We need system change, not climate change!

“Capitalism tends to destroy its two sources of wealth: nature and human beings.” – Karl Marx

Climate scientists at the IPCC (the UN climate research body) were forced to admit that the impact of climate change is far more disastrous than previously projected, setting a new “mitigation” target of 1.5 degrees of warming above pre-industrial levels. Prior to this report, climate scientists had asserted that staying below 2 degrees of warming would avoid the worst effects of climate change. Even still, there have been rumblings from some in the climate science community that the projections in the report are still too cautious, and the effects will be even worse.

As well as increasing extreme weather events, the loss of land-based ice at the poles could displace more than 1 billion people living in low-lying coastal areas, pollinating insects could potentially lose half of their habitats should we reach 2 degrees of warming, and even at 1.5 degrees, it’s projected that just less than 50% of the world’s population would suffer from water stress. Environmental disruption leads to a consequential disruption agriculturally, economically, and socially.

The IPCC estimates that just 2% of world economic output would need to be invested into renewable energy and sustainable technology annually over the next 12 years to avoid catastrophic climate change, yet this is too much for capitalism. The Paris Climate Accord, which have been hailed as the most far reaching agreement on climate change to date, is nothing more than a paper tiger; whilst the IPCC calls for a limit of 1.5 degrees warming, the Accord pledges will bring warming closer to 3 degrees. This level of warming would be cataclysmic for the human race as well as the natural world. The Accord is not legally binding and Donald Trump has already withdrawn the US.

Just 100 corporations are responsible for 71% of global CO2 emissions, yet we are told the key to solving climate change is changing our personal consumption habits! Capitalism cannot resolve this issue and has failed to tackle it for decades. This anarchic system has overproduction and waste built into it. Competition between major corporations and nations means that the environment will always come well below profit and power on the list of priorities.

The technology and the wealth necessary to tackle climate change exist, but capitalism’s incessant, myopic drive for profit above all else is a fundamental barrier to safeguarding our further. By taking society’s wealth out of the hands of the super-rich elite and using it in a planned and democratic way,  we could rapidly transfer to renewable energy, creating millions of jobs in planning, constructing and maintaining the infrastructure necessary for this, and furthermore, providing electricity and other vital services for vast swathes of the world currently lacking. Environmentalists must campaign for socialist solutions to climate change – the only real solutions – and discard the half-measures of capitalism.

By Séamas McLaughlin