29/05/2019 by socialistfight
By Dov Winter
How to Link Climate Change to the Transitional Program
Unless one is a reactionary pro-capitalist and a Climate Change denier, one cannot ignore the catastrophe from Climate Change as it strikes closer to home every year. Every year the overall temperatures are getting hotter. But climate scientists are under a lot of pressure not to tell the full truth about climate change, or face discrimination to the point of losing their jobs, or being outcasted by mainstream institutions and colleagues. Yet the truth is coming out, as it is becoming impossible to hide it:
“NASA’s data for the two most recent years for which data are available (2016/2017) show a warming of 0.95°C when using a baseline of 1951-1980 and a warming of 1.23°C when using a baseline of 1890-1910 (left map on image below). In other words, using this earlier baseline results in an additional 0.28°C rise. When using an even earlier baseline, i.e. 1750 or preindustrial, it could be 1.53°C warmer. . .
“Since air surface temperatures are slightly higher than sea surface temperatures, the result of looking at air surface temperatures across the globe would be a temperature that is approximately 0.1°C warmer. Furthermore, many areas in the Arctic may not have been adequately reflected in the global temperature, e.g. because insufficient data were available. Since the Arctic has been warming much faster than the rest of the world, inclusion of those areas would add another 0.1°C to the rise. Adding this to the above 1.53°C rise makes that it’s already 1.73°C (or 3.11°F) warmer than preindustrial.” (https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/…/how-much-warmer-is-it-no…)
Rise in Temperature Crosses the Point of No Return as Humanity Faces a Horrific Crisis
The UN warns us that Earth cannot get warmer than 1.5 C from pre-industry; if it does, Climate Change will spiral out of control. But it is already 1.73C above pre-industry. This means that the temperatures are crossing the point of no-return, as they are rising up fast because of positive feed-backs. It is likely to be impossible to stop the worst devastating effects of Climate Change after temperature reaches 2 C above pre-industry. With the way things are going it may take only a year or two.
Climate Change already causes growing disasters throughout the world. As the oceans’ levels are rising, small islands are disappearing and people are forced to evacuate. In many low-lying areas like Bangladesh, the rising ocean floods many villages. As a result, millions of people have nowhere to move beside overcrowded cities, where they face impossible living conditions. The climate refugees from Africa, who survive the rough ocean on their flimsy boats, face racism, and death from the growing fascist and nationalist movements in Europe.
In low laying coasts, salt water from the ocean gets into people basements, which is the case, for example, in some areas in Florida. Heat waves are increasing to a level unheard of in recent history. Such heat waves kill many people, in particularly people with health problems and the elderly. A big part of the climate crisis is the permanent absence of water, as glaciers begin to disappear. This can be seen in Asia, where the Himalia mountains are losing their glaciers. This means that at least a billion people will stop having a reliable drinking water.
The Arctic, Greenland and the Eruption of Methane
It is known that methane played an important role in the planet 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, that exposes the methane to warmer temperature, could be catastrophic to all life on the planet. As methane rises to the atmosphere, it creates a powerful blanket that prevents heat from escaping; thus, causing rapid rise in temperature. And, frightfully, this is what is beginning to unfold in the 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.”” (https://www.theguardian.com/…/arctics-strongest-sea-ice-bre…).
Scientists discovered that in some areas in the Arctic a huge amount of methane is about to burst from the thinning ice. As the ice thins because of the Arctic warming, a growing amount of greenhouse gases escape to the atmosphere. Climate change brings stronger winds and higher temperature. Both accelerate the ice melting in the Arctic and Antarctica, which in turn, accelerate the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This process is unlikely to remain gradual. Underneath the melting Arctic ice lies a vast amount of methane, the most potent greenhouse gas. Methane is a much more powerful gas than CO2. It was the huge rise of methane that was the final and decisive factor that caused the Permian mass extinction event: the biggest extinction event earth’s history, that caused the extinction of 90% of all life. At some point, not in the far future, the rising methane in the atmosphere will contribute for a very rapid warming of the planet.
