June 21, 2007

Global Warming: Is Capitalism the Rub or the Fix?

Global Warming: Is Capitalism the Rub or the Fix?

[Thanks to danielsommers, joneden, and cbuxbaum for pointing us to this idea.]
hummer with capitalism plates

License plate: CPTLISM [scottfeldstein / Flickr]

Here’s a tough question that came up in a dinner conversation and echoes pitches from danielsommers, joneden, and cbuxbaum: Is it possible to achieve dramatic reductions in CO2 emissions — sufficient to save ourselves from the worst ravages of global warming — in a capitalist economy?

In other words, is constant economic growth compatible with stringent cutbacks in the petroleum-based energy that drives it? If we, as a country, need to reduce emissions by at least 80% by 2050, is there really a technological fix — in the form of clean, renewable energy sources — that will also allow us to continue our consumer lifestyles, that will permit companies to keep making profits? One that won’t require a serious focus on conservation/reduction and possibly a change in our economic system?

Or is the innovation encouraged by our free-market economy exactly what will save us all in the end?

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