The government, the churches, the charities are all trying to make us feel guilty by saying that we as individuals are to blame for global warming. Some say that, by our chosen lifestyle, we personally emit too much CO², directly, when we drive a car or, indirectly, when we leave the lights on or heat our homes without them being properly insulated, or when we fly to our holiday destinations. Others take the total amount of CO² emitted from all sources in the country where we live and simply divide it by the total population, attributing the result to each individual. This figure for “carbon dioxide emission per person” is the one that is widely bandied about as our alleged individual “carbon footprint”. But this is absurd as it makes us responsible for the emissions that come from power stations and other capitalist enterprises.
Blaming us as individuals for global warming is based on the mistaken view, taught in economics textbooks, that the aim of production today under capitalism is to satisfy the needs of paying consumers. Or, as they put, “the consumer is king”. If this was the case – if production really were driven by individual consumer choice – there might be a case for blaming individual consumers and persuading us to consume less might help reduce emissions. But under capitalism the driving force of the economy is not to satisfy people’s needs but to make a profit and accumulate most of it as additional capital to be re-invested in production with a view to making more profit. It is this imperative for "growth” that drives capitalism. Individual consumption is merely a by-product of this, what the workers who produce profits and carry out administrative functions within the system must consume to keep themselves fit for work.
Which is why individuals cutting their consumption will not and cannot solve the problem. If everyone cycled to work – as many more used to in the 1940s and 1950s – this would reduce the cost of reproducing workers' labour power and eventually lead to a fall in wages. Or, if people saved electricity by switching off their lights or better insulating their homes, this would save them money – to spend on other things which would probably involve an additional expenditure of energy from burning fossil fuels to produce. But, more likely, as with cycling to work, would exert a down pressure on wage and salary levels. But lower labour costs will mean more profits – to invest in energy-consuming “growth”.
Blaming “mankind” in general for causing the problem suggests that people have deliberately chosen to engage in the activities that have led and are still leading to global warming. Whereas this is not the case. Most humans performing these are just carrying out the orders of those organising them while these latter are in turn constrained to act in the way they do by the economic laws of the capitalist system that currently dominates the world and which require production costs to be minimised so as to have a chance of beating the competition.
It is capitalism that has forced some humans to organise and order other humans to burn fossil fuels, cut down tropical forests, etc because this is cheaper and more competitive than the alternatives. So it is capitalism that must go if the problem is to be dealt with in a lastingly effective way.