YESTERDAY the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a damning report that reinforces the message that the United Nations first endorsed in 1994 when it established a Convention to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system.” Since then there have been 27 Conferences on Climate Change (COP), though very little has changed for the better and much has got worse.
The key findings are:
- Human activity has “unequivocally” warmed the planet by 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels.
- Emissions must fall 48% by 2030 to prevent the irreversible damage that would happen if we were to exceed the agreed 1.5°C warming target.
- Global sea levels have already risen by 20 cm on average.
- At least 3.3 billion people are “highly vulnerable” to impacts including “acute food insecurity” and water stress.
- Extreme heat is already killing people in every region.
The IPCC report is clear that the 2050 deadline for net zero emissions will be too late. The wealthy nations should be taking action now to meet their deadline by 2040. It is no good talking about unproven technologies like carbon capture to take emissions out of the atmosphere. We should stop the emissions in the first place by shifting to green energy and energy saving. The wealth is there to do it, much of it in the profits of the oil and gas companies. And, the technology is there as well. Dr Friederike Otto, one of the report’s authors said, “But we don’t need any new magic invention that we have to do research on for the next 30 years or so. We have the knowledge… But we also need to implement this.”
It took 30 years to pass a resolution on fossil fuels (COP26) and it was only last year at COP27 that the decision was made to set up a fund to help poorer countries restore infrastructure damaged by extreme weather. This is not surprising when you consider that hundreds of fossil fuel lobbyists attend COP, and some of them take part in negotiations as part of their national delegations.
We only had decent sewage systems when our rulers could no longer stand the stench from the Thames. Public health regulations were introduced when the rich started dying in epidemics. So what could be more important than saving the planet? It’s the only one we’ve got and, no matter how much wealth and power you have, when the planet burns you burn with it.
But capitalism is a competitive system in the pursuit of profit with no regard for the consequences. Even the mutually assured destruction that would result from a nuclear war has not deterred the great powers from maintaining their nuclear arsenals. That is why socialists call for system change not climate change. It used to be said that we face a choice between socialism and barbarism. Now the choice is between socialism and extinction.
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