Relationship Between Capitalism and Climate Change

1236 words (5 pages) Essay in Environmental Studies

23/09/19 Environmental Studies Reference this

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Capitalism and its link to climate change and climate related conflict

Capitalism is one of the major factors of global warming leading to extreme weather events that linked to climate change for example, drought. This extreme weather event may then lead to civil war or even global conflict. Before explaining the reason why capitalism may lead to conflict due to climate change, it is important to know how capitalism may lead to extreme weather events.

First, according to Field(2018), capitalism is an economic system which the ultimate goal of the system is to make profit. Companies have controls on their own economic resources and most of the companies are competing with each other and wanted to earn more money during the process. Therefore, they set up factories to provide service and producing goods and sell more goods to the customer with the aim of making profits. This process requires a lot of energy due to the use of machineries and the use of electricity. All extreme weather events are mainly due to the rise of earth’s temperature and this is caused by the increase in demand for energy due to capitalism. According to Field(2018), Fossil fuels such as natural gas, oil and petroleum have been one of capitalism’s main energy source since the rise of Industrial Revolution. And since the price-performance ratio is one of the highest throughout all energy source, most countries use fossil fuel to generate electricity. According to Scott(2016), when energy plants burn fossil fuel to generate energy, they will emit massive amount of carbon dioxide to earth’s atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a kind of green house gasses that may increase the earth’s temperature by trapping the sun’s warmth from earth’s lower atmosphere and reflecting long wave radiation back to the earth’s surface. Increasing the greenhouse effect and increasing the temperature of the earth surface.

Second, due to the technological advancement, large company decided to use biofuels as a subsidy to fossil fuels because it is more sustainable, and it can reduce the carbon emission because they can take up the carbon dioxide that is produced when the biofuels are burnt. So that the companies’ image may appears to be more “greener” and environmentally friendly. However, it is not the case. According to Healey(2011), planting biofuel farm requires a lot of areas because companies want to plant biofuel crops in a large scale and in monoculture. Monoculture refers to cultivation of a single crops in a designated area, so company can produce more biofuel at the same farm. Therefore, companies may cut down forested area in order to expand their biofuel farm because the land are more viable to plant biofuel crops. Forests are earth’s most important carbon sink. Carbon sink refers to a natural reservoir that stores carbon-containing chemicals such as carbon dioxide for an indefinite period. When trees are cut down due to deforestation and constructing the biofuel farm, the carbon dioxide stored inside the trees will then release to the atmosphere and the size of the carbon sink will shrink. Even though biofuel crops can act as a smaller carbon sink, it is not possible to store that many carbon-containing chemicals compare to trees in the forest. In the end, more carbon dioxide produced when burning fuel will contributed to the worsening of greenhouse effects and increasing the overall temperature of the earth surface.

When the earth surface was heated, extreme weather events may occur all over the world for example, drought. This may lead to climate related conflicts.

The increase of the earth’s surface temperature may increase the evaporation rate of many areas. Evaporation means the vaporization of liquid that transform liquid into water vapor and travels to the sky. According to Healey(2011), drought occurs when the world is warming and it may evaporates the water in the soil, making the land barren and uncultivable. When there is not enough vegetation cover on top of the soil, this may reduce the binding effect of the plant to the soil, and the soil will become loosen and cracked. And ultimately farmers may not able to plant crops on the barren land, reducing the food supply all over the world. Because of the reduction of food supply, food needs to import from other countries in order to provide sufficient food to the countries. However, in poor countries, they don’t have the sufficient capital to buy imported food and the local farm cannot provide sufficient food for the country. Therefore, social unrest may occurs. According to Field(2018), climate change may destabilize less developed countries by placing a strain on the ability to delivering basic necessities such as food and water. And according to Scott(2016), the three-year drought had pushed the Syrian people into an all out civil war which started in 2011. When Syria began to experience the three-year drought, no crops are able to grow and a farming family have insufficient food supply to survive such long drought, therefore Syrians need to move out from farmland to cities order to survive. Combine the population in total, the number of populations in Syrian cities grew by about 30%. These may drove food and apartment prices up, leading to all kind of discontent. And ultimately, leading to the Syrian Civil War. So, this is the reason why capitalism is linked to climate change and climatic related conflict.

Capitalism and automation

Since capitalism is an economic system which the ultimate goal of the system is to make profit, large companies had use numerous ways to maximize the profit. According to Field(2018), in the past, workers operated differently at their own pace, however, in factories, employers use the method of division of labor to regulated the working hours and conditions of workers in order to maximize their output and profit. And nowadays there is a new way for large companies to earn more profit, which is automation.

First, automation refers to machines that can operates with minimal human intervention or even operate themselves. According to Future Proof(2016), automation can do human workers that are not able to do, which is consistency. Human workers have their own pace while working and each product may vary because human doesn’t have the precision to make every product identical. Therefore, some products may be defect and are not able to sell to customers, wasting raw materials and reduce the profit gained to the company. And most importantly human needs to rest and may have a chance to get sick, which may slower the production rate of the factories, so less products are produce for the company. On the other hand, automation can do work consistently in a repeating routine and never get fatigue because they are machines and they can follow the instructions that was given precisely, and the appearance of flaw is minimal as long as the instruction is given correctly. Most importantly, companies do not have to pay salaries to the machine every month, reducing the labor cost. Compare to human, using automation in factories has more advantage. Therefore, large companies decided to use automation system to replace human workers in order to maximize production rate, cut down cost and maximize profits.

  • Field, J. (2018). Is capitalism Working? United Kingdom: Thames & Hudson.

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