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The Midas Effect: A Critique of Climate Change Economics

Authors

  • John Bellamy Foster,

    1. is professor of sociology at the University of Oregon and editor of Monthly Review. His books on ecology include The Vulnerable Planet (1994), Marx's Ecology (2000), Ecology Against Capitalism (2002) and The Ecological Revolution (2009). He is a recipient of the Distinguished Contribution Award (the career award) from the Environment and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association. He can be contacted at the Department of Sociology, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-1291, USA (e-mail: jfoster@uoregon.edu).
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  • Brett Clark,

    1. is an assistant professor of sociology at North Carolina State University (Department of Sociology and Anthropology, North Carolina State University, Campus Box 8107, Raleigh, NC 27695-8107, USA; e-mail: brettclark@nc.rr.com). He is the author, along with John Bellamy Foster and Richard York, of Critique of Intelligent Design (Monthly Review Press). He has published articles in Organization & Environment, Theory and Society, The Sociological Quarterly and Monthly Review. He received the 2007 Outstanding Publication Award from the Environment and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association for a series of articles published with Richard York.
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  • Richard York

    1. is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Oregon and co-editor of the Sage journal Organization & Environment. He has published several dozen articles, including papers in American Sociological Review, Conservation Biology and Sociological Theory. He recently published Critique of Intelligent Design (Monthly Review Press) with John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark. He has twice (2004 and 2007) received the Outstanding Publication Award from the Environment and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association. He can be contacted at the Department of Sociology, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-1291, USA (e-mail: rfyork@uoregon.edu).
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ABSTRACT

Global climate change is perhaps the most serious problem the world faces. Despite its severity, mainstream economic approaches to addressing the problem fail to get to the root cause — the capitalist global economy — falling instead for ‘the Midas Effect’, the notion that ecological values can be converted into economic values. Here we highlight the severity of the global climate crisis, which requires that atmospheric carbon levels be reduced (to 350 ppm), and explain how capitalism is the primary driving force behind this crisis. We argue that to address this problem properly, nothing less than an ecological revolution is required, where we replace the current capitalist system with one based on meeting human needs in a sustainable way, not furthering capital accumulation.

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