Nature and Biodiversity

'It's now cheaper to save the world than destroy it': author Akshat Rathi on Climate Capitalism 

Akshat Rathi, senior climate reporter for Bloomberg

Climate capitalism should provide us with optimism, says Akshat Rathi. Image: Sofia Yang Martinez Photography

Robin Pomeroy
Podcast Editor, World Economic Forum
Sophia Akram
Writer, Forum Agenda
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This article is part of: Centre for Nature and Climate
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  • Capitalism may be to blame for global warming, but could it now be the force to tackle climate change?
  • The author of 'Climate Capitalism' explains how the profit motive is moving the dial.
  • Listen to the podcast here, on any podcast app via this link or on YouTube.

“It’s now cheaper to save the world than destroy it,” is the first line of Akshat Rathi’s book Climate Capitalism, in which the senior climate reporter for Bloomberg explores how, with the right regulatory conditions, the profit motive is helping business and finance tackle global warming.

"This idea that, yes, we are doomed because we are just not doing anything about climate change, is completely untrue," he tells the World Economic Forum podcast Radio Davos.

Here are some highlights from the episode.

Have you read?

Scaling solutions with climate capitalism

Akshat Rathi: The book started off as trying to figure out whether people are doing enough around the world to try and tackle climate change. And I thought I’d find examples here and there in small scale. But, you know, we know the challenge is so big and we’re nowhere on track.

What happened instead was I found solutions all around the world working at scale. And so this idea that, yes, we are doomed because we are just not doing anything about climate change is completely untrue.

And it became Climate Capitalism because all of these solutions are playing out under capitalistic systems. You know, there are different capitalistic systems, different in China from India, from the US and Europe, but they are all under capitalism except climate is modifying how capitalism has to work for these solutions to scale.

The example of China

I start with China because, for all the flaws that is China – the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, the world’s largest consumer of coal – it is also the world’s largest deployer of all clean energy – solar, wind – also the largest maker of electric car batteries and the largest manufacturer of electric cars.

The energy transition – for all the blame that India and China get – is also starting to happen in those very places. But those are places which have to take a different tack to try and tackle the climate challenge. They have to figure out the reason for doing this is not just greenhouse gas emissions but global competitiveness.

China built the industry to make solar panels because there was a demand in Europe for those solar panels. Later it started deploying it back home.

So, climate solutions don’t have to be just because of greenhouse gas emissions. They need to fit in the economic system that we have in the world.

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Artificial intelligence for climate action

Artificial intelligence (AI) or the ability to try and make sense of big data, has always been a very interesting tool for climate solutions. What we are seeing now is that it’s actually being deployed in other domains within climate.

So I’ve covered a company that uses AI to try and deal with how to make sure that the grid copes with all these electric cars coming online in many different parts of the world.

Artificial intelligence solutions are being developed to try and make predictions on weather-related impacts much more granular, much closer to information that somebody could act on.

These are benefits that are going to both speed up the process of deploying these solutions but also work on a set of solutions that we’ve not paid much attention to, which is how do we adapt to the warming that’s already happened.

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Related topics:
Nature and BiodiversityStakeholder CapitalismSustainable Development
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