Overcoming the ideology of climate inaction

(Eco Business, 25 Feb 2019) How does a neoliberal obsession with making business fit for purpose impede progress in addressing climate change?

Three years ago, the United States achieved a grim milestone: its first climate refugees. With rising sea levels quickly engulfing the small town of Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribespeople who have long called it home were forced to move. In the coming years, hundreds of communities across the US will suffer a similar fate, even if greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions cease immediately.

Despite the consensus among scientists about the causes and dire consequences of global warming, policymakers continue to turn a deaf ear to warnings of the impending climate crisis. Even before US President Donald Trump withdrew America from the 2015 Paris climate accord, the US had not begun to make sharp emissions reductions. The reason, climate activists increasingly argue, is capitalism, or more precisely the neoliberal ideology that has dominated economic policymaking in the West for at least 40 years.

As debates about a Green New Deal heat up, it is critical for the public to understand the role that neoliberalism has played in derailing policies to curtail emissions, phase out fossil fuels, and adopt renewable-energy technologies.

Climate wonks regularly warn that “business as usual” cannot avert climate change. But, while that is true, the phrase itself betrays a neoliberal obsession with making “business” fit for purpose—a tweak here, a nudge there—as if citizens were merely passive subjects of larger economic forces. We all have an active role to play in shaping the economy. But to do so requires that we first shake off the constraints that neoliberal thinking has placed on the public imagination.

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Eco Business, 25 Feb 2019: Overcoming the ideology of climate inaction