“More and more frequent extreme weather events …” “Melting polar ice caps a tipping point with global consequences …” “Rising temperatures are creating conditions in which human labour will be impossible without technical assistance …” “Climate impacts heading into uncharted territory of destruction …” “The most vulnerable populations will suffer most …”
As we go to press, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has issued its latest report on climate change. It rings alarm bells that, distressingly, are becoming all too familiar. The document, conspicuously called United in Science, states very clearly that human society is “headed in the wrong direction” and calls for urgent and ambitious action to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to the changing climate.
One of the notable observations is that, while emissions did decline during the widespread COVID lockdowns of 2020 (although only by 5.4 percent) they jumped back to their pre-pandemic levels within one year and have now surpassed those levels by 1.2 percent.
Why is this important? Because the overwhelming event that happened in the two-year period since the lockdowns was capitalism’s “economic recovery.” Corporate profits surged to record levels, so much so that the corporate profit-to-GDP ratio in Canada is over 22 percent higher now than it was before the pandemic. In the process, capitalism’s fossil fuel reliance has actually increased (talk about heading in the wrong direction) to the point that the backdrop to the COP26 climate conference was US officials begging OPEC+ to boost oil production and the Canadian government threatening to sue Michigan if it shut down the Line 5 pipeline.
Clearly, capitalist recovery has not been good for the planet.
But it hasn’t exactly been great for working people either. As corporate profits soared, workers’ real wages suffered huge cuts through inflation. Public services have been diminished and now face widespread privatization. There’s a definite convergence between the grievance of working people and those of the planet. There’s also a convergence between their interests.
The WMO is absolutely right that society is headed in the wrong direction. What the working class needs to realize is that it has the power to mobilize and head in a new direction. This is the direction of public ownership, economic planning, sustainability and liberation. This is the direction of socialism.
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