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A Capitalist Climate

January 27, 2021


Sean Gallup/Getty Images/TNS

Steam rises from cooling towers of the Boxberg coal-fired power plant next to reconstituted land of the plant’s adjacent open-pit lignite coal mine on July 9, 2019 near Weisswasser, Germany. Legislation to phase the country off coal passed both houses of parliament Friday, July 3, 2020.

For now or for the future?
Stronger hurricanes, bigger floods, hotter droughts, rising sea levels, and thousands of deaths; these are only a fraction of all of the side effects of climate change. What if this could have been prevented by companies changing their sources for materials, and by the government mandating mandatory switches to cleaner sources of power?
For decades, there has been controversy over whether the government and big corporations should change their methods on how they get their energy, fuel their products and services, and make their goods. Though some companies and the government have taken some steps to make resources more eco-friendly, they are hesitant to fully commit to environmentally friendly options for power and materials.
Many companies and politicians are concerned that changing sources of energy and materials would lead to massive amounts of lost money, and by result, a crashing economy.
While people arguing for companies to pay for cleaner energy take the opposite approach to the subject: why would an economy matter if there is no habitable planet for people to spend money on?
The biggest concern for making this leap towards sustainability is money, of course. Millions and billions of dollars would need to be invested into cleaner sources for power and products, and with the huge price tag of being climate friendly, it is not a small undertaking to pave way for the future of their company to be green.
The connection between switching to renewable energy and more environmentally friendly materials and climate change is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the effect of climate change and the economy, though switching to cleaner resources is a way to stop climate change from getting worse. Agriculture, real estate, infrastructure, and human health are all threatened by climate change too; and disturbance to these areas of the economy will cause massive hardships in the United States and around the world.

Huge windmills line the western shore of Lake Nicaragua, part of the Central American nation’s rush to increase reliance on renewable energy, Aug. 15, 2014. (Tim Johnson/MCT)

Changing energy sources for big companies is a priority to make sure carbon levels are reduced. Switching to renewable energy like solar power, wind energy, or electricity would provide our planet with clean energy that would not pollute the earth is a necessary step that we need to take in order to reduce carbon emissions. The cost of making the United States run 100% percent on renewable energy would cost an estimated $4.5 trillion dollars. Although this is quite a hefty price tag, the cost and benefits of switching to renewable energy is more efficient and cost-effective in the future. In terms of repairing, wind and solar power are very cheap to repair compared to other forms of energy production methods. Not to mention that there is an unlimited amount of wind and solar power. At the rate that we are currently using fossil fuels, it is estimated that all of our fossil fuels will be depleted by 2060 and if we keep on using fossil fuels until there is no more, almost all of the ice in Antarctica will have melted, which will raise sea levels by 200 feet. Companies can also switch to eco-friendly materials to make their goods. In 2018, 292.4 million tons of waste was generated in the U.S., and every year 14 billion pounds of trash is dumped into the ocean. The effect of mass amounts of waste on the planet is dangerous as well. Garbage can chemically cause harm to soil, water, and air. Trash emits methane, a harmful gas that is 28x more potent than carbon dioxide and hurts air and the atmosphere. This is especially a problem when it comes to uncontrolled and unmonitored litter. Although buying disposable products is cheaper than buying sustainable quality products, there is a bigger benefit to producing and buying sustainably.
Companies can benefit from producing and selling sustainably because eco-friendly businesses are increasingly becoming more popular compared to companies that produce generally single-use goods. Companies can also assure the quality of their products more efficiently if they are multi-use products, as multi-use products tend to be a higher quality than single-use items. This can result in a happier consumer. Consumers can benefit from buying multi-use products because they can stop buying mass amounts of products, which saves time, money, and the environment.
The agriculture and food business in the U.S made up 5.2% in 2019. Considering that the effects of climate change range from droughts to flooding to dust storms, the agriculture and food business could be badly hurt by climate change. Due to extreme weather like droughts and floods, millions of cattle could die, resulting in millions of dollars lost. Researchers also project that by 2050 the Midwest could lose up to 25% of its current soybean and corn crop because of extreme heat.
The National Academy of Sciences reports that there will be a 5% – 15% decrease in crop production for every degree Celsius the global temperature rises. The decrease in crops will no doubt affect the economy. By limiting the supply of any given crop the price will increase, making wheat, corn, soybeans, rice, oats, and other crops less accessible to consumers. Grocery stores and other companies in the food industry will suffer because of the decrease in supply of crops.

New York City, Miami, New Orleans, and almost every coastal city is at risk of being damaged by rising sea levels due to melting icebergs. The threat of rising sea levels will devastate the real estate market and leave the economy in shambles due to stronger hurricanes and bigger floods. In cities like New Orleans and New York City, damage due to flooding can be detrimental to the housing market and to the residents of the city.
In 2016, economists predicted that coastal property damage as a result of climate change “could surpass that of the bursting dot-com and real estate bubbles of 2000 and 2008.”
The weather caused by climate change could potentially scare people enough to move away from the shorelines in massive groups, leading for housing prices to plummet. Damage to roads, cables, and docks are only a handful of infrastructures that are at risk because of climate change. Damage due to climate change is estimated to cost billions of dollars. Houses, airports, roads, and underground cables for internet and communication will all be damaged by rising sea levels. Though some of these structures are water resistant, they are not fully waterproof, and will therefore need maintenance which will cost billions of dollars.

The damage caused by natural disasters will end up costing the government and companies of all sizes substantial resources, and will have a negative economic impact.
Due to rising temperatures, more people will suffer and die from heat-related illnesses. Not only will this devastate families around the world, it will also limit the productivity of companies due to the loss of workers.
Heat-related illnesses will affect people of all health conditions and ages at an increasing amount per year.
An estimated 9,300 additional people living in American cities are expected to die from extreme heat if temperatures increase by 4.5’C by 2090.
Looking at this tragedy from an economic standpoint, annual losses just from heat-related deaths are expected to be $140 million by 2090.
Another human health crisis that climate change affects is pandemics.

Overflowing garbage lines the main street leading into favela Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Garbage piles can be seen throughout the favela, as trash removal is not enforced.

Through the loss of their habitat, animals will start to go to human-populated areas and potentially make the spreading of their own viruses to humans more common than they already are.
Another way that climate change causes pandemics is through melting icebergs. Ancient bacteria and diseases trapped for thousands to tens of thousands of years under layers of thick ice are starting to surface due to icebergs melting. RNA fragments of the Spanish Flu (the virus that caused the 1918 pandemic) have been discovered in Alaska’s tundra through frozen corpses buried in mass graves.
It is also likely that samples of Smallpox and the Bubonic Plague (known as the Black Death which wiped out one-third of Europe’s population in the 1300’s) are located in Siberia. Compared to the death rates of the Spanish Flu (>2.5%), and that of the Bubonic Plague (around 50%), COVID-19 can be considered a less-deadly virus. Although the result of one of these viruses reappearing are unknown, an outbreak of any of these ancient viruses in our modern society would cause havoc that would result in our economy suffering with the many shutdowns, job losses, and deaths that another epidemic or pandemic would result in.
The U.S.’s and the world’s economy is strongly connected to climate change; whether it be through the result of not environmentally-friendly materials and resources used to make good and provide services on the Earth, natural disasters causing agriculture to become damaged, people becoming injured and or killed, infrastructures and houses being destroyed, or even shutdowns due to new epidemics and pandemics.


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