Climate Change threatens mass extinction in a few generations

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11/09/2018 by socialistfight

By Dov Winter in Hawaii – 10-9-18


Hurricane Lane and its devastation effects in Hawaii is a good indicator of the activity of Climate Change. Hurricanes are pretty rare in Hawaii. Only once in 1992, a Hurricane of this magnitude plummeted Kauai. Climate Change has a lot to do with Hurricane Lane. The South Pacific Ocean is about 10 degrees higher than the average normal due to the developing El Niño. This can fuel a monstrous Hurricane. Higher Temperature also fuel more frequent El Niño with devastating effects in different parts of the world. Climate experts predict more El Niño.

The only reason why the human race is still around is that most of the energy from Climate Change goes to the oceans. This will change in the future whereby the oceans will not be able to absorb the CO2 and accelerating temperature will develop on land. But for now, warmer oceans mean more devastations to coastal areas that host millions of people. We begin to see serious damage to homes from storms and rising sea levels. Many suffered from rising ocean water that reached their houses in Florida and Texas. The rising oceans already swallowed small islands and forced the people to move out of these islands.

Because the mass media serves the capitalist class, most of the media minimize the grave dangers from climate change. But the best scientists who do not cave to the pressure of the ruling class say that “it’s already 1.73°C (or 3.11°F) warmer than preindustrial”. [1]

Without a mass movement to fight climate change and its capitalist source, climate change is beginning to explode via temperature rise with devastating effects. The number of people who die from heat waves around the world is rising sharply. Let us be clear about the fundamental reason for this: the source of climate change is the greed of capitalism for maximum profit. Fossil fuel is just a means for maximising profit. This is so, because the use of renewable energy for the world economy, such as solar energy, will require significant overall changes in the mean of productions and factories that the capitalists do not want to pay for.

We are crossing the path of no return by which climate change fueled by positive feedbacks can cause mass extinction of most life, including human life. We already entered the era of mass extinction that could be as massive as the previous mass extinctions, including the Permian mass extinction by which 90% of all life vanished 250 million years ago. The fastest decline among the animal populations was found in freshwater ecosystems, where numbers have plummeted by 75% since 1970. [2] Land land animals and marine life declined by 40% [3] in the same period. [4]

The cause is a systematic human destruction of natural habitats and oceans.  This process is accelerating fast due to climate change.

Capitalism is totally incapable to seriously slow and halt the mass extinction process. International competition between the main imperialist countries is intensifying. Thus, to beat the competition none of the imperialist countries want to spend billions of extra dollars to overall the means of productions, stop the productions of cars run by fossil fuel in favor of electric cars, etc. By doing that, the competition will win and could bankrupt the losing imperialist country.

Since the early 1980s, when scientists first raised the problems of climate change, world capitalism has done very little to seriously combat climate change. Even if some countries in Europe have taken small steps against Climate Change, they have changed nothing, as the vast majority of countries, led and encouraged by the US, keep on increasing the CO2 in the atmosphere. Only a collective economy – a world socialist planned economy that does not run for profit but for the needs of the working class and its allies – can stop the reliance on fossil fuel. But what we do not know for sure is whether it is too late for socialism to stop the destruction of the planet and halt climate change. This depends on whether positive feedback loops develop runaway climate change to the point that we cannot reverse the process. For example, as the ice in the Arctic is diminishing, the exposed ground absorbs heat. The increasing heat warms the Arctic. This causes more ice melting. If these kinds of positive feedbacks cannot be stopped and reversed, civilization will decline rapidly.

On April 1, 2018, methane levels as high as 2744 parts per billion were recorded.

