An investment conference isn’t the typical place to hear climate change complaints and attacks on capitalism, but that’s exactly what attendees heard at the Morningstar Investment Conference in Chicago on June 12.
Investor Jeremy Grantham, co-founder of $70 billion global asset management firm, Grantham Mayor Van Otterloo (GMO), blamed capitalism for threatening the planet, according to CNBC.
“We deforest the land, we degrade our soils, we pollute and overuse our water and we treat air like an open sewer, and we do it all off the balance sheet,” Grantham said.
His political giving also leans left. In addition to spending through his own foundation, he’s given at least $67,900 to Democratic candidates or liberal PACs plus one quarter million dollars to Tom Steyer’s Next Gen Climate PAC, according to Open Secrets. The site listed just one $1,000 donation to Republican candidate.
In Chicago, Grantham complained that “Capitalism and mainstream economics simply cannot deal with these problems. Mainstream economics largely ignore [them]” and he attributed that “negligence” to short-sightedness. He urged both capitalists and economy to see climate change as a threat and “protect much more than our portfolios.”
CNBC noted that Grantham has been speaking out about climate change and the environment for many years and created the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment in 1997 to give “to entities that look to protect the environment.” But it didn’t point out that his foundation has also funded liberal environmental journalism at InsideClimate News, DeSmog Blog and Grist along with other liberal environmental groups.
Grantham’s attitude resembles a group of CEOs and world leaders who want a “better version of capitalism” and perhaps even activist Naomi Klein’s. (She admitted fighting climate change was actually about wealth redistribution and tossing out capitalism.)
But there are others who do not see capitalism as the enemy, even some who still see climate change as a threat. In 2015, US Green Building Council CEO Rick Fedrizzi wrote an op-ed for CNBC arguing “Capitalism is the only force strong enough and capable of acting quickly enough to address climate change before the damage becomes irreversible.”
Fedrizzi cited several companies and specific industries pursuing ideas that were better for the environment because they drove profits up.
That same year, as the UN climate conference in Paris was about to begin, Danish economist Bjorn Lomborg wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal critical of the conference goals. His piece exposed official materials from countries proposing that destroying capitalism was “a lasting solution” to pursue.
Lomborg pointed out how much “progress” capitalism brought the world including doubled life expectancy and the billions of people lifted out of poverty. In his view, the climate deal would be far too costly while also “fail to accomplish anything substantial to rein in climate change.”