Table of contents
- Global Warming: Research Statement of the Problem
- Environmental Harms and Issues Caused by Corporate and State
The increase in Earth's temperature will impact everyone catastrophically, specifically those who are the poorest and most vulnerable within our society. In Bangladesh, due to rising sea levels and river erosion that is associated with the Himalayan glaciers melting, 19,000 acres of land a year is lost which affects 1 million residents. In this essay about global warming and climate change I am going to analyse the importance of extending the scope of criminology in order to incorporate harms perpetrated by state and corporate actors who still to this day are committing crimes against all life as we know it. Then I am going to argue that climate change is a state corporate crime while providing some examples.
Climate change is escalating rapidly and is primarily due to anthropocentric causes. Human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels have been the main contributor to climate change ever since the start of the industrial revolution. According to White 'The current global emissions trajectory will see surface warming pass 2 degree Celsius by 2040 and pass the catastrophic level of 5 degrees Celsius around 2100', therefore we need to act now in order to reduce the effects of climate change. The impact of global warming includes the melting of ice caps which will contribute to a rise in sea levels that will eventually flood coastal areas and low-lying places. Additionally, global warming leads to a greater frequency of extreme weather events such as more severe heat waves as well as more intense droughts that will last much longer than previous years. Moreover, the oceans are also becoming increasingly acidified due to an increase in carbonic acid which will destroy coral reefs and alter the seas ability to filter.
Global Warming: Research Statement of the Problem
Many events that can cause serious harm to individuals are not considered criminal. For example, the everyday routines of advanced capitalism that are the root source of global warming are often considered normal business practise Therefore, by using a harms-based analysis approach to extend the scope of criminology beyond legal definitions, and incorporat harmful social actions that violate neither criminal nor regulatory laws, environmental harms perpetuated by capitalism that will impinge upon humanity will be rendered visible and defined as criminal.
Burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas produces greenhouse gases which blanket the Earth and trap the suns heat, which leads to global warming and climate change. Since the industrial revolution at the start of the 1800s the concentrations of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have risen in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide has risen from 280 parts per million to 393 parts per million. Currently there is no established body of international or domestic law that offers a legal framework to bring these harmful greenhouse gas emissions within the boundaries of criminology.
However, there is clear scientific evidence that state and corporate actors such as transnational corporations have rapidly increased the rate of global warming, and in doing so have committed and still do this day are committing crimes against all life as we know it. Therefore, scholars should adopt a social harm approach in order to explore harms caused by transnational corporations as well as national states otherwise they will forever remain outside of their reach and will continue to produce harmful greenhouse gases. Moreover, a social harm approach would focus on the generation of harms through legitimate markets which through the goods and services produced generate wide scale environmental harms.
The scientific data continues to demonstrate that not only is climate change existent, but it is escalating rapidly. For example, 'the Artic is warming twice as quickly as was initially projected in the worst-case scenarios for the major international climate science report in 2007'. Unfortunately, even if greenhouse gas emissions were to stop today the ocean will continue to store heat for another 25 years therefore great damage has already been done. The environmental damage caused by global warming will result in a wide range of social, political, and economic harms. In particular, climate change will contribute to the spread of certain infectious diseases, an increase in cardio-respiratory diseases from rising levels of air pollution, food and freshwater shortages. Additionally, millions of people are likely to be displaced from their homes by flooding in countries such as Bangladesh, moreover others are likely to be displaced by desertification. This increase in forced migration will likely foster conflict in areas where resources are already scarce. Furthermore, according to the World Health Organisation, 'global warming is estimated to be already contributing to more than 150,000 deaths and 5 million illnesses each year'.
Kramer et al. introduced the term 'state-corporate crime', this approach provides a useful tool for examining crimes related to global warming. Furthermore, this concept incorporates serious social harms that result from the interaction of political and economic organizations. State corporate crime involves 'criminal acts that occur when one or more institutions of political governance pursue a goal in direct cooperation with one or more institutions of economic production and distribution'. State corporate crimes are not considered criminal as no law is violated, however the actions between the state and the corporate sectors may involve violations of the law as well as be immoral and unethical. Furthermore, these harms can cause much more serious widespread suffering than certain acts which are deemed criminal as they will affect everyone globally, therefore adopting an approach to include these pressing harms is crucial for slowing down the rate of global warming.
