In a week in which the American Rebublican Party appears to have ‘discovered’ the answer to the climate emergency, the world, as reported yesterday, is set for some very alarming records. Temperatures in Death Valley, which runs along part of central California’s border with Nevada, reached 52° Celsius on Sunday at the aptly named Furnace Creek, according to America’s National Weather Agency. Most of Italy is now under a red weather warning, meaning the heat poses a threat to everybody, not just vulnerable groups.
According to the BBC, the extraordinary heat is being caused by “a high pressure system bringing warmer, tropical air, south of a jet stream currently stuck over central Europe.” You have to scroll down quite a way before they admit that climate change might be implicated. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Republicans have found the answer: plant a trillion trees.
Visiting a natural gas drilling plant, Speaker Kevin McCarthy said: “We need to manage our forests better so our environment can be stronger. Let’s replace Russian natural gas with American natural gas and let’s not only have a cleaner world, let’s have a safer world.” They claim to have support from scientists. Right-wing think tank, the World Economic Forum, quotes ecologist Tom Crowther who says: “Tree restoration can be a powerful tool.” He does indeed, but in an article in Time Magazine last year he also says: “If carbon becomes the part of nature that we value most, then people are incentivised to plant monocultures of fast-growing trees (or farms of carbon), which grow at the expense of everything else.” In other words, whilst trees are good for the environment, that only works if they are part of a system of biodiversity.
When Republicans argue for a trillion trees, they tend to miss the bit that to plant that many trees would require the entirety of the American continent. They also conveniently omit the fact that the UK government, which has a tree planting programme, has barely managed half the number they promised.
That is why more informed voices, such as Greenpeace, are saying we cannot save the environment by ‘offsetting’ our carbon emissions. We need to cut the carbon emissions in the first place. As they point out, a newly planted tree can take up to 20 years to capture the amount of CO2 that these schemes propose. They are clear, and we should be too: tree planting is a gimmick that is designed to allow the rich to continue to make money from the very sources of climate degradation that their schemes promise to offset.
It is, in effect, a cynical manoeuvre by those committed to destroying the planet as a source for human life in the long term, so that they can make money in the short term. Your life, and my life, are in the cross hairs here. We must continue to agitate in every way we can to reduce, not offset, carbon emissions. That is going to mean some very tough decisions going forward. Anybody who thinks we can save our living environment and carry on as we are is deluding themselves. The time for talking is now done. We can see in the USA and Europe the extreme conditions that will become our norm if we do not take action.
That action, at the very least, must involve wide scale changes in the way we live. But ultimately the fight for climate justice and the fight for human justice (and for socialism) are inextricably linked. There is no middle ground; you are either for survival or you are not. It is rapidly getting to the point where pretending that climate protesters are the problem will mean the end of the world as we know it.