Capitalism vs. the Climate., Climate change, Distribution of wealth, The Future of Mankind, Visions of the future.
( Seven minute read)
Some things we can mitigate, some we can’t. Some things we can adapt to, some we cannot.
The question of how (or whether) we respond to climate change ultimately is a matter for policymakers to decide, but politics cannot (and should not) be separated from good science. And so on, and so on. We’ve heard them all.
As CLIMATE CHANGE impacts grow in frequency and severity, they will—and in many cases already have—create crises for people and nature around the world. If unchecked, these impacts will spread and worsen with more animal extinction and biodiversity loss, water shortages, and displaced communities.
Climate change is one of the most contentious issues facing society today.
Over the past several decades, we have seen not only increasing environmental degradation, but also the erosion of the concepts of the public good and collective responsibility to preserve nature.
In embracing the monetary valuation of nature as a strategy for mobilizing support for environmental conservation, environmentalists are resigning themselves to a political status quo that can only comprehend value in terms of money and markets.
By viewing ecosystems and their services through a pecuniary lens, monetization profoundly changes our relationship with nature, and, if taken to the point of commodification, can subject the fragility of nature’s balance to the destructive logic and volatility of markets.
Even though the trend toward the privatization of public goods has been pervasive over the past decades, we should not acquiesce so easily in allowing the privatization of the most basic public good of all—nature itself.
We must meet the grave environmental challenges of the twenty-first century with boldness and prudence, using the precautionary principle, along with the principles of fairness and democracy, to set boundaries that human action must not transgress.
Some argue that monetization, by revealing the economic contribution of nature and its services, can heighten public awareness and bolster conservation efforts. Others go beyond such broad conceptual calculations and seek to establish tradable prices for ecosystem services, claiming that markets can achieve what politics has not. Such an approach collapses nature’s complex functions into a set of commodities stripped from their social, cultural, and ecological context.
Although the path from valuation to commodification is not inevitable, it is indeed a slippery slope.
Do nature’s services need a monetary value?
Do conservation policy need an economic motive to get sufficient attention from policymakers and the public?
One approach seeks to monetize the value of nature simply in order to reveal its immense economic contribution to society.
Monetization is only meaningful and effective if there are markets to set prices for the ecosystem services in question. Markets for such commodified ecosystem services, they argue, can protect conservation policy from the vagaries of political will. Roll back bureaucratic red tape, and let the market work its magic to save nature.
The line between valuation and commodification, although clear in theory, becomes blurred in practice.
The monetization of any resource can cause long term problems for people.
To be sure, valuation alone does not inevitably entail the risks to the preservation of nature intrinsic to commodification. Nevertheless, it changes how we see and relate to nature and can inadvertently pave the way for the privatization of ecosystem services that the advocates of valuation often oppose.
Environmentalists, business leaders, and policymakers have all sought to make environmental protection an economic rather than just a political issue. The introduction of “no net loss” policies, which allow economic development to proceed as long as the net acreage of a specific type of ecosystem is maintained, has effected a paradigm shift in environmental policymaking. However, offsetting ignores how unique and interconnected biodiversity is, and it overlooks the importance of nature for local communities and the ways they suffer when their ecosystems are damaged. Land-use policies based on whether a company can pay for an offset, and not on what local communities and humanity need to survive, undermine basic rights and democratic principles
National economic accounts such as GDP remain blind to the services of nature. Such accounts likewise fail to distinguish between constructive and destructive economic activity with respect to human and ecological well-being. Needless to say, a deeper understanding and greater awareness of the relationship of society to nature is always welcome, but the rigor and usefulness of GDP-level information remains questionable.
Delineating an individual ecosystem from the complex fabric of nature poses numerous significant challenges. For example, the provision of oxygen for humans and animals to breathe is an ecosystem service of global scale.
But how do we value the contribution of individual sub-systems like a single forest to this global service?
We could all still breathe if one forest is cut down, but not if all forests were cut down.
Embarking upon the path of valuation also changes the way we see and understand nature.
The value of the whole ecosystem to society is more than the sum of its monetized parts:
Reducing its value to mere monetary terms, even if it were technically practical, strips away its cultural and spiritual value. A bad policy can be replaced, but the holistic functions of nature cannot.
