Climate change: we are crossing the tipping point of no return

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30/12/2019 by socialistfight

By Dov Winter

The Amazon has reached a “tipping point” where the rainforest has begun to self-destruct—and a “major reforestation project” is required to save it, according to the editors of a leading scientific journal.

Marxists know that objective reality take precedent over the subjective view of the objective world. Lenin wrote that we can never grasp fully the objective reality; and the best Marxists, who consciously use the dialectics, can only strive to get closer in understanding the objective world. It is for this reason that the great majority of people do not grasp how fast climate change is evolving. Climate Change is going now through an evolutionary leap. Trotsky describes how evolutionary leap take place:

“Whoever has come to understand that evolution process through the struggle of antagonistic forces; that a slow accumulation of changes at a certain moment explodes the old shell and brings about a catastrophe, revolution. . .” [1]

This evolutionary leap that Trotsky wrote about is at present the tipping point in Climate Change. We are at a critical conjunction, in which we can either have a socialist revolution that will allow us to stop and hopefully reverse the effects of Climate Change, or face the catastrophe that Trotsky wrote about. Scientists say that we are crossing the tipping point. Prognosis for life on earth is bleak, unless the socialist revolution will happen not in the far future, and humans will find a way to remove the greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

The big tipping point of the Amazon forests

There are several tipping points that are taking place. In this article I describe two tipping points: in the Amazon forest and in the Arctic. An important tipping point is the transformation of the Amazon forest into a savanna. Twenty percent of the Amazon has been already transformed into a savanna. Thomas Lovejoy of George Mason University and Carlos Nobre of the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil say that:

“The precious Amazon is teetering on the edge of functional destruction and, with it, so are we. Today, we stand exactly in a moment of destiny: The tipping point is here, it is now.” [2]

And according to the Washington Post:

“The Amazon is 17 percent deforested,but for the large portion of it inside Brazil, the figure is closer to 20 percent. The fear is that soon there will be so little forest that the trees, which not only soak up enormous quantities of rainwater but also give off mist that aids agriculture and sustains innumerable species, won’t be able to recycle enough rainfall.

“Particularly worrying, he [ Terry Hughes, a scientist] said, is a recent study showing how trees are faring in more than 100 locations across the Amazon. Led by Adriane Esquivel Muelbert of the University of Leeds, researchers found forest transition has begun — trees accustomed to dry conditions are more likely to grow now while trees that require more moisture are disproportionately dying in places where climate changes are the greatest.” [3]

With the reactionary right-wing, proto-fascist regime in Brazil, that declared an open season to destroy the Amazon forest, the Amazon could become a greenhouse emitter in few years. That means a huge amount of greenhouse gases will get to the atmosphere. The greenhouse gases in the atmosphere could simply double if the Amazon forest is gone. We simply can never allow this to happen. The working class in Brazil must overthrow the Bolsonaro’s regime, and stop the destruction of the Amazon. This must happen or the tipping point cannot be stoped. Some scientists say that the tipping points stretch over a period of years, which give us some flexibility to stop them. I hope they are right, because: 

“At that point [of tipping points], much of the rainforest could decline into a drier savanna ecosystem. Rainfall patterns would change across much of South America. Several hundred billion tons of carbon dioxide could wind up in the atmosphere, worsening climate change. And such a feedback loop would be tough to reverse. [4]

The scientists are right. The disappearance of the Amazon forest alone is enough to cause climate change out of control. If the Amazon becomes a savanna, it could be all over for most life on Earth.

22 Jan 2019, Greenland’s ice is melting so fast that it could become a major factor in sea-level rise around the world within two decades, scientists said in a new study.

The big tipping points of Greenland and the Arctic

There is other news that portrays a dreadful story for life on earth. Greenland is melting very rapidly, much more rapidly than scientists thought before, and the Arctic is becoming a greenhouse emitter! In other words, there is enough exposed soil in the Arctic and Greenland to make them greenhouse gases emitters, something that did not happen for many thousands of years. This tipping point is as catastrophic as the Amazon tipping point as the Arctic and Greenland are becoming greenhouse emitters:

“. . . a report this month from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration laid out evidence suggesting that the global Arctic already has become a net emitter of carbon dioxide because of the thawing permafrost. That would be a profound shift for a region that includes vast stretches of Alaska, Canada, Siberia and Greenland, and which has long stored massive amounts of carbon in its frozen soil.” [5]

It is impossible to overestimate how serious is this. The arctic and Greenland have at least as much carbon dioxide as the entire amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And this carbon dioxide is rapidly going up to the atmosphere. But this is only part of the problem. Under the melting ice in the Arctic there is a huge amount of methane, a greenhouse gas that is much more effective than carbon dioxide for the warming of the planet. Under the ice in the Arctic there is enough methane to cause massive extinction of life, including human life. The rise of methane to the atmosphere is increasing rapidly throughout the world. According to research, the rise of Methane to the atmosphere was the final blow that caused the extinction of 90% of life in the Permian era.

Scientists keep on underestimating the speed of climate change

Now a growing number of scientists say that they underestimated the speed and seriousness of Climate Change:

“That point of no return, commonly referred to by scientists as a tipping point, ‘is much closer than we anticipated,’ Nobre [a climate scientist] said in an interview. “the Arctic’s permafrost, has ‘indeed been underestimated by climate science,’ said Stefan Rahmstorf, the head of Earth system analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.” [6]

That makes one wonders if scientists are still underestimating how advanced is Climate Change. But there still may be enough time to reverse it. Don’t count on capitalism and its politicians to do anything about it. Some liberal politicians may talk about the need to tackle Climate Change. But they will not do anything about it because they are wedded to Big Oil and other capitalist corporations that profit from oil and oil’s products such as plastics that are destroying the planet.  The situation is dire. But there are few encouraging signs of young people organizing massive demonstrations against Climate Change.

The only hope is that the working class join these young people with its maximum power of massive strikes, and occupations of oil rigs and oil companies. Ultimately the working class must take power, and introduce an international planned economy that is based on clean energy, and let the huge reserves of oil rest in peace deep in the ground.

Notes


[1]Leon Trotsky, The ABC of Materialist Dialectics (December 1939), https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1939/12/abc.htm

[2]. Chris Mooney and Chris Mooney, Dec. 20, 2019, The Washington Post, Climate and Environment

Top scientists warn of an Amazon ‘tipping point’https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/top-scientists-warn-of-an-amazon-tipping-point/2019/12/20/9c9be954-233e-11ea-bed5-880264cc91a9_story.html#comments-wrapper

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid

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