According to Sam Carana, an Arctic environmental commentator, we will lose the September ice in the Arctic 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 by10c degrees within a decade. He probably exaggerates. But even if temperature rises “only” 3-4 degrees above pre-industrial levels, many species will disappear and human society will descend into barbarism, and ultimately be extinct.
Earth could be 2C warmer than pre-industry within few years. The warming will not stop at 2 C degrees. In all the previous five mass extinctions that took place, the temperature kept on rising further. The human factor is causing ascending loopbacks, that are causing temperature to rise in a speed unprecedented in Earth history. Eventually, the extraordinary speed of warming and positive loop-backs, could bring the temperature between 5 to 10 C degrees above pre-industry. 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. The extraordinary speed that humans’ induced Climate Change is taking place, could result in 10 Degrees C rise in decades, not thousands or millions of years. Since capitalism is likely to do little or nothing to stop the rising temperature, the socialist revolution and planned economy that is not based on the release of greenhouse gases must take place, or it could be the end of human civilization within your grandchildren lifetime.
The Unprecedented Rise of Greenhouse Gases
The combination of climate change with the rest of the dramatic environmental degradations that capitalism has caused, will 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. In May 19, 2018, CO2 concentration in the atmosphere was 411.96 ppm. In May 19, 2019 it was 414.75 ppm (https://www.co2.earth/daily-co2), and it will be higher when this article is published. This kind of rise, about 3 ppm within one year is almost unprecedented in earth history. This is too fast for life to adapt. Thus, the extinction crisis of all life on Earth is accelerating.
Fires and The Death of Forests
The abrupt climate change is causing a massive death of trees due to increasing temperature and massive fires. California for example, experiences a dramatic escalation of fires. Every passing year California has more fires than the previous year. These fires kill people at an unprecedented numbers. A fire destroyed the town of Paradise, killing many people. When it was over, nothing was left of the town of Paradise. These days the fire season in California starts in the spring or even in the winter.
Forest’s diseases that kill trees are on the rise, because higher temperatures and a prolonged dry season allow micro-organisms that kill trees to flourish. The dying trees in turn, release more CO2 into the atmosphere. Forests normally absorb CO2, and thus reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But as forests are thinning throughout the world, there are less trees to absorb the carbon dioxide, and carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere. Thus, the destruction of forests accelerates climate change.
Forests fires have a double edge effect on climate change when they burn. When trees burn, they also release a significant amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And less trees (from fire and insects attacks) means that the CO2 is not absorbed by the trees, and it remain in the atmosphere.
In Brazil, the Amazon, the most important lung of the planet, is under attacks by humans. Many illegal burning and clear-cuts take place in the Amazon, mostly to raise cattle or grow crop. The semi-fascist Bolsonaro’s regime is escalating the clear-cuts, without any protests from the main imperialist powers. This process is accelerating also because Climate change caused a number of serious droughts in the Amazon. These droughts are new. They have developed only in 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. With less trees, the Amazon absorbs less CO2, and release less Oxygen into the atmosphere, and more Carbon Dioxide remains in the atmosphere. The degradation of such huge forested areas speedups the process of climate change. The destruction of forests is not confined to the Amazon. It is accelerating in the rest of the world. The California fires, bugs, and droughts destroy many trees. Even Siberia is experiencing massive fires on a regular basis!
Fires are not the only 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 thousands of dying trees from the road. That was 4 years ago! I am sure that the situation is worse now.
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. Unhealthy bare ground releases 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 commentator Sam Carana is not a Marxist. 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:
“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.
“[this] 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.” (http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/…/arctic-ocean-feedbacks.ht… )
The bottom line is that gradual climate change is ending. We are experiencing 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, and 2019 is likely to be a lot hotter:
“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.” (http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/…/2017-was-hottest-year-on-… ).
The Extinction Crisis is Taking Place Now, Not in the Future
What we are experiencing is a leap in warming that life and certainly humans never experienced before in such a short time. The short time span may be the most critical part of the warming. In the past the planet went through a number of dramatic warming. But the warming took place over a period of thousands of years. 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 greenhouse gases, such as CO2 and Methane.
