Capitals’ moves in the face of climate crisis

capitalism climate

Despite scores of scientific study findings warning climate crisis and its consequences at global scale, the world capitalist system is still pressing on with its business of climate destruction. Deniers’ propaganda is also unabated. A huge amount of money, a part of capital, is engaged with in the business of climate-profit at the cost of deaths – death to our planet, death to lives in the planet, and expropriate climate.

At the same time, smaller parts of capitals are well-aware of the emerging reality – climate crisis is going to cost its profit, and a huge market with trillions of dollars is opening up with the crisis. This leads parts of capitals to go for areas that ensure its life – profit.

There’re two trends, contradictory in essence, therefore. The first one, business-as-usual while the other, maneuvering for securing profit, and sounding new areas of exploitation.

Protect fossil fuel investment

A part of the big capital continues with its trading with lie for ensuring profit. Nick Cunningham writes: “Despite claims of transitioning to cleaner energy, internal emails and documents obtained by a [US] congressional investigation show oil companies trying to protect their fossil fuel investments through public narratives that conflict with private communications.”1

Another report said the same: “New documents show Big Oil knows its climate plans are bogus”.2


As part of the adventure with deception, a part of the big capital doesn’t refrain from its acts of manipulation: Green groups warn that industry “greenwash” risks diverting politicians from less-polluting alternatives.3

A report by Carbon Tracker released on October 6, 2022 said: “Almost all of the companies most responsible for corporate greenhouse gas emissions are failing to disclose how climate-related risks might impact them financially.4

Coal’s backtrack

The coal industry, a big share in climate destruction, has backtracked on pledges to phase out existing plants and halt new investments, according to a study led by Urgewald, a non-profit.5

The Global Coal Exit List (GCEL), a survey of more than 1,000 coal companies, shows: 46% are still developing new coal assets. Only 56 companies, equivalent to 5.3% of the total, have announced a coal exit date. But even those setting deadlines have settled on dates that are “ridiculously late,” said Urgewald. Almost half the coal industry is expanding.6

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that consumption of the dirtiest fuel will rise by 0.7% this year and then hit an all-time high in 2023. Goldman Sachs Group Inc’s Michele Della Vigna, head of the Wall Street bank’s natural resources research for EMEA, has warned that Europe’s reliance on both coal and even diesel may stretch past this winter.7

A compilation of data by Bloomberg found “[m]ore cash from the finance industry is flowing into coal. Reclaim Finance estimates that 190 banks and money managers still have no coal policy. A further 272 have either weak or inadequate policies, and only 28 have effective exit strategies. In the first nine months of 2022, banks provided $26 billion in loans and bonds to the coal industry, up 36% from the same period in 2021”.8

The GCEL found, by January 2021, 4,478 institutional investors held investments totaling US$ 1.03 trillion in companies operating along the thermal coal value chain worldwide. Among the investors covered by the research are pension funds, mutual funds, asset managers, insurance companies, commercial banks, sovereign wealth funds and other types of institutional investors.9

So, the collaboration between or alliance of capitals – mine, bank, insurance, etc. – are evident.

These are small parts of the capitalist economy’s links to destruction of climate – a restless move it’s.

Only a part of total investment

The amount of capital in foreign direct investment (FDI) in a year is a gauge to assume the extent of capital invested in the world capitalist system, which is destructing/expropriating the climate.

A report by the UNCTAD said: Global FDI flows in 2021 were $1.58 trillion, up 64% from the exceptionally low level in 2020 (figure 1).10

This amount of capital joins the capitalist economic system; and the system is climate-destructive.   

