Climate change: “We’re running out of time”

climate-changeHundreds of thousands of people in the USA are expected to protest outside the United Nations climate change summit in New York on 23 September to demand serious and immediate action to avert a looming global environmental catastrophe. But the world’s capitalist powers are incapable and unwilling to bring about such change as Pete Mason argues.

In the course of 24 hours, as it meandered towards the fishing communities of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, Hurricane Odile suddenly intensified to a life-threatening category 4 storm with 135 mph winds, enough to destroy the flimsy low-lying homes of the 30,000 people rushing to shelter. Odile is the worst storm to hit the region, superheated by the Pacific Ocean. Two English holidaymakers died when their boat capsized.

Deadly weather events are magnified and multiplied by global warming. The ocean’s absorption of global warming gasses and heat, while temporarily slowing the rise in land temperatures, is “unprecedented” compared to 300 million years of records, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) recently announced. More carbon dioxide (CO2) was emitted into our atmosphere between 2012 and 2013 than in any other year since 1984, the WMO said, commenting: “We are running out of time.” August 2014 and the June – August Northern Hemisphere summer period of 2014 were Earth’s warmest since records began in 1880, NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) reported. NASA also rated August 2014 as the warmest August on record.

Workers, peasants and rural poor of Kashmir are in the midst of the worst flooding for over a century as India and Pakistan floods, with hundreds of deaths reported. The earth’s warmer atmosphere holds more water, ultimately leading to increased flooding.

Meanwhile food-producing states in the USA like California and Texas, having conquered markets from poor farmers around the world, face extraordinary and unprecedented droughts in 2014 exacerbated by climate change, threatening worldwide food price rises, starvation and revolt.

This global economic and social catastrophe has sent heads of state, including the UK’s Prime Minister, to New York for a new United Nations-backed climate summit. They will be met with the “largest climate march in history” according to organisers, with similar marches planned in London and elsewhere around the world on 21 September. Seattle city councillor Kshama Sawant, a member of Socialist Alternative, will be a speaker in New York.

Yet despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, climate scepticism is still rife among Tory MPs, as a recent poll showed. What good will Cameron and his ilk do in New York, apart from feed themselves silly?

No one denies that previous summits have been failures. Nothing short of taking the oil companies, energy giants, transport companies and other industries into public ownership will even begin to lay the ground for stopping the out-of-control juggernaut that is capitalism from crashing and burning the whole planet.

Only public ownership, under the democratic control of the workers, can provide the basis for an ecologically-minded plan of production to be democratically drawn up, agreed and implemented without hindrance.

US companies keep almost $2 trillion offshore, hidden from tax officials. Such wealth, if utilised for the majority, could mean a decent world for every human being safe from fear of flood and drought.

Ending the anarchic, failed market system in the industries which are essential to human well-being is critical to reversing climate change. Yet who can imagine David Cameron, Barack Obama, or the rest of them contemplating such a socialist solution?

With giant companies at each other’s throats, and capitalist ministers in hock to big business, all thoughts of a rapid, coordinated move to a carbon-free world are lost. The workers and poor of the world must take the initiative and tip these fossils and their fossil fuels into the dustbin of history.