The latest IPCC climate report provides another dire warning of the catastrophe facing the planet. Yet all the capitalists have to offer is lip service and hollow promises. To stop climate change, we need to fight for revolutionary change.
Buried underneath the propaganda surrounding the war in Ukraine recently was news that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released the third instalment in its latest report, focussing on the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The IPCC’s findings reveal that existing commitments, far from limiting global warming to a 1.5℃ rise, as agreed at the COP21 summit Paris in 2015, would actually see global temperatures reach 3.2℃ above pre-industrial averages by 2100. This would have devastating consequences for billions across the world.
Climate inaction, the report concludes, has brought us to a “now or never” tipping point, whereby global carbon dioxide emissions will need to peak within the next three years – and then decrease by 43% by 2030 – to stay on target with the Paris Agreement.
UN secretary-general António Guterres went so far as to point the finger at “lying” government and business leaders, who he said had presided over “a litany of broken climate promises”, revealing a “yawning gap between climate pledges and reality”.
Guterres may act surprised. But the fact that the capitalist system is incapable of solving the climate crisis is one that has been increasingly clear to most workers and youth for some time.
Across the board, noises from establishment politicians about ‘climate action’ have turned out to be little more than hot air.
Capitalist governments boast of public and private investment plans to tackle the impending crisis. Yet researchers at Climate Action Tracker have found that of 40 countries surveyed in 2021, none had sufficient policies required to meet the Paris Agreement. In fact, 21 countries had policies that would actually increase emissions.
At the same time, the OECD (a club of advanced capitalist countries) found that, in 2019, only $80 billion of the $100 billion annual transfer from rich to poor nations pledged in the Paris Agreement had been made available – a figure that has likely dropped further since. Oxfam’s own investigation suggests that the real figure is closer to $19-23 billion.
Even this money is being used deceitfully, with some countries classifying development aid (already dubiously used by the imperialists as a means of ‘soft power’) as relevant to climate goals, even when it clearly isn’t.
That the Paris Agreement itself is insufficient to solve the crisis is an inconvenient truth glossed over by the establishment. The capitalists won’t let any mere laws, regulations, or accords get in the way of their profit-making. This is the elephant in the room that none of these big business politicians dare mention.
Logic of profit
Elsewhere, supporters of the market have boasted about the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), created at COP26. The intention is to mobilise private capital for the ‘decarbonisation’ of the world economy, with 450 firms – valued at a combined total of over $130 trillion – signing up to the initiative.
One small hitch with this proposal is that there are no plans, commitments, or deadlines attached. Instead, ordinary people are expected to take the bosses at their word when they say that they will fork over their cash in a timely and orderly manner.
Such hollow promises and ‘greenwashing’ are clearly designed to throw dust in our eyes – an attempt to distract us whilst the capitalists continue to destroy the planet for the sake of their profits.
The lack of private investment in tackling the climate crisis is not the result of a few ignorant politicians and business leaders, but is embedded in the logic of capitalism itself.
At the end of the day, the capitalists invest only in order to make a profit, not to address the needs of people or the planet.
And with most climate-related investment opportunities deemed either too risky or too unprofitable, they are far more interested in pouring their money into speculative bubbles, demonstrating once again the inability of capitalism to take society forward even one inch.
The latest IPCC report naively suggests that the aftermath of the pandemic would provide governments with the opportunity to rebuild their economies on a sustainable basis. Similar hopes have been voiced in relation to the Ukraine war and the potential to wean the global economy off fossil fuels. This is nothing but wishful thinking.
The anarchy of the capitalist market is a fetter on any transition away from oil and gas, and towards renewable alternatives.
Already, for example, left to the ‘invisible hand’ of the market, increasing demand for materials needed for low-carbon technologies, alongside tightening regulations, are resulting in ‘greenflation’, pushing up the costs of decarbonisation compared to initial calculations.
Similarly, although the cost of solar panels and wind turbines has fallen dramatically over the past decade, as the IPCC report notes, the deployment of green technologies is being hindered by the profit motive.
On the one hand, renewable energy is still not as profitable as fossil fuels; and on the other, large upfront costs are needed to develop a 100% clean energy sector.
The IPCC therefore laments that current attempts at climate action amount to incremental change, rather than “system transitions”.
Such a widespread, systemic transformation requires large-scale planning, with mass investment in new infrastructure and technology, and huge transfers of labour and capital across entire industries and nations.
The wealth and resources for this clearly exists. But you cannot plan what you don’t control; and you don’t control what you don’t own.
At the same time, we live in an epoch of immense, deepening capitalist crisis, fueling protectionism and trade wars – hardly prime conditions for the international cooperation that is required to solve this inherently global problem.
Once again, we see the fundamental barriers that the capitalist system imposes on progress: those of private ownership and the nation state.
For socialist planning
Despite the IPCC ringing the alarm bells, the capitalist class is not breaking into a sweat. After all, whilst billions suffer from drought, flooding, and heatwaves, the billionaires are already living on another planet from the rest of us.
It is workers and the most vulnerable who will face the consequences of the climate catastrophe. The super-rich, meanwhile, are far removed from this destruction. And if all else fails, and things get too hot on Earth, they will shoot off into space.
The climate crisis is therefore ultimately a class question.
The technological, scientific, and productive capacity needed to mitigate global warming – and adapt to its worst impacts – already exists. But this can only be successfully deployed on the basis of a rationally-planned socialist economy, under democratic workers’ control.
Only on this basis can investment and resources be allocated according to the needs of society, rather than the profits of the capitalist class.
As disaster looms, the burning necessity of overthrowing this rotten system has never been stronger. And the choice facing humanity has never been clearer: socialism or barbarism.