Climate emergency demands radical action
The climate emergency is already impacting all our lives. As it gets worse, we will be affected by more catastrophic floods and storms, bushfires and droughts. Globally there will be less clean water and farmland available.
This disproportionately affects those who have the least — women, Indigenous people and those living in exploited nations.
The climate emergency is a result of an economic system — capitalism — in which private companies’ profit-making is privileged over the real needs of communities and their environments.
Capitalism will not resolve the climate crisis because it cannot due to its structured social and ecological irrationality.
This is why, regardless of what the science tells us we should do, fossil fuels are still being burnt and sustainable energy systems still have to be fought for.
Capitalism, in which global inequality is the norm, also avoids real democracy. This is why, to overcome climate change, we have to transform society into one based on democracy and economic equality.
Central to this is expanding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land rights, poverty reduction, refugee rights, gender equality and workers’ rights.
There is already too much carbon in the atmosphere. The warming already in the system risks the crossing of various natural “tipping points” that would change the Earth’s life support systems irreversibly on human timescales and could raise temperatures further and faster.
Once these points are crossed, it would raise average temperatures to levels that have not existed for millions of years, at a speed that many species would not be able to adapt to. The already dangerous rate of extinction of species would accelerate.
In this warmer world, maintaining large-scale agriculture would be difficult or impossible. Without a secure food supply, we can expect outbreaks of famine, disease and war.
Bringing greenhouse gas emissions under control will require fundamental changes and concerted efforts at every level — international, national and local.
As global warming is already creating dangerous climatic events, there is no amount of new greenhouse emissions that is safe. We must radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions now.
Australia is one of the world’s worst culprits, with the highest per-capita rate of greenhouse gas emissions among advanced economies. It therefore has a disproportionate responsibility for the historic emissions that have caused the current dangerous warming.
The policies adopted by Labor and the Coalition are not just too weak — both are supporting the huge expansion of coal and gas extraction and exports.
Simply bringing in a carbon trading scheme is not a solution to the climate emergency. These schemes are riddled with loopholes and are a dangerous distraction from genuine measures. They are designed to allow some polluters to delay emissions cuts, when we need all emissions to be cut as fast as possible.
Nuclear power is not a safe, clean, sustainable or viable energy solution. The nuclear industry has huge problems not faced by renewables. The nuclear cycle begins with uranium mining. All the operating mines have a history of leaks, spills and accidents.
However, real options do exist.
Australia has the economic power to change quickly: it could abandon fossil fuels.
We have enough sun and wind to provide all our energy many times over.
We also have the wealth to develop a renewable energy manufacturing industry and other appropriate technology. We could provide this technology — which is making great advances — to countries with underfunded infrastructure, as a repayment of Australia’s climate debt for its historically high emissions.
Such a program would revitalise Australia’s dying manufacturing industry. It would provide a lot more quality, skilled jobs than the fossil fuel industry ever could. It would also put Australia in a position to go from one of the worst climate offenders in the world to being an important part of the solution.
Business-as-usual, pro-capitalist politics cannot solve this crisis. We need to take radical measures to address the climate emergency.