Over the last few years numerous scientific studies have reported that the pace of global climate change is accelerating and, unless immediate action is taken, may be irreversible.
The most recent report by the United Nations meteorological advisory body sounded the alarm that concentrations of major greenhouse gas emissions reached historic levels in 2013 — the biggest year-over-year increase since 1980. The report also noted a diminishing ability of the world’s oceans and plant life to soak up the excess carbon put into the atmosphere by humans.
In 2012, Cuban leader Fidel Castro wrote, “Numerous dangers threaten us, but two of them — nuclear war and climate change — are decisive and both are ever further from approaching a solution.” He blamed the discovery and exploration of vast reserves of shale gas as one reason the world was on “an inexorable march toward the abyss,” concluding that the problem was something “no political cadre or sensible person could ignore.” (Reuters, Jan. 6, 2012) Cuba has banned fracking.
The U.S., on the other hand, has blocked adoption of any serious climate change accords since George W. Bush refused to sign the 2001 Kyoto Accords. The Obama administration derailed the 2009 Copenhagen summit by rejecting limitations on greenhouse gases. The 2015 Paris meeting will put forth only a nonbinding agreement.
Big business polluters shrug off climate danger. The Heartland Foundation, a chief corporate climate denier — backed by the Koch brothers and Walmart — issued anti-science rebuttals to reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. ExxonMobil sees melting Arctic ice as a business opportunity, making for easier access to drilling sites.
But, unless one is an oil company CEO or a climate change denier, it’s hard not to be concerned about the accelerated pace of global warming.
The endless growth required by capitalism is at odds with the finite barriers of nature. This is an inescapable reality. Either the people will end capitalism or capitalism will end the people.
Priority on people’s needs, environment
To stop climate change the movement must take on the capitalist system of production for individual profit and replace it with a socialist system. Socialism can’t solve the problem of climate change overnight — too much damage has already been done by centuries of capitalists’ unbridled production. But reversal starts with a system of socialist production where people’s needs, not corporate greed, are the driving force.
Socialist Cuba — a relatively small country — is a world leader in the fight against climate change. It is setting the example, sometimes all by itself, for what steps must be taken. Cuba’s “Program of Local Support for the Modernization of Agriculture” makes it possible to quickly replace crops destroyed by extreme weather events. Farmers in Cuba are planting drought-resistant crops and digging ponds to guarantee water supplies.
The corporate media like to point to China’s “severe air quality problem” as a way of dismissing socialism. China, with the world’s largest population, has become “the factory of the world” as companies moved manufacturing there. Yet on a per capita basis, China was in 99th place as an emitter of greenhouse gases in 2000 and 72nd in 2005. By contrast, the U.S. was the seventh-largest per capita emitter in both 2000 and 2005. China’s emissions per person have risen with industrial growth but it is still way down the list compared to the U.S.
China is now number one in the world in its commitment of vast resources to developing sustainable energy. Solar and biomass-fired electricity are expected to grow tenfold by 2020. Most striking has been the Chinese government’s financial support for renewable energy generators.
Capitalist market relations certainly exist in China, but they do not control the backbone of the economy. The ability to carry out these massive, state-supported plans in response to global warming comes ultimately from the socialist restructuring of Chinese society, made possible by its decades-long revolution.
Socialist revolution may appear to be a distant prospect in the U.S. Meanwhile, the environmental movement can raise transitional demands to expand environmental protection, improve public transportation, rehab energy-inefficient housing stock and stop the military-industrial complex’s endless wars for oil. Millions of jobs could be created while reducing fossil fuel consumption and putting an end to the divide between unions and the environmental movement.
The working class must be told the truth about this dead-end system. Some concessions may be wrung out of it by the militant, organized struggle of the workers and oppressed, but capitalism is at war with the masses of people and the environment. It must be destroyed and the wealth — both natural and human-created — liberated for the good of humanity and all life on the planet.
Betsey Piette has written extensively on the anti-fracking movement. Her essay entitled “Drilling into the Abyss” received a first prize at the 2013 Havana Book Fair.