While the COVID-19 pandemic drags on and workers struggle to sustain themselves amidst the economic crisis it sparked, another colossal threat looms over us: the climate crisis. On Aug. 9, the United Nations released the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report and issued a dire warning: it is now or never to halt climate change. To this we wholeheartedly agree: it is now or never to put an end to this system which is destroying the very environment on which we depend.
The report was produced by hundreds of the world’s top scientists, and states that climate change is already affecting every corner of the globe. This has been graphically illustrated by the extreme heat wave earlier in the summer, which claimed an entire town in B.C., to the massive wildfires in Siberia which are bigger than those in Greece, Turkey, Italy, the United States and Canada combined. Most disturbingly, the report concludes that if we do not manage to stave off heating above 1.5 C, we will see widespread economic and social upheaval. At the Paris climate meeting in 2015, governments across the world pledged to take the actions necessary to keep global heating below 1.5 C for this reason. But since then, the world has already heated up by 1.1 C.
The effects of this failure are numerous and drastic. Downpours of rain have been increasing since the 1980s and ice is melting more quickly, pouring trillions of tons of water into the oceans. Seas are being suffocated by falling oxygen levels, and are becoming more acidic. Sea levels have also risen by 20 cm, and a further increase is already inevitable. Due to fossil fuel burning and forest destruction, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are at their highest point in at least 2 million years. IPCC co-author Bob Kopp explains that the more we push the climate system, the more likely it is that we will “cross thresholds that we can only poorly project.” This means that if the crisis continues unabated, many more aspects of climate change may become irreversible. UN Secretary General António Guterres calls the report “code red for humanity.”
All of this has already caused real suffering, primarily for the working class which cannot afford to hide from climate disasters in air-conditioned mansions. Heat waves and floods have become more frequent and intense since the 1950s. The recent heat wave in Canada killed 500 people in just five days, most of whom were working-class elderly people. Others who suffered the most lived in poor or working-class neighborhoods with insufficient infrastructure. Drought is also increasing in at least 90 per cent of the world’s regions. Furthermore, extreme sea level events like coastal flooding are expected to happen more frequently, with their frequency increasing by around 60 per cent annually. In the recent past, these events occurred just once per century.
Professor Tim Palmer of Oxford University says “our climate could well become some kind of hell on earth.” Professor David Ray of Edinburgh University’s Climate Change Institute states: “This is not just another climate change report. This is hell and high water writ large.” So, who is to blame for bringing humanity to the brink of catastrophe?
Capitalism is to blame!
The IPCC report is clear that climate change is “unequivocally” the result of human activity. But all the bourgeois publications have latched onto this to suggest that the responsibility for climate change lies with all individuals equally. They speak of “human stupidity”, or “the crimes of humanity.” But the fact is that we live under capitalism, which means “humanity” is actually divided into two great camps: workers and capitalists. Only the capitalist ruling class is responsible for the climate crisis. Workers do not have a say in how industries are run—that is up to the capitalists who actually own the corporations. And just 100 of these corporations are responsible for 71 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, the IPCC report is a detailed document of the crimes of the ruling class, and it must not be viewed in any other way. The ruling class is at fault. We already know that individual solutions will not suffice to slow down climate change, because at the height of the COVID-19 lockdown in April 2020 global emissions only decreased by seven per cent. This demonstrates the absolute most we can achieve by changing our individual actions. This is no solution, and the idea that it is only serves to shift the blame onto working-class people who cannot afford the latest eco-friendly product.
The bourgeois politicians are guilty too. They refuse to take any measures which threaten the profits of the bosses, because they exist to maintain the capitalist status quo. This is why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent a whopping $18 billion on subsidies and other forms of financial support for the fossil fuel industry just last year. Disgusting actions like this are the reason climate scientist Sonia Seneviratne says: “Policy makers have enough information. You can ask: Is it a meaningful use of scientists’ time, if nothing is being done?” It is abundantly clear what the problem is. Study after study has shown the disastrous effect of climate change. The reality is that cutting emissions under capitalism means a reduction in profits for the capitalist class. That is why nothing is being done, not due to lack of information. The politicians have already proven that they are willing to let our planet become unlivable, just to save the capitalist system.
Socialism is our only hope for a future
It is up to the working class to save humanity from further crisis. The measures necessary to halt global warming are ones that can only be carried out within a nationalized and democratically planned economy. The IPCC report states that these measures include “rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure (including transport and buildings), and industrial systems.” In order to achieve this, we need to do away with the chaos of the market and expropriate the key industries from the hands of the bosses.
We need to switch to greener forms of energy immediately, which means retraining workers in the fossil fuel sectors and creating full employment to retool those industries. And we need to carry all this out under a coordinated government plan based on human need, not profit. The money and resources to do this already exist, but they are in the bank accounts of the ruling class who drove society to this point in the first place. In those hands, they will never be used to address climate change. To save our future, we need nothing short of socialist revolution. It is now or never!