Why the climate strike is a social justice issue (and why it should strike at the core of growing fascism)

September 20, 2019

by Rosario Guzman

First of a two-part series

(Note: As this article goes to press, one of the Philippine groups organizing for the global climate strike is under surveillance by State security forces and has received reports of an impending raid on their headquarters.)

Around the globe on September 20, the youth are leading a coordinated strike to protest government and business inaction on climate change. The climate strike is anticipated to be one of the largest environmental rallies in history.

On Monday, September 23, the United Nations (UN) will hold a climate action summit, which is more of an emergency meeting ostensibly to seriously increase their commitments in reducing carbon emissions under the otherwise watered-down 2015 Paris climate accord.

It seems however that the youth are not expecting any dramatic outcome from the UN meeting. They are planning another global strike for September 27 and every Friday thereafter until a drastic, genuine, official action is taken.

While the climate issue appears to affect everyone, there are climate change deniers. Led by the US and neoliberalism’s apologists, they focus their efforts not on presenting contrary evidence but simply on discrediting climate activists whom they tag “crisis-ists” or “crisis alarmists”. The deniers are saying that the young people are simply being used by the climate activists to paint an irrevocable apocalypse for the planet and to call for system change.

Climate change is a hoax, the deniers say. They deny the climate crisis. They deny the system of unsustainable production and consumption known as monopoly capitalism as the root of the crisis, and that this system is pushing humanity to the brink of a catastrophe. They deny that some people and nations are more vulnerable than others and that monopoly capitalism has brought on this historical injustice.

Instead, they justify the intensification of neoliberal policies to maintain the unsustainable system and push for business-more-than-usual. They do so in quite fascistic fashion, including the use of force to crack down on the climate activists.

Here is the science

The Earth has been observed to be warming over the last century at an accelerated pace through the last four decades, with the five warmest years on record taking place since 2010. The average global temperature has increased by 0.9°C and by as much as 2.2°C in some regions. In the Philippines, the average temperature increased by 0.57°C from 1951 to 2009 alone.

Scientific evidence has concluded that climate change is caused by the upsurge of greenhouse gases (GHG), especially carbon dioxide (CO2). GHGs are trapped in the atmosphere to a level that far exceeds what is needed to warm the Earth. Scientists have observed that GHG emissions have increased by 36% since 1850, since the Industrial Revolution, and by 70% from 1970 to 2004, since the world made great strides in technology and production.

CO2 is the most important for three reasons. It is the largest man-made GHG, accounting for 84% of climate change from GHGs in the last decade. It lasts in the atmosphere for extensive periods, say for hundreds of years. Finally, it is the only GHG humans don’t need to survive.

More erratic and extreme weather events (torrential rains and heavy downpours, severe flooding, landslides, droughts, forest fires, among others) have been the most dramatic signs of climate change. Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) alone is a global reminder of the increased incidence of climate hazards, impacting on millions of lives, properties and livelihoods. The number of super-typhoons hitting the Philippines has increased, while the cycle of the El Niño drought in the country has shortened.

Oceans, like forests, can help moderate the climate. They absorb more than 30% of the heat as well as 25% of the CO2 released by human activity. But with the Earth’s rapid heating and chemical pollution, they have also absorbed the negative impacts of climate change. Seawater is having a four-way transformation: acidification, warming, de-oxygenation, and relative rise of level. This does not only threaten biodiversity and the survival of the world’s species but may also lead to the disappearance of island nations.

We are experiencing the risks in two ways: 1) the increase in climate hazards that are leading to huge economic losses and human deaths, and 2) the increase in the vulnerability of communities in the forms of ecosystem degradation, damages to crops, livestock deaths, food and water shortage, air-borne and water-borne diseases, damages to infrastructure, degradation of coastal regions, and displacement of lowland populations.

Doomsayers? The UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) itself is saying that we need to keep global warming to well below 1.5°C to survive. It estimates that unless current trends are radically reversed, the global average temperature will shoot up by 2.5°C by 2050, compared to 1986-2005 levels. The IPCC identifies an average increase of 2.0°C as the point upon which this rapid global warming is dangerous and irreversible for at least a century. A 2014 study predicts that this benchmark will be reached by 2036. The global climate strikers on the other hand are predicting the irreversible year to be 2030, or 11 years away.

Still, scientists point out that even if GHG emissions were stabilized or reduced today, the already warm temperature of the ocean will bring a warmer atmosphere over time. Stockholm Environment Institute scientists also explain that the IPCC has under-estimated impact projections by failing to take into account feedback loops, defined as effects that impact back on their causes and therefore lead to even larger two-way effects. The scientists are warning of future climate tipping points (other than the redline temperature), which are abrupt, exponential and irreversible changes taking place due to a complex of unforeseen feedback loops. We don’t have much time. ###

The last part of this series will discuss how climate change is directly linked with the capitalist crisis, and how governments still force harsher neoliberal policies that only aggravate the problem.

Photo from Bulatlat