WHEN PRESIDENT-ELECT Donald Trump selects one of the most notorious climate sceptics, Scott Pruit, to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) you know the planet is in trouble. Pruitt, is part of the team waging a legal action by 28 states against the EPA to halt Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, an attempt to curb greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.
Of course this is no surprise. Trump in his campaign declared climate change as “a total hoax” and “bullshit” , even as a concept “made by and for the Chinese” .
Climate change is no longer a theory espoused by fringe elements You know this when the World Bank says in a study “We’re on track for a 4C warmer world marked by extreme heat waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life threatening sea level rises…there is no certainty that adaptation to a 4C world is possible.”
The study also discusses how a rise to 2C (which we are already dangerously close to) could be a tipping point where a relatively small change in our climate triggers unexpected and irreversible changes to the system as a whole that creates a runaway process that we cannot turn back from.
It almost certainly has a lot to do with Trump being in the pocket of the most profitable industry on earth – the extraction of fossil fuels – coal, oil, gas. These companies posses proven reserves amounting to 2795 gigatons of carbon dioxide, andshareholders invest based on these reserves earning them a profit. The problem with this is that those reserves equal five times the amount of CO2 we can pump into the atmosphere to remain below 2C.
Anything above 2C would lead to sea level rises affecting major cities around the world, acidification of the oceans leading to plummeting food stocks and desertification of entire regions. This would in turn result in untold disruption to economies and produce tens of millions of refugees on a scale never before witnessed. Nevertheless they keep on drilling.
They do this not out of ignorance or malice but because the competitive logic of capitalism drives them to. They cannot cease to make profit. The market will not magically move towards renewable energy when there is an intensely profitable fossilfuels market already in existence.
Since climate change became undeniable in 1988 we have consistently produced more CO2 year after year. In fact emissions are around 61 per cent higher than in 1990. The very fact that they spent the last 30 years holding toothless climate conferences only to break their own feeble promises means that there is now no alternative, no gradual market based approach, no quick-fix tech solution to save the day.
Either humanity makes a drastic change that rapidly switches to renewable energy or we unleash untold devastation. The only people who are capable of doing this are those who will be most negatively effected by climate change- the poor of the world, and most importantly their most organised section – the working class.
The stakes are high and we have no time to lose. We need to create a climate change movement that links the demands and needs we face today to challenging the very economic basis of society.
Companies that poison our air and they should be heavily taxed to compensate everyone who suffers from their pollution. If there is money for jobs and infrastructure in extraction projects then people should be able to decide it is spent on renewables instead. If energy is used by everyone then it should be accumulated and distributed democratically by everyone. Housing, job creation, public transport, city planning and agriculture should all be planned with an eye to reducing emissions.
But to achieve these aims requires a mass movement, one that links up the struggles of all sections of society. One that is capable of physically disrupting and shutting down the activities of the fossil fuel companies, as the Standing Rock Sioux have been doing successfully in North Dakota.
This cannot mean a return to the past or the utopia of a “zero growth” economy. Of course much “growth” is not growth in the well-being of humanity, but only of profits and the wealth of the a tiny minority of the super rich.
But the great majority if people of the world do not have a superabundance of the things needed to make a decent life. We need to plan for an increase in these things but in a way that takes acoount of the environment in which we live and how to preserve, indeed restore and improve it.
Climate change can be used as a catalyst to justify transformative actions that move away from capitalism and towards a system that democratically controls economic life, safeguarding our environment in the process – that system is socialism.
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