We are ‘greening’ ourselves to extinction

Apocalypse investors are pushing fake climate solutions on us that are making climate change worse.

By Vijay Kolinjivadi
Vijay Kolinjivadi is a post-doctoral fellow at the Institute of Development Policy at the University of Antwerp.
Published On 29 Jan 2023

More than a decade ago, investment experts James Altucher and Douglas Sease wrote a book for the Wall Street Journal called Investing in the Apocalypse. They argued that the end of the world is a profitable opportunity for those who know how to “fade the fear”, as everyone else panics. They maintained that when disaster strikes, investors should approach it with the rationale that “no matter how bad things seem, they really aren’t that bad”.

Well before the COVID-19 pandemic, they advised investing in big pharmaceutical companies as a strategy to reap dividends from global pandemics. They also encouraged putting money into renewable energy systems while ramping up oil production.

Today, it seems many have followed Althucher and Sease’s advice. Under the guise of taking action on the pandemic, billions of dollars have been poured into big pharma, instead of public health and policies aimed at preventing another global outbreak. The supposed energy transition that has been undertaken has seen renewable energy production expanded, but there has been no indication that oil and gas are being substituted and ultimately phased out.

What is worse, governments and corporations have teamed up to turn the apocalypse into a money-making opportunity. They have rushed to put forward false solutions to the climate crisis: from the push to replace fuel-engine vehicles with electric ones, to so-called climate-smart agriculture, to protected areas for nature conservation and massive tree planting projects for carbon offsets.

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All this trickery is called “greening” and it is designed to profit off of climate fears, not stop climate change. While guaranteeing high returns, this deception is tantamount to the genocide of the hundreds of millions of people who will perish from the effects of climate change within the next century because things are that bad.

‘Firefighters with flamethrowers’

That is how climate writer Keton Joshi describes the world’s biggest polluters proposing climate solutions. Indeed, what governments and corporations have pushed for in terms of climate action in the past few years are policies that only make the situation worse.

Take carbon offsets – the epitome of “greening”. Acting as real-life “Pass GO and Collect $200” tickets, they allow some of the biggest climate criminals to go on polluting by engaging in a charade of tree-planting schemes. The logic behind them is that we cannot stop our greenhouse gas emissions immediately because that would “hurt the economy”, so we can instead plant trees that will absorb them and grow the economy through carbon markets – a supposed win-win situation.

But this fallacy has been repeatedly exposed. For one, the organisations that are supposed to certify that indeed enough tree-planting has taken place do not have the tools to verify that the declared emissions will definitely be absorbed. Another problem is that many offsetting activities do not actually offset anything.

A recent investigation into the world’s largest carbon standard found that 94 percent of its rainforest offset credits did not actually contribute to carbon reduction. Worse still, it exaggerated the threat to forests included in its projects, while its conservation activities – which yielded some of these credits – involved serious human rights violations, including forced evictions and home demolitions of local people.

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Even if some of these carbon offset schemes do make a difference in the short term through forest conservation or reforestation, given our current climate reality characterised by ever-worsening forest fires, they can easily just burn to dust and contribute to the greenhouse gas problem. One recent study, for example, found that since 2015, close to 7 million tonnes of carbon was released from wildfires in six forest projects that are part of California’s carbon trading system.

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