With Climate Change, Capitalism Could Literally Destroy the Earth By 2040Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Politics Features climate change
Earth’s leading scientists issued a dire warning Sunday night: Climate change is not just a problem that future generations must deal with. It’s here already, and it’s worse than we previously thought. Bottom line: climate change will kill a significant amount of people on this planet if we don’t do something unprecedented in the next ten years. Per the New York Times:
A landmark report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change paints a far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought and says that avoiding the damage requires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has “no documented historic precedent.”
The report, issued on Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders, describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040 — a period well within the lifetime of much of the global population.
Avoiding the most serious damage requires transforming the world economy within just a few years, said the authors, who estimate that the damage would come at a cost of $54 trillion. But while they conclude that it is technically possible to achieve the rapid changes required to avoid 2.7 degrees of warming, they concede that it may be politically unlikely.
Just one hundred companies are responsible for 71% of all global carbon pollution since 1988. If we really want to address the problem, it starts with those billion-dollar planet poisoners. At its core, this is an economic problem, not one of government policy. Obvious companies like ExxonMobil, Shell and BP are some of the worst offenders, but they barely comprise a third of the total emissions created by China’s vast economic expansion on the back of coal.
Three of the top ten polluters are coal companies, and it’s clear as day that any rational society who wants to preserve the planet for future generations should retreat from this archaic energy source. On our planet, that’s not the case. China is ever so slightly reducing their reliance on coal, but Russia and the United States are actually increasing their coal production.
Capitalism’s legacy is climate change. It’s logically impossible to claim that capitalism is a sustainable economic system and that climate change is real. Asserting both is the definition of trying to have your cake and eat it too. There is no debate as to who is to blame for climate change. Our economic masters have chosen to accumulate as much money as possible while spending a sizable chunk on propaganda telling you that the certainty scientists have on this topic is actually just some big liberal hoax perpetrated by Al Gore.
Money isn’t real, but the planet sure as hell is. Money is just an extension/projection of humanity’s natural greed. This truth has been demonstrated time and time again throughout history as we have changed how we assign value to our economic output. Capitalism is a relatively new system that not coincidentally rose in tandem with the Atlantic slave trade of the 16th century, and humans have exchanged goods and labor under the auspices of lots of different economic systems before. Believing that we have a choice between capitalistic economic growth or certain planetary destruction is the narrow logic espoused by the worldview of our global oligarchs and their brainwashed followers.
I say this as a former brainwashed follower of our oligarchy. Up until a few years ago, I was adamant that capitalism is the most efficient economic system, and the answer to climate change was a robust government investment in clean energy combined with the right kind of market incentives. That clearly is not enough. To be honest, voting liberal politicians into office is not enough. If there is any lesson from both the Obama and Trump years, it’s that our government is a façade that provides the illusion of choice. In reality, our economic masters control policy in this world, and they are determined to drive us all off a cliff in the name of accumulating more imaginary greedbucks than they will ever be able to spend over the course of several lifetimes.
The only answer to climate change is revolution. I won’t go as far to say that we need to follow the French Revolution’s example of sticking the bourgeoisie in guillotines and assuming their power, but that’s a similar scale to the effort that is required of this generational challenge. There is quite literally no time left for incremental politics. Not only are mass extinctions and billions of human deaths inevitable under our current course, but the economic damage of worsening storms, food shortages, droughts and wildfires will cause trillions in damage to the economy. Unless we make a radical change in our economic system, it will collapse on itself as the cost of climate change begins to add up.
I know that this is a depressing, hyperbolic and hysterical column, but I am simply matching my words to the urgency reflected in a report by the world’s leading scientists. This isn’t up for debate. The world as we know it is melting away, and if we do nothing, it will be unrecognizable by 2040. That’s not some far-off date. A kid born today will graduate from college in 2040. These scientists say we have ten years to do something truly profound to change the world.
The good news is that the technology to solve climate change is largely there, but the political will to use it on the worst offenders clearly is not. If we do nothing, Earth will change into something far less hospitable for humans—and that’s just the projection by 2040. If we still have not made dramatic changes by then, then we may add humans to the list of species certain to go extinct by the end of this century.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.