A failure of capitalism, but also a failure of the climate change movement
1 December 2022
November 2022's climate conference in Egypt was a disaster. Not only did it not produce any real progress, it was used to greenwash the Egyptian regime and saw an influx of delegates from big oil. The main achievement was to promise compensation for poorer countries most at risk, but these promises have been made before and not acted on.
COP 27 followed COP 26 in London which was a car crash. COP 25 in Paris was seen as a success, but that was only in terms of diplomacy. The French hosts carefully sculpted an agreement that everyone could sign, but the end result was paper promises, not fulfilled. Many people understand the failure of the climate conferences, but are not aware of the scale of the disaster.
The 1.5 C target temperature for global temperature increase by the end of the century now cannot be met. The aspirations and promises of COP 25 and 26 have not been met. We are being told plainly that imperialism is unable and unwilling to control climate change.
Climate does not stand above class struggle. Rather it is buried in it, with the representatives of the billionaire class unconcerned as long as the working-class poor meet the bill. The terrible danger warned of by climate scientists is of "tipping points" where the warming of the globe will be irreversible and human civilisation will end
Central to the failure in Egypt is the new war drive. The US drive against Russia and China is dividing the global economy into two blocs. The struggle is on for control of hydrocarbon fuels. This leads to more carbon use, not less.
However, an outbreak of peace would not change things. Many of the "green drives" by governments and firms are in fact hokum. The majority of hydrogen production is blue hydrogen, produced from oil. The electric car solution is put forward as a way to preserve the car industry while the obvious solution of mass free public transport is ignored.
So future efforts to control climate change will remain firmly in the hands of capitalism. There will be no central control and the emphasis will be on technical schemes, in which the widespread use of nuclear power will factor as a major item. Some of these technical elements will help, but industry will continue to burn carbon until there is a widespread and cheaper alternative.
The future holds truly terrifying climate wars between rich and poor. In the developed countries catastrophe will strike those who live in flood plains, in poor housing or in areas of poor infrastructure. Populations across the world will attempt to flee areas no longer inhabitable, to be met with the guns and fences of the counties most responsible for their suffering.
However, we must recognise that the failure of the climate conferences is also the failure of the climate movement itself. The Green movement has been co-opted by capitalism. The eco-socialist movement is based on NGOs desperately trying to lobby capitalism to move in another direction. The desperate demonstrations by Climate Catastrophe are an attempt to assert the triumph of the will in the face of public demoralisation and apathy.
The birth of capitalism drove forward aspects of scientific thought. In late capitalism much of science is rejected and the authority of scientists subverted. Nowhere is this more the case than in the climate change debate, where even overwhelming evidence is rejected in favour of fake research.
For decades sections of the socialist movement have retreated towards reformist green politics in the expectation that they would gain support. That experiment has failed both in terms of protection of the environment and in terms of the growth of the socialist movements.
It's time to assert the centrality of class politics and of the role of the working class in the fight for the survival of humanity.