CC-03-02 Environment or Economy?

Assessing the Competing Values of Growth and Conservation

OR. Photo by Kathleen Bennett, http://flickr.com/photos/ferneyes/1041087942/ (Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic). OR
Photo by Kathleen Bennett (CC).

This is lesson six of six on climate change. 

Here are links to the other five:

Lesson 01-01, Lesson 01-02

Lesson 02-01, Lesson 02-02

Lesson 03-01, Lesson 03-02

INTRODUCTION

Some people argue that any attempt to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions will prove too costly to the global economy, or at the very least too costly to their national economy in the absence of a fair international climate agreement. Others contend that it is the role of society and government to define the legal limits of commerce, and thus it is appropriate to regulate the harms from pollution and global warming.

Both positions speak to some deeper questions: Can our economy grow and grow green? Is unregulated capitalism based on consumerism and natural resource extraction simply unsustainable? Does the economic and ecological cost of not acting outweigh the known expenses of retooling our economy?

INSTRUCTOR PREPARATION NEEDED

Familiarity with the environment versus economy debate, including arguments for and against regulation, free trade, and corporate social responsibility.

LESSON PLAN

In-Class Activities
Do: Discussion (60 minutes)
Present counterarguments to John Mizzoni's article on why businesses have a responsibility to respect the environment and transition their operations to being sustainable. Present examples of "greenwashing" with supporting rationale. Discuss whether carbon pricing and green trade tariffs are fair means to motivate technical and social innovations.

Assignments to Be Completed in Advance (0-2+ hours)
Read:
John Mizzoni, "Going Green with Gravitas: The Moral Duty of Sustainable Businesses," Policy Innovations (July 25, 2008)

Philosophy professor John Mizzoni outlines three arguments for why businesses should become sustainable: their historic responsibility for emissions, the fact that they benefited from those emissions through profitability, and their ability to make reforms without incurring costs that would damage their businesses.

Do:
Are Mizzoni's arguments compelling? Develop counterarguments to refute his claims.

Read:
Christina L. Madden, "Growing Green During Downturn," Policy Innovations (April 22, 2008)

If the economy goes sour, will corporations maintain or abandon their environmental responsibility programs?

Do:
Find three examples of corporate responsibility statements or advertising that could be construed as "greenwashing" and make the case for why you believe they are disingenuous.

Listen:
Mark Fulton, "Finding the Right Carbon Price," Workshop for Ethics in Business (November 2, 2007)

Markets need prices, and effective business approaches to climate change need the right carbon price to make reliable investments in sustainability.

RELATED ETHICS QUESTIONS

A. Do businesses and individuals have a right to pollute?

B. At what cost should we mitigate carbon?

C. Does the economy conflict with the environment?

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Robert Collier, "Can Green Trade Tariffs Combat Climate Change?" Project Syndicate (April 2008)

Are environmental trade tariffs a fair and effective way to account for shipping pollution, or would they be manipulated as a form of protectionism?

Mark Fulton, ed., "Investing in Climate Change: An Asset Management Perspective," Deutsche Asset Management (October 2007)

With the proper carbon price signals, investment capital will throw its weight behind the sustainability revolution.

John Lash, "A Blueprint for Today's Sustainability," Policy Innovations (October 31, 2007) Full Report

Businesses are already finding ways to become sustainable, including carbon mitigation, efficiency improvements, product innovation, and developing consumer awareness.

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