Is Industrial Capitalism Making Climate Change Unavoidable?

by | Dec 20, 2023 | Climate change and sustainable development | 0 comments

Article by Katie Foster

Image: Lausanne, CC by 2.0 – source:


Since 1880, each decade, the Earth’s temperature has risen by an average of 0.8°C and since 1981, the rate of warming is more than twice as fast. These increased temperatures can have severe effects on our planet, such as the melting of ice caps, loss of biodiversity and more frequent and severe extreme weather. And what can we do as individuals? We might try to use less plastic or use our cars less, but these slight changes won’t be enough to avoid a climate crisis. We need more drastic measures to be put in place to stop large businesses from releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere or waste into our waterways.


However, what are the motives to stop these large companies and corporations from doing this? In a capitalist society, the main goal is profit, so if they are making a profit, they are less likely to want to make changes to help the climate, especially if it may affect their profit. Profit and economic success overrule all other aspects, including the environmental and social aspects. This allows companies to work in ways that make a profit rather than ways that help mitigate climate change.


So, with carbon emissions beginning to rocket with the coming of the industrial revolution, the question remains, can we avoid severe climate change under an industrial capitalist system?


One issue with trying to mitigate climate change effects is that we only have a very small, time frame. It is suggested that 2030 is the ‘tipping point’ and for climate change to be avoided it needs to be done so in the next 6 years. However, supposedly global warming hit its tipping point in 2005. So we might have more time than we think, we might get to 2030 and be told the tipping point is in 2040. So even though we have been told we don’t have long we should use the time we have got to make changes, so that hopefully the tipping point can be pushed back until drastic changes have happened.


Capitalism can also help when it comes to climate change. For example, the funding and profit of capitalism can be used to develop new resources and change lifestyle habits which lead to global warming one example of this, is using capitalist funding for the private enterprise solar foods. Solar Foods is a company that makes food out of thin air. They have made a natural protein with almost nothing but electricity and air. Beef production emits 200kg of greenhouse gases, per kilogram of protein. Plant production emits 5kg, but their synthetic technology produced protein only emits 1kg of greenhouse gases per kilogram of protein. And so, with more capitalist funding into private enterprises like this, climate change may be avoidable. Capitalist funding is also useful for B-corporations, as they too are beneficial for the environment and can exist in a capitalist society. B-corporations are businesses that meet certain standards. The most important standard they must meet when it comes to climate change is high standards of environmental performance, and therefore this can help us avoid severe climate change, as more businesses are acting in ways that are more sustainable.


You may think that capitalism is unavoidable and therefore climate change is also unavoidable. However, there are multiple forms of capitalism, and some may work better to help with climate change, so although still being run in a capitalist society, the severe effects of climate change can be avoided. We can also use capitalism to tax and regulate the release of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. Whilst some will still be released and contribute to global warming, having less released than currently will help give us more time to come up with a better solution. To get rid of a capitalist society we would have to change our social norms and values, and this would take longer than the timeframe we currently have.


Whilst our current capitalist society is unavoidable, the severe effects of climate change may not be. If the capitalist system prioritises the environment and sustainable technological movements, we should have the time to help make changes and save our planet. On the other hand, if capitalism is left as it is, there are fears that climate change will be unavoidable, as so much damage has already been done, and it is unlikely that we will be able to reverse it.



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