The biggest beneficiaries of capitalism, who no doubt want to ensure its survival over future centuries, are billionaires. Such is their economic power that their decisions almost resemble those of states with huge clout and influence. In a world full of absolute poverty, though conditions are improving, billionaires benefit hugely from actions of the public. The issue of climate change, however, is beginning to be acknowledged and addressed by some of the richest in the world. We should welcome their funds, despite their own personal hypocrisies.
Climate change is omnipresent – it crosses borders, regardless of your nationality, age or level of wealth. The world faces undoubted risk from increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere: rising sea levels, poor crop yields and declining air quality. Pollution knows no borders or income distribution. And that’s without mentioning the inevitable increase of environmental refugees, forced to flee from low lying islands, with all the security implications that will generate. Government action must focus on mitigating negative effects to ensure our generation and future generations can live a prosperous existence.
Climate change is omnipresent – it crosses borders, regardless of your nationality, age or level of wealth
Private individuals are beginning to realise they can provide some of the solutions. Billionaire Jeff Bezos has announced $10 billion US dollars towards a Bezos Earth Fund, devoted to tackling climate change. According to his Instagram post, Bezos wants to explore new ways of fighting climate change by ‘funding scientists, activists and NGOs’. I think this money should be welcomed. Transforming our world towards towards green energy is undoubtedly going to cost a huge amount of money. Much of that will have to come out of taxation, but if individuals with vast levels of money (gained thanks to the workers they employed) voluntarily contribute, that should be supported.
Yet praise has been far from universal. Admittedly, Bezos’ wealth is around $115bn, meaning a donation of $10bn represents less than 10% of his net worth. Furthermore, the actions Bezos wants to engage in to help the planet and its people aren’t representative of his own working practices. According to The Guardian, more than 600 UK Amazon workers have either been seriously injured or narrowly escaped an accident in the past three years. While Bezos may want to help humanity, that doesn’t replicate the experiences of his workers. Furthermore, while Amazon have claimed to reach 50% renewable energy usage, Greenpeace found that in Virginia, renewable energy only made up 12% of Amazon’s energy uses. The disparity between what Bezos says and what his company does is stark, to say the least.
While Bezos may want to help humanity, that doesn’t replicate the experiences of his workers
We are all hypocritical, however, when it comes to tackling climate change. Our society contains everyday activities that will damage the planet. Though we can make a minimal difference as individuals, long term structural change is necessary to properly combat the effects of climate change. Indeed, I would argue we all display elements of hypocrisy everyday. We advocate ideas and practices that we don’t always personally follow. But isn’t it better to have that ideal – even if it isn’t always met – than to believe in nothing and achieve that? Bezos and his company are deeply flawed, but $10 billion dollars shouldn’t be rejected simply because he doesn’t practice what he preaches.
So, is the money going to be helpful? Presumably, a large amount of the money will go into investing in renewable energy. This mirrors UK government attitudes, which desires 30% of electricity to come from offshore win by 2030. Furthermore, the state must incentivise people to live greener lives through cheaper, greener transport, be it buses, trains, coaches, cycling and walking. The problem, however, is not simply in the West, according to the BBC, but across the developing world. Countries should be allowed to develop, prosper and enhance the economic and social lives of their citizens, just like the UK during the Industrial Revolution. But it must be done in a sustainable manner, one that uses innovative green technology to allow sustainable enhancement of lives. However, the money wouldn’t even be enough to allow an energy transition in the UK, let alone the rest of the world. More action and funds are evidently needed.
Bezos and his company are deeply flawed, but $10 billion dollars shouldn’t be rejected simply because he doesn’t practice what he preaches
Fellow billionaires with financial wealth are also providing assistance and funds. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have recently promoted climate change and gender equality as key issues in their philanthropic work. According to Fortune, the foundation want to invest in innovative technology that can lower carbon emissions, as well as providing this to low income countries. The Gates Foundation has almost $47 billion, demonstrating that is has plenty of wealth to provide assistance. Again, I think this should be welcomed.
States must work alongside private individuals and companies to allow a truly global response to a global problem. Whether it’s adapting economies, allowing scientific research into new energy and helping nations most affected, the resources needed to tackle climate change are staggering. Whatever the flaws and hypocrisies of those donating, the money they offered should be gratefully received and spent well.