Climate change has arrived, and it is not politely knocking on the door. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a ‘call to action’, hit the headlines.
The IPCC pointed to the arrival of drought and floods affecting crops and warned of famine. It pointed to the spread of malaria and other tropical diseases and an increased risk of population dislocation and war. Sceptics joked that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are here.
Yet it was no joke for those who suffered and died in Britain’s recent winters – the floods, storms, and snow.
Or those fleeing wildfires in Australia’s record 50C heat, or those caught in Hurricane Sandy. But the worst effected, the report re-iterated, are those living in poverty, particularly in the neocolonial world.
Typhoon Haiyan brought 6,201 deaths, 1.9 million homeless and 6,000,000 displaced last November. Racing across the Pacific, stoked up by extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and extra ocean heat – both cause and result of global warming – the category five hurricane tore the Philippines’ Tacloban city slums apart.
Starving slum-dwellers fighting for food from abandoned shops were labelled looters by the international capitalist media and shot at.
While coverage of the IPCC report was generally positive, capitalist media like the BBC, hell-bent on preventing any ‘bias’ in favour of well-established science, asked whether the IPCC is ‘creating a sense of urgency or alarm’ (31 March 2014).
Picturing a tranquil bloom of coral, the BBC quotes Richard Tol, an economist, who blithely asserts global warming ‘may have some benefits at lower levels of warming.’ This must sicken those destitute in Tacloban.
The IPCC’s call to action will most likely fall on deaf ears in the world’s capitalist governments.
Individual capitalists may realise that climate change has already cost them billions – the floods in the UK were one of two billion-dollar weather disasters of 2014 so far – there were a record 41 billion-dollar weather disasters in 2013.
But then some capitalists also realise that poverty is bad for businesses yet they force down wages.
Most capitalists are locked into the cheapest carbon-fuelled technologies for fear of cheaper competition from their competitors.
They cannot move directly to carbon-free technologies in a planned way. The same is true of capitalist governments, which defend their native businesses.
Will any government – Tory, Liberal or Labour – that bows the knee to big business be capable of breaking the grip of the multinational energy companies, some of which fund climate change denial?
To do so they would most likely have to carry out widespread nationalisations, firstly throughout the energy and transport industry.
A democratically drawn up unified plan of action, using the multinational bosses’ stashed billions, could swiftly implement carbon-free technology throughout the economy. There is no reason for household bills to rise. Bills should fall.
Capitalist governments have delayed too long. A genuine socialist government which will break with capitalism is deadly urgent.