This year we witnessed the world erupt in a wave of climate strikes as the “Extinction Rebellion” spearheaded by Greta Thunberg made its way into the mainstream. Well, the movement has yet to show it’s impact on the world but one thing is for sure; It is mainly backed by the political left wing. Throughout the protests popular slogans like “Change the system, not the climate” were held on posters and Greta herself took to criticising capitalist leaders worldwide in her famous “How dare you” speech at the UN with memorable lines such as “How dare you say that this can be solved by business as usual and some technical changes” and “All you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth.” So then are we doomed to dismantle the best economic system tried to combat the climate crisis as the left wing ideologies of the green movement claim or could the free market be our most unsuspected hope when combating pollution? This article will hopefully reveal what I believe to be the best free market approaches to the green dilemma as well as debunking some of the commonly held myths that the interventionists push.

Capitalism in retrospect

“Capitalism causes climate change” we’ve all heard that one before. The popular rallying cry of green interventionists, but is there any credible data to back up this assumption?

by 2013, heavy duty trucks and buses were reported to, on average, emit 99% less hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions. And aggregate emissions from vehicles declined by 65% between 1980 and 2015. its no coincidence then that deaths related to air pollution relative to population size have fallen by one third since 1990.

The reality is that we are consuming much more fossil fuels than before, but our technology is also developing to be greener and more environmentally friendly, even if we weren’t conscious of it. Now, we musnt fool ourselves as so many do and regard the increasingly green nature of technology as trivial, every development towards green tech made in the last few decades has been through private firms motivated by the prospect of supernormal profits at developing technology that would make the more efficient than their competitors and thus attribute capitalism as the responsible market system for the green innovations that we all benefit from. After all it was not the chinese who invented the electric car or the solar panel, but western Capitalism.

When judging what economic system would be best to accomplish a certain task we must look at how the task would be best solve and then see which economic system would be best at achieving said goal. Most socialists or interventionists opt for a government controlled push towards total reduction of carbon emissions in a short period of time and therefore prefer socialist economies as historically they have bee good at diverting huge amounts of resources to one specific goal (eg. the red army or Soviet nuclear energy programme), however they miss the nuance in this quite complex matter.

In order for a country to be successfully carbon neutral that country must be innovative. We can not simply scrap all usage of fuels and expect to keep functioning. This is because currently fossil fuels are the most efficient form of power we have and we can not power all of our transport and industry by any other means, so the only way forward is to innovate. For this reason a capitalist system is the best for achieving carbon neutrality. Socialist systems are and have historically been incapable of innovation because of how the profit incentive is destroyed, if people can not reap a reward for their work they simply won’t do it. On the other hand there is an increasing demand for green energy and we should harness the profit incentive of free market capitalism to make advancements in the field of green energy.

Fairytales of eternal economic growth.

Is economic growth doomed to stop? Should we still care about economic growth?

These are two questions posed by the new wave of green interventionists who seem to regard economic growth as the malicious bi product of pollution, but also as a fickle unimportant aspect of our society that will eventually come to an end. But these claims are widely unsubstantiated, so let’s break these common myths down one by one.

Many people nowadays, especially those on the left leaning side of the political spectrum tend to think that economic growth will soon come to an end. There are two reasons for this, all fallacious. The first is the misconception that we live in a society where no one entity can succeed without causing another to fail, this socialist idea that we live in a system of perverted pareto efficiency where success ought to be punished under the assumption that it is greedy and causes the suffering of others ( hence socialist policies always revolve around taking more from the most successful echelons of society and equal distribution of wealth.) However this does not take into account the production of wealth. The reason why economic growth isn’t doomed to stop is precisely because human beings have the innate capability to create new ideas and projects to fulfill each others wants and needs, so even despite the fact that material goods on the planet are limited we can still continue to grow infinitely as the human intellect is abstract and therefore theoretically infinite. In other words the presumption that economic growth will stop as societies eventually grow sufficiently requires the adoption of the false belief that human beings are limited to toil with their surroundings and have no capacity for ingenuity

Finally we can trace the idea that the economy must stop growing back to the roots of socialism with Karl Marx. Essentially he preached that once the economy was sufficiently industrialised and had grown enough, that the workers of the world would revolt and use the resources from their developed economy to start their own Utopia. Essentially the dogma of socialism peaches that society must come to a standstill in terms of economic growth eventually. (again, Karl Marx made no comments on intellectual property and it’s contributions to the economy.) Essentially this is a case of acting based on dogma rather than looking at facts and changing one’s attitude accordingly. This theory of marx was based on extrapolating his theories of how society evolved

through history and therefore unsubstantiated however people still believe that if the world doesn’t unravel in this way that it is not Karl Marx who was wrong, but it is society that is wrong.

Fairytales of eternal economic growth II.

So now we can consider the second question proposed in the previous section. Does economic growth matter when faced with the problem of climate change? We find ourselves in a position where many people are deciding that the fight against climate change will necessitate a reduction in the growth rate of our economy. The first problem with this train of thought is how inconsiderate it is towards low income families and people living in impoverished countries; it’s easy for Gretta to go around saying that growth means nothing when she comes from a privileged family in a rich first world european country, but for many this isn’t the case. Economic growth means jobs and economic development that and take people out of poverty and provide better living and working conditions for millions. I think it is rather arrogant and insensitive to dismiss the problems of so many people who are trapped in poverty, without the means or opportunities to free themselves of their conditions in order to pursue a greener world. Why is it that we should be considerate about carbon emission but not considerate about a starving child in Zimbabwe or a welfare fatherless family in a ghetto in the US?

But so far I have been assuming that economic growth and a cleaner, greener society are inherently contradictory, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Switching from a fossil fuel based society to one of greener methods does not have to mean the demise of the economy, nor is there any reason to believe that acting in an environmentally friendly way incapacitates investment, entrepreneurialism and employment. Rather the argument that ecological lifestyles would end growth is a clever political tactic used by parties who know that their dogmatic stance is not viable from an economic standpoint and use the “earth vs wealth” argument to justify their inability of proposing sensible economic policies that would work in practice and not in theory.

This is precisely why the most left wing environmentalists despise the idea of profits and growth, because they can utilise the desire to a cleaner planet to push their political beliefs that success must be punished at the expense of the economy.

In conclusion, It is clear that there are many misunderstandings about climate change and how the economy relates to it. Nobody is in favour of a higher amount of pollution, but the fear of a climate extinction pushd by alarmists like Gretta Thunberg (who, on an unrelated note, recently came out as a supporter of the alt left US based terror group ANTIFA) has pushed many worrisome teenagers to fall into the malicious jaws of alarmism. However, we are not doomed, neither in the economic nor environmental sense as it is clear that a moderated capitalist approach can both achieve the goal of economic growth and a greener society, and that once again it will be innovation and the willingness to improve one’s own condition that will triumph over state domination in achieving the society that we want.

Jaime Lacalle

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