Through disaggregation, each service can be rendered into a discrete monetizable “package” so that it can have its own market and its own price. Such an approach tilts policymaking in favour of the interests of the economically powerful. The least powerful actors—often local communities, indigenous peoples, women, small-scale farmers, etc.—get pushed to the margins, their voices ignored.
In order to prevent monetization from slipping into commodification, we must revisit one of the hallowed principles of environmental policy: the precautionary principle. It states that when an action or policy could pose a substantial risk to the environment, a very high burden of justification should fall on those seeking to take such an action. Like the classical mantra of medical ethics, the precautionary principle insists upon first doing no harm.
What if one of those billionaires manipulates the market by withholding or restricting the free flow of water?
71% of Earth’s surface is water.
There are 326 million trillion gallons of it on and in the planet. 96.5% of the water is ocean water, and just 3.5% is fresh water. Of that 3%, 69% of that water is locked up in glaciers. Another 30% of that freshwater is underground and usually requires costly extraction. That leaves 114 million billion gallons of readily accessible freshwater, not necessarily drinkable water, but water nonetheless. That sounds like enough, but it represents just 1% of the Earth’s water for every man, woman, child, and animal on the planet. That 1% of the water has to also serve every agricultural and industrial need on the planet. In most cases, it also needs to be filtered and treated before it is safely consumable.
So, though there is plenty of water on the planet, not very much of it is drinkable. Not very much of it is accessible, and the distribution methods are easily manipulated, legislated, and monetized. That’s never good for the common man. Nestle Water, for instance, extracted 36 million gallons of water from a national forest in California in 2015 to sell as bottled water, even as Californians were ordered to cut their water use because of a historic drought in the state.
Farmers, hedge funds, and municipalities alike can now hedge against — or bet on — future water.
While that may seem innocuous enough, the cost disparity probably gets passed on to the cities and individual consumers. It’s easy to imagine how many ways the monetization of water as a commodity is a dangerous first step in government and corporate overreach and intrusion. Mega-banks and investment firms such as Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, UBS, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Macquarie Bank, Barclays Bank, the Blackstone Group, Allianz, and HSBC Bank, among others, are consolidating their control over water.
Wealthy tycoons such as former President George H.W. Bush and his family, Hong Kong’s Li Ka-shing, Philippines’ Manuel V. Pangilinan, and others are also buying thousands of acres of land with aquifers, lakes, water rights, water utilities, and shares in water engineering and technology companies all over the world.
Complicit governments are legislating your rights to access and accumulate Earth’s free-flowing resources. It falls from the sky onto your property, but it is owned by someone else the minute it touches the Earth.
Water rights are conveyed as real property interests using the same formalities as real estate, but in most cases, everyone is tapped into the same source. If fracking, mining, or industrial operations pollute that source, they spoil it for everyone. So, merely having access to a water source is not enough.
The fact is that water is being restricted, legislated, and monetized more every year, and the rich are grabbing up the rights as fast as they can.
During periods of drought, when water levels are already low, it is easy to imagine how one person’s control over a large water area can lead to huge profits. This is why the super-wealthy are snapping up water, water contracts, water rights, and governments letting them do so all over the world. Two billion people now live in nations plagued by water problems, and almost two-thirds of the world could face water shortages in just four years. Even on a planet covered and steeped with water, water is a resource. As a resource, it can be monetized and controlled, and you could be denied or deprived of access to it.
Whatever you choose to call it, the most important thing is that we act to stop it.
If it is not the capitalization and exploitation of the resources of our planet with climate change will continue.
I can assure you, the super-wealthy are not buying up the water around the planet for altruistic purposes. They are doing so because they see a profit from it. Freshwater first then fresh air.
CLIMATE CHANGE IS NOW A PRODUCT AND NET ZERO A SLOGAN.
There is now no stopping sea levels rising. A two meter rise would displace more than 2% of the world’s population and cut world food production/ supply by 25%. The rate of carbon emissions are the highest they’ve been in 66 million years and the amount of warming in the coming decades is expected to be 250 times greater than the average warming during the past century.
The rate of ocean acidification is the highest it has been in 300 million years!
Warming surface waters may be contributing to slowing ocean currents.
The warming climate is contributing to rising populations of insect / pests.
To mitigate the effects of climate change is going to cost quadrillions.
We are on course to match the worst extinction of earth species both on land and in the oceans.
