The Paris COP21 talks have now gotten underway but can they succeed? The World Socialist Movement answers No.
Capitalism is both the cause of climate change crisis and the obstacle to its solution. Socialists stand for the survival of humanity and we oppose an economic system based upon the relentless drive for profits because it threatens all life on the planet. Decisions about production, distribution and consumption must be made by those who have no interest in enriching a tiny minority of the world’s population at everyone else’s expense. The scale of the threat posed by global warming, and the short time in which we have to take action to prevent the catastrophic consequences, makes the issue of climate change the most urgent question facing humanity. Very radical measures need to be taken immediately. What is required - the rapid, far-reaching reorganisation of industry, transport, consumption, and the massive shift to clean renewable energy - is simply not possible under capitalism. And every day brings more evidence that strengthens that conclusion. The planet-wide crisis has gathered pace and the scientific warnings have multiplied. While it is clearly obvious something has to be done, the politicians and their corporate masters opt for inadequate, voluntary, gradual measures that will cost big business as little as possible to implement. Internationally and nationally a sense of urgency is lacking. Political will is lacking to halt further environmental degradation even though technology and knowledge are available to do so. We can see this being played out again and again. Political leaders “fiddle while Rome burns”.
For capitalists, profit is an end in itself. It does not matter to them whether the commodities they produce satisfy fundamental human needs — such as food, clothing, shelter — or are devoted to pointless or ostentatious consumption, or are even destructive to human beings and the planet. A dollar is a dollar is a dollar. A multi-billion-dollar capitalist industry called advertising constantly plays with our brains to convince us that happiness comes only through buying more and more “stuff”, to keep up with endless wasteful fads, fashions, upgrades, new models all with built-in obsolescence. Capitalism as a system thrives on the promotion of the worst aspects of human behaviour; self-obsession and self-interest; greed and hoarding; the dog-eat-dog mentality. Just imagine the vast amounts of wasteful production of pointless commodities produced solely for sale that could be eliminated without the cynical manipulation of people’s behavior by the marketing industries. Needless and wasteful consumption would plummet.
Capitalism, an economic and political system based on the never-ending expansion of production of commodities for sale, is incompatible with the basic ecological cycles of the planet. Earth cannot sustain this system’s plundering and poisoning without humanity sooner or later experiencing a complete ecological catastrophe.
A great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required if vast human misery is to be avoided. Genuine democratic socialist planning will allow priorities to be set on the production of certain items and limit or eliminate others. The over-packaging of products could end, saving entire forests and plastic will no longer fill the rubbish dumps. Planned obsolescence would end and products would be built to last for a long time and be repairable, and when they were due for replacement they would be recyclable. Such basic measures would save massive amounts of materials and energy, all along the production chain.
Socialism is a society that is organised first and foremost to work together to produce enough to comfortably ensure people’s physical and mental wellbeing and social security — abundant food, clothing, housing, furniture and appliances, cultural pursuits, and lifelong education and training, and healthcare — and in which technological advances benefit everybody without costing the environment.
People face a stark choice - capitalism or survival.