Last month a new record of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration was measured at 420 parts per million — the highest ever recorded. This marks the first time in recorded history where CO2 emissions are 50% more than they were before industrialization. Though annual global emissions were reduced this past year as result of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, the total buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere continues to climb.
The ongoing concentration of CO2 in turn causes a continuous increase in global temperatures, which have already begun to significantly disrupt Earth’s climate cycles and ecosystems. Winters are becoming shorter and springs are arriving earlier than ever before. This is prompting some plants to sprout sooner than normal. In Japan and Washington D.C this year, cherry trees, which are very sensitive to temperature changes, blossomed the earliest time on record in 1,200 years. According to researchers, plants that bloom early tend to grow less and die prematurely. Scientists warn that if temperatures continue to rise, we might reach the point where cherry trees as well as other plant life might not blossom at all.
The consequence of this can be disastrous. Insects and other animal life, whose seasonal life cycles are often in sync with those of plants, might wake up one year to find little to no plants for them to eat. Similarly, if insect populations begin to dwindle, plants might not have enough pollinators for them to reproduce, threatening both their existence. A 2014 study already showed that honey bee populations have declined by as much as 30%, primarily due to climate change. Some plant and wildlife have begun migrating to escape the effects of climate change but it’s becoming increasingly difficult for them to adapt to such rapid changes.
For humans climate change is already having a direct impact on our food supplies. In much of the world, growing conditions for food crops are becoming increasingly unfavorable and unpredictable. Farmers, especially those in developing countries, are finding it harder to grow enough food to feed themselves — let alone the rest of us — due to extreme weather changes. This, too, is forcing record numbers of people to migrate in order to survive — an estimated 21.5 million people are displaced every year due to climate-related disruption.
Even with all these signs of a looming catastrophe headed our way, nothing serious is being done about it. But we shouldn’t be surprised. As long as we live under a capitalist system, those in power will continue to put the economy and fossil fuel profits above all else, even if it means destroying the majority of life on earth. The only way to stop climate change and prevent our own extinction is organizing to put an end to the capitalist system. Only then can we begin to form a new system that prioritizes the planet and the lives of human beings.