The Arctic, Greenland and the Eruption of Methane

It is known that methane played an important role in the planet in past extinctions. Methane is roughly 30 times more potent than CO2 as a heat-trapping gas. Even a partial melting of the Arctic or Greenland could be catastrophic to all life on the planet. And, frightfully, this is what is beginning to unfold in Greenland. The oldest and thickest sea ice, that is normally frozen even in the summer, has begun to break up, north of Greenland. Scientists say that this is a new era for Greenland:

““Almost all of the ice to the north of Greenland is quite shattered and broken up and therefore more mobile,” said Ruth Mottram of the Danish Meteorological Institute. “Open water off the north coast of Greenland is unusual.”” [5]

Climate change brings strong winds and higher temperature. Both accelerate the ice melting in the Arctic and Antarctica.  The process of ice melting and the large release of CO2 and methane into the atmosphere will unlikely to remain gradual. According to Sam Carana, an Arctic environmental scientist, we will lose the September ice within years, which will result in the release of seafloor methane. At some tipping point, the process of methane’s release could accelerate with catastrophic consequences to life. San Carana thinks that the release of methane combined with other loopbacks will raise earth temperature 10c degrees within a decade. He probably exaggerates. But even if the temperature rises “only” by 3-4 degrees above pre-industrial levels many species will disappear, and human society will descend into barbarism. And it will not stop at 3-4 degrees. Ascending Loopbacks eventually could bring the temperature rise eventually to 10 C degrees. This will cause a mass extinction event similar to the Permian extinction 250 million years ago that caused the extinction of 90% of life on the planet. Since capitalism is likely to do little or nothing to stop the rising temperature, the socialist revolution must take place, or it could be the end of human civilization.

Habitat Lost and the Destruction of Forests Contribute to Climate Change

The combination of climate change with the rest of the dramatic environmental degradations that capitalism has caused could bring us to a tipping point of no return; that is, to a point in which we could not stop the running away climate change with a much hotter climate. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere already has passed 400 ppm of CO2 that scientists warned not to pass.

The abrupt climate change is causing a massive death of trees due to increasing massive fires. California, for example, has a dramatic escalation of fires. Every passing year California has more fires than the previous year. Forest’s diseases that kill trees, also contribute to a big spike of CO2’s concentration in the atmosphere. The destruction of forests accelerates climate change. Forests absorb CO2 and thus reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As the forests are thinning throughout the world, there are fewer trees to absorb the carbon dioxide, thus carbon dioxide rises to the atmosphere.

Forests have a double edge effect on climate change when they burn. Fewer trees mean that the CO2 is not absorbed and it remains in the atmosphere. When trees burn, they also release a significant amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In Brazil, the Amazon, the most important lung of the planet, is under attack. Many illegal burning and clear-cuts take place in the Amazon, mostly to raise cattle or grow a crop. Despite the promise by Brazil to halt the destruction of the Amazon, cutting of trees and burning to avail the new open areas for farming and grazing continue. Climate change also caused a number of droughts in the Amazons. These droughts are new. They have developed only in the last 20-30 years. Since the Amazon is the biggest and most important forest lung (A reverse lung. It “inhales” CO2 and “exhales” oxygen), its degradation has serious consequences for climate change. The degradation of such huge forested areas speedups the process of climate change. The destruction of forests due to climate change is not confined to the Amazon. It is accelerating in the rest of the world. The California fires destroys many trees. Even Siberia is experiencing massive fires.

Fires may not be the worst problem in the forests. With Climate change, the period of dry spells is extended. As a result, trees are weakened and are attacked by insects. The last time I was in the Sierra CA, I saw from the road thousands of dying trees. That was three years ago! I am sure that such problems now are worse.

Many forests’ burning is deliberate. The burned areas are used for cattle raising and agriculture. Habitat destruction by forests cutting and grazing creates vast areas of bare ground.  Bare ground release tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. In addition to the release of CO2 to the atmosphere by clear-cuts, cattle raising release plenty of methane.

