The Climate Emergency

July 2024 Forums General discussion The Climate Emergency

  • This topic has 23 replies, 7 voices, and was last updated 8 months ago by Moo.
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    An essay from João Pedro Stedile, of the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) in Brazil.

    The Attack on Nature Is Putting Humanity at Risk


    There are more than just Greta Thunberg. There is Uganda’s Vanessa Nakate


    Apparently, the situation is bad but not as dire as is sometimes claimed:

    Here’s is an extract from the article:

    “Ten years ago there was a genuine fear that we were heading forcatastrophic warming of between 4°C and 5°C by 2100. Today, those worst-case scenarios are no longer plausible.

    The story goes back to 2014, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published future greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. To make this baggy monster tractable, the scientists boiled themdown to four: one very high scenario, one very low and two in between. The very high one assumed that there would be no climate action whatsoever and that use of fossil fuels would continue on an upward trajectory until 2100. It became known as the business as usual scenario, or BAU.

    BAU quickly garnered more scientific and media attention than the other scenarios, in part because it extrapolated the situation at the time, but also because it made for sensational scientific papers and apocalyptic newspaper headlines. A BAU world would have been a “truly catastrophic hellscape of a planet”, says climate scientist Zeke Hausfather of NGO Berkeley Earth in California.

    In the years since, however, the world has changed dramatically. Progress on renewable energy technology and implementation of climate policies have bent the emissions curve downwards towards warming of around 3°C by the end of the century. Still dangerous, but not hellish. And further progress isn’t just possible, but promised. Recent analyses show that, if countries achieve the net-zero pledges that they have already put on the table, warming will stay under 2°C.

    As a result, the BAU scenario is no longer even remotely plausible, says Roger Pielke, an environmental scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Nor is the next-worse of the four. “It looks like the apocalyptic scenarios, as of today, are off the table,” he says.
    If anything, says Hausfather, BAU was implausible in the first place. It wasn’t just a conservative extrapolation of current trends, but a turbocharged one that assumed, for example, that the use of coal would increase fivefold by 2100, with no climate mitigation action whatsoever.
    And yet, the now-obsolete BAU scenario continues to dominate scientific discussions of our climate future. According to a recent analysis by Pielke, the two most recent reports by the IPCC actually increased their emphasis on that worst-case scenario.

    This bias is also reflected in scientific journals. An analysis by Pielke’s colleague Matthew Burgess found that in the aquatic conservation literature, over 90 per cent of papers published between 2015 and 2022 use the BAU scenario – and about a third use it exclusively. It leaks out into the news media too. “The picture that we paint in terms of science, assessment, journalism and policy is dominated by the most extreme scenario,” says Pielke.

    This puts climate scientists on the horns of a dilemma. Do they admit BAU was never really that plausible and risk deniers saying “we told you so” and spreading further muck about climate modelling? Or do they keep pushing BAU and risk it becoming obvious they are hawking a straw man, opening the door to… deniers saying “we told you so”? ”

    We face the same dilemma — of seeming to argue that capitalism (responsible for climate change) is not as bad as some people claim (because it can and is doing — in fact has to do — something about it).


    Hi ALB,

    I disagree with that article.
    It only takes one mad man like trump to get into power and it can have the potential to reverse any progress we’ve made.

    Furthermore even 2C to 3C will still create millions of refugees and wars.
    Think the recent refugee crisis but times 100.

    The relatively small refugee crisis Europe had because of the Syrian civil war was enough to bring near fascists into most European governments.

    What do you think a much larger one will do?

    This is why I think we as socialists need to warn people of the potential coming catastrophes and dangers of capitalism.

    Capitalism has done this in the past by the way, before both the first and second world wars, it promoted things such as “tensions will work themselves out” and they highlighted treaties as examples, we all know where that led.

    Also once the wars did break out much like with climate change, they will try to tell us “it’s not that bad”, as they say stuff like “over by Christmas”.


    The Paris recommendation is 1.5C

    So it is now predicted to be double that by 2100 – 3.0C

    Is that supposed to be a consolation?

    If the extreme weather events and their impact we are seeing now are due to climate change, as many commentators believe, and it isn’t even reached 1.5C, disaster and catastrophes remain a very likely forecast of things to come.


