The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) issued a stark and alarming report last week. Climate change is already catastrophic—it is driving famine in Africa, heat waves in Asia that kill thousands, creating climate refugees all over the planet. But in the next five years, according to these new scientific findings, we are almost certain to see what the WMO calls a “surge” in global temperature. By 2030, it is quite likely that the average global temperature will rise to 1.5 degrees centigrade (C) above pre-industrial levels (before 1850). This is happening faster than previous scientific analysis projected.
The 1.5 degrees C rise is equivalent to 2.7 degrees on the Fahrenheit scale commonly used in the U.S.
This potential breach of 1.5 degrees C is a signal of the very grave danger we face. The 1.5 degrees C level is a level that scientists have said we should not cross—a level which if sustained would cause grave and in some ways nearly irreversible damage to the environment and life on the planet, with extremely serious consequences for society.
Global Warming from 1880 to 2022.
Credit: NASA Climate Change
Behind the More Rapid Temperature Rise
There are two key reasons for the imminent surge in the coming years.
The main and overwhelming one is that the capitalist-imperialist system continues to massively burn coal, oil, and gas which produces greenhouse gases which heat up the planet. This system is utterly incapable of getting off of this trajectory. For 50 years, we have seen climate conference after climate conference, major international agreement after major international agreement promising to cut emissions, yet this system continues to spew out greenhouse gases. Bob Avakian has deeply analyzed why this is so, see here and here, and there are many important articles on revcom.us which speak to this on the special page on the environment: “Capitalism-Imperialism Is Destroying the Planet... Only Revolution Gives Humanity a Real Chance to Save It”
The second reason for the coming temperature surge is that in the last three years, the planet has been going through a natural climate cycle known as La Niña. La Niña cools the planet, and this cooling has slowed down as a result of how fast climate change has heated it up. La Niña is now coming to an end, and will be replaced by El Niño, which will heat up the planet. El Niño heating will combine with the heat from the continually rising level of greenhouse gases spewed out by this system, and this is what is highly likely to take things past the 1.5 C limit.
The Outsize Role of the U.S. in Climate Change
We have to be very clear: while climate change is a capitalism-imperialism problem,
- the U.S. is #1 in destroying the climate
- the U.S. is #1 in history in injecting greenhouse gases (carbon and methane that trap heat in the atmosphere)
- the U.S. military is the #1 institutional injector of greenhouse gases
- the U.S. is the #1 producer of oil and natural gas
- the U.S. is #1 in carbon emissions per person among major industrialized countries
The rising heat will further damage the natural life-support systems of the planet, which are already under severe stress, and devastate vast sections of the people in the Global South who are already living on the desperate edge of survival and who have contributed very little to the carbon emissions in the atmosphere.
An Already Dangerous Trajectory... a System That Has Brought Us to This Precipice
Even before this coming surge, what has been happening to the global climate up to now is already extremely alarming and very dangerous. The WMO released another report earlier this year about climate developments up through 2022. Here are just a few of the hair-raising things they pointed out:
- The years 2015 to 2022 were the eight warmest years on record back to 1850 when they started modern temperature measurements.
- The Greenland Ice Sheet, the biggest mass of ice in the world outside of Antarctica, lost ice in 2022 for the 26th year in a row. Sea ice in Antarctica reached the lowest level ever. Melting of glaciers is likely to continue for thousands of years.
- Sea level and ocean heat reached the highest level ever and this will likely continue, leading to changes that cannot be reversed for hundreds to thousands of years.
- Drought, floods, and heatwaves are hitting many regions of the world. The WMO Secretary General said, “For example, in 2022, continuous drought in East Africa, record breaking rainfall in Pakistan and record-breaking heatwaves in China and Europe affected tens of millions, drove food insecurity, boosted mass migration, and cost billions of dollars in loss and damage.”
Very importantly, there are some extremely urgent and essential things NOT in the WMO reports. We conclude with these paragraphs from our earlier article on findings of the UN Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change that fully apply here:
What’s missing from this report is the sobering and inconvenient truth that it is IMPOSSIBLE for this system to interact sustainably with the environment. Fossil fuels are poured into the foundations of capitalism-imperialism, and to reduce and abolish their use with the urgency, and on the scale and scope, needed would require nothing less than a revolution to overthrow this system and replace it with a radically different, liberating, and ecologically sustainable socialist economic-social system.
There is a strategy for this revolution, a blueprint for this society, and the leadership to get us there. And this is not some far off pipe dream—this is a time when such a revolution becomes more possible in this very country. Making this revolution would give us the only real chance to seriously address and truly act on this crisis. Those who agonize, who are filled with dread and rage, over the climate crisis NEED to become a part of this revolution.