Greens...or Reds? Weather Man Says ‘Economic Downturn Could Be Good for the Planet’

Talk about seeing a silver lining in a market downturn. Grist columnist Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist and "ecosocialist,"  wants readers to know that a massive U.S. economic recession might be good news. Not for people but for Mother Earth.

Holthaus used the recent stock market anxiety as a vehicle to spread climate change paranoia in a December 27 article.

He began his piece by mentioning how “terrifying” a stock market crash can be, you know, how one morning it’s careening downhill, and then the next, it’s back with a record rally. But there are more important worries than that. He claimed, “That’s a lot of volatility in a time when the future is volatile already — that’s right I’m talking about the climate.”

Holthaus argued that the climate, more than the market, was already on the majority of people’s minds and that’s where the focus needed to lie. “The vast majority of people in the world don’t care about the stock market.” he declared. “Nearly half the people in the world live on less than $5.50 per day, and it’s them who’ll bear the brunt of climate change. When asked, they care much more about climate change than the economy,” he continued.

It’s safe to presume that many of these folks Holthaus mentioned shared the opinion that the current capitalist system is unwholesome and harming the planet. Well, Holthaus got into that, claiming that a recession may be less terrifying than it seems, because hey, maybe it could help society loosen it grip on the current system and refocus on the planet’s existential crisis.

There’s evidence that an economic downturn could be good for the planet. The rare times the world has successfully temporarily stabilized or decreased annual emissions were during economic recessions like 1990-93 and 2008-09.

Recessions can force a rethink of the status quo; they demand sufficiency and innovation. In short, during a recession, the economy must figure out how to do more with less.” To Holthaus, because of climate change, that’s point we are at. Appealing to authority, he claimed, “That’s exactly the challenge we face now that the science is absolutely clear that radical change is our only hope to stop climate change before irreversible tipping points kick in.

Presumably, he wouldn’t want to sound hopeful for a recession that “would likely reduce emissions,” so he ultimately acknowledged that, though it would “hurt the rich, who are (by far!) the world’s biggest carbon emitters,” it would also affect those suffering from wealth inequality.

Summing it up, he claimed: “Even though many people (including me) have argued that the human costs of climate change are more important than the monetary ones, that doesn’t mean environmentalists can afford to ignore a possible market downturn. Those hurricanes are going to keep on coming, and someone has to pay the bills.”

Still, he made it clear to readers that though “we SHOULD care about the volatility of the stock market” the “climate change is much more terrifying than a potential recession.”

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