    ‘The Paris recommendation is 1.5C’

    No, that was a fond wish, not a real expectation. The actual agreed target was +2C, and the NS article makes clear that on some current trends +2C might be feasible. It also makes clear that this doesn’t mean problem solved, or that progress couldn’t be stalled or reversed.


    I thought the Paris Agreement goal was to limit global warming to *below* 2C, preferably to 1.5C

    Carbon Dioxide Removal may indeed help achieve the target

    Scientific American says “…it’s also impossible to meet the Paris goals without at least some CDR…The main takeaway is that today’s efforts aren’t enough.”

    I still remain a pessimist.

    Capitalism has always had the capability of addressing global warming but always lacked the sufficient political or economic will to do so.

    Has that really changed? Has there really been a genuine Road to Damascus conversion by the corporations on climate?

    After all the COPs the reluctance to take determined action remains the same and keeps kicking the can down the road.


    People are missing the point the New Scientist writer was making — that the worst case scenario of business as usual and emissions continuing at their 2014 level is now off the table, precisely because business has not continued as usual as governments have taken some steps to try to reduce them.

    In other words, average global temperature will not rise to 5 degrees about the pre-industrial level. It still might rise to 3 degrees above it, but that’s not the same. Even so, as he says, a “warming of around 3°C by the end of the century” is “still dangerous, but not hellish.”

    To accept that the worst case scenario is not going to happen doesn’t weaken our case against capitalism that, by its nature as involving a competitive struggle for profits between capitalist enterprises from different states, it is unable to deal with global warming and the climate changes it brings in a rational way, and that only socialism, as a world of common ownership and production directly to satisfy people’s needs, can.

    It does, however, weaken the case of XR and others that the problem is so dangerous that we should forget about socialism and make trying to deal with it (in effect within capitalism) the over-riding priority.


    We know about the term tipping point in relation to the climate crisis but it is also used to refer to solutions

    These tipping points occur when a zero-carbon solution becomes more competitive than the existing high-carbon option. More sales lead to cheaper products, creating feedback loops that drive exponential growth and a rapid takeover, offering “plausible hope” that a rapid transition to a green economy can happen in time.

    Policy interventions on electric cars, plant-based alternatives to meat and green fertilisers would lead to unstoppable growth in those sectors.

    “We need to find and trigger positive socioeconomic tipping points if we are to limit the risk from damaging climate tipping points,” said Prof Tim Lenton at the University of Exeter.


    XR Japan suggest we do face a catastrophic future. Is it climate alarmism?


    When XR was set up on 2018 they claimed that the world was on course for average global temperature to go up to 5 degrees centigrade beyond pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. This was the worst case scenario the IPCC envisaged and was based on the assumption that no action at all would be taken to try to reduce CO2 emissions.

    In this article it is claimed that we are now on course for an increase to 3.6 degrees. Which I think was more or less the second worst case scenario in 2018. Which is an implicit admission that something has been done so as to at least prevent the worst case scenario. The 3.6 degrees scenario is again based on nothing (more) being done in the course of the next few decades to reduce emissions. Which is unlikely.

    At the moment the likely scenario is that we are on course for an increase of somewhere to between 2 and 3 degrees by the end of the century. Not good but not as bad as 3.6 or 5 degrees.

    And what about this:

    “Some prominent climate scientists predict that at 7.2°F (4°C) of warming, the planet will be able to support less than 1 billion people. Our human population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050 at the same time that our food production is decreasing.”

    That sounds alarmist to me as, if it happened, that would mean that some 9 million people would perish.

    There are different questions here:

    1. If there were to be an increase to 4 degrees, would it be the case that only 1 billion out of 10 billion humans would be able to survive?

    2. How likely is an increase to 4 degrees?

    The first could be true and the second not likely.

    Incidentally, presumably, with an increase to 3.6 degrees, billions would still have to perish, even if not the full 9 billion.

    If XR Japan are saying that the most likely scenario will involve, say, 5 billion perishing by 2100 due to climate change then, yes, I would say they were being alarmist.


    My concern is that some may have a parochial view of the consequences of climate change in that the effects are being measured by the impact upon the developed economically advanced nations that can so far ‘weather’ much of the changes (pardon the pun).

    The hurricanes, floods and droughts are compensated by rather generous state-underwriting insurance. Various government spending programmes are being put in place to provide climate-resilient infrastructure. When supply chains are broken, the Western-based corporations can put in place alternative ones, with the costs passed on to the consumers who although suffering from a cost of living assault, still do not spend the same higher proportion of income on necessities as those in the lesser developed countries do and in addition, have assistance form a welfare-state to act as a buffer.

