Capitalizing on chaos: Climate change and disaster capitalism – Robert Fletcher

While conservative critics complain that serious attention to anthropogenic climate change will adversely impact economic growth, radical environmentalists contend that mitigating climate change in the long term will require substantial transformation of the capitalist system, if not this system’s demise altogether. In the short term, however, addressing climate change has become a boom industry in its own right, a source of substantial growth in a variety of sectors. This provides support for Naomi Klein’s (2007a) ‘disaster capitalism’ thesis, which contends that neoliberal capitalism both precipitates disasters and employs these same disasters (and others) as an opportunity to facilitate its expansion. As a result, far from experiencing the constraint predicted by ecological Marxists, in the present capitalism is actually able to harness crises to which it contributes as a source of further expansion. The long-term implications of this dynamic, however, are unclear, demanding further investigation. I illustrate this analysis through discussion of the exponential growth of financing to address climate change, centered on trade in international carbon markets, following the issue’s recent ascendance to become the new ‘master concept’ within global environmental governance generally.

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