AnalysisClimate Crisis

‘Code red’ climate report and the failure of capitalism

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released August 9 warns of a “code red for humanity” if we fail to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Compiled by 234 scientists and based on analysis of 14,000 studies, the new report states that even rapidly cutting emissions immediately means warming will continue beyond 2040 — meaning adaptation measures, as well as immediate mitigation efforts, are crucial.

The report states: “Global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the mid-century under all emissions scenarios considered. Global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.”

We are currently on track to reach 3 C warming based on global emissions reduction pledges, which would be catastrophic. The report’s Interactive Atlas forecasts various scenarios for each degree of temperature increase and its impact on precipitation and temperatures in different regions globally and shows the dire impacts if we fail to act now.

Every corner of the globe is already experiencing ever worsening impacts of the climate crisis — from droughts and wildfires, to temperature extremes, floods and severe storms. Our climate is unraveling and still little is being done to turn the tide despite decades of warnings from the scientific community and the existence of actual solutions. 

The Earth’s systems are rapidly destabilizing faster than previous IPCC reports warned, which tend to be conservative in their predictions. If our so-called “leaders” continue to fail to act, humanity’s future is very uncertain as the life-sustaining systems of the planet falter. The endless growth model of capitalism, that treats everything on the planet as a commodity to be exploited with complete disregard for future generations, is the root cause of climate change. The capitalist “expand-or-die” model is incompatible with sustainability and is rapidly driving the majority of species toward extinction — including our own.

Meanwhile, the billionaires play “astronaut” in their “space race” as the working class around the globe suffers in the real world from climate change. And the millionaires in Congress waste precious time debating the bandaid passive solutions in Biden’s infrastructure bill that may achieve some minor reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, but do nothing to steer the train off course from hurtling over the cliff. 

These millionaire “representatives” have proven time and again to be completely out of touch and unconcerned with the plight of those they claim to represent. From COVID relief and eviction moratoriums to an increased minimum wage, they squabble over even throwing tiny crumbs to the working class while they eagerly hand out trillions to the banks, corporations and military industrial complex. These wealthy politicians, and their billionaire corporate backers, can continue life as usual largely free of the climate impacts that the working class deals with in our “new normal.” They can just go to their second or third home if one burns down or gets washed away in a flood. They can shift their investments so that they actually make profits off these disasters. And they likely don’t even notice the increased costs for food and clean water as droughts impact availability — beyond perhaps seeing an increase in their return on investments in these sectors. Their economic status protects them from the reality that the rest of us face. 

It is poor communities and communities of color that are forced to live in inadequate housing that isn’t weatherized to withstand temperature extremes or to keep out wildfire smoke. It is working-class people who froze to death in their homes in the deep freeze in Texas in February and working-class people in the Pacific Northwest who died in the severe heatwave in June. It is low-income residents in the rural West whose wells are running dry, unable to afford to drill deeper wells, while Big Agriculture drains the precious aquifer for cash crops. It is the immigrant farmworkers who face lethal heatwaves and wildfire smoke working in the fields of California. 

It is poor communities and communities of color that are forced to live in floodplain areas where the affordable housing is, who have their homes washed away from the ever increasing severe storms. It is working-class urban communities that live in sweltering heat islands where temperatures are up to 7 F higher than in wealthy neighborhoods with trees and vegetation — which during prolonged heat waves can mean life or death. It is working-class people who are priced out of flood and fire insurance, who are left homeless when climate disasters occur. It is indigenous communities and low-income rural communities that bear the brunt of pollution and ecological destruction from extractive industries that make profits while continuing to fuel the climate crisis. 

The climate crisis is a class war. The rich can install state-of-the-art air filtration in their mansions so they can breathe easily while the world burns. They can move to higher elevation while the coastal areas are inundated by sea level rise. The 1% richest, the capitalist owners, have caused the climate crisis and their wealth should be used to solve it. 

We must stand up and demand that the government take action to protect the people from the unfolding catastrophe and do everything possible to stem the crisis. We cannot allow fear to demobilize us. There are real solutions and must join together and demand real action. And if our “leaders” continue to stall and make excuses, we must rise up and replace them with people and a system that truly does represent us. And that system is socialism, where the resources and knowledge of society are used for the benefit of all of humanity and the planet. 

Under socialism, our representatives would be those most qualified and knowledgeable to do the job, not those who have the millions needed to pay for campaign ads and a marketing team. Our representatives would be scientists, ecologists, engineers, medical doctors, educators, farmers and other leaders from our communities, who understand the problems and the solutions. These are the people we need in leadership — people who are workers themselves — who can mobilize all sectors of society to make the transition to an equitable and ecologically-regenerative society where humanity and all life have a positive, livable future.

Tina Landis is the author of the book Climate Solutions Beyond Capitalism.

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