To save the climate, we have to reimagine capitalism
I am a tree hugger. I spent much of my childhood on the great lower limb of a massive copper beech alternately reading and looking up at the sky through its branches. I felt safe and cared for and connected to something infinitely larger than myself. I thought the trees were immortal that they would always be here. But i was wrong. The theresa dying climate change is killing the cedars of lebanon and the forests of the american west at. It's not just the trees since nine. Hundred and ninety. Eight extreme heat has killed more than one hundred. Sixty thousand people and unchecked. Climate change could kill millions more. How did we get here. There are many reasons of course but one of the most important is that we let capitalism morph into something monstrous. I'm a huge fan of capitalism at its best after all i'm an economist and a business school professor i think genuinely free and fair. Markets are one of the great inventions of the human race. But here's the catch markets. Only work their magic when prices reflect real costs and right now prices are badly out of whack. We're letting the firms who sell fossil fuels and indeed anyone who admits greenhouse gases cause enormous damage for which they do not have to pay and that is hardly fair. Imagine for a moment but my hands of filled with a cloud of electrons ten dollars worth of coal fired electricity. But caputo your cell phone for more than ten years. That probably sounds like a pretty good deal. But it's only so cheap because you're not paying for the harm that it causes burning coals sense poisons like mercury and lead into the air increasing healthcare costs by billions of dollars and causing the death of hundreds of thousands of people every year it also emits huge quantities of carbon dioxide. So another part of the real cost of coal is the climate damage it will cause and is already causing more than a million acres burned in california this summer. A massive floods put a third of bangladesh underwater. Hundreds of studies have tried to put a number on. These costs. my sense of this work and here. I'm relying on my colleagues in the school of public health and my friends and economics is generating ten dollars worth of coal fired. Electricity causes at least eight dollars worth of harm to human health and at least another eight dollars worth of climate damage and probably much more so the true cost of this handful of electrons. It's not ten dollars. It's something more like twenty six. The hidden costs of doing things like burning oil and gas and eating beef a similarly enormous and justice. unfair everyone. Who's trying to build a clean economy has to compete with firms that are heavily subsidized by the destruction of our health. And the degradation of our climate. This is not the capitalism. I signed up for. This is not a market. That is either free or fair. So what do we do. The easy on is that governments should insist that anyone who admits greenhouse gases pay for the damage that they cause however the moment. There's not much sign that governments up for this partly because the fossil fuel companies have spent the last twenty years using their heavily subsidized prophets to deny the reality of climate change and to show the politicians who should be regulating them with money. So here's my crazy idea. I think business should step up. I think business should fix capitalism. I know some of you are probably thinking fat chance. Did i just say that. Companies are the ones denying the silence distorting the market and lobbying. the politicians. I did but fixing. This is squarely. In the private sector's interest.