This speed of extinction is
unprecedented in Earth history. Thousands of species of mammals, birds and
insects are gone in the last century. Some disappears because humans hunt them
down, and because humans destroyed most of their natural territories. The
stupidity of humans under capitalism is mindboggling. Take, for example, the
extinction of the Passenger Pigeons in the US: people just shot them as they
flew above people heads, causing their extinction.
As of 2017, 81% of freshwater species disappeared, 38% of land animal are gone, and 36% of Marine species are extinct. Out of the 87,967 species evaluated 25,062 are threatened. (https://www.iberdrola.com/…/climate-change-endangered-speci…). The Zoological Society of London discovered that of the 16,704 populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians, representing more than 4,000 species, the population fell by an average of 60%. Four years earlier, the decline was “only” 52%. It is shocking that the rate of decline went up by 8% in four year! This confirms that the speed of extinction is unprecedented in the planet history.
The Destruction of the Planet Brings the Prospect of a War Among the Imperialist Powers
Only the very decaying system of
capitalism (with its advanced destructive technology), that places maximum
profit for the top billionaires before the wellness of the people and the rest
of life, can create such a massive destruction of life in such a short period
of time. The capitalists’ goals in nature are to extract natural resources and
minerals; and in the process they massively destroy natural lands and natural
life. In addition to that, vast amount of forests and life is destroyed to make
room for agriculture. This process has intensified many times, as human
population has been growing fast.
The imperialist powers compete with each other for the control of the dwindling natural resources. In the process of doing this, they destroy many lives in the planet: all in the name of maximum profit, and a higher rate of profit that the capitalists need to beat the competition.
As a result, nature is disappearing. The oceans, for example, are getting acidic and are warming fast; coral reefs, which are essential for fish and life in the oceans, are disappearing. Corals’ death, the acidization of the ocean, and over fishing are transforming the oceans to the point that the oceans may be devoid of most fish and life in few decades. Earth’s history shows that what was decisive in previous extinctions was the disappearance of life from the oceans.
The prospect for land animals is not much better. The biggest extinction event on earth, the Permian extinction, was responsible for the extinction of 90% of all species. But it took about thousands of years for the extinction to evolve. Under capitalism it is taking only decades for massive extinctions to develop. This process of extinction with a dramatic destruction of nature, creates a growing scarcity of resources and food. Climate Change and human’s destruction of nature, are creating havoc in the planet, as it destroys resources that human civilization needs. For example, there are no alternative means for pollination by insects, and bees in particular. Yet, bees and other insects are disappearing. This could cause a significant reduction in crops’ productivity.
Climate change, combined with the general destruction of nature by capitalism, could intensify the competition among the main imperialist countries to the point of warfare that we have not seen since Second World War. A rapidly dwindling resources will make the “cold” war option among imperialist powers insufficient to guarantee that the most powerful imperialist countries have enough resources to exploit. This brings the prospect of a nuclear war among the struggling imperialist powers. A nuclear war could destroy the planet and human civilization.
Barbarism or Socialism Through the Class Struggle
As the extinction crisis intensified, civilization will first decent into barbarism. The scarcity of resources will intensify dramatically. Severe water and food’s scarcities, combined with severe weather will become the norm. Severe and prolonged droughts will dry many water sources and will make it difficult to grow crop. This is not about the far future. It is already happening in increasing areas in the world.
But we could also see a dramatic rise in the class struggle throughout the world that we have not seen for decades. Millions if not billions of workers’ life will be shuttered. The masses will have no choice but to fight capitalism or perish. The fightback is beginning. There were already high schools and College students strikes and marches throughout the world. As Climate Change is reaching a critical point, these kinds of actions will grow dramatically, because young people know that their life is endangered as Climate Change gets out of control. As climate change increasingly degrades the life of the workers, the unions and other working-class organs will have to act.
