Thursday, November 19, 2020

The Market and the Climate

 A useful article reminding us all that capitalism cannot fix climate change.

"...Nicholas Stern, the former chief economist of the World Bank, calls climate change the “greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen”...Though it sounds like a generic phrase, “market failure” is actually a technical term. It doesn’t refer to scams like insider trading or corporate fraud. A failure occurs when the marketplace allocates resources in a way that does not optimally deliver wellbeing. 

... Countless goods and services bear the stains of harms such as pollution, habitat destruction, floods, child labor, extinctions and disease. When we fill up at the gas station the price we are charged doesn’t tell us that our purchase increases the odds that a wildfire will burn down our community. 

...Another characteristic of the market that leads to failure is its inability to provide incentives for businesses to produce or protect public goods, such as fire departments or city parks. Most important, the market doesn’t generate the public goods sometimes known as “ecosystem services”, such as nutrient cycling, soil formation, oxygen creation and a livable climate. 

...The market doesn’t give private businesses a profit motive to produce public goods. For example, even if a company were to restore a marsh, they wouldn’t be able to sell that service because they couldn’t exclude anyone living on that coast from using that protection for free.

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