This articel was published in our magazine Rising Star Issue 1 but we decided to publish it sepperatly on our blog because it adresses the general problem that climate change can not be stopped under capitalism.
Climate Change has become an existential threat to humanity. With flooding in Europe, Australian wildfires and Louisiana storms, no one can deny that it is well past time to get serious. The main focus is on ensuring global temperatures stay below certain “tipping points”, above which runaway global warming could fuel itself indefinitely. But we are only getting closer to the cliff’s edge.
The Arctic permafrost is melting, releasing methane and carbon to choke the atmosphere. Deforestation is cutting off our air as the ice caps shrink, disrupting the circulation of our poisoned oceans. Forests are burning, water is running out; storms are rising in all corners of the globe.
The 2016 Paris agreement, which committed to keeping the global temperature increase below 2 degrees by the end of the century, was signed by 194 nations. 5 years later, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we’re still looking at 3 degrees. The powers-that-be are failing us.
With that we come to COP26. From the 1st to the 12th of November, political leaders from around the world will gather in Glasgow for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties – or COP26. Five years after the last Conference, which drew up the Paris accords, the threat to humanity posed by climate change has only become more deadly – so much so that even western countries are feeling the heat.
Will this carnival of world leaders be able to turn the tide on climate change? Will grand speeches amount to much in a world on the brink of collapse? Are these people likely to meet even their own meager targets? The answer is no.
But why is this so hard? Isn’t our planet more important than anything else? The very existence of our species, not to mention millions of others – doesn’t that trump every other economic or political concern? Of course it does – so what exactly is stopping us?
The answer lies within the capitalist system. The roots of climate change must be seen in the context of economics and class power.
While scientists rightly present climate change as a man-made problem, they stop short of identifying which man. While we are endlessly told to take shorter showers and drink from paper straws, it is not you or I that killed the world – it’s capitalism. It’s logging companies and agribusiness demolishing our rainforests. It’s oil companies sucking the life from the ground and poisoning our air. It’s the endless extraction of coal and gas and precious metals, the factory farming of enslaved species, the wasting of millions of gallons of water, millions of acres of land in a desperate and endless hunt for profit. Climate change is a capitalist-made problem.
The fact that most scientists, economists and politicians rely on capitalism for their paychecks means that they can hardly describe the problem, let alone solve it – proposing only narrow reforms that would mainly cost the poor while the rich carry on as normal.
So what is it about capitalism that leads to such destructive and wasteful practices, and why can’t it be stopped?
The so-called “free market” nowadays consists of massive international monopolies competing with each other for profits on a global scale. There is no overall plan identifying what is needed, how much of it and how it should be produced – just a chaotic free-for-all. Such companies in competition need to push their prices down as much as possible to get ahead – which means cutting costs.
The go-to solution here is to pay your workers next to nothing; if they don’t accept that, move production to a country where they will. Then exploit that poorer country for cheap raw materials – if the native government complains, overthrow it and replace it with someone more friendly. Your next move is to expand production so much that each product costs very little to produce – which usually means making way more stuff than can even be sold.
You can now reduce your prices to capture more of the market. But because your products are cheaper, each one makes you less profit – and you have to expand production even more to keep up! We can see where this all leads – massive companies using their wealth and influence in an endless race to expand and exploit as much as possible, crushing everyone who stands in their way and ignoring the environmental impact. After all, they’re not paying for it – we are.
Bear in mind, none of this is a free choice for the individual capitalist – if you don’t do it, the competition will! The need for endless growth is hardwired into the system – and on a planet with finite resources, endless growth spells disaster.
This explains why our governments and politicians have failed so spectacularly to do anything about climate change. They are ultimately paid agents of capitalism, and capitalism can’t get off the treadmill – so they simply roll over and let industrial interests keep trashing our world.
We must look elsewhere for a solution. If the problem is insane, unplanned overproduction by unaccountable elites, the solution is a planned economy under democratic control. If the problem is capitalism, the solution is socialism: only a government of the people, with an economic plan based on the needs of society and not the profits of a few, based on reason and not greed, can save us from extinction.
We have no time to lose. We cannot rely on endless conferences and empty gestures to build an ecological future – we have to do it ourselves.
Fight the system destroying our planet!
Fight for socialism!
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