Another picture is gained from the US, the largest economy in the world capitalist system, and one of the most matured capitalist economies. According to statistics released by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the US direct investment abroad position, or cumulative level of investment, increased $403.3 billion to $6.49 trillion at the end of 2021 from $6.09 trillion at the end of 2020.11

By looking at investment in energy another snap of the reality is found. In 2021, annual global energy investment was set to rise to US$ 1.9 trillion, rebounding nearly 10% from 2020.12

There’re many other areas that can be seen. Instead of going into details, following are a few fragments of the capitalist economy in terms of size/amount:

  • Global car and automobile manufacturing market size in 2022 is $2.9 trillion.13
  • “The global plastic market is projected to grow from $457.73 billion in 2022 to $643.37 billion by 2029, at a CAGR of 5.0% in forecast period 2022-2029.”14 Another report said: “The global plastic market size was valued at US$ 593.00 billion in 2021.”15

Geopolitical competition, wars

Along with these, there are the geopolitical/geostrategic/geotactical moves, essentially competition, which bolster the climate destruction trend. One example is the Arctic with its, as a Bloomberg report said, “90 billion barrels of oil and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of gas lie inside the Arctic Circle”.16

The Arctic, today, is one of the most tense/competition charged areas in the world.

Wars – class war waged by capitals against labor/people in many forms, imperialist wars in all forms, wars between imperialist capitals – act against climate. The capitals invested in wars by the world capital are huge. The loss is at input level – industries manufacturing arms and ammunitions, and, at output level – destruction of environment and ecology, both affect climate. Over the years, it’s increased, and is increasing. US’ Afghan and Iraq Wars are two of many examples. The total cost of the US’ Afghan War was, as of April 2021, $2.26 trillion17; a part of which went behind persons, management including military contractors while the rest to acts including production of arms, etc. spewing of destruction; and both of these play roles in destruction of climate. There’re US bombings of Cambodia, Laos and North Vietnam, NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, NATO air war in Libya. Other wars, when taken into account, create a climate busting reality. Vietnam was the most heavily bombed country in history. More than 6.1 million tons of bombs were dropped, compared to 2.1 million tons in World War II.18 U.S. planes dumped 20 million gallons of herbicides to defoliate Viet Cong hiding places. The chemicals decimated 5 million acres of forest and 500,000 acres of farmland. Citing US Congressional Research Service (CRS) analysis, the Federation of American Scientists said: The Vietnam War (1965-1975) cost an estimated $686 billion in 2008 dollars.19 Another estimate cites the cost as $1 trillion in today’s dollars.

The total world military expenditure in 2021 passed $2 trillion.20 The amount of money spent is beyond perception of ordinary citizens, commoners toiling in factories and farms, producing this money for the war industry while paying price for climate destruction the world capitalist economy wrecks, of which the war industry is a part. Most of the discussions on climate don’t take into account the imperialist war/war industry – a partial, wrong way of looking at the issue.

The second trend

Another trend by capital is also found, although it’s very small, not able to make any tangible impact on the climate crisis scene.

A Bloomberg report said: “A coalition of pension funds and insurance companies that includes Allianz SE, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and Zurich Insurance Group AG have committed to managing $7.1 trillion of assets in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”21

The alliance said: “Members’ investments in so-called climate solutions such as clean technologies or green infrastructure rose almost threefold to $253 billion this year from $87 billion in 2021.”

A report from Australia said: “Australian iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group announced on [September 20, 2022] a $6.2 billion plan to eliminate fossil fuels and carbon emissions from its operations by the end of the decade.”22

There’re other reports also. An AFP report said: AGL, Australia’s biggest carbon emitter, announced on September 29, 2022 that it would close one of the country’s most polluting coal-fired power stations, the Loy Yang A Power Station, by mid-2035, a decade earlier than previously targeted. The closure will complete AGL’s exit from all coal-fired energy generation, the group said. AGL said its largest coal-fired power station Bayswater, in New South Wales, remains on track to close before 2033. Operations at AGL, Australia’s largest energy company, have been under intense pressure in the past year, with green groups and shareholder activists pushing for a faster transition away from coal.23

Tech companies are also moving to the business of removing carbon. A Fortune report said: “In 2021, Shopify’s Sustainability Fund purchased 400 tons of stored carbon from Heirloom, a company in the process of testing and fine-tuning technology to speed up a natural process called carbon mineralization. During that process, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere binds to minerals and permanently turns to stone; Heirloom’s goal is to make it happen within days instead of years.”24

Therefore, it’s found that a very small part of capital has already started shifting to “sustainable” approach or moving away from climate destructive practices. Even, a few companies, bigger than the companies mentioned above, have also begun shifting a part of their capital from climate destructive technology/area.25 A few hydrocarbon companies are also in this shifting-“endeavor” while a few are yet to give up their present path of business.

