By Cassandra Devereaux
The Coca-Cola corporation is worried that a lack of access to fresh water will impact its ability to produce soft drinks. Apple sees opportunity in the increase of natural disasters causing greater dependence on iPhones. Alphabet Inc. sees a potential boost to their Google brands, writing “If customers value Google Earth Engine as a tool to examine the physical changes to the Earth’s natural resources and climate, this could result in increased customer loyalty or brand value.” Disney is afraid that the rise in hot, muggy weather will mean fewer visitors to its theme parks. Home Depot happily notes that rising temperatures will drive air conditioning sales. Visa, Inc. anticipates the problems that will come from wars over dwindling resources and the climate change driven rise of global pandemics, specifically as these affect international travel. “Any such decline in cross-border activity could impact the number of cross-border transactions we process and our foreign currency exchange activities, and in turn reduce our revenues,” they grimly note. However, other companies look [at] the rise of an era of pestilence as a positive. Pharmaceutical goliath Merck & Co. licks its chops anticipating the profits to be made as plagues the population, reporting, “as the climate changes, there will be expanded markets for products for tropical and weather related diseases including waterborne illness.” Climate change is accelerating, and according to the CDP, formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project, bastions of capital are ghoulishly calculating the impacts to profits.
Some have hoped that capitalism would be the force to stave off the very disaster it has brought upon us. For decades, neoliberal ideologues such as former Democratic presidential candidate and vice president Al Gore have championed “green capitalism” as a solution to climate catastrophe. Products like energy efficient light bulbs and solar panels would reduce energy consumption, they argued, while profiting corporations. Building wind farms and solar farms could create whole new avenues of revenue for entrepreneurs to pursue they reasoned. Of course, the influence that the fossil fuel industry can buy has stood in the way of any meaningful transition to renewable and efficient power sources. Indeed, the nature of laissez-faire capitalism forbids any such “green capitalist” transition. The inefficiency of fossil fuels is not a disincentive to profit. To the contrary, it means theirs is a product that needs constant replenishment which allows them to sell it on a constant basis.
Under capitalism, since profit is the highest value, any side effects (such as environmental degradation) are a second thought. This can be perfectly summarized by then-President-Elect Donald Trump’s statement, “We’ll be fine with the environment. We can leave a little bit, but you can’t destroy businesses.” Such a statement makes perfect sense to the capitalist class. They live in climate-controlled penthouses and mansions while the workers they exploit and whose value they steal suffer below, out of sight. Climate change will only inconvenience them should their wealth no longer serve as a shield. In order to generate this wealth, they must dial up the severity of their theft while destroying regulations that would reign in their ecological destruction, creating a vicious circle of destruction and profit. Therefore, capitalists accelerate the environmental catastrophe they inflict upon the world. Given that such avarice is married to shortsightedness, it is evident that in this way, capitalism is an extinction-level event.
This is far from hyperbole. The past half billion years of life on Earth has seen five periods of mass extinction. We are now entering the sixth mass extinction. This current period, named by scientists the Holocene extinction, represents the greatest species die-off since the end of the Cretaceous period 65 million years gone which saw the extinction of the dinosaurs and 76 percent of all living species. The baseline for die-off is estimated at one to five species a year. Scientists estimate that we are currently losing dozens of species a day, a thousand to ten thousand times the norm. An estimated 35 percent to 50 percent of species loss is projected for mid-century, wreaking havoc to the global ecosystem. This will spur the ravages of those diseases such as malaria that pharmaceutical companies are so eager for, as well as starvation, as the food supply is endangered. The loss of access to fresh water that Coca-Cola wrings its hands considering will mean people dying of dehydration, passing from life weak and parched as the salty seas rise.
And rise they will. The United Nations Environment Programme has issued a press release that reveals that even if our current practices ceased today, we are still “locked in” to a change in temperature at our ice caps of three to five degrees Celsius (approximately five to nine degrees Fahrenheit) by mid-century. This will mean increasing the acidification of the oceans that is already ravaging marine life. It also means a thawing of the permafrost, releasing even more greenhouse gasses, described in the report as a “sleeping giant.” Even should the Paris Climate Agreement targets be met, current permafrost will be reduced to 45 percent of its current size by 2050, releasing an estimated 1,672 billion metric tons of carbon gasses. This would mean an even more drastic acceleration of climate change exceeding current estimates. Food shortages are already affecting indigenous peoples living in the Arctic. By 2050, this is expected to drastically expand to afflict millions. Arctic sea ice has already declined by 40 percent over the past four decades, and arctic summers are expected to be ice-free by the 2030s. Coastal regions will face sea rise and far more frequent and devastating natural disasters such as hurricanes, while drought zones spawn ever more frequent wildfires and continue the desertification of vast regions. If the claims of this report are true, as there is every reason to accept, it might be said that we’re moving from a model of saving the planet to a salvage operation paradigm….