Climate crisis requires wartime-style mobilisation, says Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz

By Efi Koutsokosta – November 18, 2019

Capitalism will be part of the story, but it can’t be the kind of capitalism that we’ve had for the last 40 years.
Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winning economist

The Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has called on global leaders to tackle climate change with the same determination that previous generations applied to warfare.

Stiglitz described climate change as “an attack on our on our world as we know it”. And he told Euronews that mobilising resources to confront the problem is now an urgent necessity.

“When we went into World War Two did anyone say, can we afford it?” argues Stiglitz. “You know, I don’t remember anybody saying, oh, let’s surrender to the Germans because it’ll cost us too much to fight. Well, we’re fighting a war which is at the heart of our existence, of our standard of living. You know, in the United States, we’ve been losing close to 2 percent of GDP every year. You know, the fires, the floods, the hurricanes, the freezing episodes.”

A new social contract is needed

In his new book “A Bit of Everything: Power, People, Profits and Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent”, Professor Stiglitz argues that capitalism needs to be transformed if it is to meet the challenge of creating a more equal society.

“We need a new social contract between the market, the state and civil society,” he says. “Capitalism will be part of the story, but it can’t be the kind of capitalism that we’ve had for the last 40 years. It can’t be the kind of selfish, unfettered capitalism where firms just maximize shareholder value regardless of the social consequences. When you do that, you end up with what’s happened in the United States, not only inequality, but you have the opioid crisis. Life expectancy is on decline. You had the food crises, childhood diabetes. The food companies are exploiting our young people. You have companies like Exxon denying that there’s climate change. You have the cigarette companies denying that there is evidence, compelling evidence that cigarettes are bad for your health. You know, there’s instance after instance of what could only be called reprehensible, immoral behaviour.”

A return to the political fray?

A Democrat, Stiglitz was chair of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers. And he says he is ready to accept a return to the political fray, if he is invited.

“I think this is a time, really of crisis for America and for the world, and I think it’s very clear that we have to reform the way our society and our economy works,” he says.


Originally published in Euronews. Read full article here (subscription may be required).