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Editorial: Addressing climate change is simply not possible under capitalism

The school students who took action against climate change today are a powerful reminder of the importance of standing up for what you believe in, but also of the power of collective action.

Young people quite often come in for criticism for being “apolitical,” “disengaged” or generally having little input into the society in which they live.

And yet these school student activists have shown how untrue this is. They are part of a growing international movement which seeks to challenge the greed of corporate capitalism that puts short-term profit before everything else, including the future of our planet and our species.

Their actions may well be symbolic, in that they do not directly affect the governments and corporations responsible for climate change, but, much like the actions taken by Extinction Rebellion, they have drawn public attention to the threat caused by climate change and the need to act now.

The next question is what kind of action, and how can it be brought about.

It is clear what the causes of climate change are — scientists have been in little doubt for some time now — and that it is only by curbing the use of fossil fuels, halting deforestation and a number of other measures which impact directly on economic production, that we can prevent a catastrophic climate event.

However, it is equally clear that the attempts made so far to persuade governments and corporations to change course have failed entirely.

The fact is that voluntary climate change targets are simply ignored or renegotiated, that carbon credits and other market systems (where countries and corporations can effectively buy the right to pollute) simply have no impact on the massive scale of the problem (and are open to widespread abuse, even under their own inadequate terms).

The reason for this is simple — all of these answers rely on an economic system that has no reason whatsoever to slow or halt climate change.

The real problem here is not bad decisions by individual governments, or a few unscrupulous business leaders, it is the anarchy of capitalist production.

No matter what the moral or ethical stance of any individual involved in the system (however powerful), the driving force of capitalism is profit.

In order to operate as capital, investment has to be valorised, it has to create a profit. There are many areas of life where this makes no sense.

Take for example public services. Where a market system operates, these are only provided on the basis that they make a profit.

The purpose of a private hospital is not to heal people. That is secondary. It exists primarily to make a profit. Where it can’t, people will get sick, or die.

Under capitalism, the only alternative to this is where the state intervenes on a massive scale to deal with the inadequacies of the market — as in the NHS.

And yet even these examples, when they adapt to the economic environment around them and are run on a market basis, begin to fall apart — look at the current state of the NHS under the Tories.

So it is with climate change. The scale of the problem requires massive, coordinated state action in the political and economic sphere and this is simply not possible under capitalism.

It is no surprise that the only country to meet its millennium climate change goals ahead of time was socialist Cuba and that they are currently embarking on Project Life — a long-term plan to protect the island from the impact of climate change.

We have been given a clear warning that, unless we can reverse climate change within 12 years, we will have lost the battle against this man-made catastrophe.

This makes the battle for socialism even more urgent.


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