Global Climate Change: The Fight of Our Lifetimes

For decades scientists have pointed out the dangers of climate change. But the response from governments, the energy industry, banks and corporations has been to accelerate environmental destruction. We can’t leave the fate of the planet in the hands of those who have created this environmental crisis. They will continue to pollute the earth as long as it is profitable, even if it means destroying much of the life on this planet.

For the last three years, each year has been the hottest on record. Warmer temperatures have increased the amount of moisture in the atmosphere because warmer air holds more water. Extreme weather changes, from massive downpours and flooding to intense hurricanes and blizzards, have been happening more often than at any time in the last 100 years.

Climate change causes ice caps and glaciers to melt, raising sea levels. Ice that took 1,600 years to form in the Andes Mountains in South America has melted in the last 25 years. The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have melted by 30 percent since 1972. Global sea levels will rise by seven feet by the end of the century.

Climate change is rapidly turning fertile land into desert. The major deserts of the world are all increasing in size. As droughts increase and deserts grow, the U.N. estimates that more than 250 million people have been pushed off their lands and one billion people in over 100 countries are at risk.

As a result, ecosystems all over the planet are being destroyed, threatening over 50 percent of all animal species with extinction.

Profiting From Destruction

Meanwhile the attitudes of the big corporations and financial institutions is business as usual. Their priority is not life on this planet but only what’s best for their bank accounts. As the planet heats up faster than ever, these companies are slamming on the accelerator.

As rising temperatures break up the glaciers in the arctic, energy companies only see new sea passageways opening up the possibility for future oil drilling. All major oil companies have begun drilling in the Arctic and plan to expand.

Across the Appalachians in the U.S., companies are blowing up mountaintops to get the coal. Communities are being destroyed, their health ruined, their homes destroyed, and their history erased before their eyes. As these mountains are blown up, some of the world’s most biologically diverse forests are being cut away. Local rivers and streams are being filled with toxic debris from the blasts, destroying the drinking water, killing off local species,  flooding the area.

One of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. is hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” a method of drilling for natural gas by forcing toxic chemicals into the ground, poisoning the groundwater, polluting the air, killing the animal life, and causing cancer, brain damage, and bone depletion in humans.

In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform of British Petroleum failed, causing the worst oil spill in human history. The danger from offshore drilling is clear but in 2012, the U.S. government issued more than 90 new drilling permits — more than the last two years combined.

To keep track of global warming, scientists measure the amount of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) dumped into the atmosphere each year. Last year, the amount of CO2 emissions increased by the largest amount ever recorded. So as we see endure the impact on the environment, more carbon is being dumped into the atmosphere, not less.

There is no debate about the path humanity is on living under this economic system called capitalism. Scientists agree that if world temperatures rise more than two degrees Celsius, then massive extinction of life is likely. If we leave the future of our planet up to the energy companies, financial institutions and the world’s largest corporations, they are clearly going to take us far beyond that two-degree limit. According to NASA’s former top climate scientist, James Hansen, if corporations continue on their same course, the amount of carbon that will be dumped into the atmosphere will likely raise global temperature 4 to 8 degrees Celsius. As Hansen has said, this will be “game over for the climate.”

Capitalism is based not on meeting the needs of people or the planet, but on exploitation – of workers at their jobs and of the planet for raw materials. As long as there is money to be made in the short run, they have no concern for what’s happening in the long run. Whenever experts make recommendations to reduce carbon emissions, the response from business leaders has been to reject the recommendations, claiming that they would require the reduction of too much production, bankrupting too many companies. To them, nothing is more important than the profits of their companies, even when it means the destruction of the environment.

No Future Under Capitalism

There is no reason we should accept this. There is no future under this kind of a system. Our lives and our planet are worth more than their system of pollution for profit. It is in the interests of the vast majority of people on this planet to stop this environmental destruction.

Across the U.S., people have been gathering to resist the devastation from energy companies. In Appalachia, communities have banded together trying to block mining companies from destroying the forests. Small farm towns across the country have been trying to block energy companies from coming in and destroying their water and living areas through fracking, and in some entire states and counties they have been successfully organized to ban fracking.

One of the biggest fights so far is to stop the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a destructive project that would pump over one million barrels of oil daily from Canada’s tar sands to the Gulf Coast. The oil in the Keystone pipeline could poison drinking water, threaten the communities it runs through, and will speed up the warming of the planet. Protests have been coordinated from Canada to Texas to try to block this project from continuing.

These spreading protests are in response to the urgency of the problem of global warming. And they are a sign that more people are ready to act to stop the devastation to our planet. We can’t allow those responsible for wrecking our planet to remain in control of our world. Our future, the future of humanity, depends on us, on ordinary people, on workers who make this society and our world run. Collectively we have the power to run the world in our own interests.

We can organize a society that doesn’t need to blow up mountains or drill through the arctic or destroy the planet. We can organize a society that is based on the idea of producing what we need to survive, using as few resources as possible, of harnessing the least destructive sources of energy, of eliminating wasteful production – of recognizing that in order for our species to survive, we have to preserve the planet and not destroy it. This is the only future that humanity has and it depends on us to make it a reality.