Leaders of countries from all over the world are in Paris, France at the U.N COP21 meetings to discuss the problem of global warming. Up to 30,000 people are participating in the conference and hundreds of thousands more have been demonstrating around the world for real action.
Following the terrorist attacks in Paris, the French government banned all demonstrations. The first to be cancelled were demonstrations by French workers who had planned to demonstrate against layoffs and the attacks of the bosses.
The French government called, instead, for national unity in the face of the terrorist attacks – a unity with the corporations and government whose goal is to defend the bosses’ profits. It is the same unity that the world governments and corporations will call for through the COP21 meetings in Paris.
We do need unity, but not unity with those who are responsible for the continued destruction of the Earth’s ecosystems. We need unity to confront the destruction, but not unity with those whose first concern is their own wealth and profits.
We need to build unity with those who understand the reality of the situation we confront, like former lead NASA scientist, James Hansen. He says if we hope to halt the devastating effects of climate change, there needs to be less than 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We are currently at 400 parts per million and increasing rapidly. This is largely due to the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil. The result is that year after year, the Earth’s temperature has been the hottest on record. Hansen and other scientists say the time to stop this insanity is NOW. They are right.
Everywhere we look, we can see the disastrous consequences of climate change today. From droughts to typhoons, extreme weather events are becoming more common. Parts of California, Africa and China have experienced years of drought. Another massive typhoon hit the Philippines recently, killing at least 54 people. This continued drastic change of the Earth’s climate will mean that many regions will no longer be able to support life, as we know it – whether due to increasing rise in sea levels, droughts, famines or powerful storms.
Despite all of this evidence, the people in power continue to play games with our lives and do nothing to address the causes of climate change. Their conference in Paris will conclude with empty agreements and declarations that will have little or no impact, other than to try to protect their profits.
And why has there been no real action? To take the threat of climate change seriously, would mean confronting the system that has created the problem – a system that puts profits above people and life on Earth. Scientists say that if more than one-fifth of the fossil fuels owned by the energy corporations are burned, there will be catastrophic consequences to the climate. The estimated value of these fossil fuels is 27 trillion dollars! We can’t expect those who control these corporations to give up the wealth they claim as their own.
People have been organizing against the destruction of the environment in many ways. Locally, people in Richmond continue to organize against Chevron’s pollution. Up and down the Bay, people have organized against the shipment of massive amounts of tar sands oil and most recently against the building of a coal terminal at the Port of Oakland. As the conference began, 750,000 people around the world demonstrated for an end to man-made climate change – for life and for our future.
Some people are concerned about the loss of jobs, if we shift away from the fossil fuel economy. But we can’t fall into this trap. Ultimately, there will be no jobs for anyone on an uninhabitable planet. We need an economy that is not based on profiteering, but puts life at the center. People will work to live, not live to work to make others rich.
The conference in Paris may produce some hopeful proposals and calls for unity to make them happen. But we should know better. The unity we need today is the unity of workers, peasants and farmers across the world, to use our power and to fight for a society that sustains us as well as all life on Earth. Our lives depend on it!