Global warming: Capitalism is Dragging Us to Catastrophe

The latest UN Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) report makes dismal reading. It states loud and clear that global warming is caused by human activity, and sees the argument on this issue as now settled. Since its last report in 2007, there has been no significant attempt to cut global emissions, in fact the rate of emissions of greenhouse gases has accelerated. In the 6 years since 2007 55 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, CO2, have been emitted. The total amount emitted between 1750 and 2011 was 545bn tonnes which means that in the last 6 years we have emitted 10% of the total emitted in the previous 2.6 centuries.

Annual emissions are now 60% higher than the time of the first IPCC report in 1990 and CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere are the highest they have been in the last 800,000 years. The result is that in the last 6 years there has been a 43% increase in the process known as “radiative forcing” in which greenhouse gases entrap heat in the atmosphere.

The report lists the disastrous consequences. Temperatures could increase to 3.7oC by the end of the century. Glaciers and polar ice sheets are melting, threatening to turn vast arable areas of the planet into desert and threatening to disrupt ocean currents and alter climatic conditions. The sea levels are rising. A rise of .82m could occur this century threatening major cities. Through the absorption of additional CO2 seas are becoming more acidic, killing off marine life. The increased energy in the atmosphere is leading to more extreme weather events such as droughts, floods and hurricanes.

Capitalism’s response has been to produce more oil, gas and coal. Oil tar sands, the most polluting form of oil production have been developed, additional oil and gas has been produced by fracking and off-shore drilling. The response to the melting of the Arctic Sea ice has been to start drilling there also.

In the UK record amounts are being invested in North Sea oil fields, tax breaks given for fracking and 30 new gas fired power stations are planned. All this can be summed up as “business as usual”. Although it is clear that to continue on the present trajectory will make the planet largely uninhabitable an possibly lead to human extinction, capitalists are incapable of addressing this issue. Why is this?

Capitalism cannot resolve climate change because of the way the system operates. Under capitalism production is for profit alone. Because of the structural problems inherent in the system, the need for profit demands continual growth. Capitalism must expand or die. However, a global growth rate of 3%, means that the size of the global economy will double every 24 years. Since energy is largely produced by burning fossil fuels which produces CO2 this means that when the size of the economy doubles, CO2 emissions will double. Capitalism cannot exist in harmony with nature. It treats it as a raw resource to be exploited mercilessly. Neither scientific proof of the consequences of continual growth, nor moral condemnation for the rape of the planet, can change any of this.

During the past 6 years the economic crisis has produced a collapse in growth which has probably reduced the increase of emissions. However, throughout this period workers have been forced to accept pay cuts, social service cuts and a double helping of austerity, all this in order to restore economic growth. Our rulers have explained that cutting emissions will damage profits. Already the effects of climate change are being loaded onto the shoulders of the working class. It is the capitalist system which created this potential environmental disaster. Only the overthrow of capitalism can avert it. Other so called “solutions” are simply dreams. Only a society which produces for human needs, not profit, will be able to roll back and repair the devastation which a few centuries of capitalist production have inflicted on the planet.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Aurora (en)

Aurora is the broadsheet of the ICT for the interventions amongst the working class. It is published and distributed in several countries and languages. So far it has been distributed in UK, France, Italy, Canada, USA, Colombia.