Heatwaves raise need for radical action

Researchers are still gathering the numbers, but this summer has seen the warmest temperatures on record over the world’s land areas, as blistering heatwaves and wildfires swept across continental Europe, the UK, China and parts of the US. Both Antarctic and Arctic sea ice levels are declining sharply. 

The world has already warmed by about 1.1°C since the industrial capitalist era began, and temperatures will keep rising without steep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions. The impacts are real, not theoretical – grain yields have declined by 10 per cent due to heatwaves and floods, unleashing mass hunger and displacement. Millions of people living near coasts have been forced from their homes by rising seas and stronger storms, and millions more are expected to flee in the coming years. 

Climate change isn’t “on the way” – it’s here now. The argument that civilization can’t survive without maintaining current levels of fossil fuel consumption is a desperate attempt by big energy monopolies and pro-business politicians to protect the profits of wealthy corporations.  The truth is that our global future is incompatible with an economic system that enriches the ever-shrinking few at the expense of the many — and our planet. Capitalism, imperialism and militarism are the real existential threats to survival of human civilization and of other species. 

While climate change impacts in Europe and North America are widely reported in the mass media, the situation is far more dire in the poorer regions of the “global south” where famines are spreading. To give just one example, the UK-based Jubilee Network reports that 34 of the world’s poorest countries are spending £21.4bn ($33 billion Can) on debt payments a year, but only $6 billion Can. on measures to tackle the climate emergency. Low-income countries are responsible for less than 1 per cent of the world’s historic carbon emissions, while rich countries like Canada, the US and Britain industrialised and became prosperous on the back of vast emissions.

Solutions to this crisis are possible, but they require a very different set of policies. We need urgent action to cut fossil fuel use and mitigate the impact of natural disasters, but also fundamental economic and political change, including debt relief for countries exploited by imperialism, and huge cuts in military budgets. Annual global military spending (mainly by the US and its NATO allies, including Canada) is now approaching $2 trillion – a criminal waste of resources and funds needed to save the planet.


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