Socialist Change To End Climate Change

Mick Suter

World leaders will soon meet in Egypt for COP 27 to discuss progress to save the world from climate catastrophe. The statement from the event will trumpet minor progress and vague sanitised aims for future action, however, little of substance will eventuate. Capitalism is incapable of real action on the climate.

2022 has seen unprecedented high temperatures as seen in Canada and the US which sparked infernos. We also saw the highest recorded temperatures in Europe leading to devastating fires in Greece, Turkey, France and Spain. A deluge of rainfall and flooding took place in Australia, Europe, China and the USA. More recently floods have devastated Pakistan and Nigeria.

These were seen as ‘once in a lifetime events’, now they are becoming the ‘new normal’ as the planet heats up. The World Meteorological Organisation recently said the number of weather-related disasters to hit the world has increased five-fold in the past 50 years. These events impact those on the lowest incomes the most.

Over two million people have died of extreme weather events in the last 50 years. Ninety percent of these deaths have occurred in the ex-colonial countries. Highlighted recently where over 600 have died from floods in Nigeria and over 1,721 in Pakistan with over 12,867 injured.

The floods in Pakistan covered a third of the country, over 100,000 square kilometres of land under water.  Homes were destroyed, thirty-three million people were displaced and are now facing mass destitution. The economy has been shattered with up to fifty per cent of the cotton crop destroyed with further losses of wheat and other agricultural crops which now threatens to trigger food crises, health crises and famine. This has led to political convulsions with a leading Pakistan politician being kicked out of the Sindh region by the local population. The Pakistan Government is facing an election disaster.

Climate change is now with us and is showing its devastation on a regular basis. What is the response of the major capitalist Governments to these developments? Is it to move quickly to renewable energy? Is it organising an emergency plan of action to lower carbon emissions? Is it to achieve the modest targets of the Paris Agreement? Unfortunately, the answer is no to all of the above. In fact, in a recent report for COP 27 it reports Atmospheric levels of all three greenhouse gases have reached record highs, according to a study by the World Meteorological Organization, which scientists say means the world is “heading in the wrong direction”.

Pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions will lead to global heating of 2.5 degrees Celsius, a level that would condemn the world to catastrophic climate breakdown, according to the United Nations.

Only a handful of countries have strengthened their commitments substantially in the last year, despite having promised to do so at the Cop26 UN climate summit in Glasgow last November. Deeper cuts are needed to limit temperature rises to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, which would avoid the worst ravages of extreme weather.

Combined with the War in the Ukraine and the loss of Russian gas this has accelerated the response of the various different capitalist countries to turn back to fossil fuels and nuclear power.

The energy companies are continuing to profit from the war in the Ukraine as we see energy prices dramatically increase. In Labor’s mini budget of 2022 gas and electricity prices are predicted to rise between 40 – 60 % whilst energy companies see massive profits continue. BP and Shell are making billions of dollars which is adding to the cost-of-living crisis.

Military spending is up by US$2 Trillion a year which exceeds the prediction of what would be needed to stop climate change. Research by Brown University concluded that the US Military is the “single largest institutional producer of greenhouse gases in the world” with a greater carbon footprint than whole companies. War also brings incredibly damaging environmental consequences.

War is the continuation of politics by other means. Capitalist war is the consequence of competition between different capitalist powers as they fight for new markets and spheres of influence.

Rosa Luxemburg, the famous German revolutionary pre first world war said we are facing “Socialism or barbarism”. Unfortunately, the Capitalist Governments chose barbarism when thousands were slaughtered in WWI, followed by mass unemployment, depression and the slaughter of WWII. Today we face ‘Socialism or planet catastrophe’. Famine, drought, millions displaced and thousands killed as the planet heats up due to capitalist production methods.  War alongside destruction of the planet is because of capitalist greed for profits. The ending of capitalism is directly linked to the ending of climate change and a sustainable planet.

Whilst in Australia we have not seen the depth of devastation such as in Pakistan and Nigeria we have seen serious climate events over the past few years. The bush fires in South, East and Western Australia and the flooding in Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria.