The dialectical course of climate change through intensifying loops

The environmental scientist Sam Carana is not a Marxist in the sense that he does not consciously use the dialectics to describe the loops of climate change. But he does a very good job in describing the complex dialectical loops of climate change:

“The world is warming rapidly, and the Arctic is warming much more rapidly than the rest of the world. In December 2016, the temperature anomaly from latitude 83°N to the North Pole was 8 times as high as the global anomaly. Above forecast for February 6, 2017, shows that temperatures over parts of the Arctic Ocean will be as much as 30°C or 54°F higher than they were in 1979-2000. How can it be so much warmer in a place where, at this time of year, little or no sunlight is shining? The Arctic Ocean is warming particularly rapidly due to a multitude of feedbacks.

“As the Arctic is warming more rapidly than the rest of the world, the temperature difference between the Arctic and the northern latitudes decreases, which makes the jet stream wavier.

“The changes to the jet stream make it easier for warm air from the south to enter the Arctic and for cold air to move out of the Arctic deep down into North America and Eurasia. At the same time, this also increases the temperature difference between the continents and the oceans, which is quite significant given the rapid warming of oceans across the globe. The result of the greater temperature difference between oceans and continents is that stronger winds are now flowing over the oceans along the jet stream tracks.

“Stronger winds come with more evaporation and rain, which accumulates as freshwater at the surface of the North Atlantic and the North Pacific. The freshwater acts as a seal, as a lid on the ocean, making that less heat gets transferred from underneath the freshwater lid to the atmosphere. This makes that more heat can travel underneath the sea surface through the North Atlantic and reach the Arctic Ocean.

“As more ocean heat enters the Arctic Ocean and as sea ice retreats, more heat and water vapor will rise from the Arctic Ocean into the atmosphere over the Arctic. Increased water vapor will make it harder for heat to escape into space, i.e. more heat will remain trapped in the atmosphere and this will add to global warming.

“The changes to the jet stream and the associated changes discussed above all lead to further warming of the Arctic Ocean, next to the warming caused by other feedbacks such as loss of albedo [heat and light reflecting back from the white ice to the atmosphere] and loss of ice as a heat buffer. Together, sea ice loss and these associated feedbacks could cause global temperatures to rise by 1.6°C by 2026.

“There are further feedbacks affecting the Arctic, as described at this page. One of the most dangerous feedbacks is methane escaping from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean. As the temperature of the Arctic Ocean keeps rising, it seems inevitable that more and more methane will rise from its seafloor and enter the atmosphere, at first strongly warming up the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean itself – thus causing further methane eruptions – and eventually warming up the atmosphere across the globe.” [6]

The bottom line is that gradual climate change is going to end. We will experience sudden leaps in climate change as reflected in fast-rising temperature throughout the globe. This is already taken place as each year is hotter than the previous year. 2016 was the hottest year on record then. But 2017 was much hotter than 2016:

“When determining which year was the hottest year, care should be taken to avoid bias due to temporary conditions such as the El Niño that was present in 2016 and the La Niña we’re now experiencing now. Above image uses NASA land+ocean January 2012-December 2017 anomalies from 1951-1980, adjusted by 0.59°C to cater for the rise from preindustrial to 1951-1980, to calculate a linear trend that goes some way to smooth out variability due to El Niño/La Niña events. The trend shows that 2017 was significantly warmer than 2016.

“The trend also shows that 1.5°C above preindustrial was crossed back in 2016. This 1.5°C (or 2.7°F) was set at the Paris Agreement as a guardrail that was not to be crossed. The trend further shows that we’ve meanwhile crossed 1.6°C above preindustrial and we look set to cross the 2°C guardrail within years.” [7]

What we are experiencing is a leap in warming that the planet and certainly humans never experienced before in such a short time. The short time span is the most critical part of the warming. In the past, the planet went through a number of dramatic warming. But with few exceptions, the warming took place over a period of thousands of years. But under decaying capitalism, rapid warming takes place within years, not even decades. This is unprecedented in the entire earth history. It creates a significant imbalance between the planet and its atmosphere as the atmosphere collects the rapidly released green gases, such as CO2 and Methane.

