Loyola University Chicago

School of Environmental Sustainability

Plenary: Can We Switch to a Green Economy

Loyola University Chicago’s third annual Climate Change Conference

Global Climate Change: Economic Challenges and Solutions
March 17–19, 2016

Can We Switch to a Green Economy?

The Right is Right, Klein is Right
David Schweickart, PhD, Professor, Loyola University Chicago

What I'd like to do in my short presentation is revisit Klein's interview with Joesph Bast of the (denialist) Heartland Institute (located here in Chicago--not to be confused with the Heartland Cafe, a 'Left outpost' up on Lunt), and affirm her conclusion that "the right is right." As Bast told her, if global warming is real and anthropogenic, then their basic free-market, libertarian perspective is wrong.  I will go on to argue, briefly, that Klein's critique does not seem aimed at capitalism per se, but at the neoliberal form she so powerfully attacked in The Shock Doctrine. But she could have attacked any form of capitalism, for it is unlikely that any form of capitalism, dependent as it would be on exponential growth, is compatible with a sustainable world.

David Schweickart is Professor of Philosophy at Loyola University Chicago. He holds a Ph.D. in Mathematics (University of Virginia), and a Ph.D. in Philosophy (Ohio State University). Dr. Schweickart's primary areas of research are social and political philosophy, philosophy and economics, and Marxism. He also has major interests in feminist theory, existentialism, critical theory, and race and racism.

Putting Capitalism in Its Place
Benjamin Johnson, PhD, Assistant Professor, Loyola University Chicago

Naomi Klein makes a powerful case for how climate change is produced by some deep structures of the economy and politics, here in the U.S. and worldwide.  She is surely right that “this changes everything” – in other words, that tackling climate change requires fundamental changes to how we distribute capital, how corporations are structured, and indeed to the idea of perpetual economic growth.  On the other hand, Klein’s proscriptions for how to reform capitalism are sometimes unworkable and dogmatic.  In her refreshing and timely rejection of market fundamentalism, she misses the ways in which markets can be powerful tools. An environmentally sustainable society will take markets down from the altar but still, keep them as tools.

Benjamin H. Johnson is an Assistant Professor of History at Loyola University Chicago.  His primary areas of research and teaching include environmental history, North American borders, and Latino history.  He has taught courses on North American and world environmental history, natural disasters, immigration and ethnicity in the United States, and border and transnational history more generally.  His first book, Revolution in Texas:  How a Forgotten Rebellion and Its Bloody Suppression Turned Mexicans into Americans (Yale University Press, 2003) offered a new interpretation of the origins of the Mexican-American civil rights movement. Johnson’s other primary interest is in the social and political history of American environmentalism, the subject of his current book “Escaping the Dark, Gray City:” How Conservation and the Arc of the Progressive State.

Prices, Quantities, and Technologies
Donald Jones, PhD, Instructor, Loyola University Chicago

Carbon taxes and cap-and-trade programs for CO2 emissions are the two most prominent mitigation policies bruited by policymakers worldwide presently. Both policies require many decisions on policy details. Both policies can buy time, but neither, nor both together, will be sufficient to slow GHG emissions to concentrations that are likely to keep a world temperature increase below 3 degrees Centigrade. Substantial simultaneous investment in R&D is necessary.

Donald Jones received his Ph.D. in Geography (Economic) from the University of Chicago in 1974. He taught as an assistant professor at the University of Chicago from 1975-1981 and as an associate professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder from 1981-1982, after which he was a research staff member at Oak Ridge National Laboratory from 1983 to 2003. Since 2003 he has been a vice president at RCF Economic Consulting, Inc., in Chicago, in which position he has studied the competitiveness of Generation 3 nuclear reactors and the possibilities for a transition to a hydrogen transportation economy, both for the U.S. Department of Energy. He has taught price theory at the University of Tennessee and currently teaches environmental economics at Loyola University of Chicago.

Investing in Clean Energy Infrastructure as a Smart Investment, and a Climate Change Solution
Ammad Faisal, Senior VP, Marathon Capital LLC
Faisal Plenary Presentation

The U.S. energy market is undergoing a dramatic transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Coal power plant retirements are near peak levels with no end in sight. Wind and solar energy are emerging as the primary beneficiaries, dominating new capacity being added. Government policy is predominately in support of renewable energy, however, as wind and solar become increasingly competitive due to technological innovation and rapid cost declines, renewables will no longer need to rely on government support. A decade ago, the global investment community may have dismissed the renewable industry as small, but now, it’s one of the top areas of focus as the industry has grown faster than anyone predicted. To quote Rudi Dornbusch, a notable economist,  “Things take longer to happen than you think they will, and then they happen faster than you thought they could.”

Ammad Faisal, Senior Vice President at Marathon Capital, has over 9 years of investment banking and capital markets experience covering the energy and power sector including financial sponsors, small-mid cap utilities, independent power producers and renewable energy companies. At Marathon Capital, he focuses on Mergers and Acquisitions as well as debt, equity, and tax equity capital raise transactions.