A recent study by CSIRO’s Dr Pep Canadell states “The Australian bush fire season has grown by almost a month in 40 years” It now lasts 130 days and will continue to lengthen even if global heating is kept to 1.5 degrees C. 

Carbon emission targets are not being achieved by any of the countries signed up to the Paris accord. We are on track to see the earth warming by a minimum of 2.5 degrees C by 2030 which will lead to economic devastation and political convulsions as we have seen in Sudan and Sri Lanka.

The frequency of very large fires has risen significantly since the year 2000. The recovery period for forest fires is also shrinking which means less time to plan fire back burns.

During the ‘Black Summer’ 2019/20 an estimated 3 billion animals were killed or displaced. A study showed 7.5m hectares of eucalyptus forests had burned which was more than 7 times the average seen in previous years. The black summer fires significantly affected the ozone layer above Australia, Fires caused the temperature in the stratosphere to increase by 0.7 degrees C. In 2019/20 fires burned across more than 24 million hectares and indirectly killed hundreds of people.

According to Professor Bowman of the University of Tasmania “…what we’re worried about is if these fires become more frequent, more intense, that wildfire is going to erode the carbon stocks in the landscape and it’ll start amplifying climate change.”

He said the Black Summer bushfires offered scientists a window into the future of extreme fires, but now there are so many unusual fire events it’s impossible to keep up.

The floods on the eastern seaboard in February and March of 2022 saw devastation for local communities in Brisbane, Sydney, and surrounding areas. It was the worst recorded in Australian history with 22 deaths reported alongside food shortages, 1000’s of schools closed and hundreds of families displaced. A quarter of properties in Hawkesbury – Nepean valley were declared uninhabitable. The response of the Government is pitiful compared with what is needed. 

These events of fires and floods have made the issue of the environment an important issue in Australian politics. At the last election it was one of the main issues the public were worried about. At the last federal election, the Greens vote went up to 12%, we saw the election of several ‘teal MP’s’ – generally speaking economic conservatives who want action on green issues. The Liberal/ National Coalition government dropped 5% in the polls which allowed Labour to win the election. The ALP made a big issue of its green credentials but what does it mean in reality now the ALP are in Government.

The Saturday Paper on 3rd September reported “The Albanese Government approved almost 47,000 square kilometres for oil and gas exploration”. The ALP are jeopardising their climate target and echoing the Coalition’s spurious case for energy.

Madelaine King, ALP Resources Minister, rationalisation for this was that it is vital for the economy, Central to alleviating future domestic gas shortages, that the ALP strive to reduce emissions, and that the ALP support international energy security, particularly during global turbulence caused largely by Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine. These comments could have come from the Australian Oil/Gas companies, and are the same arguments as the previous Coalition government. Andrew Bolt thought King was the “most sane and serious” minister in the Albanese Government.

Despite the election of the ALP government, it is clear their election pledges on climate change are not fundamentally different to that of the Liberal/ National Coalition. The ALP is putting the interests of big business before that of ordinary working-class families.

Profits before climate change is the mantra of the oil and gas industry and the ALP. Capitalism has no solutions for climate change. We see this in all capitalist countries. In the UK the Tory Government is turning to nuclear and opening up more North Sea oil and gas exploration. In Germany the government has turned to new coal mines and nuclear power.

Global fossil fuel subsidies have increased by US $700 Billion in 51 countries. In Australia 2021/22 the Government has spent $10bn on tax breaks and handouts to companies/consumers on skyrocketing fuel and electricity prices to support the former Coalition government ‘gas led’ recovery.

The Green Party policy is still to use ‘market methods’ to limit carbon such as carbon taxes, carbon trading schemes which have all been seen to fail internationally and in Australia.

The only way to reduce carbon emissions is to nationalise the electricity sector, as well as the oil, gas and coal industries under workers control and management. A socialist government would then implement an emergency plan of production based upon green renewable energy. Importantly, this would guarantee job protection by upskilling and transitioning jobs to the renewable industries. These measures can be funded by taking control of the mega profits of the fossil fuel industries with compensation paid only on the basis of proven need to small ‘mum and dad’ investors.

Only socialism will bring about measures necessary to save the planet. It is only socialist change that will bring about an end to climate change.

Blog at