Guest essay by Eric Worrall
I love the smell of climate activist despair before the big COP26 conference. Smells like hope for a better future, in which nobody important even tries to pretend that climate change is a problem.
Our leaders look climate change in the eyes, and shrug
Wed 4 Aug 2021 20.12 AEST
It is not good to be too pessimistic on the climate crisis. That said, it sure does seem like we’re screwed
If you have cultivated an Edgar Allen Poe-like appreciation for the macabre, there is a certain sort of amusement to be had in watching the developed world deal with the insistent onslaught of climate change. Like many horror stories, this one features a main character full of futile determination to maintain a sense of normalcy even as the ominous signs of doom become ever more impossible to ignore. We can chuckle knowing that the monster is going to come for our designated protectors. We stop chuckling knowing that it’s coming for all of us next.
The latest demonstration of this comes from the G20, that coalition that is as good a proxy as any for the combined will of the world’s richest countries. The latest G20 meeting wrapped up last week without firm commitments on phasing out coal power, or on what steps nations will promise to take to try to hold global warming to 1.5C. This goal is both necessary and, perhaps, unlikely – a report by scientists found that China, Russia, Brazil and Australia are all pursuing policies that could lead to a cataclysmic five degrees of warming.
As overwhelming and omnipresent as the climate crisis is, it is not the core issue. The core issue is capitalism. Capitalism’s unfettered pursuit of economic growth is what caused climate change, and capitalism’s inability to reckon with externalities – the economic term for a cost that falls onto third parties – is what is preventing us from solving climate change. Indeed, climate change itself is the ultimate negative externality: fossil-fuel companies and assorted polluting corporations and their investors get all the benefits, and the rest of the world pays the price. Now the entire globe finds itself trapped in the gruesome logic of capitalism, where it is perfectly rational for the rich to continue doing something that is destroying the earth, as long as the profits they reap will allow them to insulate themselves from the consequences.
Congratulations, free market evangelists: this is the system you have built. It doesn’t work. …
Capitalism is a machine made to squeeze every last cent out of this planet until there is nothing left. We can either fool ourselves about that until it kills us, or we can change it.
Hamilton Nolan, I’d say Capitalism and Freedom have done a fine job of filtering out the trash. The bloody history of the 20th century repeatedly demonstrated that freedom loving Capitalist societies have plenty of what it takes to overcome genuine problems. Free societies have also repeatedly demonstrated they are far less susceptible than authoritarians, to the false messages promoted by scientist advocates who have been captured by institutional groupthink.