No shortcuts: The climate revolution must be ecosocialist


translated by Richard Fidler)

The mobilization against climate change continues to build, gaining new social layers beyond the initial circles of environmental activists and tending toward a systemic critique of capitalist productivism with its underlying competition for profit. Particularly significant is the fact that young people are joining the struggle. On March 15 more than a million people, a majority of them youth, went on strike for the climate around the world in response to the call by the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg. The movement is very deep, although at present it is limited to the major countries of the Global North. It reshuffles cards, upsets agendas and puts all the actors — politicians, trade unions, associations, social movements — on notice to answer two fundamental questions:

  1. Why are you not doing everything possible to limit to the maximum the terrible catastrophe that is growing day by day, and to do so in compliance with democracy and social justice?
  2. How dare you leave such a mess to your children and grandchildren?

The sacred cow of capitalist growth

These two questions go unanswered because they touch on the sacred cow of capitalism: growth. “Capitalism without growth is a contradiction in terms,” said the economist Joseph Schumpeter. Today, this contradiction unfolds before our eyes as the fundamental cause of an insurmountable antagonism between capitalism and a respectful relationship of humanity with the rest of nature based on “caring” and not on looting.

If we insist on this point, it is not primarily for ideological reasons or because “degrowth” would in itself constitute a societal project, but because our capacity to limit catastrophic climate change now depends directly on the speed and determination with which society will decrease its consumption and material waste. It is urgently necessary to reduce these flows (especially CO2 flows), to escape productivism and to enter into a new mode of production of social existence underpinned by the values of sharing, cooperation, respect and equal rights. This is possible only by ending the production of exchange values for the profit of competitive capitalists through a new social engine: the production of use values to satisfy real human needs, unalienated by commodity fetishism and democratically determined in respect for the limits of ecosystems.

The radical nature of the transformation to be carried out is clear in the Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Global Warming of 1.5°C. In its summary, the IPCC concludes that global net CO2 emissions must be reduced by around 45% by 2030 in relation to 2010, and to this effect pleads for “profound transformations at all levels of society.”

Widely reported by the worldwide media, this conclusion nevertheless presents a somewhat toned-down portrait of the situation, which is extremely serious. The full report compares four possible “pathways” or scenarios for the reduction of emissions, graphically displayed as follows:

AFOLU: Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use. BECCS: Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage. CDR: Carbon Dioxide Removal

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