Are these happening or going to happen because capital has turned “humane” or “climate-sensitive” or “climate-considerate”? There’s no scope for capital to turn anything other than profit-sensitive, incessantly looking for profit, if it doesn’t like to sit idle; and this capital is not living in ancient time that had idle surplus product.26

Profit threatened

With rapidly increasing scientific evidences, parts of capital have turned aware27 that capital’s climate-destructive practice threatens its profit, as it diminishes prospects of regeneration of capital, and destructs its (i) markets, (ii) consumers, (iii) sources of its raw and auxiliary materials, and of labor, (iv) establishment, and (v) relations for exploitation; and, on the contrary, new techs/approaches that appear harmless or less-harmless to climate, are yet to be reliably evidenced that these can secure capital, increase profit, and increase capital’s commanding power over labor.

It should be mentioned that capital, to the bourgeois economists, is an aggregate of things – means of production while Marx discovered that “capital is not a thing, but rather a definite social production relation, belonging to a definite historical formation of society, which is manifested in a thing and lends this thing a specific social character.”28

Till now, no scientific evidence has been produced by any bourgeois economist that cancels the argument – “a definite social production relation …” – Marx presents, as without production relation, whatever bunch of things is staked for the purpose of inserting into machines by any industrialist or economist, the things can’t be inserted into machines, gears inside the machine can’t be wheeled, even, prior to all these, the things can’t be staked together near a factory. This question of social relation “belonging to a definite historical social formation of society” is never accepted as an argument by the bourgeois scholars including economists and the camp following them.

The shifts parts of capitals have already made/are making are functioning in a reality, which is not void of (i) society, and (ii) a definite social production relation. Consequently, with this relation, to describe it briefly, exploitative, with the relations its commodities have, exploitation of labor will continue. Rather, exploitation will intensify as (i) capital will have more command over/control of labor and technology, and (ii) enlargement of the reserve army of labor due to climate migrants in increasing number/climate destitution with wider scale. Moreover, there’s possibility of centralization and concentration of capital in the new areas of investment/exploitation.

Some more

Along with efforts for averting threats to profit, capitals also are searching some more: technological improvements, investment in grids and storage, low-carbon hydrogen and carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS), state’s pumping money, tax payers’ money, into new technologies, state facilitating markets for related commodities, capital market, finance/funds, cost reductions. The IEA found, with technology improvements and costs reductions, a dollar spent on wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) deployment today results in four times more electricity than a dollar spent on the same technologies ten years ago. The IEA also found: “Renewable investment has thrived in markets with well-established supply chains” accompanied by lower costs; and “[d]emand from the corporate sector for clean electricity”.

Capitals’ current tasks, as always, include calculations: when, how much profit? This means speed (time/rate) and space (amount/quantity). The calculations also include the question of transition – switching over to new by throwing out the old, which is a bit complex: Increase profit as long as possible with the last piece of coal, last drop of hydrocarbon, and simultaneously move to new areas of profit within a certain time with developments in technology/innovations. Capital will not give up a drop of oil from wells as long as its profit is not in jeopardy. Humanity has to face this reality as long as exploitative capital dominates the world economy.

Not only a single swath of land

To capital, the climate crisis is a threat, which is increasing every day, and in increasing number of areas. Following is one of many examples:

Citing a report by a non-profit research group, an report said:

“Sea level rise will flood huge swaths of the country [US] and submerge billions of dollars’ worth of land”.29

It’s a loss to capital related to the area – the land and other economic activities.

The report said:

“An analysis from Climate Central […] put a price tag on just how much all that land is worth — and how much local governments stand to lose when it goes underwater. The report found that nearly 650,000 privately owned parcels of land over more than 4 million acres will fall below tide lines within the next 30 years. The analysis indicates that sea level rise could reduce the value of that private land by more than $108 billion by the end of the century.

