The world is increasingly at risk of “climate apartheid”, where the rich pay to escape heat and hunger caused by the escalating climate crisis while the rest of the world suffers, a report from UN human rights expert, Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said. The impacts of global heating are likely to undermine not only basic rights to life, water, food, and housing for hundreds of millions of people, but also democracy and the rule of law.
Alston is critical of the “patently inadequate” steps taken by the UN itself, countries, NGOs and businesses, saying they are “entirely disproportionate to the urgency and magnitude of the threat”. His report to the UN human rights council (HRC) concludes: “Human rights might not survive the coming upheaval.”
“Climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction,” Alston said. Developing countries will bear an estimated 75% of the costs of the climate crisis, the report said, despite the poorest half of the world’s population causing just 10% of carbon dioxide emissions. Yet democracy and the rule of law, as well as a wide range of civil and political rights are every bit at risk,” Alston’s report said. “The risk of community discontent, of growing inequality, and of even greater levels of deprivation among some groups, will likely stimulate nationalist, xenophobic, racist and other responses. Maintaining a balanced approach to civil and political rights will be extremely complex.”
The impacts of the climate crisis could increase divisions, Alston said. “We risk a ‘climate apartheid’ scenario where the wealthy pay to escape overheating, hunger, and conflict while the rest of the world is left to suffer,” he said. “When Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on New York in 2012, stranding low-income and vulnerable New Yorkers without access to power and healthcare, the Goldman Sachs headquarters was protected by tens of thousands of its own sandbags and power from its generator.”
International climate treaties have been ineffective, the report said, with even the 2015 Paris accord still leaving the world on course for a catastrophic 3C (equivalent to an increase of 5.4F) of heating without further action. “States have marched past every scientific warning and threshold, and what was once considered catastrophic warming now seems like a best-case scenario,” the report said.
Socialism may not be able to immediately halt and reverse climate change nor could it perhaps instantly clear the atmosphere of the already accumulated greenhouse gases. However, socialism could and would set corrective processes in motion by eliminating the anarchy and duplication characteristic of capitalist production; by putting an end to the massive production of arms; by decreasing the use of fossil fuels wherever possible; by the elimination of a host of other wasteful industrial and commercial activities and polluting practices that are part and parcel of the capitalist system and its mad drive for profits.
It would, thereby, provide time and resources to our scientists to enable them to discover and develop alternative non-polluting renewable and sustainable energy sources, even as nature begins to clear the atmosphere. Only a socialist world can promote the type of global cooperation necessary to insure resources sufficient for everyone's needs.
Given the nature of capitalism, and the predatory character of ruling classes, there is a real danger that bitter wars may be fought in the future over the right to acquire natural resources. Capitalism is still the system under which we are trying to live. The aggressive ambitions of the capitalists to get big profits, and quickly preclude any possible consideration of more sensible ecological policies and to minimise the damage caused requires a socialist reconstruction of society.
Only a society that has purged itself of property and profit interests can cope with such problems as global warming. Only such a society can view global warming and other environmental problems rationally and give them the first-rank place of importance they deserve.
Socialism will be such a society. By ending the rule of private interests and the motivation of profit, by making the life and welfare, hence the environment, of human beings paramount, socialism will enable us to marshal all of our scientific knowledge and physical resources for the solution of this urgent problem. The capitalist class has never acted in the past, and cannot be expected to act in the future, in any way beneficial to the majority of the people. Indeed, their relentless pursuit of profits is threatening our very existence in many ways. Government regulations pose no threat to capitalism, and never have, regardless of how they may affect or place certain restraints on specific capitalist interests.
Capitalism as a social system, and the capitalist class as a whole, not only needs the political state to survive, capitalism created the modern centralised political state as it emerged from feudalism at the end of the medieval era. The real threat to capitalism and the crimes that capitalism commits against nature and humanity is an informed and active working class that is willing to take control of all industries. Taking, holding and operating the industries on a democratic basis means socialism.
Only socialism can satisfy our needs while operating all the industries in harmony with the best interest of the whole planet. However, until the working class decides that it must take control of the economy and establish a new form of democratic government based on collective and democratic ownership of the economy, all creatures on earth will continue to suffer under the capitalist dictum of "business as usual."
Not until workers take over the industries that our lives depend upon will our votes, within a cooperative commonwealth of labour, bring us a response to our needs