Earth Day and Climate Justice

This year’s Earth Day (April 22) is the first since the White House was taken over by a clique of climate-change deniers heavily funded by Big Energy monopolies. As Noam Chomsky warns, Donald Trump’s stated goal is to maximize the use of fossil fuels, end environmental regulations, and dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency. This strategy may signal the end of the world, Chomsky says, “even if not quite in the intended sense”.

The release of carbon stored in plants, soil, etc. into the atmosphere, through burning fossil fuels and cutting down trees, means that today’s atmosphere contains 42% more carbon dioxide than during the pre-capitalist era. Extreme weather events are more common, and global surface temperatures have increased by about one degree centigrade since 1880. The 10 warmest years on record (with the exception of 1998) have occurred since 2000. Arctic ice and glaciers have shrunk markedly, and sea levels have risen 15 centimetres over the past century.

Could U.S. withdrawal from even token efforts to limit carbon emissions spell the end of civilization? That is the increasingly common belief among scientists who warn that the tipping point for runaway global warming will arrive soon. The first victims will be island nations and low-lying areas such Bangladesh, already hit by heat waves and rising ocean levels. Working class and poor people everywhere will bear the brunt of climate change, which is truly an issue of global social justice.

As we struggle against the capitalist agenda of austerity, cutbacks, corporate trade deals, and militarism, the fight for environmental justice must be one of the core issues of our alternative programs. Earth Day is often an occasion for corporate interests to “greenwash” their destructive profiteering; instead, it should become a day for working people to demand a new socialist economic system, based on protection of people and the environment.

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