Friday, 21 February 2014

Capitalism is changing the weather

Capitalism is changing the weather. More fundamentally, it is changing the climate. It has been estimated that before the year 2030, 100 million people will die as a result of the changing climate. Ninety percent of these deaths will occur in poor countries.

The ‘climate crisis’ should now be spoken of as the climate catastrophe, because this is what it is for the majority of the people on earth. The droughts of prolonged periods of abnormally low rainfall, melting icecaps of once-permanent ice, tropical storms amongst the most powerful and destructive may become commonplace here in Britain, and of course the bizarre weather we have been experiencing is just the beginning.

Only today (at the time of writing) an earthquake hits the Bristol Channel, houses rocking and residents speaking to the BBC likened the tremors to a "heavy truck going up the road". All this on top of the flooding cannot be ignored, the climate, our climate is changing and has been for some considerable time now.

The dominant economic system is the driving force of climate change.  It is based upon the exploitation of first coal and then oil, all of which contributes greenhouse gases to the environment, resulting in increasing global temperatures. The innermost logic of this economic system is the accumulation of capital.  Whatever serves profit thrives. Currently a large part of the capitalist machine is fueled by oil and coal. The vast majority of scientific investigation points directly to the burning of oil and coal as having already raised the temperature of the Earth by 1.5 degree Fahrenheit, with the possibility of raising it over ten degrees by the end of this century. To do this would make life on earth unrecognizable, like something out of a science fiction movie. This may happen by the time today’s infants enter old age.

It seems that if the fundamental driving force of capitalism is the further accumulation of capital, it would make sense not to change the ecology so much that you severely reduce the number of producers and consumers, threaten food production, and endanger the future of humanity.  Without civilization, how can capitalism continue?  Right now, the most potent anti-civilizational force on the planet is capitalism.

Capitalists confront us by driving the rate of destruction ever upward, while becoming increasingly irrational in seeking out the remaining oil, coal and gas supplies.  The tar sands extraction process in Canada, ‘fracking’ to get at natural gas reserves (which is causing earthquakes), mountain-top removal in Appalachia, oil drilling off the coasts and efforts to do so in pristine parts of Alaska, all for a form of energy which is literally killing millions of people, is simple madness.

Perhaps members of the ruling class simply do not care about the future of civilization, or what kind of future their children or grandchildren will have. Perhaps they think they will be dead before things get too bad. Perhaps today’s continued profit is more important than the future disintegration of society, and the end of civilization as we know it. Perhaps they think they have enough money that the devastation that awaits will not really affect them. Or perhaps they just think they will adapt to a changing environment.

Regardless of the thinking of capitalists and the ruling class, and whatever debates they may be having about how to respond, we must confront the realities of the climate catastrophe and develop a movement to create a society that does not change the weather. It is really up to us, and what we do in the next decade. To not act is to allow millions of people, primarily poor people of color in impoverished nations, to suffer and die

The climate crisis offers damning evidence that capitalism is madness. The situation offers the opportunity for us to argue for the fundamental transformation of society as the only alternative to a barbarous future.  Almost every aspect of modern life is contributing to the changing climate, from air transportation, to our reliance on cars, to how goods are produced and transported, how our food is grown, and how we light and heat our homes.  The common theme that runs through all these things, and what must be changed, is that they are all aspects of a capitalist economy and ideology.

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