Guest essay by Eric Worrall
“People underestimate the power of models. Observational evidence is not very useful” – John Mitchell, Chief Research Scientist British MET
Capitalism can crack climate change. But only if it takes risks
Thu 16 Aug 2018 15.00 AEST
Anglo-Saxon capitalism’s drive to maximise profits in the short term won’t save the planet. Perhaps the Chinese model can?
But by the time they do, it could be too late. Capitalism – especially the dominant Anglo-Saxon variant of capitalism – has trouble thinking beyond the here and now. People running big corporations see their job as maximising profits in the short term, even if that means causing irreparable damage to the world’s ecosystem. What’s more, they think they should be free to get on with maximising profits without any interference from politicians, even though the fight against climate change can only be won if governments show leadership, individually and collectively.
Winning the race against time requires political leadership. It means acknowledging that the Chinese model of managed and directed capitalism might be more appropriate than the Anglo-Saxon model. A massive scaling up of investment in clean technology is needed, because the $300bn spent on decarbonisation worldwide last year merely matched the cost of the losses in the US from climate and weather-related events. It also means scaling up the lending of the World Bank and the regional development banks to help poorer countries build wind and solar capacity. And a global carbon tax set high enough so that fossil fuels remain in the ground must be implemented.
And, more than anything, it means accepting that the world needs to wage war against climate change. Powerful vested interests will say there is plenty of time to act, and they are aided by climate-change deniers who say there is nothing to worry about. These people need to be called out. They are not deniers, they are climate-change appeasers. And they are just as dangerously misguided as fascism’s appeasers in the 1930s.
In my opinion repeated praise of the Chinese system by climate scientists and greens is a terrific illustration of what is wrong with climate science.
The observation is that China has hideous pollution problems and rapidly growing CO2 emissions. But the political model greens cling to suggests that Chinese authoritarians could sweep these issues aside by decree – the objections of “climate appeasers” could be swept aside by naked force, the objections of “climate deniers” could be crushed by an authoritarian regime which does not tolerate dissent.
One question – why hasn’t this already happened?
The reason of course is because this naive vision of absolute authority which answers to nobody is not how China works. Yes authoritarians in China do regularly trample on the rights of others – but that trampling is frequently done in the name of making a quick profit, to silence the objections of people whose communities have just been turned into a toxic chemical cesspit by ruthless, well connected corporatists.
Western democracies are far better custodians of the environment, because under the Western system, people whose rights are being trampled by greedy corporatists have the power to vote for politicians who can right those injustices.
Greens continue to ignore this reality. Greens cling to their failed visions of an authoritarian climate revolution, because they refuse to consider observations which contradict their idealised political models. They cannot accept the possibility that they might be wrong.