Socialist Worker

Profit, not people, is destroying the climate

Issue No. 2767

The blame for where we are now lies directly with the 100 fossil fuel companies that have been responsible for 71 percent of global emissions since 1988

The blame for where we are now lies directly with the 100 fossil fuel companies that have been responsible for 71 percent of global emissions since 1988


The undeniable evidence of climate change from this week’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change cannot be ignored by any reasonable person.

The argument is what to do about it. Most sections of the mainstream media blame humanity as a whole for what is happening and advise individual actions. 

All such analysis avoid a central question—one raised by the revolutionary Vladimir Lenin as long ago as 1894.

Faced with the seeming “inevitability” of certain political outcomes, he asked “exactly what social economic formation gives the process its content, exactly what class determines this necessity.”

Climate chaos flows from the capitalist system that subordinates humanity and the rest of nature to the demands of profit-making. It is the ruling class who will fight to the death to defend this system.

The blame for where we are now lies directly with the 100 fossil fuel companies that have been responsible for 71 percent of global emissions since 1988. And governments across the world have lined up to defend such corporations and the wider system that is pushing towards extinction.

The Paris Agreement, signed in 2015, was meant to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Since then, money being invested in fossil fuels has increased.

It is indeed too late to avoid many damaging climate effects. But it is not too late to stop the system driving us to destruction

Allegra Stratton, the government’s Cop26 spokesperson, suggests not rinsing your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher to help the environment. Such messages are a deliberate avoidance of the radical action that’s really necessary.

Blaming ordinary people creates a race to the bottom. People living in the Global South where infrastructure is poor are already blamed for cooking on open fires.

These people aren’t to blame, but they are more likely to pay the price of the climate effects. Ordinary people are not the cause of the climate emergency. Instead, people in revolt are the solution.

It will take a sustained mass movement, and an assault on capitalist priorities to win the change we need. In facing the terrible future of fire, flood and drought, there is a danger of fatalism—the idea that all of this is an accomplished fact.

It is indeed too late to avoid many damaging climate effects. But it is not too late to stop the system driving us to destruction.

A good beginning is to join Extinction Rebellion’s UK Rebellion starting on 23 August. It has the immediate demand on the government to take action to stop all new fossil fuel investment.

Then in November the Cop26 gathering in Glasgow has to see massive mobilisation against the politicians and corporations who are enemies of a sustainable future.

And we need to combine such mobilisations with all the other working class battles to resist and defat the system that has created climate horror.


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