The Glasgow climate conference of world leaders begins on October 31. For 25 years, the United Nations has brought together almost every government on the planet for these COP (Conference of Parties) meetings. Their supposed purpose is to assess the climate crisis and to propose measures to curb global warming caused by carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas and methane). These meetings are an obscene, annual charade of empty promises and pledges, and this year is most likely to be no different. I will be covering this on revcom.us, stay tuned!
The Climate Meetings Take Place...The Climate Crisis Worsens
Since 1990, when the scientific understanding of global warming was already well-established, global carbon emissions have risen 50 percent! Since the first global climate summit of 1995—and the 25 annual summits that have followed—the environmental emergency has become drastically more catastrophic: with melting glaciers and rising sea levels, more devastating floods and wildfires, more extreme weather events, drought-induced crop failures, irreversible loss of biodiversity, and mass displacement of tens of millions of “climate refugees.”
There is an underlying reason for this disastrous trajectory. The rich governments that issue their pious pronouncements at these summits represent and enforce the interests of capitalist-imperialist ruling classes (go here for more on this). These governments embody and answer to the imperatives of the capitalist-imperialist system whose heartbeat is the competitive drive for profit and more profit. It is this system that recklessly plunders nature, that is at war with nature. It is this system that has brought us to a precipice in which human civilization and life itself are in peril. It is this system that must be utterly transformed through socialist revolution (see "Some Key Principles of Socialist Sustainable Development" at revcom.us for analysis).
The Environmental Clock Is Ticking, but the Quest for “Practical” Reforms Is a Dangerous Illusion
The climate-emergency clock is indeed ticking away. As many committed climate activists and scientists have pointed out: every bit of warming matters, every year matters...what we do and don't do now matters. But where do you go with this understanding? Many honest-minded people argue that the situation is simply too dire to “wait” for revolution...that we need to act now.
Yes, we need to ACT now—but the question is whether within the constraints of the system—or working to get rid of it! Now there are people with real heart making meaningful and positive efforts to actively fight to force the system to bring more renewables like solar power onstream. But the system is not going to—and cannot—"come to its senses." The accelerating environmental crisis is proof enough! Let’s remember the arguments coming from certain quarters of the environmental movement that electing Barack Obama in 2008 was a “practical” and “immediate” step for dealing with global warming. The fruit of that was the “fracking boom” and America becoming the world's largest oil and natural gas producer! Only to be followed by the climate-denying Trump/Pence fascist regime. Again, and more fundamentally, as we have shown repeatedly and scientifically, it is this system that is the cause of this existential crisis facing humanity (see "50 Years Since Earth Day 1: Reflections on the Catastrophe That Is Capitalism-Imperialism" at revcom.us).
Some have argued, “socialism through revolution [getting rid of this system through an actual overthrow] might be the ‘ideal’ or fundamental solution—but, we have a responsibility to work within the system ... because every increment of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere stays there for anywhere between 300 to 1,000 years, and thus worsens the warming crisis.”
First, and simply put, incremental reforms will not alter the fundamental motion of this system (towards ecological catastrophe).
It's like you're on an already fast-moving and accelerating treadmill. You knock it down a tiny notch ... but the treadmill is still racing forward (to the abyss). The treadmill is the capitalist-imperialist system. And against what might be the best of intentions, this illusory program of climate reform serves only to prolong the death-grip of the system. For every increment of CO2 restricted by these efforts, there is a multiple of that CO2 being emitted by the system. Is this what we should be constrained by, is this what we should be spending our time on?1
Let’s look at reality: Just look at the larger trend lines of how the world-imperialist system is functioning. The United Nations report issued on the eve of Glasgow examined future mining and drilling plans of 15 major fossil-fuel producing countries, including the U.S. It showed that, taken together, these countries are currently planning to produce twice (!) as much oil, gas, and coal through 2030 as would be needed if governments were to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.2 This is the reality as imperialist “world leaders” fall over each other with their proclamations of “net zero carbon emissions.”
And there is this political reality: The rulers of the U.S. are so divided—with the Republican Party still refusing to even acknowledge human-caused global warming!—that they are not going to come to agreements and enact legislation to allocate the trillions and trillions of dollars needed for rapid conversion to solar and wind power.
And, at this time, of what is an existential crisis for humanity, is this what we should be doing: aiming for “reforms within the current system” subject to these rules and rulers? All this, precisely at a time when a breakthrough for revolution is objectively possible in the U.S.! As the RevComs have analyzed in A Declaration, A Call to Get Organized Now For a Real Revolution:
Revolutions are not possible all the time, but are generally possible only in rare times and circumstances, especially in a powerful country like this. This is one of those rare times and circumstances. This system is in real trouble, caught up in crisis and conflicts for which it has no easy or lasting solutions. Throughout this country, the workings of this system have given rise to deep divisions which cannot be resolved under this system. Society is being ripped apart. Those who rule are locked in a bitter fight among themselves and they cannot hold things together in the way they have in the past [emphasis in original].
And, at this rare time, should we aim for “reforms within the current system” subject to these rules and rulers? Or aim for a whole different system that can actually give us a chance to solve this problem?
No One Who Cares About the Planet Can Stand by as the Earth Heats Up
As the Glasgow climate meeting gathers, protesters in Europe and other parts of the world have taken to the streets, blockaded key sites of the economy that contribute to global warming. This sense of urgency and desire to act, this sense of responsibility to all inhabitants of our planet, especially the exploited and oppressed in the global South who have borne the greatest burden of the climate emergency ... this is something to be welcomed and that people in far greater numbers must join and further energize.
No one who cares about the planet can stand by as the Earth heats up! But it must be frankly pointed out that much of the climate movement in the U.S.—sickeningly and paralyzingly in thrall to Biden promises and illusory “green” legislative agendas—has been unconscionably quiescent since Biden's election. The spirit of taking to the streets needs to be manifest on a whole different level here in the U.S.
And to the degree that mass and militant protest forces the powers that be to close an oil pipeline here or expand solar power there, that is a good thing. But that is not going to solve the problem of global warming.
A Cold but Liberating Truth
The cold but liberating truth is that there is no solution to the climate crisis and environmental emergency within the system. We need system change in order to carry out the unprecedented transformation in all spheres of human activity necessary to give humanity the only real chance to go to work on this crisis and interact rationally and sustainably with nature. And system change can only be achieved through an actual revolution to overthrow capitalism-imperialism.
We (the “we” here being ALL who agonize about the future of the planet and the well-being of humanity) have to proceed from what is actually needed. A radically different system that can rapidly and decisively restructure away from fossil fuels and devote the resources and unleash creativity, determination, and know-how to address the environmental emergency is set forth—in a thoroughly concrete and profoundly visionary way—in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America authored by Bob Avakian, the architect of a whole new framework for human emancipation, the new communism.
This is an existential crisis confronting humanity—and the planet! The challenge is before us: whether we are going to respond commensurately and scientifically! This is a time to step up our determination to do what is necessary to save this planet. It is a time to raise our sights to the revolution humanity needs. Why should we settle for anything less than this? Another world, a far better world, is possible!