“Because all land below the tide line is, by law, state-owned, the encroachment of the tides could essentially vaporize huge amounts of private, taxable wealth. That, in turn, will decrease property tax revenue substantially in coastal areas, which experts caution could ultimately bankrupt local governments.”

The study found that an area the size of the state of New Jersey that is now above water will be submerged at high tide in 2050.

The report said:

“Losing such a huge amount of private land over a few years could have far-reaching consequences. Insurance companies have already started to pull out of coastal markets or are raising their premiums substantially. Banks and other financial institutions are starting to look at whether it makes sense to lend to homeowners and businesses along the coastline.”

This example is enough to comprehend that issues of housing/real estate/insurance market, property tax and tax base, revenue, costs of adapting to climate crisis, etc. are related to the issue of climate crisis, and to capital, and to the state machine that works as coercive machine for capital. Capital is seeking state’s help, tax payers’ money, to secure its operation, profit and regeneration of capital, and these helps include government buyouts – converting a property from private ownership to public ownership – subsidy, tax payers’ money, etc. These all are related to the capitalist order.

Now, there’s no doubt that parts of capital are moving to approaches that appear not-destructive to climate/less climate-hostile, etc., but, essentially secures profit. This trend will increase. Now, with increasing scientific findings, it’s clear that (i) Bangladesh, the Maldives, the Pacific island-countries, and similar lands in the group aren’t only going to be the worst victims of climate crisis; (ii) the world metropolis is also going to be one of the worst victims, and the loss may be bigger and larger than of Bangladesh and similar lands; and, now-a-days, this fact is increasingly found through experience – capital goes by empiricism for self, and idealism for others. Mainstream media reports help find out the trend. MSM reports on sea shore/beach erosion and communities facing extinction in the face of rising sea in the First World have increased in recent days. It’s increasingly being told about this wreath of nature in the First World: losses in terms of money – the burden the insurance industry is going to face.30

Compared to these reports on consequences of climate crisis in the center of the world capitalist system, reports on sea level rise threatening Bangladesh, Maldives, the Pacific Island States are few. Similar findings are found in areas of communities going to get hurt due to Himalayan glacial melting, communities in Africa, communities in the Middle East. A report by The Guardian tells about the climate-crisis driven extreme hardship in a tribal community in the US.31

As the First World faces losses, reports are coming out in increasing number; and ultimately, the loss in these MSM reports is defined in terms of the insurance industry.

Capital doesn’t care loss of/by people. It cares loss of its (i) sources – raw and auxiliary materials and labor, (ii) destiny of commodities – markets, and (iii) scope for regeneration of capital. These all are related to profit. A recent discussion on this aspect is found in an report.32

Capital can’t survive with losses of these; and capital always denies writing its death verdict. There’s nothing in capital’s brain called mere survival other than ever increase – more profit, higher rate of profit, more regeneration of capital. This reality – threat from climate crisis and capital’s thirst for more profit – pushes capital to put money into R&D, new techs and areas appearing climate-friendly/-sensitive/-considerate/-saving. Moreover, capital benefits from climate actions. A report cites 20 benefits capital can have with climate actions.33 A Fortune story also said the same.34

These actions ultimately help (1) regenerate capital, and/or, (2) keep labor chained. So, the reality of exploitation – of labor and nature – will not wither away. Rather, the exploitation will intensify, the system’s tact will turn more mischievous, its grip on the nature will turn tighter, its exploitation of nature, especially the commons will be wider and deeper, its robbing of tax payers’ money will increase; and with these, it will entangle humanity more tightly into its system of exploitation. So, the question of smashing down the system doesn’t go limbo.

Climate crisis, its roots in the capitalist system, Marx and his comrades’ position for saving nature and environment are already discussed, and repeatedly being discussed. These discussions are needed so that capitalism with its all crudeness and cruelty gets exposed – an imperative to get out of the illogical, inhuman system.