Due to rapid industrialisation and market forces Earth is now on the brink of climate catastrophe. Capitalism requires economic growth which increases greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. Transnational corporations act and operate across borders and are forever expanding, moreover often their harmful acts are not considered criminal. The main goal for transnational corporations is to maximise profits for its shareholders often by investing in new technologies and expanding their markets, therefore where corporations can get away with immoral cost cutting and profitable activities that are harmful to others they will. Moreover, in order for corporations to expand they require an increase in material and energy flows which results in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, there is a clear link between economic growth and an increase in emissions: 'A one percent increase in GDP growth is associated with a 0.5 - 0.7 per cent increase in emission'.
One of the main driving forces behind capitalism is the constant expansion of production to expand the volume of profit. Additionally, in order to maximise profits increased use of machine and chemical technology is used in order to intensify labour and produce surplus value. Moreover, capitalism's constant need to expand also expands the amount of raw materials extracted. This constant need to withdrawal raw materials from nature and the pollution associated with both the withdrawal and production processes results in widespread environmental harm. In addition, transnational corporations often locate their production and factories in countries that have the weakest environmental laws therefore they can maximise profits. Often environmental crimes, violence and deviance are likely to occur during the extraction of natural resources in those countries with weak laws.
Often advanced capitalist societies, businesses, trade unions and governmental organisations form a consensus which privileges economic growth over environmental protection. As noted by Robinson there is a direct relationship between increasing globalisation of the economy and environmental degradation of habitats and the living spaces for many of the worlds people. Often it is the poorest and most vulnerable people within our society that will feel the affects of global warming the most. For example, oil, timber and minerals are extracted in such a way that they devastate ecosystems and destroy the culture and livelihood of many.
Nowadays due to globalisation corporations are able to move much more freely to other countries where the minimum wage is much less therefore, they can seek the greatest profit. Additionally, corporations often choose countries with the least government and environmental regulations and the best tax incentives. An example of this is the illegal shipping and dumping of hazardous waste materials to countries made vulnerable by these weak regulatory or enforcement systems. The industrialized world has found this to be a useful method of getting rid of its hazardous waste and avoiding high economic, social, and environmental costs in the countries where it is produced. However, for the millions of people living in these third world countries the importation of this hazardous waste is a constant threat to their local environment. It is estimated that around 500 million tons of toxic waste is discharged worldwide each year, mainly by developed countries trying to seek the greatest profit.
Environmental Harms and Issues Caused by Corporate and State
Corporate and state actors cause environmental harms in various ways, one of which is by blocking efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. After all global warming is the cumulative outcome of 200 years of industrialisation, however according to Michalowski and Kramer the failure by individual states to immediately undertake any efforts to mitigate global warming and reduce the amount of greenhouse gases produced by large corporations should be viewed as a state facilitated corporate crime. A prime example of this failed effort to mitigate greenhouse gases is from the G.W Bush administration. The Bush administration opposed the Kyoto protocol deal in 2001 under which the US would have to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 7% below the emission levels in 1990, by the year 2012. Bush argued that by imposing controls on greenhouse gas emissions America would not be able to expand their economic production. The US is one of the biggest contributors to climate change and it was important that they accepted their responsibility for their allowance of global warming to occur and implemented mitigating factors to help slow down the rate of global warming for generations to come. Moreover, many members of the Bush administration were representatives of the energy industry, therefore they placed their monetary interests above those of the general population.
Furthermore, Giddens argues that 'the state must be the prime actor in addressing climate change'. Since the main contribution to global warming has been the production of heat trapping greenhouse gases by corporations, the states failed attempts to implement policies and laws to mitigate these levels of emissions constitutes negligent state criminality. Research has shown that 100 fossil fuel corporations are responsible for over 70% of carbon emissions over the past three decades, but because of the state's relationship with corporations in the fossil fuel industry efforts to mitigate the production of greenhouse gases have been unsuccessful.