Such unprecedented and abrupt climate change is forcing the planet to react violently, so to speak. This is why the honest climate scientists are warning us about extinction. It is not clear when such extinction takes place. Nobody knows for sure whether rapid extinction will start taking place in 10 years (too short of time in my opinion), 30 years or 50 years. The truth is, as I pointed earlier, that extinction of species is already accelerating. Even if it takes 50 years before we see dramatic warming, 50 years is the tiniest fraction of the earth history as well as humans’ history. It means that escalating extinction may happen in your life or your children lives. It will certainly happen within your grandchildren lives.

As the extinction crisis intensified, civilization could decent into barbarism. The scarcity of resources, food, and water (crop’s areas suffer from increasing droughts), will intensify the competition between the main imperialist countries to the point of warfare that we have not seen since Second World War. If the crisis will be extremely severe, a nuclear war could destroy the planet and human civilization. But we could also see a dramatic rise in the class struggle throughout the world that we have not seen for decades. Yet, even if the intensified class struggle will bring the prospect of the socialist revolution into life, the human race will not be out of troubles. The big unknown is whether we have passed the point of no return regardless of what we do. In other words, we may have loops of runaway climate change and warming spiraling out of control, even if we stop spewing green gases into the atmosphere.

It is hard for most of us to grasp the speed of climate change, because of our short life. Earth NEVER experienced Climate Change at such a dramatic speed: “‘Even as someone who has spent more than 40 years thinking about vegetation change looking into the past … it is really hard for me to wrap my mind around the magnitude of change we’re talking about,’ said ecologist Stephen Jackson, director of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center and the lead author of the new study.’” This means, that human civilization could be destroyed in 30 years from now because of such a dramatic speed. The only way out is to connect the urgent question of Climate Change to the class struggle. Some workers may not care, at the present, as long as it does not affect them personally. But this is changing fast. Two massive hurricanes hit the Florida and Texas last fall. Many thousands of workers lost their homes. It was only the indifference of the union bureaucracy and the low level of militancy in the last period that kept the struggle at bay. It is not easy to link the class struggle to massive disasters. Yet, as the situation gets worse and workers lose their home and their jobs, the link will have to be made.

One thing is clear. The revolutionary Trotskyist movement must make a connection to Climate Change in its activities. Transitional demands that connect Climate Change to the class struggle have to be written and implemented. For example, when a mega-storm destroys thousands of workers homes, the workers can demand new homes built by unionized workers at no cost to the workers who lost their home. As hurricanes pounds coastal cities, and seawater expands toward the cities because of Climate Change, a city may have to be rebuilt further from the ocean; again, with unionized workers at no cost to those that are forced to move. All these have to be done via massive class struggle such strikes. It ultimately must be linked to the revolutionary struggle against capitalism.


[1] Arctic News, APRIL 2, 2018, How much warmer is it now?  ( ). Blog edited by Sam Carana, with news on climate change and warming in the Arctic due to snow and ice loss and methane releases from the seafloor.

[2] Freshwater rivers are often home to a wide variety of species from insects, to amphibians, reptiles, fish, birds, and even mammals. Turtles, ducks, otters, crocodiles, catfish, dragonfly and crabs can be found in rivers all around the world, and the Amazon river is even home to the rare and pink, freshwater dolphin.

[3] The number of animals living on the land has fallen by 40% since 1970. From forest elephants in central Africa, where poaching rates now exceed birth rates, to the Hoolock gibbon in Bangladesh and European snakes like the meadow and asp vipers, destruction of habitat has seen populations tumble.

[4] The Guardian, Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years, says WWF, 30 September 2014,

[5] Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, 21 August, Arctic’s strongest sea ice breaks up for first time on record, Usually frozen waters open up twice this year in phenomenon scientists described as scary,



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