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Profiting in a Warming World: Investigating the Link Between Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Capitalist Profitability in OECD States

Sociological Forum

Published online on


--- - |2 Economic growth is a key contributor to climate change, but undergirding growth is capitalist profitability. In this article, I refine this long‐standing relationship between growth and emissions by estimating if the profit rate and the “exploitation rate” (surplus profits / wages and salaries) predict greenhouse gas emissions. I do so in a sample of advanced capitalist economies from 1995 to 2016 with profitability data on four industries (agriculture, manufacturing/construction, energy, and transportation) as well as greenhouse gas emissions data for both those industries and emissions at the national level. Methodologically, I use two‐way fixed effects models and panel‐corrected standard errors. My results show that the total profit and exploitation rates are positively associated with emissions. Exploitation in the transportation and manufacturing/construction sectors, moreover, is also positively associated with emissions. This article provides empirical support for those in environmental sociology claiming that capitalist profitability is a key driver of climate change and ecological change is inseparable from unequal social relations. - 'Sociological Forum, EarlyView. '