The very seriousness of the planet emergency is causing many of us to avoid staring it in the face. If socialists don’t start focusing on the issue, if we don’t start explaining it, who will? After all, every wing of the capitalist class and their representatives are avoiding it.
We see the seriousness in the wildfires that are raging all around the world, from Portugal, Greece and Denmark to Africa (where 70% of wildfire destruction is located) to California. (See this article for more detail.) Where the long term drought is not a cause of wildfires, in other areas it’s creating other crises. This includes in Iraq and Iran, for example.
Some meteorologists are using the timer “global climate disruption” instead of “global warming” because what’s happening is not only long term warming but a general disruption of weather patterns. But whatever term we use, it’s happening faster than any of the scientists had predicted. The main reason is that they didn’t fully account for the “feedback loops.” Such feedback loops include, for example, the effect of the melting of the polar ice caps. The white of the ice caps tend to reflect the Sun’s rays and heat back up into space. As they melt and shrink in size, they expose more and more dark colored sea water, which absorbs the heat instead of reflecting it. Also, as the oceans warm, they tend to release carbon dioxide and methane that has been trapped at the sea bottom for thousands of years.
The melting of the ice caps as well as the Greenland glacier could raise sea levels by up to 90 feet, says one study. In fact, an article on this study says that “We’re not talking about the end of the world itself, but it might well be the end of the world for humans.”
That is how serious the issue is. Yet, what are the capitalist politicians saying?
Clinton and Democrats
During the Hillary Clinton/Donald Trump presidential “debates” of 2016, the issue did not arise once. Not one single time did Clinton raise the fact that Trump is a global warming denier. Nor did the questioners ever ask about the issue.
You would think that the disastrous wildfires raging throughout California would cause the Democrats to raise the issue, since it’s obvious that it’s global climate change that is at the root cause. After all, it’s the drier winters and the longer and hotter summers that is creating the basic conditions for these fires. And given that many of the fires are in Republican stronghold areas, this would give the Democrats a strong issue. You would think they’d raise it, no? Well, think again.
The wildfires and the environment have become an election issue, all right. But how are the Democrats raising it? An article in the SF Chronicle (8-13-18) explains that a Democratic group, “Red to Blue California” is trying to flip nine Republican held seats in part by raising the issue of the fires, including by sending out a mailer. The mailer to voters in the district of Tom McClintock says, “Career politician Tom McClintock’s position on fire prevention is so bad he might as well be lighting the fires himself.” In other words, it’s all a matter of preparation for fires, but nothing about the root cause.
Oil Exploration off California Coast
Another issue in California is that of opening up the offshore area to more oil exploration. This is very unpopular among many, including Republican voters. The Chronicle article explains that Democrats are trying to gain votes by calling for protection of the beaches. But, again, what they are totally refusing to raise is the fact that society has to move away from further oil exploration and further burning of fossil fuel because of the planet emergency, and that this opening up of the offshore area for oil exploration represents the exact opposite of that.
In other words, the Republicans are still in the mode of all-out attack on the environment in general, while the Democrats are trying to use the issue simply to gain some votes while avoiding the central cause.
Connect the Dots!
What we are facing is not “human caused” global warming; it’s capitalist caused! Different socialists focus on different aspects of the ravages of capitalism.
- Some are focusing, for example, on housing and gentrification. What do they think will happen as the seas rise and low-lying coastal areas start to become flooded? Who will be most affected by the resulting housing shortages?
- Others are focusing on the issue of racism. What will happen as global warming increases social tensions? What happened when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005? Who was made to suffer the worst? New climate disasters will have an even worse effect.
- Others focus on the issue of immigrant rights. What will happen to the literally tens of millions of environmental immigrants?
Recently, the openly racist far right has even started accepting the fact of global warming. They are now talking about the white majority in the US being overwhelmed by climate refugees from the global South, most of whom will not be white. They will use this to increase the racist and chauvinist attacks on immigrants of color and people of color in general.
As it worsens, the already existing climate disaster will also be used as an excuse to bust unions and cut pay and further reduce social services. There will be increasing competition among capitalists, tending to lead more and more towards war. (These wars, themselves, will exacerbate global warming due to the millions of tons of CO2 that the explosives will release.)
The situation is not hopeless.
As this article explains, “The world may need to exert considerable effort to take carbon out of the atmosphere through the use of new biological carbon stores and as-yet undiscovered technologies that can remove and sequester carbon.” In other words, it’s possible to start actually removing CO2 from the atmosphere, rather than continuing to add to add it. But to put the resources into figuring out how and to transition away from all use of fossil fuel requires a massive economic commitment of resources. And this requires a massive increase in understanding of the extreme seriousness of the situation we face.
The capitalist class has proven that they and their representatives will not explain this. None of them. They will not teach the seriousness in their schools. Their media won’t explain it, nor will their politicians. That includes left liberals like Bernie Sanders. (No, he is not a socialist. See this pamphlet to compare the differences.) Yes, he raises the issue, but his “explanation” is based on blaming “a small subsection of the one percent” rather than on the system as a whole, and his “solution” is gradualist at best when the seriousness of the emergency doesn’t rely on incremental changes within the anarchic, profit driven capitalist market.
Nor will the Big Green non-profits adequately deal with the issue. They are too connected with the Democratic Party and with capitalism, as this pamphlet, the Environmentalist Manifesto, explains. Socialists should link the issue with the necessity for a mass, working class party with socialist politics.
It is up to us socialists to fully take up the banner. As we explained, global warming affects every issue we are involved in. We should start connecting the dots.