Everything that people depend on for their daily lives has not just been disrupted, it’s been absolutely destroyed.
So said Mark Bowen, head of emergency management for Bay County, Florida, after Hurricane Michael passed through the Florida Panhandle.
Looking to the bigger picture, the last 20 years have seen a dramatic rise of 151% in direct economic losses from climate-related disasters, according to a new report released by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.
Eerily, Michael coincided with the publication of the latest report from the scientists comprising the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and with the High Court’s decision to allow fracking to begin in Lancashire. The IPCC’s message on the impacts of global warming of 1.5oC is clear, though muted by the censorship fog imposed by the governments of oil producing countries.
The scientists tell us that human activity has already caused about 1oC of global warming, while at the present rate of warming (0.2oC per decade) we’ll hit 1.5oC by about 2040. National pledges made as part of the Paris Agreement still mean we are on course for warming of about 3oC by 2100, meaning four of the five “reasons for concern” would then be in the high to very-high risk category.
Achieving the 1.5oC target will require anthropogenic CO₂ emissions to decline by 45% by 2030 (relative to 2010). By 2050, they will need to reach “net zero” – any further CO₂ emissions due to human activity would then have to be matched by deliberate removal of CO₂ already in the atmosphere, including by planting trees.
Above all, the report tells us that achieving the 1.5oC target requires unprecedented transitions in all aspects of society.
So, without immediate, effective action to change the course currently set for humanity by the interests of the global elite we all face the same fate. Whether from hurricane, extreme heat, wildfire, unbreathable air, or waterways polluted beyond hope of recovery, conditions on the planet will cease to support life, at least as we need it to be for survival.
The scientists have published their results. Now responsibility for policy-making passes to the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC. Its next meeting is in Katowice, Poland, in early December. And there’s a follow-up Climate Summit in September, 2019.
Oh, how slowly the wheels turn. But the second biggest greenhouse gas emitting elephant most likely won’t be in the room. Trump pulled the US and its money out of the process. Michael Bloomberg, philanthropist, CEO of the financial services corporation of the same name, and one of the world’s richest, stumped up the cash to replace the US’ contribution. He’s reported to be considering standing in the 2020 presidential election.
But, the action required can not be contemplated, let alone carried out by the governments, institutions and corporations, or the richest individuals operating within the social and political framework of the neoliberal, capitalist business model.
Despite the well-intentioned, seemingly rational proposals of last year’s Carbon Majors Report, effective action means corporations among the world’s biggest, rapidly abandoning fossil fuel extraction and consumption, consigning their known reserves to “stranded assets”. Oh, and despite what the report implies they’d have to abandon the growth imperative. These are things shareholders simply cannot countenance, however enlightened they may be.
Especially as the global economic, financial and political system is in big trouble according to the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook. Or as the IMF puts it “Risks to global growth skew to the downside in a context of elevated policy uncertainty.”You can see it reflected in Trump’s protectionist, tariff barrier turning the world dominated by the neoliberal free-trade mantra upside down.
This is a new opportunity not to be missed. Seven years ago the global economic and financial crisis triggered a wave of opposition throughout the world. The Arab Spring, the worldwide anti-austerity movement, Occupy, and the movement for global justice left an uncompleted process.
Michael can be the trigger for a worldwide tsunami of political action that will sweep capitalist production for profit off the face of the earth. Only its not-for-profit replacement will enable the urgently needed rapid transition from a society dependent on extracting and burning fossil fuels to one founded upon collective stewardship of the planet’s valuable resources.
We’ll be discussing how to make this a reality in Wigan, on November 24th. You’ll be made very welcome.