‘System change not climate change’

Climate March poster

RISE – Scotland’s Left Alliance to join climate march, 28 Nov, Edinburgh

by Colin Fox, SSP national co-spokesperson Governments from all countries will assemble in Paris from 30 November to 11 December for the 21st United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. To coincide with the conference—which will conclude a new legally-binding global deal on climate change—Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS) have organised a march through Edinburgh on Saturday 28 November to “join the worldwide movement marching for a better future ahead of UN climate change negotiations in Paris”.

SCCS is a broad coalition of organisations campaigning on climate change in Scotland. It helped shape the Climate Change Scotland Act (2009) that saw Scotland set some of the strongest climate change legislation in the world. The Scottish Government agreed to reduce CO2 emissions by 42 per cent by 2020 and by 80 per cent by 2050.

The Paris conference will digest the latest research evidence on the levels of global warming and agree measures to limit global temperature increases to 2ºC above pre-industrial levels from now on. It is important that SSP and RISE activists are present and visible on the march because we need to be far more engaged with this issue. Whilst we are not dismissed by ecological activists as climate change deniers, we do suffer from a perception that we do not appreciate the threat or the urgent need for lasting solutions.

Climate change is a big issue for working people in Scotland, particularly although by no means exclusively among young people, and it will feature prominently in next years Scottish Parliament elections. RISE, Scotland’s Left Alliance, therefore needs to get involved in this debate and offer meaningful solutions to imminent climate threats.

The facts and figures surrounding this debate are truly alarming. Climate change increases all sorts of risks to working people including extreme weather, more natural disasters, dramatic loss of life and impact on food security.

Sea levels around the UK for instance have increased 10cm since 1900 as a consequence of climate change. Such increases in sea levels worldwide mean hundreds of millions of people are in danger with Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia, islands in the Caribbean and Pacific facing complete devastation.

Coastal cities like New York, Tokyo, Cairo and London are also at great risk of flooding. All of which threatens mass human migrations on a scale that make this summers Mediterranean crossings seem minor in comparison.

The ten warmest yeas on record have all occurred since 1997. The consequences for agriculture and worldwide crop yields of this trend continuing could be devastating. Southern Europe for example has already suffered severe water shortages, crop failures and threats from wild fires as well as increased deaths from heat stroke particularly among the elderly and infirm.

The number of properties in Britain at risk of flooding from sewer and drainage systems being overwhelmed could rise fourfold and the poorest families will be hardest hit as the cost of insurance and expensive repairs mounts.

The world’s average surface temperature has increase by 0.6ºC in the past 100 years. The increased combustion of fossil fuels since then means global temperatures could rise between 1.4 and 6.0 degrees in the 21st century with potentially catastrophic consequences.

Even a 1.5 per cent-2.5 per cent rise in global temperatures could mean that 30 per cent of the world’s species could face extinction. The US contributes 22 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions.

Around 15 per cent of the carbon released into the atmosphere is the result of deforestation. Climate change also enhances the spread of pests that cause malaria, dengue fever and Lyme disease to greater parts of the world.

Leading US climatologist James Hansen is not optimistic these consequences can be avoided. He argues that atmospheric carbon emissions must be cut by 6 per cent from 400 parts per million to 350ppm by 2100. They are still increasing!

And the esteemed Marxist ecologist John Bellamy Foster offers further sobering analysis writing in the Monthly Review (November 2015). He too does not believe capitalist production can meet these reduction in emissions and concludes we need a “system change not climate change” if the world is to successfully address the challenge.

He concludes, “…despite the widespread awareness of the planetary emergency represented by global warming, carbon emissions have continued to rise throughout the world. The failure of capitalism to implement the necessary cuts in carbon dioxide can be explained by the threat that this poses to its very existence as a system of capital accumulation.”

And he adds: “Turning this economics [capitalism] around, and creating a more just and sustainable world at peace with the planet is our task in the Great Capitalist Climacteric.

“If we cannot accomplish this humanity will surely die. Capitalism will mark the end of human history by bringing to an end human civilisation—and even human existence. The Great Capitalist Climacteric (i.e. a great turning point or critical stage) presents us with a fatal choice: System Change not Climate Change.”

• Scotland’s Climate Change, Saturday 28 November, The Meadows (near Middle-Meadow Walk), Edinburgh, 12 noon. For more details of the march see: stopclimatechaos.org

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