First the good news – it is still possible to avoid a climate apocalypse. And the bad news? It is already too late to avoid climate catastrophe!
This is the verdict of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) latest report published ahead of the international climate summit in Glasgow this November.
The IPCC’s 2018 report gave us the handy slogan “1.5 to stay alive” – pointing out that even a 1.5°C increase in global average temperatures above pre-industrial levels would result in disastrous effects on the eco-system, but would still allow global warming to stabilise and human life to survive.
The latest report shows that we are already at +1.1°C, set to smash through 1.5°C, and headed for the 3°C – beyond which you get a series of ‘tipping point’ events. These would set the planet on a course for a runaway greenhouse effect, which would be irreversible and could make human life unviable.
This year’s IPCC report tells us that no matter what carbon reductions are carried out we are going to hit 1.5°C by 2030.
This tells us what we already know. We’ve seen the deadly floods that tore through communities in Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium, the wildfires that have laid waste to swathes of California, Australia, Russia, Greece, and Turkey, and the unprecedented heatwave in America’s Pacific North West. Thanks to the lack of action by capitalist governments to reduce emissions, more such events are expected.
Of course, our rulers are not silent. With the UK government hosting the UN’s ‘Conference of Parties’ (COP26) talks, we can expect to see plenty of photo-ops at wind farms and the announcement of ambitious new targets for carbon reduction. What we will not see is any meaningful action to meet those targets.
COP26 should be facing up to the fact that the system of ‘cap and trade’ – selling the right to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere – has been a complete failure. Canada has actually increased its carbon emissions since agreeing to the ‘Paris Accords’!
The British government’s performance fares a little better. True, there’s been a 29% reduction in carbon emissions in the last decade (mainly due to continuing deindustrialisation), but this still leaves it about 20% short of its target for 2030.
Tory Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s response is to announce ambitious new targets, while also giving the green light to further oil and gas exploration, a new coal mine, and a big expansion of the national road network.
Call to action
The ‘good news’ aspect of the IPCC report should be a call to action. But although it’s in capitalism’s overall strategic interests to avoid climate catastrophe, its political leaders seem determined to soldier on with profit-friendly climate change schemes that have already failed.
For meaningful action, we need to fight for a change of direction. But it’s not enough to ask the villains of this story to change their ways. Capitalism is the climate crisis.
Only the working class, which has no stake in capitalism but whose collective power can halt capitalist production, is the key to changing society. Armed with a programme for the socialist transformation of society, it can bring about the global reconstruction that can save us from a climate inferno.
It can replace the chaos of capitalism with democratic socialist planning of the economy, to meet the needs of humanity and the environment.
From The Socialist newspaper, 11 August 2021 (https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/32913/11-08-2021/capitalism-climate-catastrophe)