Environment

“The ocean is rising, and we are too.”

Climate change is no longer a threat of the future. Already, hurricanes are becoming more powerful, forests are burning, and people are dying from heat waves, drought, floods, and famine. Such extreme weather events are quickly becoming the rule, not the exception.

The oceans are polluted by plastic and chemical waste, killing off fish and other marine life. Underground water supplies are drained or polluted, leading to a widespread scarcity of this most essential of resources. Every year, species are becoming extinct through the senseless destruction of ecosystems.

Immediate action is needed. A massive reduction in emissions and pollution levels is essential. But the solution does not lie in moralistic ‘lifestyle’ choices about ‘sustainable’ consumption. The capitalists and their political representatives are completely incapable of carrying out the radical changes that are required. The working class must seize the assets and wealth of the big conglomerates and monopolies (who are also the biggest polluters), and place their resources under democratic management.

Under a socialist society, we would be able to democratically and sustainably manage production, so we can improve the living conditions of working people in harmony with the planet. The fight against climate change and the fight for socialism are ultimately one and the same.

The following article was written at the end of February and the first days of March, just before the world was hit by the crash of the stock markets on the 9 March and the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic. This sharp change in the situation obviously also changes the plans of the ruling class. But the underlying economic and political tendencies at play are still the same, although the issue of climate change obviously was pushed to the background. In the case of the Green parties, their character as parties of the ruling class is even-further confirmed in these times of crisis.

The international climate strike movement has created waves across the world. Over the past year, during the course of several global days of action, millions of young people from over 100 countries have walked out of school in order to join the ‘Fridays for Future’ protests, demanding immediate action against the climate crisis.

The fires in the Amazon and central-west regions of Brazil were felt in São Paulo. The sky darkened at 3pm and many people did not understand why. Then the news came, explaining that, besides the cold front, this was caused by the ground-clearing fires used in “slash-and-burn” agriculture. And then, a general commotion was stirred up on social media, in the newspapers, and across the international media. The environmental problem, which did not seem to be a major focus of public indignation, become a new point of expression for widespread dissatisfaction and government crisis. This issue fed the anger and resentment against the Bolsonaro government, which responded with nothing but

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“The ocean is rising, and we are too.” So read one placard at the recent #YouthStrike4Climate in London. Young people across the world are taking to the streets to address the burning issue of our epoch: the impending climate catastrophe. Starting in Sweden last August with the weekly protests of one school student, Greta Thunberg, the youth strikes have rapidly spread internationally. In every country the situation is the same: a new, radicalised generation is entering into political activity, demanding action and system change to avert environmental destruction.

This summer has been one of freakish weather events the world over. No longer is climate change a thing of the future. From California to the Arctic Circle, exceptional temperatures are creating tinder box conditions. In Greece, 91 people were killed in a horrific blaze. In Japan at least 77 people have died and more than 30,000 have been admitted to hospital with heat stroke. 54 people have been killed by the heat in Quebec, Canada.

There were scenes of jubilation in Paris last Saturday evening, as delegates from almost 200 countries celebrated the results of over two weeks of negotiations at the 2015 United Nations climate change conference, COP21. World leaders have declared the Paris agreement to be a “historic” landmark in the fight against climate change; an unprecedented display of cooperation in terms of international efforts to curb global warming.

In this recording from 28th June 2015, Shahrar Ali - deputy leader of the Green Party - and Adam Booth - editor of www.socialist.net - discuss the capitalist causes of the climate crisis, and the way forward for humanity.

The past seven months have seen the release of the Fifth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the international scientific body set up by the United Nations to provide the most comprehensive body of information and analysis about the process, risks, and impacts of climate change. The conclusions of the latest IPCC report are unequivocal: climate change is real; its effects will be disastrous; and nothing short of a revolution will do if we are to combat it.

The question of climate change and the environment is one of the burning issues for today’s youth.  It is becoming increasingly evident that unsustainable exploitation of the environment cannot continue unabated.  One measure that is championed by the bosses and the ruling class, and is supposed to relieve the pressures on the environment, is a carbon tax, such as the one implemented in British Columbia in 2008. Five years later, can we say that carbon taxes genuinely work in protecting the environment, or are they simply one more tool in the bosses‘ arsenal in order to transfer more money into the bank accounts of corporations?

For many people, the idea of a revolutionary change in society seems like a pipe-dream that will never be possible in their lifetime. In this respect, Trotsky developed the idea of the “Transitional Programme”: a set of demands that could take society from our current situation under capitalism, towards our final goal of international socialism. What would such a transitional programme look like for the environment? What set of demands should socialists make regarding the climate change? In this article, we attempt to outline such a programme.

In the previous few months, we have attempted to show how capitalist ‘solutions’ to climate change, such as market-based methods like carbon trading, are not able to combat the environmental problems facing humanity and our planet. Similarly, international treaties that attempt to operate within the confines of capitalism are also doomed to failure, as was seen in Copenhagen last year. Capitalism cannot solve these problems – capitalism is the problem.

This article was originally published in 2008 as a reply to a "discussion document" by Brian J. Baker, with the title Global Warming: A Socialist Perspective. Baker's article attempted to demonstrate that anthropogenic climate change is a myth, that no global warming is occurring, and that socialists should approach this problem with the following attitude: it's "an obscure scientific curiosity [...] become the multi-billion dollar industry that it is today", "a further method of keeping the working class in its place", and in any case "Warming is something that should be welcomed instead of feared". This response explains why Barker's

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Earlier this year we received a letter from a reader of Socialist Appeal who says we put too much importance on one factor that contributes to climate change, human-induced emissions of “greenhouse” gases. In his answer Phil Mitchinson looks at the broader aspects of pollution, climate change and so on and stresses the need for a radical, socialist transformation of society if we are even to begin to tackle these vital problems.

The debate over global warming and the consequences it may or may not have for planet Earth and humanity has been raging for several decades now. Global warming is an endless source of controversy, but one thing is clear – our climate is changing.

In this essay Engels explains that the decisive step in the evolution of humans was the adoption of an upright posture. This move from walking on four feet to two was the result of changes in the environment, which forced some primates from the forests to the ground below, where they were required to travel long distances in the search for scarce food resources. This transition to a bipedal, upright stance freed up the hands and allowed them to develop a range of flexible functions.