Climate failure, capital failure

Submitted by Matthew on 19 November, 2013 - 6:02

The failure of capital to get to grips with the threat of climate change is reaching new levels as they backtrack on even the minimal promises of the past just as the risks become even starker.

The capitalist owners of the means of production and the bourgeois states that administer their system have comprehensively failed to tackle climate change, despite 25 years of warnings from scientists.

As the IPCC prepares yet another report, with more clarity and accuracy in weighing up the risks, more confidence of the role of human activity and yet an even narrower window of dealing with it, so the rulers of the world renege, ignore and backtrack.

So far around 4,000 people are known to have died during the typhoon that hit the Philippines last week. No scientist will assert a mechanical link between a single weather event and climate change. But the typhoon and other forms of extreme weather seen in recent years are precisely the kind of effect predicted by climate models as temperatures rise.

A further cruel irony is that global climate talks took place just after the typhoon hit — in Warsaw, capital of the heavy coal-producing and climate-denying Polish state. And the mood going into the event was grim.

The Japanese government announced it will backtrack on its promise to reduce its emission cuts from 25% to less than 4% by 2020, having closed its nuclear reactors after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The Australian government, which did not send a minister to the talks, signalled it may weaken its targets and is repealing domestic carbon laws following the election of the conservative Abbott government.

The Canadian government has pulled out of the Kyoto accord, which committed major industrial economies to reducing their annual CO2 emissions to below 1990 levels.

In Britain, the environment minister Owen Paterson openly denies that climate change is a problem at all, while the chancellor George Osborne embraces fracking and other unconventional energy sources that emit more carbon. The outriders for the Tories such as the Spectator magazine publish articles claiming that “climate change is good for us” and openly call for the repeal of the Climate Change Act.

The Climate Change Act is a modest reform, hardly revolutionary, but at least an effort to incorporate climate concerns into mainstream, parliamentary politics.

These Tories blame government regulation for driving up energy prices, when it is clear that it is their privatised market and their profiteering sponsors who have ripped people off for years.

Socialists don’t generally support indirect taxation precisely because the firms who own and control the means of production can pass on these taxes to working people who have to buy their energy from these sources. However the root of the problem is not which form of taxation or trading scheme or whatever other market mechanism is implemented.

The central issue is that across the globe the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions are either privately owned by rapacious corporations who will pursue profits even at the expense of wrecking the environment, or in the hands of bourgeois states that run energy and transport just like capitalist corporations, without regard to the people who use them or the impact on the planet.

To tackle climate change means to take on the entire capitalist mode of production, its firms, its states, its media, and all the other mechanisms it uses to hegemonise and rule. It requires a massive social and political transformation — a revolution — to destroy the old structures and social relations of capitalism and replace them with collective, democratic, international solidarity relations between all the peoples of the world.

Such a task can only be carried out by a vibrant working class movement. Such a movement, rooted in workplaces and working class communities has the power and the interest to tackle climate change and to do so in a way that the vast majority of humanity will not have to pay a heavy price for the transition. A working class-based climate movement can combine the pressing task of climate mitigation and adaptation with the fight against poverty, inequality and oppression.  

Such a movement does not exist at present. Right now we are not close to the kind of socialist revolution necessary to achieve these goals. But such a movement can be build around struggles for reforms and the fight for transitional measures to force capital and its states to do more.

Trade unions, environmental NGOs and climate activists can make common cause in coalescing this movement, winning support from workers and developing an ever more radical programme.

With further capital failure, building such a movement is now a burning necessity.

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