Capitalism is not the latest solution to climate change | What's Left

| April 06, 2015


In the battle between truth and fiction, socialists often find themselves shaking their heads in disbelief at what the right comes up with. Nowhere is this truer than on issues of climate change.


It’s well known that capitalism and industrial development are responsible for climate change and it has become obvious that more capitalism will not reverse the destruction. Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped the cheer-leading squad for “free markets” from continuing to spin the media.

This week, the CBC published an editorial by Don Pittis who is so in awe of capitalism that he fails to realize that the “market” initiatives he credits for helping to solve climate change are actually government initiatives based on socialist principles. In addition to dozens of government programs across Europe, Pittis credits the free market with a massive expansion of solar and renewable energy in India – an expansion that is actually the result of comprehensive government measures implemented through publicly owned companies to meet the needs of India’s people, not the market.

The UK’s Guardian newspaper has launched a divestment campaign to undermine private investment in carbon-intensive industries. While it’s important to appreciate the campaign’s goal of keeping fossil fuels in the ground, asking people to pull their investments out of carbon-intensive companies will not undermine corporate investment in these processes. To “divest” from a publicly traded company, a stock must be sold to someone else. It might make the former investors feel better about themselves, but their investment has just been replaced by someone else’s.

Regulated public and private investment are the best way forward. We must invest in green transportation, renewable energy sources, and managing energy demand. Heavy regulation, democratic ownership and control of the industry is the only way to halt and reverse the destructive environmental tendencies of capitalism.

In this regard, France has been showing some leadership. It has introduced regulations stipulating that all new corporate buildings must have roofs that are green and/or include solar generation. Additionally, the city of Paris has announced that, starting this week, it will be halving the number of cars on the road (via regulation) and making public transit free to help combat pollution and smog.

Costa Rica has also seen some major success through heavy government investment in sustainable energy production. As of March 16, it had gone 75 straight days without burning any fossil fuels.

While many governments can be accused of spending too much time talking and not enough time acting, the state of Florida isn’t even allowing people to talk. It has banned the use of the words “climate change” by employees.

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More: Keep it in the Ground

More: Don Pittis' capitalism love-in editorial

More: France decrees new rooftops must be covered in plants or solar panels

More: Paris hit by air pollution spike, halves cars on roads

More: Costa Rica powered with 100% renewable energy for 75 straight days

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