Friday, February 11, 2011

Why can't capitalism solve climate change?

Cuba shows the way forward

By Jesse Thomson-Burns
February 11, 2011

Across the United States, storms have been raging, the likely result of climate change and global warming brought about by rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

According to a Democracy Now! news summary, Feb. 2: “A massive winter storm has affected 100 million people from New Mexico to New England. … The National Weather Service issued storm watches, warnings and advisories in more than 30 states and blizzard warnings for eight. States of emergency were declared in Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma. Many scientists have linked the extreme winter weather patterns to climate change.”

The state of emergency that is occurring now, not years from now, needs to be confronted immediately. But the reaction of Congress is to start a full-fledged attack on the Environmental Protection Agency and already inadequate environmental protection regulations.

“House Republicans are planning to introduce a bill today to ban the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. And in the Senate, a group of Democrats … have proposed a two-year moratorium on EPA attempts to regulate greenhouse gases.” (Democracy Now!, Feb. 2)

So with the reality of climate change growing ever more extreme and with Congress dominated by big business and the oil industry, what is the solution? We have to build a people’s movement that demands action to confront this threat now.

The country leading the way on this issue is socialist Cuba. “According to the WWF [formerly the World Wildlife Fund], Cuba is the only country that has managed to combine an environmentally sustainable footprint per head of population with an acceptably high quality of life as measured by the UN Human Development Index.” (The Guardian, Oct. 30, 2009)

The engine of capitalist production is the pursuit of maximum profits. Any capitalist enterprise that were to place any other consideration before profits—be it the environment, the well being of its workers or the needs of society in general—would be crushed in the course of ruthless capitalist competition. The biggest, most powerful capitalist players are those who stop at nothing to maximize profits.

A system that is dominated by the drive for profit rather than meeting human needs cannot ultimately solve global warming and climate change. The only true solution requires taking the productive resources of society out of the hands of this tiny clique of billionaires and putting them into the hands of all workers. The only true solution requires eliminating capitalist competition and the profit motive. The only true solution is socialism.


  1. Capitalist producers are just supplying demands, which at the moment are for cheap goods at any cost. Because the consumers ultimately dictate the flow of the market, it is equally our responsibility for the current state of affairs in regards to global warming as it is theirs, and so to lay the blame solely on the shoulders of corporations and other businesses really just seems like an attempt to marginalize our responsibility and thus make us feel fine about our wasteful ways.

    If consumers vote with their wallets and only choose to purchase products which are environmentally sustainable, it will become more profitable for a company to produce environmentally friendly goods over unfriendly ones, and thus they will make the switch; to argue otherwise is to suggest that companies are not ruthlessly profit driven.

    In light of this basic market law, it is plain to see how capitalism is capable of dealing with global warming if we each take accountability for our own contributions and seek to rectify them.

  2. "The whole individualist what-you-can-do-to-save-the-earth guilt trip is a myth. We, as individuals, are not creating the crises, and we can't solve them. Take our crazy energy consumption. For the past 15 years the story has been the same every year: individual consumption — residential, by private car, and so on — is never more than about a quarter of all consumption; the vast majority is commercial, industrial, corporate, by agribusiness and government. So, even if we all took up cycling and wood stoves it would have a negligible impact on energy use, global warming and atmospheric pollution. I mean, sure, go ahead and live a responsible environmental life; recycle, compost, ride a push-bike; but do it because it is the right, moral thing to do — not because it's going to save the planet." - Kirkpatrick Sale