Changing the System, Not the Climate

By Pascualina Curcio on October 4, 2021

Tricolor Flowers, photo: Bill Hackwell

During the last 50 years there has been, on average, one natural disaster every day resulting in the deaths of 115 people and losses in the order of US$202 million (also per day). Compared to the five previous decades

natural disasters have increased five fold, deaths have tripled and economic losses have increased seven fold.

Between 1970 and 2019, 2 million people have died as a result of 11,000 disasters counted among droughts, floods, heat waves, fires, storms and hurricanes. The economic damages are around 3.64 trillion dollars during that period. Those that caused the greatest human losses were droughts (650,000 deaths), storms (577,232), floods (58,700) and extreme temperatures (55,736) of which more than 91% occurred in low-income countries (Atlas of mortality and economic losses from weather, climate and water extremes 1970 – 2019 of the UN World Meteorological Organization, September 2021).

The main cause of these “natural” disasters is the climate change that the planet has undergone in recent times. This change, in turn, has been caused by the alteration of the greenhouse effect associated with global warming, which in recent decades has been increasingly accelerated.

A Broken System

Scientists affirm that the greenhouse effect, since the Earth has been the Earth, is a natural and fundamental phenomenon for the life of the planet. It allows the planet to retain the heat that arrives from the Sun and maintain a balance between this energy and the energy the Earth lets out to space in order to guarantee average temperatures conducive to the development of all living species. The problem arises when this natural balance is broken as a result of the emission of a greater quantity of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide CO2, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases) causing extreme increases in the Earth’s temperature, melting of the polar ice caps and glaciers, rising sea levels and acidification of the oceans. Under these conditions, meteorological phenomena are more intense, frequent and extreme.

Global warming that has been registered on our planet for at least the last century has not been natural but is instead of human origin. It has to do with the way humans inhabit the Earth and is largely linked to the excessive use of fossil fuels (Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, August 2021).

Capitalism vs The Climate

The increase in greenhouse gas emissions is closely associated with the mode of production and consumption that has dominated and characterized humanity since the Industrial Revolution: capitalism. This economic system, which some defend and define as “successful”, is based on the need to accumulate and concentrate more and more capital, which is only possible with higher levels of production which, in turn, require higher levels of consumption and also of wastage and waste, to the point that even obsolescence schedules and “sell-by dates” have been invented, among others, to justify this increased production.

In capitalism, profits and the consequent accumulation and concentration of capital by the bourgeoisie is born in the production process. For there to be greater profit there must be greater exploitation of workers which is only possible in the social process of production itself. As such, the more that’s produced the greater the possibility of exploitation, profit, accumulation and concentration of capital. To justify greater production, products must be placed / consumed / misused / wasted – whatever serves the logic of producing more. It is also the case that more production implies more consumption of fossil energy and more emission of greenhouse gases. Based on selfishness, capitalism is a system that devastates life on the planet.

CO2 emissions increased, on average, 260% worldwide between 1960 and 2018, from 9,463,000 kilotonnes (Kt) to 34,041,000 Kt. China was the country that recorded the largest increase in CO2 emissions during this period, at 1,221%, making it today the largest contributor (30%) to global greenhouse gas emissions. It is followed by the USA, which emits 15% of CO2, the European Union (8%) and India (7%). These are World Bank figures.

While upper middle-income countries emit 46%, almost half, of the carbon dioxide, lower middle-income countries emit 16% of the total. However, the latter are the ones that suffer the greatest environmental effects, which are not only natural disasters, but also include the reduction of the source of water for domestic, agricultural and hydroelectric use, the displacement of populations for climatic reasons, changes in the location of fish stocks, crop damage and famine.

This is yet another example of the failure of capitalism which, in addition to generating inequality, poverty, hunger and misery in the world, also destroys the planet itself and destroys life. Fidel Castro had already warned almost 30 years ago: “an important biological species is at risk of disappearing due to the rapid and progressive liquidation of its natural living conditions: humankind” (UN Conference, Brazil, 1992).

In 2015, 197 countries adopted the Paris Agreement by which they committed to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions worldwide and limit the global increase in the Earth’s temperature this century to 2°C and strive to limit it to 1.5°C compared to the levels recorded in the pre-industrial era. However, last week, at the 76th UN General Assembly, Antonio Guterres said, “…we are not on track to meet the Paris Agreement targets … ‘it is a code red for humanity.’ With current national climate pledges, emissions will increase 16% by 2030. That would condemn us to a hell of temperature increases of at least 2.7°C above pre-industrial levels.”

Chavez Called It

The COP21 Paris Agreement reached in 2015 was an agreement to change the climate, to limit the increase some, without any mention then or now of the mode of production and the predatory capitalist system – true causes of the devastation of our planet. In this respect, we recall the words pronounced by Hugo Chávez at the XV UN Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen, in 2009: “Let us not change the climate. Let us change the system which is based on consumerism and squandering by a few while the great majorities are left hungry and suffering”.

Source: Ultimas Noticias, translation Resumen Latinoamericano – English