    In all, it leads to a more complacent attitude to what is happening, a situation is seen as less urgent, something that has not yet been fully felt…or appreciated

    Compare this with what is taking place and is linked to climate change if the scientific consensus is to be accepted.

    The Horn of Africa suffering the fifth season of failed rains. Pakistan is subjected to both drought and floods. The Sahel the increasing desertification. Southern Africa extreme weather events. Caribbean islands facing intensifying hurricanes. Central America, the expansion of the Dry Corridor, as it is called. Amazon to Argentina climate influenced disruption. Increasingly regular typhoons in the islands of Indonesia and the Philippines. China was also inflicted with both drought and floods.

    Farming and agriculture fail because they cannot adapt crops quickly enough. Energy outages because of the water shortages for hydropower plants.

    The result is the breakdown of vulnerable societies with bloody civil wars, mass movements of peoples, widespread hunger and famine, of rising disease. Not in the thousands. Not in the tens of thousands. But in the millions of victims.

    Climate change refugees are something that is now occurring, not the future

    And as Mike Brown has just said on Spintcom, we have not even reached 1.5C much less 2.0 or the reliably predicted 2.5-3.0C for the year 2100.

    Is it alarmist? Is it catastrophism? No, I don’t think so. For the media and the politicians and, yes, I dare say also for some of the climate scientists, out of sight, out of mind.

    Today those who are suffering are the expendable poor.

    As world socialists, we do not turn a similarly blind eye. If we do not stand with those who are helpless, who will? Wall St? The City of London? The stock exchanges and commodity markets around the world?

    We aren’t exaggerating the misery of millions. We are giving them their voice.

    And we are forewarning those others who still have the belief that they will be immune to the devastation that is very likely still to come to their relatively secure and comfortable lives.


    Nobody is objecting to saying that a further rise to between 2 and 3 degrees above pre-industrial levels (we are already a little abo e 1 degree more) won’t cause serious problems in sone parts of the world which capitalism won’t be able to cope with properly.

    What is “alarmist” (which dictionaries defined as “someone who exaggerates a danger and so causes needless worry or panic”) is the claim that the most likely future scenario is somewhere between 3.5 and 4 degrees and that this will reduce the carrying capacity of Earth to only 1 billion humans, ie that up to 9 billion will die of starvation. I don’t think even Malthus would envisage that.

    You yourself, Alan, have been — rightly — insistent on debunking “overpopulation chatter”. There is an article in the February Socialist Standard recalling that in the 1960s the likes of Paul Ehrlich were predicting mass starvation before the end of the last century. They were wrong.

    Let that be a lesson to us about being alarmist about population.

    Also, the effects of a rise to between 2 and 3 degrees will be worse if it happens under capitalism. If it happened on a world socialist society then the problem could be dealt with in a planned and rational way. So capitalism is as much to blame here as climate change.

    The real emergency is to get rid of capitalism.


    ALB – “…the effects of a rise to between 2 and 3 degrees will be worse if it happens under capitalism…”

    I think my point is that under capitalism the effects of even the very modest 1.1 (or thereabouts) rise are being under-reported and it is only “some” parts of the world that are escaping the impact because of the division between “rich” and “poor” nations and the ability to cope.

    And despite the pledges and promises to aid those less developed countries, very little is being done. The funds being made available are in no way near enough, even if in the ideal world they are not being squandered by capitalism’s corrupt governance.

    I think as a world socialist movement it is more incumbent upon us to highlight the disparity being one human family.

    And remind those who aren’t as yet feeling the effects that it is only a matter of time before they too will be dispensible victims.

    We witnessed the callousness of capitalism during the Covid pandemic where life and death decisions were imposed on the vulnerable elderly in care homes.
    Those classed as “essential” workers were being sacrificed to take risks to keep the system running.

    Human extinction is a wildly exaggerated scenario, but perhaps the once often-quoted dichotomy “socialism or barbarism” is not so far-fetched that we should not raise its possibility if action is not taken immediately, sharing a similar grave concern as Greta Thunberg and XR that we may be too late to stop the tipping points and feedback loops.

    Share the World – Spare the Planet.

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