We at a point where money will not suffice to make a difference.
There’s no consensus on global warming.
Many species are approaching—or have already reached—the limit of where they can go to find hospitable climates. In the polar regions, animals like polar bears that live on polar ice are now struggling to survive as that ice melts.
From straining agricultural systems to making regions less habitable, climate change is affecting people everywhere.
Climate change also exacerbates the threat of human-caused conflict resulting from a scarcity of resources like food and water that are less reliable as growing seasons change and seasons become less predictable. Around the globe, many of the poorest nations are being impacted first and most severely by climate change, even though they have contributed far less to the increase in carbon emissions that has caused the warming in the first place.
Higher temperatures are affecting the length of seasons and in some places, are already crossing safe levels for ecosystems and humans.
Now more than ever in order to enable a just transition to a low-carbon economy, gender and equality, human rights, and food security, with links to climate change we must use the power of the law to fight those who would harm our communities, our climate, and the natural world we value so deeply.
Recently, many countries have focused on mainstreaming net zero emissions targets: 138 states have now made a net zero pledge.
However, targets in all climate-related national laws and policies are currently far from the pledges made in NDCs (Simply put, an NDC, or Nationally Determined Contribution, is a climate action plan to cut emissions and adapt to climate impacts) and from enabling global warming to be limited to below 2 °C.
For NDCs to work, they need to be widely understood and used by businesses, civil society, academia and ordinary citizens. Each has roles to play, which is why many governments invite different constituencies to take part in defining NDC priorities.
For many reasons, including a lack of adequate finance, capacity and, in some cases, insufficient political commitment combined with the pandemic-related economic downturn is expected to constrain implementation.
For developing countries, moving forward depends on developed countries realizing their commitment to provide $100 billion in climate finance to developing countries. Dedicating half of this amount to adaptation, would help close significant financing shortfalls for vital measures to protect lives and livelihoods. Rapid policy developments are required to achieve this goal.
Climate change legislation is less a politically partisan issue than is commonly assumed:
Everyone is a climate actor and can be part of the change that needs to happen.
If we can slow or stop deforestation and manage natural land so that it is healthy, we could achieve up to one third of the emission reductions needed by 2030 to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2°C (3.6°C).
We must as a planet commit ourselves to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The truth, however, is that even if we do successfully reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, we will still have to address harmful climate impacts, and so the solution to climate change must also include measures to adapt to the impacts of global warming.
We need to increase renewable energy at least nine-fold from where it is today. This cannot be achieved without a major shift to renewable energy.
There is not a hard and fast deadline on climate action vs. inaction. There is no definitive line of demarcation that we can protect against; instead it is a matter of minimizing the effects of climate change.
We need to begin reducing carbon emissions RIGHT NOW to give our planet and our population the future that is least impacted.
The low carbon economy that we need to create will also give us cleaner air, better energy choices, new jobs and may even save us money. Likewise, many of the natural solutions that we need to adapt to even today’s climate change impacts benefit all of us: cleaner air and water, more natural recreation opportunities and jobs.
Nature, like climate, may be approaching irreversible tipping points where changes push systems into completely new states, even as more than half the global GDP depends on the planet’s natural systems.
For climate, the world has a clear net zero emissions goal.
But what’s the goal for nature? It hardly takes a genius to see things aren’t going well in the world or for our civilization.
When we actually look at the state of our civilization — in factual, empirical terms — the results are…well, you’ll be able to judge for yourself in just a moment.
Progress has flatlined and ground to a halt.
Living standards are declining in 90% of countries.
Each generation now does worse than the one before it,
Democracy’s in steep decline around the globe
The points above may in truth be small fry, compared to this one.
We are running out of our most basic, critical, fundamental resources.
People are more pessimistic now than at any point during the last century.
Anxiety, rage, anger, and despair are the defining sentiments of now — along with maybe the numbness of endlessly scrolling some algorithmically generated infotainment feed.
I could go on. But it’s hardly necessary. All the above are facts. They aren’t opinions, speculations, or even conclusions. They’re empirical truths about our civilization.
Each of the points above is its own crisis, and each one of them would be bad enough for any age, challenging, threatening, arduous enough.
But all of them, together, at once? That’s something new. They are painting a caricature without really thinking about the state of life as it is now.
All human comments appreciate. All like clicks and abuse chucked in the bin.
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