The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the world’s most authoritative scientific body on the question of climate change. It bases itself on the work of many thousands of climate scientists worldwide. Its new report puts the world on notice. As Brid Smith TD said in the Dáil it is ‘A wake up call to humanity’.
One of the key messages from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice. This confirms what People Before Profit has been saying for a long time and what is clear from looking at what has been happening to global weather in recent years – an increase in storms, floods, heat waves, droughts and forest fires.
Global temperatures have already risen by over 1% since pre-industrial levels and the world is set on course for catastrophe. The world’s rulers, its main governments and top corporations, only need to continue, and be allowed to continue, as they have been doing for the last thirty years and this catastrophe will be inevitable. And it will be inevitable not in fifty or a hundred years but in the next ten to twenty years!
We should be clear what this will mean. It will mean hurricanes, typhoons, floods, dramatic heat waves which will be literally unbearable in parts of the world, forest fires and rising sea levels and it will mean them on a scale that dwarfs the fires that ravaged California or the hurricanes that have struck the American east coast or Indonesia and the Chinese seaboard.
It will have a disastrous impact on food production and it will render large parts of the world uninhabitable thus increasing forced migration on a vast scale and generating terrible wars for resources, especially water. It will affect first and worst – as all disasters do- the world’s poor and disadvantaged but none of us except perhaps the super rich will be unscathed.
The Report states clearly that ‘Limiting global warming to 1.5°C [ the maximum that is liveable with in any way we are used to] would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’.
Everybody, scientists and governments alike, knows what needs to be done: there needs to be a massive, unprecedented, shift from powering the world’s production and transportation by carbon emitting fossil fuels – oil, gas and coal – to the use of renewable energy sources like wind, solar and wave power.
But this is the last thing that the rulers of the US, China, Russia and, of course Ireland, are willing to contemplate because they are all completely addicted and committed to profit, to capitalist competition and to the capitalist market and, therefore, to fossil fuels because they have trillions invested in them and fossil fuel corporations drive the world capitalist economy.
This is why we need people power from below to force governments to move, to resist the giant corporations and to bring about system change not climate change.
If the Irish Government were serious about combating climate change it would immediately implement the Bill introduced by Brid Smith and People Before Profit to ban further extraction of fossil fuels from Irish territory and waters and the PBP budget proposal to get cars off the roads by making public transport free. Then they would be able to raise their voices internationally , call out Trump and his ilk, and contribute to raising the alarm globally.
But they are not serious so instead they introduce a series of minor measures here and there to make it appear they are doing something while continuing business as usual. It is their approach to the housing crisis all over again.
A carbon tax, it should be said, is not a solution or a way forward in this situation. It simply shifts the focus and the burden away from states and the giant corporations who, as recent research demonstrated, are responsible for more than 70% of fossil fuel emissions, and on to the shoulders of ordinary people. The solution, we repeat, is NOT to tax or lecture ordinary people, it is to reduce carbon emissions by stopping making global production depend on fossil fuels.
As things stand the world’s rulers, and the Irish Government are among the worst offenders, are simply fiddling while the planet burns. They are, more or less knowingly, putting the future of humanity at risk for the sake of short term business profits and their own power and hoping that, with the aid of a compliant media, they will get away it.
History will condemn them but ordinary people can’t wait for the verdict of history. We need change NOW!