Yet, even if the intensified class struggle will bring the prospect of the socialist revolution into life, the human race may 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 greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Time is becoming critical. A mass revolutionary international must be build fast. We do not have decades to build it. It must be built now, with a Transitional Program that, of course, has all the Trotsky’s 1938 demands and method. But in addition to that, we need demands link the class struggle to the fight against the destruction of our planet, and the suffering that Climate Change inflicts on the working class and the oppressed.
Transitional Demands that Links the Fight Against Climate Change to the Class Struggle
Massive relocation: The worst scenario from Climate State is natural devastations throughout the planet. Cities and coastal communities can be devastated after horrific hurricanes that increased in intensity because of Climate Change. Hurricane Harvey, which was called a Hurricane that occurs only every thousand years, damaged 204,000 homes. Three-fourths of the homes were outside of the 100-year flood plain; they were extended far from the coast. Most of the effected homeowners did not have flood insurance. Similar damage resulted from Hurricane Katrina.
To protect people from Climate
Change’s storms, massive re-locations and constructions will take place. In low
living areas the surging ocean flood houses. As Climate Change gets out of
control, waves can flood areas pretty far inland (Hurricane Harvey). When
re-location becomes difficult to impossible walls may have to be built to stop
the surging ocean.
When such disasters occur, we must demand the construction of new homes must be free of charge to the owners. We demand that the construction of these homes is controlled by the unions, with union members doing the construction at top unions’ wages and benefits under unions control.
As Climate change storms become more powerful, and sea’s rise advance, an entire coast, including cities could be submerged under water. If an entire city has to re-build because of hurricane disasters, or an advancing ocean that submerge the coast, we demand the rebuilding of the city and towns. When the entire city or town has is rebuilt, the entire cost must be paid by the capitalist government. And the city has to be rebuilt by the unions with top unions’ wages, under workers’ control. We demand that the union’s workers have a complete control over the process of building.
Fires are increasing dramatically with Climate Change. Every year California has more devastating fires than the previous year, and more death from the fires. Tragic from the fires, like the total destruction of the town of Paradise will become common. The total cost of re-building from a devastating fire must be paid the capitalists and their government. That includes the cost to re-build entire town, or specific houses, and residential areas. Again, such re-building must be done by unions, with union’ control over the entire process of rebuilding, with union top wages and benefits.
The number of longer and deadly heat waves are increasing throughout the world because of Climate Change. For many people, in particular people with health problems, health conditions are worsened; in particular when heat is combined with pollution. Climate change increases such acute health problems, when people are surrounded by fire or fire’s smoke that can extends for many miles.
Strong, dangerous and unpredictable ocean waves’ surges (that Climate Change creates) can also kill people. We demand that all sick and injured people from the effects of Climate Change get top medical care free of charge, all paid from the capitalists and their government pockets. No More insurance fraud! Abolish the profit driven corrupt insurance companies! Free health care for the masses and the working class, that is at least as good as the Billionaires health care!
In addition to injuries from fires and flooding, climate change is responsible to increasing numbers of illnesses, diseases, and epidemics. Most epidemics are in the semi-colonies. Epidemic outbreaks in Africa include: cholera, dysentery, malaria and hemorrhagic fevers, e.g. Ebola, Rift Valley fever, Crimean-Congo fever and yellow fever. As Climate Change develops, outbreaks of epidemics, in particular in the poor countries could get out of control.
When an epidemic outbreak take place in an oppressed nation, the proletariat in the advanced capitalist countries must demands billions of dollars (whatever amount of money is required) and massive amount medications to be delivered unconditionally to the countries affected. Any hesitation by the capitalists and their government should be followed by solidarity strikes and mass demonstrations, followed by the occupation of workplaces as needed. If possible, similar actions should take place in the semi-colonies. Thus, Climate Change can bring massive solidarity between the working class and the oppressed with coordinated actions, like demonstrations and general strikes in the imperialist countries and the semi-colonies.
