The Case for Climate Capitalism: Economic Solutions for a Planet in Crisis

Image of The Case for Climate Capitalism: Economic Solutions for a Planet in Crisis
Release Date: 
March 3, 2020
ECW Press
Reviewed by: 

“read The Case for Climate Capitalism to learn more about what we must do to turn back the thermostat on a nuclear winter.”

Warning: Best not to read this with a glass of wine at night, it’s more a double espresso to jumpstart your day tome.

Refreshingly Tom Rand refers to his infant son as “the kid” as opposed to a more politically correct nomenclature, and it is his direct and sometimes pithy language that cuts through the economic and political mumbo jumbo on the impending climate crisis. Read this if you want to learn where to invest, which industries will have a robust future, and those that are in decline. For the thinking person The Case for Climate Capitalism is filled with practical ideas on how to fit your dwelling for the future, both politically and pragmatically. 

For non-economists Rand’s writing can be a bit dense, but it sails along in chapter four, which is about getting corporate leaders in the fight. For example, Elon Musk, who not only revolutionized the electric car industry, also influenced battery storage, building Solar City in Nevada. But Musk didn’t just stop there; he built Space X, the best space program, and his companies’ results are so spectacular NASA uses his firm. But we can’t all be Elon Musks; however as people we can craft environments where future baby Musks can thrive educationally and have access to resources to build their life altering inventions. For if we don’t do this not just as nations but a world, there is little hope that we can adapt to the warming planet in time to avoid the three-degree doomsday.

Rand’s point is we need to think systemically in order to build entirely new systems to imbue the changes the world needs to reduce carbon pollution and create energy systems that are at least carbon neutral. And Elon Musk is the perfect example of how an entrepreneurial mind inspired the systems he needed to build to create the changes he wanted to make in production and product.

Though The Case for Climate Capitalism is brief, it is brilliant in outlining the thinking that must accompany changes in process, metrics, and measures to achieve enough of a reduction in harmful gases to sustain us all.

“Climate risk is qualitatively different from all other threats. Once it spins out of control there is no coming back, no second chance.”

Rand references the wall India has built around Bangladesh, which is located on low land prone to flooding, so where are these people supposed to go? Ideally, Bangladesh would need funding to rebuild their infrastructure above the waterline. It doesn’t take much imagination to visualize water wars in the West, and if California’s Central Valley fails to get its irrigation supply, you can visualize huge spikes in the cost of food, since it is the main provider for produce and nuts for the nation. And of course, Mexico, which supplies much of the remainder of US food, would experience unparalleled drought, further disrupting food stability. If you think Americans are irritated at waiting in line for anything, imagine what food riots would be like.

Donald Trump is creating a nuclear winter by refusing to acknowledge and take immediate action to mitigate climate change disruption. “The only threats comparable to the outcome are those of a nuclear winter or an aberrant asteroid. This really is our end game.”

Though Rand is rightly critical of the takeover of corporate government by select corporate elites, he ardently believes that capitalism, with appropriate government guidance and incentives, is the only way to curb the frying pan of the planet fast enough. This is his most intriguing writing, enough to get one excited about some potential investments to make for green industries that are already profitable. The carbon tax may have worked if Reagan or Carter had started it, but the type of intervention required now is much more critical in terms of the speed for deployment. If the world needs to reduce emissions by half within 15 years, the only way to do this is to change infrastructure, how its built, powered, and training the workforce. “Transforming energy systems is harder than setting up local co-ops to build solar farms.”

Bravo to Tom Rand for tossing a drink in the face of the energy sector apologists who say a prerequisite for an advanced society requires easy access energy dense material, when in reality a dearth of energy sources would inspire a period of greater innovation. We could be on the verge of a new industrial renaissance if we could just get the apologists and climate deniers out of the way. While your lights are still on, grab a coffee, and read The Case for Climate Capitalism to learn more about what we must do to turn back the thermostat on a nuclear winter.