What governments and the media refuse to fully acknowledge is that the climate emergency is already upon us and the danger is now. However, many of those taken part in the Global Climate Strike on Friday are aware that we face an emergency. With the exception of an all-out nuclear war, humanity has never encountered another existential threat as posed by climate change. Even many scientists speak prudently of the possibility of tipping point being breached and runaway climate change resulting form unforeseen and unpredictable feedbacks. Climate catastrophes and “natural” disasters are growing in frequency and intensity. They have gotten nothing but worse, events which barely receive a mention. The facts and statistics are there for anyone to see and understand. We face a dystopian future as the world descends into chaos. So here we are at a situation where the Socialist Party hates to say, we told you so, but we told you so.
Meanwhile there is daily evidence that our climate is spiralling out of control due to the consequences of inaction. Even when politicians and nations promise to do something, nothing really ever happens. Plans are made but rarely ever fully implemented. The trillions of dollars needed to tackle climate may well be less than the costs of inaction but as a long as each capitalist state is seeking to externalise the costs of tackling climate change – get others to bear to more of the burden of these costs so as not to impair its own economic prospects in its competition with others – inaction will result. Countries will only be dragged kicking and screaming into action as things get generally worse and the action they take will probably be too little too late. That is how capitalism operates – to get away with what is minimally required.
We are living through a profoundly dangerous moment of history. By uniting as a common humanity, we can address the challenges facing us. Such a path is the one that our children and future generations need us to begin to chart for a livable world. It is our responsibility as socialists to ensure it happens. There is a pressing need for environmentalists to take more seriously what socialists have to say. The logic of capital is quite simple. It prioritises the interest of accumulating capital for capitalists over the interests of the people. For the capitalist, there is a simple way of looking at any issue: what return can I get if I can get the state to follow a certain policy? Giving away of land, forests and mineral resources to capitalists by the state is what Marx called primitive accumulation. In more modern terminology, it is “enclosure” of the commons. Capitalism determines that what is good for capital is good for the people. When a capitalist looks at his accounts: this quarter’s profits matter more than the long-term sustainability of capitalism itself.
Upton Sinclair, wrote “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” Capitalists may well comprehend the gravity of global warming but they remain in denial on who pays the bill. Protecting theenvironment must include social changes to society. What the future will be is up to the current generation to figure out but it will not only be our children and grandchildren who face the consequences of those decisions but also ourselves.
The clock is no longer ticking, the wake-up alarm is now going off.