Globalisation and the negative effects of constant growth

The current rate of global warming has seen the world pass the “point of no return” of 400ppm (parts per million) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This is largely due to pollution created by human industry, with 25% of greenhouse gas being created by electricity, 21% by industry, and 24% by agriculture and forestry. By passing the point of no return, the environmental hazards stemming from climate change such as ocean acidification and melting ice caps are now irreversible, and can only be slowed rather than outright prevented. This is a very bad thing for the human race as a whole.

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Part of the cause of this problem has been the unprecendented level of population growth since 1900. With this comes of course an unprecendeted level of economic growth, and this growth has only increased over the past ~40 years due to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The increase in global connectivity and global trade as a whole has also contributed to this huge increase in production. However we now know that this population is unsustainable on Earth, and it becomes less sustainable each day as more and more human-caused damage is made to the environment.

The primary economic issue involved with this is that the process of globalisation is not yet over. For example, each year China puts out just under half of the greenhouse gases that first-world countries such as the US and Australia do (per capita). This is because whilst they are growing economies, a large amount of their population is still very poor in comparison to first world countries. This also applies to other developing states such as India, Saudi Arabia, and Ireland. As they develop, their CO2 emissions increase. If these states were to continue growing at the same rate they are now, assuming that zero attempt is made to slow either CO2 emissions or population growth, the human race would not make it past the year 2100.

Luckily, there are great strides being made in the areas of environmental protection, such as increased consideration of nuclear and solar power from world governments, and ventures such as Tesla cars. If measures such as these were to be implemented, there is a chance that first world nations could reduce their outputs to manageable levels. The problem with this is that this must be done as soon as possible and applied globally, and these measures are very expensive. Whilst first world nations may be able to afford them, developing nations do not have the resources to simultaneously continue growing economically and also be applying comparatively inefficient environmental measures. For example, Brazil’s economy is currently dominated by oil, gas, and logging. These industries all inflict massive damage to the environment (especially as Brazil is not known for it’s sustainability laws). Not only can Brazil not afford to implement environmentally friendly policies, but even if it were able to pay for them, they would collapse it’s economy. Simply put, there is no way to introduce these policies in smaller states without massive subsidisation from first-world nations.

This also does not take into account the nations which are currently so poor that they do not have enough industry to create any significant amount of emissions. War-torn and poorly managed states such as the Congo and North Korea are not contributors to global warming, but if they were to (somehow) become functioning economies, there would be no possible way to prevent climate change from running it’s full course. Therefore, it is necessary for the nations that are already in a stable condition to ensure that the poorer states remain poor, as if they do not remain poor it would make a difficult task even harder than it already is.

The amount of funding needed to support these projects would likely drastically reduce the living standards of first-world nations, as the tax money being diverted overseas would not allow for as much spending on domestic affairs. As most first world nations are democracies, this makes it unlikely to occur as the populations of first world nations would not like the idea of their money being used to support other countries (as evidenced by the Brexit vote). Overall, unless an extreme change in attitude is made by the entire world regarding where global priorities should be placed (from economic values to environmental values), there is no way of preventing the world from becoming inhospitable to the human race. This would mean that fundamental economic ideas such as planned obsolesnce, continuous growth, and the us vs them approach regarding worldwide economic cooperation (such as taking advantage of poorer nation’s resources and labour) must be dismantled in the population of first world countires in order to give first world nations the means to implement measures to slow climate change before we run out of time.

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8 Comments

  1. Thanks for this article Mitch. I wonder if there is a way to develop poorer countries (such as the Congo, like you mentioned) in a sustainable way, such that they can grow their economic prosperity without further damage to the ozone layer and pollution? Sounds expensive but doable to me!

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    1. Perhaps a military enforced governing of how the poor countries should develop to ensure a constant low-emission of carbon whilst still allowing them to grow; much like restricting the possible pathways for poor countries to prosper. Ethically, this would see major flaws in the idea but it’s a start.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It should be said it even makes economical sense to take care of our environment. The true costs of repairing the damage we have caused will be huge. Not to mention the opportunity cost of all the injured or dead who are unable to work. Even those who can work will see massive losses to productivity.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Its a terrible fact about greenhouse emissions and climate change. It would take a much bigger agreement or plan to change how countries have been expanding for decades. Its definitely the biggest negative to globalisation and growth.

    Liked by 1 person

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