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Take on the system to stop climate chaos

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Issue 2390
Recent flooding in Somerset
Recent flooding in Somerset (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Now that parts of their beloved Eton College are under flood water, you might expect even the Tories to get serious about climate change. 

But much of the Tory right still refuses to accept it is happening.

Environment secretary Owen Paterson shrugs that “the climate’s always been changing”. He misreads scientific reports to suggest global warming will be “modest”.

His stand-in Eric Pickles said of the extreme weather sweeping Britain, “To a degree I don’t think it matters whether it’s climate change.”

But climate change matters enormously. Across the world crop failures, rising seas and spreading deserts could bring famine, devastation and disease to billions.

It’s not too late to stop it. Dramatic action to bring down carbon dioxide emissions before they get trapped in the atmosphere is still possible.

That will mean fundamental changes to the way the economy is run. Britain would need to rapidly reduce its emissions by around 80 percent.

It means more public transport, better planned cities, efficient insulated homes, investment in renewable energy, sustainable food production. Measures like these would also improve all our lives.

It means calling off Tory energy plans that would tie Britain into another generation of growing fossil fuel use. The shale gas they want to “frack” needs to stay in the ground.

But none of the main parties are prepared to do this.


And around the world governments pour billions of pounds into subsidising fossil fuels. 

Under capitalism, all human activity is put at the service of accumulating profit.

That is what concerns bosses, not long term issues of depleting resources, destabilising the climate or threatening public health. This short-termism remains true even though they too will end up paying the price.

The revolutionary Karl Marx recognised the conflict between profit and the environment in the 19th century. He saw how capitalist agriculture robbed vital nutrients from the soil in the countryside, only to dump them in the cities in the form of toxic sewage.

Marx said that capitalism had torn a “metabolic rift” between the human economy and the processes of nature—just as it “alienated” workers from each other and the products of their labour.

Healing that rift would mean putting the economy in the hands of the people whose activity makes it run, so it can be planned democratically. That means workers must rise up against the system that exploits them.

Some activists argue that the issue is too urgent to wait for a revolution. 

Of course we should fight for every immediate improvement that we can. But it is only by taking on and beating the bosses and the states that back them that we will stop them poisoning the planet.

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