Record Heat... Threats to Ocean Life

The Accelerating Destruction of Our Planet, the Need for Urgent Transformation

January 26, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |



In the last few weeks, new and alarming scientific evidence was released about the ecological state of the planet. This information highlights the accelerating environmental crisis AND the urgent need to make radical, global transformations in how society functions.

2014: Warmest Year on Record

First, in early January, major scientific agencies reported that 2014 was the warmest year in recorded human history. 2014 surpassed the previous warmest year, 2010. The ten warmest years in recorded history have all happened since 1997.

Our planet’s climate is being transformed with increasingly devastating results. Polar ice and glaciers are melting at an accelerating rate, affecting essential ecosystems and changing climate. More severe storms, drought, wildfires, and other climatic changes have been set loose, causing great damage to the planet’s ecology and massive human suffering. And there are clear signs that this trend is accelerating and magnifying with potential for more dramatic shifts that could even call into question the future of humanity.

Above, time-lapse graph shows the increasing annual average temperature on Earth, starting in 1950 and ending in 2013.

The Earth is warming due to the unrelenting burning of fossil fuels, massive clearing away of forest for commercial purposes, and destructive patterns of agricultural production. All this is the result of the economic functioning and way of life produced by the capitalist-imperialist system that dominates life.

The burning of fossil fuels and other destructive practices produce massive amounts of carbon dioxide and other gases that are building up in the atmosphere. These “greenhouse” gases trap heat energy from the sun, causing the planet to warm. One recent scientific study indicated the oceans have been absorbing fully 90 percent of the increased heating on Earth and predicted it is likely that this heat will be eventually transferred to the atmosphere, further accelerating warming.

Other studies point to the danger of increasing levels of methane being released into the environment as ice melts, particularly in the northern regions. (See “The Methane Monster Roars” by Dahr Jamail.) Methane is an even more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. There is real danger that large amounts of methane being released from frozen forms can cause vastly accelerated and more dangerous warming and even climatic shifts from which there would be no returning, possibly for thousands of years.

And yet, instead of decisively moving away from and moving to end the use of fossil fuels—and drastically cutting greenhouse emissions—the big capitalist countries that dominate the planet are expanding the use of fossil fuels. It is no surprise that the decisions and plans coming out of United Nations climate conferences, including the one recently concluded in Lima, Peru, have been a complete disaster in meaningfully addressing this crisis.

Dangers to Ocean Life and Ecosystems

Just as the world was learning of 2014 being the warmest year on record, a new study appeared in Science magazine on animal loss in the world’s oceans. (See “Era of Intense Marine Wildlife Declines is Beginning, Scientists Say” at The study sought to learn from animal loss on the land to better predict how this might happen in the oceans—and how to prevent it.

The study says humans have “powerfully changed virtually all major marine ecosystems.” According to co-author Steve Palumbi of Stanford University, “Increasing industrial use of the oceans and the globalization of ocean exploitation threaten to damage the health of marine wildlife populations, making the situation in the oceans as grim as that on land.” The lead author of the study, Douglas J. McCauley from UC Santa Barbara, summarized, “We may be sitting on the precipice of a major extinction event” in ocean species.

The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the RCP is written with the future in mind. It is intended to set forth a basic model, and fundamental principles and guidelines, for the nature and functioning of a vastly different society and government than now exists: the New Socialist Republic in North America, a socialist state which would embody, institutionalize and promote radically different relations and values among people; a socialist state whose final and fundamental aim would be to achieve, together with the revolutionary struggle throughout the world, the emancipation of humanity as a whole and the opening of a whole new epoch in human history–communism–with the final abolition of all exploitative and oppressive relations among human beings and the destructive antagonistic conflicts to which these relations give rise.

Read the entire Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the RCP at

The study documents the vast, destructive effects of over-fishing, destruction of ocean habitat, and climate change. In terms of marine (ocean and sea) animals: some species are contracting; some have become extinct in certain local regions; or become “ecologically extinct”—meaning their numbers have become so depleted that they can no longer perform functional roles within ecosystems. The study highlights the importance of the interaction of species, their interrelationships and interdependence within functioning, vibrant living systems, and how in some cases this is being eroded by human activity, causing impacts up and down the food chain.

Importantly, the Science magazine study makes the point that because the oceans are vast and less exploited historically than the land, the extinction of species has not yet gone as far in the oceans as on land—and so recovery is possible. The study suggests approaches for protecting and preserving marine environments and life and combating the impacts of climate change. Robert Warner, another author of the study, said, “The ocean’s future is yet to be determined. We can blunder forward and make the same mistakes in the sea that we made on land, or we can collectively chart a different and better future for our oceans.”

It is a timely warning. But, again, what is the response of the economic, political, and social system we live under? Drilling for oil in the Arctic... still using the oceans as dumping grounds... and continuing to heat up the planet. Far from “collectively charting a different and better future for our oceans”!

We May Be on the Verge of a “Sixth Extinction”

Already, many scientists say that we may have entered a “Sixth Extinction” of species on Earth. This refers to a period of mass die-off—such as what happened after an asteroid hit our planet some 65 million years ago and caused the end of the dinosaurs and many other species. Scientists speak in terms of another possible mass extinction of species and threats to others—but now due to over-harvesting of the oceans, destruction of wildlife habitat, pollution and degradation of ecosystems, and climate change. A recent “Living Planet” report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) found that in 10,000 representative animal species there has been a decline in population of 52 percent since 1970. The WWF says, “In less than two human generations, population sizes of vertebrate species have dropped by half.”

Another World Is Possible

The destruction of the planet is not due to human activity in the abstract. It is primarily and overwhelmingly due to the workings and pattern of economic life engendered by the system of capitalism-imperialism. This system has a stranglehold on humanity and on the planet. It turns people’s labor into a source of profit; it turns the environment into commodities to be plundered and poured into production for profit. Under capitalism, there is no planning for the long-term interests of humanity or the environment. Decisions are not made with consideration for the importance, interconnectedness, and beauty of the natural world.

The capitalist-imperialist system interacts with the environment in an exploitative, shortsighted, and destructive way. It has already caused tremendous damage and it has already locked in much future damage.

Only the most radical revolution in human history—socialist-communist revolution that liberates human beings and ends the ravaging of the planet—can enable humanity to cope with the environmental crisis on the scale and with the urgency required. We need the type of economic functioning, the type of political structures, the type of society with human initiative and imagination that allows humanity to actually become the caretakers and protectors of the environment.

There is a program, a plan and a vision, and the needed organization and leadership, for such a society and world. It is concentrated in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) as well as the special issue of Revolution on the environmental emergency and the way out and forward for humanity.

This won’t be easy. But this is our only chance of achieving a truly sustainable society—and beginning the process of restoring the ecosystems of the planet.

To those fighting to save the planet and searching for alternatives to this system: We encourage you to dig into this solution, and discuss and debate it with us and with others. And let’s work to make this vision and approach take hold in society, as we step up the struggle to put a stop to the destruction of the planet.

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