Can A Profit Driven Economy Provide Solution To Climate Change


The science of Climate Change has come to be well established. Predictive models indicate its dangers to the existence and survival of the future generations. While future technologies can arrest the dangers and reduce the pace of increase of atmospheric CO2, it has already crossed the alarm level of 408 PPM much above the acceptable limit of 350 PPM. Yet it is not raising the needed alarm bells to eradicate the challenge.

The world has come together time and again to address the global challenge. From Rio summit, to Paris agreement to Kyoto protocol has attempted at finding solution to this global challenge. From fixing of responsibility to addressing climate change on developed countries to agreement on development and transfer of green technologies has been part of the agreement. However, the conferences have hardly been able to show signs of arrest the emerging danger. While agreements have been arrived to reduce CO2 emissions, there are also parties which have broken away from the same.

The modern life is full of contradictions. While the dangers are agreed upon, there is reluctance for change. The change does not necessarily mean to go back to pre-industrial ages with lack of technologies and benefits of modern civilization, but to innovate and make a shift towards greener technologies and more sustainable lifestyles. These technologies need to be produced at a scale and made available that it arrests the pace of acceleration of CO2 levels. It does not necessarily mean giving up Cars, but definitely an increase in usage of Mass transportation. It does not mean stopping usage of thermal power generation but to gradually replace it with power generation through renewable energy sources, more particularly solar energy. It does not mean giving up Air condition (AC) completely, but to substantially reduce it. It does not mean negating modernity, but to accept modernity including the flaws and to give it a direction that ensures shift to more sustainable lifestyles.

Modernity through industrial revolution did bring in changes which benefitted human civilization. The modern medicines did bring improvement in health and reduced mortality. The educational system did build in a new human being and vocations for meeting the needs of modern society. Transportation technologies reduced the time and spatial dimensions. Technologies reduced drudgery both at home and in economic activities. While these need to be welcomed and built upon, the dangers posed by modernity also need to be agreed upon.

Modernity also under the garb of the new economic system also brought in new cultural values. The values related to achieving accelerated growth, industrialisation, increase in gross domestic product, consumption lifestyles, and increased usage of energy for higher level of comforts. It did create a necessary societal shift from pre-industrial to an industrial age. The modern values did break the trend of supremacy of religion over men, separated religion from politics, questioned inequalities – particularly political, and brought in the concept of liberty equality and fraternity. It did have its benefits at the societal level. At the same time it also established the concept of supremacy of men over nature. This also meant that human civilization took it for granted that resources of earth can be utilised in a manner to achieve maximal benefits. The limited capacities of resources of earth to support were not realised. It was only when dangers became imminent that it was realised that there is a limit to which resources of earth can be extracted. And it was agreed that there are ‘limits to growth’.

Modernity and the modern economic system has resulted in benefits such as increase in production of food availability, increased availability of health care and medicines, increased availability of modern technologies which can substantially reduce human drudgery. Yet it also true that education, health care and modern technologies are increasingly becoming unaffordable as it is closely linked to an economic system driven by profit motive. The modern systems did bring substantial improvements in lifespan, health and education. But its increased connection with profit driven economy is making access to these basic services unaffordable.

The green technologies of future can have a potential solution to address climate change. But does an economic system driven by cultural values determined by profit motive, take it to a scale and make it available for the masses. Will the green technologies be accessible to all? When even agricultural technologies and gas cylinder hasn’t been able to reach the masses and the producers, how can the greener technologies reach the masses?

Similar to acceptance of the earth’s capacities to support modern unsustainable lifestyles are to be agreed upon, similarly limits of the economic system driven by profit motive to make shift to sustainable future needs to be questioned.

T Navin is a writer. He works with an NGO as a Researcher and an M.Phil from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)

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