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Capitalism, Climate Change and the Transition to Sustainability: Alternative Scenarios for the US, China and the World


  • Minqi Li

    1. was a political prisoner in China from 1990 to 1992. He received a PhD in economics from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2002. He taught political science at York University, Toronto, Canada from 2003 to 2006 and since 2006 has been teaching economics at the University of Utah. His book, The Rise of China and the Demise of the Capitalist World Economy, was recently published by Pluto Press and Monthly Review Press (2009). He can be contacted at Department of Economics, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA.
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  • The author would like to thank the editors and the anonymous referees for many of their excellent suggestions concerning both the style and the content of the paper. These suggestions have made the paper much stronger than it would otherwise have been.


This contribution evaluates the geopolitical and technical issues involved in climate stabilization and discusses alternative technical paths towards the required emission reductions in the US, China and the world. There are no plausible scenarios in which climate stabilization is compatible with a pace of capital accumulation required for economic and political stability under a capitalist system. Meaningful and effective actions towards climate stabilization presuppose and require fundamental social change.