Environmentalism: Every once in a while, environmentalists will let slip that the goal of fighting climate change can’t be won unless capitalism is first defeated. The fact that there’s no evidence to support the claim doesn’t seem to matter.
XAutoplay: On | Off The latest to make this case is Arizona State University fellow Benjamin Fong in an Op-Ed published recently by the New York Times, headlined “The Climate Crisis? It’s Capitalism, Stupid.”
“It should be stated plainly: It’s capitalism that is at fault,” he writes. Or, what he later calls “the rampant stupidity of capitalism.” The answer, he says, is a “democratic socialist society.”
Fong isn’t the only one making this claim. Naomi Klein’s 2014 book titled “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate” argues that the planet is doomed unless the world abandons “free market” ideology.
Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, admitted that the goal of climate change policy wasn’t just to cut CO2 emissions, but “to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.”
Assume for the sake of argument that everything environmentalists say about global warming is true — that the computer models are perfectly accurate in predicting future warming and that the result will be entirely negative.
Is capitalism to blame? Let’s review the evidence.
Free market economies have become far less carbon intensive over time. Data from the United Nations show that the U.S. emitted 62% less carbon for each dollar of GDP produced in 2014 than it did in 1990. In Hong Kong, which is ranked as having the most free economy, its carbon intensity dropped by 58% over those years.
What about more socialist countries? Communist China emits 86% more CO2 per dollar of GDP than does the U.S.; Russia emits 50% more.
Worldwide, carbon intensity has steadily dropped since 1990. Those were years when free market capitalism was spreading, and the trend started long before the world was taking climate change seriously.
Why? Because even without any government oversight, free markets reward efficiency. And one of the biggest sources of waste is energy use. Trying to increase profits, therefore, invariably means less energy use, and less pollution, including CO2.
Free markets are also inherently “sustainable” because businesses want to stay in business. That means making sure resources are carefully managed for the long term.
Socialism, in contrast, is dirty business. The Soviet Union was a horrendous polluter, as were other Eastern Bloc countries. “The socialist world suffers from the worst pollution on Earth,” noted Thomas DiLorenzo back in 1992.
Here at home, the federal government is the biggest energy consumer and polluter — despite being free of any profit motive.
The simple truth is that, as long as there are people on the planet, they’re going to need and want things. The best, most sustainable, most earth-friendly way to deliver those things is through free market capitalism.
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