The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Editorial:
Climate Change Caused by Capitalism

Nov 26, 2018

A group of thirteen federal agencies released its long-awaited climate report last week. Their findings were clear and conclusive: The world climate is being irrevocably changed by human activity. The pattern of changes, commonly recognized as global warming, will cause fluctuations in weather patterns that will make the weather and weather-driven catastrophic events now regularly occurring – fire, drought, floods, hurricanes, among them – even more common.

This report echoes one released last month by a United Nations panel, which said that irreversible disaster could take effect if the world’s average temperature increases by 2.7 degrees above pre-industrial levels by 2040. It has already increased by 1.8 degrees, and it is well on the way to hitting the 2.7 mark. To prevent this, emissions would need to drop by 45 percent by 2030, and by 100 percent by 2100. In the words of one of the authors of the report, the world’s economy needs to “turn on a dime.”

The levels of heat produced by the way capitalist society operates are unsustainable and are altering the earth’s atmosphere and surface in a way that puts billions of people at risk. Even if the entire capitalist system is completely retooled immediately to stop the release of heat into the environment, we will continue to suffer from its accumulated effects. If the warming is not stopped and reversed immediately, in a matter of two decades it will almost certainly be irreversible and the earth’s climate damaged beyond repair.

The air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, the surface of the earth we walk on, the atmosphere around us, will deteriorate and will not support life systems, plants, or animals, as we know them. Trade and production could be crippled from the disasters. Food production could shrink, causing starvation around the world.

The Trump administration will no doubt push to reject or moderate the findings. But the problem is not just Trump. Everything that the world’s governments and corporations have done has been woefully short of the mark that is needed to avert disaster. Even the “best,” most highly-praised agreements – like the Paris Climate Accord – have been a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed.

That is because the fundamental problem is capitalism – a world where everything is subordinated to the profits of the wealthy class. If a company can make a profit by polluting, it will do so. If a company can make a profit by destroying a forest that removes carbon from the air – it will do that.

Capitalism is extremely wasteful. The production of food, energy, and industrial goods is shaped by profit – not by any kind of rational plan to meet people’s needs. Think about how many of us have to commute long distances to work. That’s because housing and jobs are shaped by capitalism – not by any kind of human plan.

The problem isn’t a technical one. There are plenty of solutions to address this crisis, from using energy sources that are less polluting across the board, to using existing and new technologies to scrub carbon from the air, to moving people away from dangerous areas and setting them up in safer ones. This work could provide needed jobs.

The global climate is like a bull hurtling toward a cliff, unable to stop. And the world’s governments are the farmer that stands by, pleading for it to stop. They have KNOWN for decades what has to be done – but they have not and will not do it.

Working people don’t have to wait for governments that defend profit over life to do something. The working class has no interest in protecting profit. We are the ones who make everything run, and we can run it to meet the needs of society – which includes stopping things on a dime to halt the process of climate change.