Contradictions don’t wither away

But, at the same time, now, (i) capital’s moves/shifts in the face of climate crisis, (ii) its relation to/contradiction with labor with these moves, (iii) state machine’s capital-friendly role, and other functional questions are to be discussed and debated, as (i) contradictions within the system irrespective of its parts’ approaches to the question of climate don’t wither away, and (ii) the system’s exploiting nature doesn’t die down. Climate crisis is not only going to uproot/destroy communities, massive portion of population in countries, threaten entire population’s existence in countries, not only going to increase poverty and hunger in many countries in the Global South; it also increases inequality in the north. A report on the Ian that hit Florida carries an example.35

These discussions that include capital’s anti-life, anti-nature character and the relation of exploitation the system establishes will facilitate the working people’s organizations to play effective role in preparing the working people face climate crisis. Otherwise, all discussions will turn as mere armchair talks.


  1. DeSmog, “Internal Documents Show Big Oil PR Messages Still ‘Mislead’ Public on Climate”, September 16, 2022,
  2. Quartz, “New documents show Big Oil knows its climate plans are bogus”, September 16, 2022,
  3. DeSmog, Hydrogen Lobby Targeting Labour Conference with ‘False Solutions’, Say Campaigners, Sep 28, 2022
  4. Reuters, “Biggest polluting firms failing to disclose climate risks – study”, October 6, 2022
  5. Bloomberg, “Climate Systems ‘Breakdown’ Looms as Coal Investments Soar”, October 6, 2022
  6. ibid.
  7. ibid.
  8. ibid.
  9., February 25, 2021,“Groundbreaking Research Reveals Top Financiers of the Global Coal Industry”,,along%20the%20thermal%20coal%20value%20chain%20world%20wide.
  10. UNCTD, World Investment Report 2022,—global-investment-trends-and-prospects/#fdi-flows, and World Investment Report 2022,
  12. IEA, World Energy Investment 2021, Paris, 2021,
  13. IBIS World, Global Car & Automobile Manufacturing – Market Size2005–2028, Updated: July 9, 2022
  14. Fortune Business Insights, Report ID: FBI 102176, Plastic market size, share and Covid-19 impact analysis, by type …, by end-use industry …, and regional forecast, 2022-2029,
  15. Grand View Research, Report ID: 978-1-68038-232-7, Plastic Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Product … , By Application, By End Use, And Segment Forecasts, 2022 – 2030,
  16. “A New Cold War Is Heating Up the Arctic”, October 20, 2022, also, “NATO-China Tension Over Ukraine Flares at Conference in Iceland”, And, “Guggenheim’s Minerd Says Arctic Needs $1 Trillion for Projects”
  17. Forbes, “The war in Afghanistan cost America $300 million per day for 20 years, with big bills yet to come, Aug 16, 2021, This estimate is by the Brown University’s Costs of War Project.

An AP report, “Costs of the Afghanistan war, in lives and dollars”, August 16, 2021,, said: Estimated amount of direct Afghanistan and Iraq war costs that the US has debt-financed as of 2020: $2 trillion; and estimated interest costs by 2050: Up to $6.5 trillion.

Citing the Costs of War project at Brown University’s Watson Institute and Boston University’s Pardee Center, a Newsweek report, “How Much Did the War in Afghanistan Cost?”, 8/16/21,, said: As of April, the US has spent $2.261 trillion on the war in Afghanistan.

News From Brown, Brown University, Providence, RI, US, “Costs of the 20-year war on terror: $8 trillion and 900,000 deaths”, September 1, 2021,, The research team’s $8 trillion estimate accounts for all direct costs of the country’s post-9/11 wars. Of the $8 trillion, $2.3 trillion is attributed to the Afghanistan/Pakistan war zone. The cumulative cost of military intervention in the Iraq/Syria war zone has risen to $2.1 trillion since 9/11, and about $355 billion more has funded military presence in other countries, including Somalia and a handful of African countries. The costs of war will continue to rise: $2.2 trillion, and the U.S. and other countries could pay the cost of environmental damage wrought by the wars for generations to come.