Climate Change, through floods, draughts, and biodegradation, combined with humans’ general assault on nature, decrease the productivity of soils. Scientists predict that the state of nature is going to get a lot worse as Climate Change advances. Even at the present time, we are losing biodiversity at a speed unprecedented in Earth history. The forests, what is left of nature, and the biodiversity in nature must be protected by any means necessary, including workers and farmers defense guards if it comes to this.
In the big imperialist countries, the big land owners and capitalists use undocumented workers as cheap labor. Tons of unsafe, and sometimes deadly chemicals are used by undocumented workers in agriculture. As a result, many undocumented workers die. In some areas in Central Valley, California, where undocumented workers live and work in the fields, many die from unsafe chemicals that causes cancer. Climate Change exasperates all of this, because of the rise of unrepentant heat. The working class in solidarity with the oppressed undercounted workers must demand that all the chemicals must be tested by specialists from the unions, and only chemicals that passed such tests can be used. They also should demand shorter hours with no cut in pay.
The shorter hours from the Transitional Program (30 for 40) may have to be even shorter, because as the day gets warmer because of Climate Change, it will become impossible to work in a growing portion of the day. This is so, in particular in warm places like Central Valley. But none of this can happen as long as undocumented workers have no democratic rights, and in most cases no rights at all. Thus, the defense of undocumented workers’ health must be combined with the demand for full democratic rights and citizenship for undocumented workers.
Workers Government, Soviets and Climate Change
It is likely that as the disasters from Climate Change worsens, the workers will appeal to the capitalist government for help. But there will be no help coming from the government. As the situation gets out of control, social upheavals will grow. Against the inaction and possible repression by the bourgeois government against brave opposition to oil dependency, strikes and mass demonstrations will take place. But the bourgeoisie will not touch the oil-driven economy, and bolder actions, such as general strikes, and massive occupations of workplaces, universities etc., could take place; these actions could and should lead to dual power.
The Labor Party in England talks about the need to take action against Climate Change. But it is unlikely that the talk will come with the needed radical actions when the Labor Party get elected. Electing a workers’ reformist party is not enough. Hence, the need to raise the slogan of a Workers Government elected by representatives of the working class from the factories, the unions and workplaces.
It is impossible to tell in advance exactly how the social upheavals will unfold. But the more devastating the effect of Climate Change, the greater is the chance that a dual power situation could develop. The fight for a workers’ government signified the struggle for dual power. But the call for a workers’ government is ultimately only a slogan, without the working class taking power. To implement the workers government slogan, the working class must take power. Soviets, are the only historically known form of a healthy workers’ power. And the Bolsheviks’ rise to power could not have taken place without the creation and support from the Soviets. No healthy workers government take power without a social revolution that replace the power of the bourgeoisie with the power of the working class. A workers’ government is a popular expression of the dictatorship of the proletariat. A workers’ government cannot defend the gains of the revolution without the dictatorship of the proletariat that keep at bay all counterrevolutionary forces that will try to reverse history and return power to the bourgeoisie.
Only the International Revolution can Reverse the Disasters from Climate Change
The working class can defend and extend its victory against capitalism only through internationalism and the international revolution. The Stalinist “socialism in one country” only led to betrayals and defeats. It is the same with Climate Change. Stopping the release of greenhouse gases in one country, most likely, will not be enough slow down Climate Change in this country, because Climate Change is an international phenomenon. Thus nothing will stop its advance toward disaster, until no greenhouse gases are release on the international scale. Socialism can only truly work if it is built internationally. It is the same with Climate Change. The fight against Climate Change will fail if only one or two imperialist countries decide to take it seriously. Only the international socialist revolution can ultimately make a dent in the fight against Climate Change.
The need to stop greenhouse gases is urgent. But because humans rely on greenhouse to operate so many machines (cars for example), it is impossible to get rid of oil and greenhouse gases overnight. Even under international socialism it will take some time to stop using oil and gases that cause Climate Change alltogether, and rely solely on other means such as wind-generated electricity, etc. But only in an international socialist planned economy, in which humans, with the working class leadership, take uncompromising efforts to eliminate greenhouse gases altogether, the planet, its living organism and humanity, have hope to be in a living and thriving planet.