Another way in which corporate and state actors cause environmental harm is by denying that global warming is caused by human activity. The Trump administration failed to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions by dismantling major climate policies governing clean air. Furthermore, during Trumps presidency he repeatedly appointed and nominated climate change deniers and sceptics to influence climate change-related positions. The denial of climate change despite a vast amount of evidence proving otherwise is a state corporate crime of commission. Moreover, global warming denial efforts are often carried out by conservative think tanks who are funded by the fossil fuel industry. The purpose of these denial efforts is to undermine the scientific evidence surrounding anthropogenic causes for global warming therefore fossil fuel industries would not have to implement any mitigating efforts to reduce emissions. For example, powerful corporations such as Exxon Mobil have been accused of being determined to skew and pervert the scientific process and to diminish any hope of climate action a distant prospect.
Moreover, another way in which corporate and state actors promote the release of greenhouse gases and refuse to seriously address the resulting consequence of global warming is through deforestation. Corporations such as the US based company Cargill who is one of the major soya buyers, is well known for its contribution to deforestation in the Cerrado, Brazil. Cargill has been accused of buying soya from farmers linked to the illegal deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. The Cerrado is a crucial eco system and is estimated to store the equivalent of 13.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide which when cut down for the growth of soya beans releases this carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The company has pledged not to buy soya beans from land deforested in the Amazon after 2008 however, investigators reported 800 square kilometres of deforestation and 12,000 fires since 2015 on land used by Cargill suppliers.
Another way in which individual states and corporations cause environmental harm is by failures of adaption, which is the process of adjusting to or preparing to live with the effects of climate change that are either already underway or inevitable given the damage done. Even if greenhouse gas emissions were to stop today the ocean will continue to store heat for another 25 years, therefore great damage has already been done and adopting methods to adapt to global warming may be the best way. The goal then becomes to lessen the magnitude of these impacts on humans and the natural environment. Moreover, when considering climate adaption governments should be looking at changes in human systems as well as natural systems in order for humans to adapt to climate change, as focusing on changes to the natural world alone would be insufficient. In some countries adaption measures are well underway however, many of these measures do not address the significantly greater impact that global warming will have on those people residing in less developed countries.
Failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change will bring about predictable and avoidable harm to a large portion of the human population in order to benefit a smaller fragment in the richest and most powerful nations of the world, therefore it should be considered a state corporate crime. Reducing greenhouse gases and adaption are necessary actions in order to reduce the impact of climate change. Such impacts include more frequent extreme weather events such as sea levels rising which can be economically and socially devastating especially for many countries beset by poverty and instability. Furthermore, as a result of more frequent and intense extreme weather events large scale migrations of climate refugees could potentially occur, these migrations hold a significant threat of violent conflict. Such conflict as a result of climate induced migration is due to increased competition for already scarce resources in the host country, an increase in ethnic tensions and deepening socio-political fault lines.
In conclusion, here we wrote about global warming, this essay in only 2000 words argues that climate change should be treated as a 'state corporate crime'. This concept incorporates serious social harms that result from the interaction of political and economic organizations.
There is clear scientific evidence that state and corporate actors have rapidly increased the rate of global warming. For example, large corporations colluding with dirty energy industries that produce oil and gas, one of the main contributors to global warming is considered normal business practise. Moreover, since the start of the industrial revolution in the 1800s levels of greenhouse gases have risen which has led to global warming and climate change. The effects of climate change will be felt in the form of sea levels rising, a greater frequency of extreme weather events such as heat waves as well as more intense droughts that will last much longer than previous years. Those who are the poorest and most vulnerable on our planet will feel the effects of global warming the most. Therefore, by extending the scope of criminology beyond legal definitions and to incorporate harmful social actions that violate neither criminal nor regulatory laws, environmental harms perpetrated by capitalism will be rendered visible and considered criminal.
Corporate and state actors cause environmental harms in various ways. One of which is by blocking efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions another is by failures of adaption. Even if greenhouse gas emissions were to stop today the ocean would continue to store heat for another 25 years, therefore mitigation policies to reduce the amount of emissions is required as well as implementing processes to adjust or to prepare to live with the effects of climate change that are already underway. The states failed attempt to implement such policies should be considered criminal as these harms can cause much more serious widespread suffering than certain acts which are deemed criminal as they will affect everyone globally particularly those who are already beset by poverty and instability.
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