Capitalism is Killing this Planet

Motley’s Current Affairs Staff Writer Brendan O’Grady argues that the current economic system is destroying our planet as the billionaire class booms in tandem with our world’s hunger for capital expansion. 

First things first, let us define our terms: Capitalism is the dominant economic philosophy used globally by nation states and is based on the private ownership of the means of production to orientate their operation towards the generation of profit. 

A Business exists to make money, that is its first and primary objective, and providing services, its secondary objective. The services being provided are the avenue through which that business generates profits. The profits were always the point. It’s about the accumulation of wealth. 

Making money is important! I hear you mutter loudly at the back of your introduction to political economy class. How else are we going to fund the economy, pay our wages and stock our super markets? These are all interesting questions that I’d love to get into but I have 650 words and the topic is climate change. Capitalism is a deep-rooted systemic issue, but I’m going to pick my battles here and stay on topic.

The poorest 3.5 billion people, 50% of the world’s population, are responsible for only around 10% of total global carbon emissions, whilst also living in the nations most threatened by catastrophic storms, droughts and severe weather events that are linked to climate change.  

Individual consumption is responsible for 64% of global emissions, yet the richest 10% of the global population is responsible for almost 50% of total consumption emissions.   

The richest 1% of the global population may emit 30 times more emissions than the poorest 50%, and 175 times more than the poorest 10%. Following the 2008 financial crash, the number of billionaires has nearly doubled, and a decade later, less than 1% of total global wealth is in the hands of the bottom half of the population, while the richest 10% own 82% of global wealth; the top 1% alone own 45%

Are you seeing a pattern here? Those who have wealth, are disproportionately contributing to carbon emissions that are predominantly going to affect those in the poorest countries on earth. In turn, the poorest people on the planet are economically barred from being able to generate the wealth required to escape the hand they’re being dealt to satisfy the greed of a for-profit fossil fuel industry.

One of Capitalism’s success stories has been multinational fossil fuel companies, some of which have become the most profitable on earth. A club of carbon billionaires, a mega super rich climate cartel. $430,000 per day is what the oil, gas and coal industries spend lobbying to delay government action – literally buying time to generate profits at the expense of, quite literally, human lives. The poorest and most destitute of us are directly threatened by handing private individuals the  power to destroy the climate.

Oxfam’s head of food and climate policy, Tim Gore, notes that “climate change and economic inequality are inextricably linked and together pose one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. Paris must be the start of building a more human economy for all – not just for the ‘haves,’ the richest and highest emitters, but also the ‘have-nots,’ the poorest people who are the least responsible for and most vulnerable to climate change.”

That class of private individuals who control the means of production, centre their entire purpose around profit generation. This mindset is pathologically avoidant to addressing the problem of climate catastrophe, which is significantly easier to do when you are economically insulated from the fallout of climate change. Turns out, if you can afford to face the consequences of climate change, you don’t actually have to face them. In a nutshell, Capitalism is killing our planet.