by Juliet Schor
This opinion piece first appeared in The Guardian on December 21, 2011.
With the recent failure of the Durban climate talks, the collapse of carbon prices in Europe, and news that emissions grew a record 6% in 2010, it's time to re-evaluate the economic approach to climate that now dominates the conversation.
The creation of carbon markets, carbon offsetting and the valuation of eco-systems are premised on the idea that marketisation and reliance on economic incentives will yield sustainable outcomes. Many environmentalists like these policies because they seem to work with, rather than against our existing economic institutions and incentives. But as market-thinking expands with eco- and carbon-footprints, an obvious question is whether economics in command has become part of the problem.
It's a conclusion one might draw from analysing the Occupy Wall Street movement. In a few short weeks a rag-tag group of under-thirties has been able to transform the global conversation about economic issues by focusing on three basic points, all of which are essential for stopping runaway climate change and ecological overshoot.