On Earth Day: We need system change, not climate change

By Eva Martin

The world’s climate and natural systems are at a breaking point. A recent IPCC report stated that 3.6 billion people are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change – particularly extreme heat, heavy rainfall, drought and fire – in the immediate future.

For decades we have known that this would be the case if capitalist production continued on its path of greenhouse gas emissions and ecological destruction. Yet for much of this time, parts of the bourgeois press engaged in outright climate change denialism – funded and pushed by the fossil fuel industry.

Even now, world leaders and politicians hypocritically speak out of one side of their mouth on the issue of climate whilst continuing to allow the destruction of the planet for profit. Tokenistic legislation and the declaration of “climate emergencies” with no concrete action against the big polluting companies is nothing short of climate hypocrisy.

In Stormont this is reflected in the recent legislation which set a net zero target for 2050, but with no real plan for how to achieve this. Stormont has proceeded over an abysmal environmental record – refusing to ban petroleum licensing and toxic gold mining. The political parties are continuing very much with business as usual, but with an additional layer of greenwashing.

Mainstream media, big corporations and their political sycophants want us to believe that the climate crisis is an individual problem, for which we are all responsible. But in reality, the ecological collapse we face today can be blamed on the capitalist system of expansion, extraction, and destruction driven by a tiny elite, who accumulate vast swathes of the world’s resources to satisfy their need for profits. 

The fossil fuel companies, big agribusiness and the biggest corporations in the world are to blame for creating the climate crisis. A mere 100 companies are responsible for 71% of carbon emissions. And so long as they can profit from climate destruction, they will have no intention of solving the problem. Equally, they most certainly have no interest in mitigating the impacts of the climate crisis on the working class and poor globally.

The window whereby we can take meaningful action is closing rapidly. The world faces unavoidable and multi-faceted climate hazards over the next two decades with global warming of 1.5°C, which we are currently on course to exceed. 

Yet, the global imperialist powers plough on with their agenda of war and exploitation, whilst the capitalist politicians continue to yield to the wants of fossil fuel and tech giant corporations. 

The recent war in Ukraine exposes the true interests of “world leaders”, which lie in securing and advancing the interests of the corporations they represent. While the ruling class has failed to invest in the necessary transition away from fossil fuels, they have found trillions for the global arms industry. 

The capitalist system we live under comes into direct conflict with what is needed to save the future of our world. Under capitalism, the key economic sectors and services are owned and controlled by an elitist minority. The pursuit of profit is the overriding factor that drives our economy. 

Once we recognize capitalism as the problem, the solutions become much clearer. Capitalism means class hierarchy and a ruthless pursuit of profit. Socialism means democratic working-class control of the economy and production for need. If things were produced and distributed based on human need rather than private profit, and if technology were to be directed towards the same ends, humans could live in harmony with the planet. 

We can only do this if the economy is owned and controlled not by big businesses, banks, and other capitalist profiteers, but by working people. A democratically planned socialist economy would facilitate purposeful, targeted, and coordinated action to address this crisis, starting with the nationalisation of energy companies.

On this basis a rapid transition away from fossil fuels would be possible. A publicly-owned green energy company, run by elected representatives of workers in that sector, other sectors, and communities, could oversee the manufacturing, installation and operation of a 100% renewable energy system with smart-grid technology.

A socialist society – run democratically on the basis of need rather than profit – could implement a massive green jobs and public works programme to build new green industries and carry out transition to 100% renewable energy and a sustainable economy. 

This would include things like expanded, green public transport free at the point of use, rewilding programmes and transforming our agricultural system by nationalising the big polluters and supporting small farmers to move toward sustainable practices. 

This is only possible if we break with the destructive logic of the capitalist profit-motive. If we do not, the capitalist system will plunge the world into centuries of climate catastrophe.

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