This article was first published in The Anvil, Vol 6 No 2, Sep-Oct 2017.

The single biggest environmental challenge now facing humanity is climate change, but the capitalist system is proving unequal to the task. To be safe, global mean temperature can rise no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. Pledges made at the Paris COP21 Conference in 2015 are vastly inadequate. Meanwhile, Donald Trump has pulled the US out of the Paris Agreement and, here in Australia, the Government is proposing action which will fall a long way short of the pathetically insufficient promises it made in Paris.

At the rate things are going, actions to mitigate climate change will be too little, too late, leading to dangerous climate change. Triggering of feedback cycles concerning the permafrost and other large carbon sinks could cause catastrophic levels of damage – even jeopardising the survival of civilisation. Capitalist governments, even when faced with evidence of oncoming disaster, take the least action they can get away with. They are part of the problem, not the solution.

The science exists to decarbonise the activities of the human race, but capitalism is in the road. We need a massive working class movement to save the environment on which we depend for survival and institute an emergency program of transition to 100% renewable energy, sustainable transport systems, sustainable agriculture and decarbonised industry. To get there, we need that working class movement to get rid of capitalism.

In building our movement, we will face obstacles. Opposition from the fossil fuel corporations and their political representatives in the capitalist parties is a given. We will also, though, face opposition from within the labour movement. Union officials, especially those controlling unions that cover workers in unsustainable industries, will attempt to mobilise their members to support bosses in their industry in the name of “defending jobs”. This short-sighted strategy is a road to disaster.

The way out of the trap of defending unsustainable jobs is to start from the principle of a Just Transition. Our movement needs to demand that all jobs be sustainable and that no community gets discarded by capitalism. In the course of the struggle for our demands, it will become obvious to all that the entire capitalist system is unsustainable and that the only Just Transition is a workers’ revolution.


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  1. Nihilist says:

    Waiting for a “massive working class movement to save the environment” is like waiting for Godot. If anything is eventually going to head off climate change it’ll be a combination of the piecemeal steps taken by capitalist governments and technical change over time that will reduce the need for fossil fuels. If the climate does change a bit and wipe out a few billion people so much the better. Humans are a pestilential problem on this planet. A bit of a correction is necessary to give other, more benign species a better run.

    • ablokeimet says:

      Capitalism is addressing climate change – that is correct. It is doing is so slowly, though, that it will lead to at least 3 degrees C of warming & maybe 4. We are talking about what is necessary to keep it under 2 degrees and, hopefully, under 1.5. Even 1.5 degrees is enough to do serious damage to environments around the world and many human societies as well.

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