We pick up the pollution bill and go hungry while corporations get the profits

In a recent article in grist.org, journalist David Roberts explains that

None of the world’s top industries would be profitable if they paid for the natural capital they use

Citing a recent report [PDF] by environmental consultancy Trucost on behalf of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) program sponsored by United Nations Environmental Program, David Roberts explains

The notion of “externalities” has become familiar in environmental circles. It refers to costs imposed by businesses that are not paid for by those businesses. For instance, industrial processes can put pollutants in the air that increase public health costs, but the public, not the polluting businesses, picks up the tab. In this way, businesses privatize profits and publicize costs ….. if we take the idea seriously, not just as an accounting phenomenon but as a deep description of current human practices, its implications are positively revolutionary.

What is the actual tab that is being picked up by us? Trucost estimates that greenhouse gas emissions account38% of the use of natural capital. The effect on food security?

The British met office estimates (see their web page here) that some regions could benefit from climate change, while in others it may offset gains in food security from economic and social development. However, in the overall analysis some projections suggest that 100-200 million additional people could be at risk of hunger due to climate change by 2050.

So the costs of emitting green house gasses alone are negatively affecting the lives of millions. They are clearly picking up the tab, but not sharing in the profits.


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