deplete every natural resource.
Foster says that a lack of change will arise “Due to the system’s heavy reliance on fossil-fuel production as a proven engine of capital accumulation world-wide together with the vested interests of wealth and power that block any transition to renewable forms of energy” (192). People all over the world have come to depend on fossil fuels, and now they are an easy energy source that can not be removed from our society without great effort. Even though climate change is being discussed internationally, nearly all private corporations are still considering their profits first, and everything else is further down the list of priorities.
For example, the Koch brothers, who have a combined wealth of $50 billion, have made much of their fortune through hydrocarbons, and they know that any regulation against carbon production and use might reduce their profits. To protect their monetary interests, they have invested $200 million towards elections to ensure that politicians who deny climate change could win seats in federal, state, and local governments (McKibben, 11).Other IndustriesIt is not only the fossil fuel industry that contributes significantly to global warming. Many other aspects of the earth are intricately connected to worldwide effects of climate change. For example, the disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet leads to more rapid sea-level rise, and the large-scale Amazon dieback scenario will drastically affect the surrounding ecosystems, rivers, agriculture, energy production, and inhabitants’ livelihoods (Klein, 23). All these examples affect climate change and will impact all of the world in the near future.Possible SolutionsMany individuals and politicians today recognize that climate change is getting worse, but because people cannot see the seriousness of it right now and their interests are the most important thing to them, they tend to ignore the issue as a whole. As mentioned earlier in this essay, the politicians ignore and deny the issues causing and resulting from climate change.
Therefore, it seems nearly impossible to solve this problem without somehow getting massive attention from every individual. However, Klein argues that, “there are ways of preventing this grim future, or at least making it a lot less dire. But the catch is that these also involve changing everything”(4). The politicians have to be concerned about this problem. They must act soon, because in order to solve this problem, some heavy governmental interventions are required to go up against the huge corporations that are the main cause of pollution. Also, the government should develop policies to encourage people to use renewable goods and reduce the use of carbon emission sources in every individual’s daily life.
Government interventions could include, for example, a carbon emissions tax. If you put a higher price on carbon products, through a direct tax or other methods, it would enlist markets to fight against global warming, even if they are not directly conscious that is what they are doing (McKibben, 11). For example, once the oil corporations have to pay a carbon emissions tax, the price of oil would increase, and, consequently, the demand from customers would decrease. The price increase would make people more conscious of when they use their vehicle and therefore would reduce frivolous use of gas.
The carbon tax might reduce the profits of the fossil fuel industry; however, the price of carbon should not be low, because it is the price of our safety and survival. The higher the price of carbon, the less valuable the reserves in the ground would be. Another possible intervention could be deep subsidies for green alternatives, penalties for code violations, new public works programs, or reversals of privatizations (Klein, 34). The government would have to focus on internalizing the externalities to make them effective. Climate Change is a Systemic ProblemDespite the apparent fact that capitalism influences every individual’s level of greed, causing them to ignore social problems like climate change, capitalism is still a key part of our society. People would not be motivated to work without this economic system. As such, some modifications to this system rather than a complete change in system is the inevitable solution to solving common problems like climate change.
Such solutions could include the carbon dioxide emission taxes or other government interventions, such as public works programs or subsidies for green alternatives. Some people might say that climate change is not a systemic problem, but rather it is a problem for technology to solve. However, a technological solution is not compelling. Klein argues that, “Power from renewable sources like wind and water predates the use of fossil fuels and is becoming cheaper, more efficient, and easier to store every year” (25). Yet, such technologies have not lessened our production of fossil fuels. I therefore reiterate that climate change in capitalism is a systemic problem, because people living under capitalism do not care much about public problems and tend to focus on their interests first. Therefore, heavy government interventions are required to solve nationwide and worldwide problems like climate change.