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Capitalism, climate change and the discourse of ecological modernization

Name: J.P. Sapinski, Department of Sociology, University of Victoria (via teleconference)

Title: Capitalism, climate change and the discourse of ecological modernization

Abstract: This presentation will start with an account of the process of circulation of capital that underlies the exponential growth of the economy and thus of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions during the last two centuries. Building on this framework, I will re-frame the discourse of ecological modernization as one that is founded on an ideological, as opposed to a working, compromise between the contradictory need for capitalist growth on the one hand, and for protection of the environment on the other.

To this effect, I will first show that, because certain mechanisms of inter-firm competition create conditions that render growth necessary for the reproduction of capitalism, ecological modernization of production is not likely to decrease overall GHG emissions in the long run. Second, I will discuss how the ideas of sustainable development and ecological modernization emerged first within specific business-led organizations and were championed by prominent figures of the corporate community before being widely adopted by political and economic circles.

Capitalism, Climate Change And Ecological Modernization