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Why capitalism can’t solve the climate crisis

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Issue 2647
The COP21 summit in Paris achieved nothing other than politicians agreeing something ought to be done, at some point
The COP21 summit in Paris achieved nothing other than politicians agreeing something ought to be done, at some point

This year has seen the birth of a militant new climate movement on the streets.

But despite a renewed focus on the issue of ecological catastrophe, research released this week shows that the drivers of climate change are getting worse, not better.

Carbon emissions are the main cause of a heating world—and they’re rising. Data from the International Energy Agency showed a 2.3 percent increase in energy demand in the last year—most of it met by fossil fuels.

In some countries, the jump was huge—gas consumption in the US increased by 10 percent. And fracking has caused oil production to grow as well.

In Asia, the average age of coal-fired power plants is just 12 years old, and they are set to stay active for decades.

Hotter temperatures mean increasing numbers of people are relying on air conditioning units, which in turn increases emissions.

This increase in heating and cooling energy accounted for a fifth of the increase in global energy demand.

Executive director of the International Energy Agency Fatih Birol said, “Despite major growth in renewables, global emissions are still rising, demonstrating once again that more urgent action is needed on all fronts.”

These figures help expose the inaction and hollow promises of world leaders’ climate talks.


In 2015, the Paris climate agreements saw governments promise to limit the global temperature rise to 2 degrees.

As part of this, richer countries said they would reduce emissions slowly, over a period of decades.

Even if emissions were reducing—which they are not—time is running out.

Urgent, immediate and drastic action is needed now.

Tidal, solar and wind power can produce enough energy for everyone. It must be developed on a mass scale now.

All remaining fossil fuels need to be left in the ground. Huge infrastructure projects must be initiated to replace an economy that relies on gas, oil and coal.

Almost nothing is being done to challenge industries that strip Earth of its natural resources and fill the air with deadly pollution (see pages 10&11).

Gas, oil and coal reserves weren’t mentioned once in the “historic” Paris agreement.

Time and time again it’s shown that voluntary agreements between governments aren’t enough. Politicians continue with their programme of inaction, and fossil fuel bosses carry on destroying our planet in their quest for profit.

The fact that emissions continue to rise despite the existential threat they pose to human life shows the illogical nature of capitalism.

It will take a mass movement, with workers at its heart, to build a world based on the interests of people and planet.

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