  1. RENEW, “The most bombed place on Earth”,, and Coopers Thomas, Esri’s StoryMaps Team, “Bombing missions of the Vietnam War”,
  2. Federation of American Scientists, Steven Aftergood “The Costs of Major U.S. Wars”, July 25, 2008,,The%20Iraq%20war%20represents%201%25%20of%20GDP%20today.
  3. SIPRI, “World military expenditure passes $2 trillion for first time”, April 25, 2022,; also, SIPRI, Fact Sheet April 2022, Trends in world military expenditure, 2021
  4. “Investors Commit $7.1 Trillion of Assets in Pursuit of 1.5°C Climate Goal”, September 20, 2022
  5. AP, “Australian miner Fortescue reveals $6.2 billion carbon plan”, datelined: Canberra, September 20, 2022
  6. “Australia’s largest carbon emitter to exit coal by 2035”, September 29, 2022
  7. “These tech companies are accelerating permanent carbon removal to save the planet”, September 19, 2022
  8. The following report carries details: NS Energy, “How the six major oil companies have invested in renewable energy projects”, January 16, 2020,
  9. One of Marx’s discussions on idle surplus-product is in Theories of Surplus-Value, part II, vol. IV of Capital, Progress Publishers, Moscow, erstwhile USSR, 1975
  10. The following reports are a small segment of the losses capitals are facing/going to face in the face of climate crisis:, “As Hurricane Ian Lashes Florida, Insurers Facing $40 Billion in Damage Claims”; Reuters, “Yellen says weather disasters reduce U.S. productive capacity, sap resources”, September 27, 2022; Bloomberg, “John Kerry Woos Wall Street in Bid to Bolster US Climate Finance”, September 28, 2022; Reuters, “Large companies’ assets at growing risk of climate impact – S&P Global”, September 15, 2022
  11. Capital, vol. III, Progress Publishers
  12. “Climate change could wipe $108 billion from U.S. property market, study finds”, September 21, 2022
  13. According to data released on October 7, 2022 by modeling firm RMS, hurricane Ian that hit Florida, US, in September 2022, was responsible for between $53 billion and $74 billion in insured losses. RMS gave its best estimate for the storm’s damages at $67 billion. The Ian was the costliest hurricane in Florida history and the second most expensive ever to hit the US. The US National Flood Insurance Program may face $10 billion in losses from flooding and the storm surge associated with the Ian, the company stated. While storm surges carried away buildings and torrential rains brought record levels of flooding, RMS estimated that hurricane winds as high as 240 km/h were responsible for the lion’s share of the damage. The destruction from the Ian was dwarfed only by Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005, causing $65 billion in damages – the equivalent of $89.7 billion if adjusted for inflation. The next-costliest was last year’s Hurricane Ida, which caused $36 billion in damages, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Hurricane data collected by the financial services firm Aon suggests that storms have been getting more expensive in recent years.
  14. The Guardian, “‘The US dammed us up’: how drought is threatening Navajo ties to ancestral lands”, Annette McGivney in Dilkon, Arizona, Sun, October 9, 2022
  15., “Is Wind Energy Becoming Too Expensive?”, October 17, 2022
  16. CDP, Protecting People and the Planet 2022 Report: Co-Benefits from Climate Action, “Top 20 Co-Benefits from Climate Action 2022”,
  17., Rishi Agarwal, Chirlie Felix, Laura Tilghman, “Climate change: Why companies need a stronger focus on the human impact”, October 10, 2022
  18. Fox13, “Natural disasters like Hurricane Ian could worsen economic inequalities”, October 6, 2022,
  19. Addenda related to the notes above are available with Farooque Chowdhury.

Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Support Countercurrents

Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B.
Become a Patron at Patreon

Join Our Newsletter


Join our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Get CounterCurrents updates on our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Related Posts

Making War on Planet Earth

Honestly, doesn’t it befuddle you? I mean, don’t you think we humans are kinda mad? And worse yet, at some deep level, we simply can’t seem to stop. All too…

Join Our Newsletter

Annual Subscription

Join Countercurrents Annual Fund Raising Campaign and help us

Latest News