Scientists’ 2nd warning of climate catastrophe: Can capitalism save us?

Drought-wracked lakebed of O.C. Fisher Lake, in San Angelos, Texas. Credit: Tony Gutierrez / AP

More than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries signed a letter warning of the impending irreversible ecological disaster if humanity does not immediately change course. The “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: Second Notice” follows an initial warning letter issued in 1992 by leading scientists that addressed the crisis of climate change.

The letter’s release was timed with the UN Climate Change Conference taking place in Germany and states: “To prevent widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss, humanity must practice a more environmentally sustainable alternative to business as usual. This prescription was well articulated by the world’s leading scientists 25 years ago, but in most respects, we have not heeded their warning. … Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out. We must recognize, in our day-to-day lives and in our governing institutions, that Earth with all its life is our only home.”

The letter states that in the past 25 years:

  • “The amount of fresh water available per head of population worldwide has reduced by 26%.
  • “The number of ocean “dead zones” – places where little can live because of pollution and oxygen starvation – has increased by 75 percent.
  • “Nearly 300 million acres of forest have been lost, mostly to make way for agricultural land.
  •  “Global carbon emissions and average temperatures have shown continued significant increases.
  • “Human population has risen by 35 percent.
  • “Collectively the number of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish in the world has fallen by 29 percent.”

Of the original nine areas of concern outlined in the 1992 letter, only two — the ozone layer and to a lesser degree an increase in renewable energy — have seen improvement while all other areas have been exacerbated. The scientists urge us to look at how ozone layer loss was addressed — by implementing a worldwide ban on CFCs — as an example of how we can address the crisis, pointing out that when the world comes together, we can avert disasters.

While that is true, the solution to the climate crisis 25 years later must be more than banning one chemical. Deforestation, mass species extinction, ocean “dead zones,” dwindling fresh water supplies, all are interconnected and involve an overhaul of the very manner which we live. The crisis of climate change, and all its manifestations seen in the increasing number of floods, wildfires, droughts, extreme weather events, famine, sea level rise … is caused by the worldwide economic system that we live under — and that is capitalism.

Under capitalism we can push for reforms, for renewable energy, for more conservation, for stricter environmental protections, but corporations and their lackeys in government will constantly put up obstacles and slow down progress. And the issue isn’t just the big fossil fuel companies or other big polluters, it is the entire system of capitalism that exists on the premise of maximization of profits, which means overproduction and overconsumption of resources.

You can’t keep churning out products that do not last on a planet with finite resources and with finite space to discard or recycle the used products. So much is wasted in the cycle of planned obsolescence and perceived obsolescence that capitalism thrives on. So much is produced that has little-to-no benefit to humanity, just so a few hundred billionaires can get rich and keep getting richer.

Under socialism and a socialist planned economy, the state (which is run by and for the people, not a gang of millionaire/billionaires) looks at the resources available and how to best use and distribute those resources to benefit all of society in a sustainable way. Under socialism, the long-term benefits to society are paramount, instead of the quarterly profits of the capitalist shareholders.

On the issue of overpopulation as a driver of climate change which the letter highlights, many studies show that as societies become more developed and have more educational and employment opportunities, population growth decreases (97 percent of population growth occurs in less developed countries). Under socialism, which inherently has an internationalist worldview, those with more technology and resources help to lift up countries with less, creating a more equitable world, which would likely slow population growth.

In that same internationalist spirit, the scientists, technology experts, and workers of the world would join together to share knowledge and resources to mitigate the effects of climate change and build a sustainable path forward. Instead of scientists working for one corporation, hiding their findings and keeping their research secret from others so their bosses can profit from patents, all discoveries and advancements in technology would be shared. The example of socialist Cuba sharing medical training and doctors with other countries is a glimpse of what worldwide socialism could achieve.

Skeptics may call this a utopia, but this is the world the Party for Socialism and Liberation and other revolutionary socialists are fighting for. We know that when we are no longer forced to compete for every scrap the capitalists throw us, the true nature of humanity is one of cooperation.

Bolivian Indigenous president and socialist Evo Morales stated, “Capitalism and the thirst for profit without limits of the capitalist system are destroying the planet… Climate change has placed all humankind before a great choice: to continue in the ways of capitalism and death, or to start down the path of harmony with nature and respect for life.”

Join us in the fight for socialism. Together we can win.


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