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  • Transcriber: TED Translators Admin Reviewer: Rhonda Jacobs

  • I am a tree hugger.

  • I spent much of my childhood

  • on the great lower limb of a massive copper beech,

  • alternately reading and looking up at the sky through its branches.

  • I felt safe and cared for

  • and connected to something infinitely larger than myself.

  • I thought the trees were immortal, that they would always be here.

  • But I was wrong.

  • The trees are dying.

  • Climate change is killing the cedars of Lebanon

  • and the forests of the American West.

  • And it's not just the trees.

  • Since 1998, extreme heat has killed more than 160,000 people,

  • and unchecked climate change could kill millions more.

  • How did we get here?

  • There are many reasons, of course,

  • but one of the most important

  • is that we let capitalism morph into something monstrous.

  • I'm a huge fan of capitalism at its best.

  • After all, I'm an economist and a business school professor.

  • I think genuinely free and fair markets

  • are one of the great inventions of the human race.

  • But here's the catch:

  • markets only work their magic when prices reflect real costs.

  • And right now, prices are badly out of whack.

  • We're letting the firms who sell fossil fuels,

  • and indeed anyone who emits greenhouse gases,

  • cause enormous damage for which they do not have to pay.

  • And that is hardly fair.

  • Imagine for a moment

  • that my hands are filled with a cloud of electrons,

  • 10 dollars' worth of coal-fired electricity

  • that could power your cell phone for more than 10 years.

  • That probably sounds like a pretty good deal.

  • But it's only so cheap

  • because you're not paying for the harm that it causes.

  • Burning coal sends poisons like mercury and lead into the air,

  • increasing healthcare costs by billions of dollars

  • and causing the death

  • of hundreds of thousands of people every year.

  • It also emits huge quantities of carbon dioxide.

  • So another part of the real cost of coal

  • is the climate damage it will cause and is already causing.

  • More than a million acres burned in California this summer,

  • and massive floods put a third of Bangladesh under water.

  • Hundreds of studies have tried to put a number on these costs.

  • My sense of this work,

  • and here I'm relying on my colleagues in the School of Public Health

  • and my friends in economics,

  • is that generating 10 dollars' worth of coal-fired electricity

  • causes at least eight dollars' worth of harm to human health

  • and at least another eight dollars' worth of climate damage

  • and probably much more.

  • So the true cost of this handful of electrons?

  • It's not 10 dollars.

  • It's something more like 26.

  • The hidden costs of doing things like burning oil and gas

  • and eating beef are similarly enormous and just as unfair.

  • Everyone who's trying to build a clean economy

  • has to compete with firms that are heavily subsidized

  • by the destruction of our health and the degradation of our climate.

  • This is not the capitalism I signed up for.

  • This is not a market that is either free or fair.

  • So ...

  • What do we do?

  • The "easy" answer is that governments should insist

  • that anyone who emits greenhouse gases pay for the damage that they cause.

  • However, at the moment,

  • there's not much sign that governments are up for this,

  • partly because the fossil fuel companies have spent the last 20 years

  • using their heavily subsidized profits

  • to deny the reality of climate change

  • and to shower the politicians,

  • who should be regulating them, with money.

  • So here's my crazy idea.

  • I think business should step up.

  • I think business should fix capitalism.

  • I know. (Laughs)

  • Some of you are probably thinking, "Fat chance."

  • Didn't I just say that companies are the ones denying the science,

  • distorting the market and lobbying the politicians?

  • I did.

  • But fixing this is squarely in the private sector's interest.

  • The truth is business is screwed if we don't fix climate change.

  • It's going to be hard to make money

  • when the great coastal cities are under water

  • and millions of angry people are migrating north as the harvests fail.

  • It's going to be tough to keep free enterprise alive

  • if most people believe the rich and the white

  • are using it to trash the planet for their own benefit.

  • So let me tell you what this looks like on the ground.

  • My friend Erik Osmundsen left a cushy job in private equity

  • to become the CEO of a garbage company.

  • That sounds like a slightly odd idea.

  • But Erik wanted to make a difference,

  • and changing the way that trash is handled

  • could reduce emissions by billions of tons.

  • Right away, he ran into a massive problem:

  • the industry was thoroughly corrupt.

  • Firms were cutting costs by dumping waste illegally,

  • the regulations were poorly enforced

  • and the fines for violation were tiny.

  • Erik announced he was going to run clean

  • and to raise prices to cover the costs of doing so.

  • Many of his senior team thought he was crazy.

  • Half of them quit.

  • So did many of his customers.

  • His competitors denounced him for bringing the industry into disrepute,

  • and he started to receive personal threats.

  • But corruption works best when it's hidden.

  • As soon as Erik went public, people started to step up.

  • A few customers were willing to pay more.

  • His investors agreed that taking the high road could pay off.

  • Those of his employees who remained loved the idea of taking a stand

  • and found all kinds of legal ways to cut costs.

  • Erik persuaded several of his competitors

  • to join him in refusing to dispose of garbage illegally,

  • and it got much tougher for regulators to stay on the sidelines.

  • Today, Erik's company, Norsk Gjenvinning,

  • is one of the largest recycling companies in Scandinavia.

  • Let me generalize.

  • These are the four pillars of change:

  • Build a business that can set the right price

  • and still be profitable.

  • Persuade your competitors to do the same thing.

  • Make sure that investors understand there's money to be made.

  • And push governments to put the right price into law

  • so that bottom-feeders can't survive.

  • I'm not telling you we've got this nailed.

  • Things are pretty desperate.

  • But there are thousands of businesspeople like Erik,

  • and there are millions of people like us.

  • And we are customers, employees, investors and citizens.

  • Instead of giving up on capitalism, let's fix it

  • by making sure that markets are truly fair and truly free,

  • and that no one can dump garbage on us

  • and walk away without paying for it.

  • We have the resources and the technology to solve climate change.

  • Together, we can save the trees

  • and each other.

  • Thank you.

Transcriber: TED Translators Admin Reviewer: Rhonda Jacobs

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To save the climate, we have to reimagine capitalism | Rebecca Henderson

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/11/11
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