Climate Crisis Disruption: Too Much, Too Little

With the dire warnings from climate scientists piling up and the Tory government continuing its disastrous policies favouring fossil fuels, Allan Todd makes an impassioned call for much more disruptive action against climate wreckers to force the systemic change needed to achieve climate justice and ecological sustainability.

 

With a general election looming, this Tory government continues to ignore the increasingly desperate pleas of climate activists for action to end the Climate Crisis. Instead, to please the dirty energy companies and its ‘anti-woke’ hard-right electoral base, it presses ahead with its criminally-reckless policy of approving new fossil fuel projects while simultaneously scaling back on earlier ‘promises’ to reduce CO2 emissions. However, October saw Nature add its voice for an ecologically sustainable world by sending yet another ‘Walt Kowalski’ (cf. the film ‘Gran Turino’) to warn us all that we f**k with the climate at our peril!

Fig. 1 – This is why it definitely is ‘No Time for a Coal Mine’ – or for any new fossil fuel projects, ANYWHERE!

Storm Babet

That warning—of the increasingly frequent climate disruption we can expect if the capitalist carbon machine continues to put profits before people and planet—came in the form of Storm Babet. This was an intense extra-tropical cyclone that first hit large parts of northern Europe in mid-October.

Fig. 2 – The R. Severn in flood during Storm Babet

In case anyone has already forgotten Storm Babet’s impacts on the UK and Ireland, here’s a reminder (according to figures from the Environment Agency): seven dead, over 1250 homes flooded, hundreds more families forced to evacuate their homes, over 30,000 properties needing extra flood protection, and over 40,000 homes left without power. On top of that, DEFRA has warned of the likely impacts of rotting crops (such as potatoes) as a result of these floods, illustrating how vulnerable food supplies are now to the ever-increasing number of extreme weather events. Other countries experiencing Storm Babet’s climate disruption were Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Germany. Storm Babet, of course, was just the latest of the increasing number of extreme weather events being caused by what the UN’s General Secretary recently called ‘global boiling’.

‘State of the Climate’

Then, as clear-up operations were continuing, a much more worrying warning of the climate disruption we can expect came on 24 October. That day saw the publication of a ‘State of the Climate’ Report, issued by over 15,000 eminent climate scientists: (https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/advance-article/doi/10.1093/biosci/biad080/7319571?login=false) This highlighted the suffering caused across the globe by record-breaking climate extremes and raised alarms about the possibility of widespread societal and ecological collapse in the future, something David Attenborough warned about at COP24 in 2018.

The report also criticised recent increases in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, which is the primary driver of climate change, and stated that:

“The truth is that we are shocked by the ferocity of the extreme weather events in 2023. We are afraid of the uncharted territory that we have now entered.”  

Fig. 3 – One of the record-breaking wildfires in Canada, July 2023

As the report points out, 2023 was a particularly devastating year of extreme wildfires, floods, and heatwaves—all linked to and amplified by climate change. The scientists have listed 14 record-breaking ‘Climate-Related Disasters’ that have occurred since November 2022, while also pointing out that the list does not include every such disaster. Many of those listed, like Storm Babet, have increasingly occurred in the Global North, including:

  • Heavy flooding in parts of the US (over 20 fatalities and $3.5 billion in damages to property)
  • Intense wildfires in Canada (10m hectares of forests destroyed, 30,000 people forced to leave their homes)
  • Deadly heatwaves in southern and mid-western areas of the US (almost 150 deaths)
Fig. 4 – The devastating floods in Libya, September 2023, which killed over 10,000 people.

While the climate-related disasters in the Global South, which included record-breaking and deadly temperatures in Asia and extreme storms and floods in many countries (including Japan, China, and Libya), have led to thousands of deaths, massive destruction of homes and infrastructure, and food shortages resulting from the disruption of farming and loss of crops.

Global Boiling and Nature                                                         The authors suggest that temperatures in July 2023 may well have been the warmest on Earth over the past 100,000 years, which they see as “a sign that we are pushing our planetary systems into dangerous instability.” The report also pointed out how the Climate Crisis – and, in particular, ‘global boiling’—has  deepened since the start of this century:

“Global daily mean temperatures never exceeded 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels prior to 2000, and have only occasionally exceeded that number since then. However, 2023 has already seen 38 days with global average temperatures above 1.5°C by 12 September—more than any other year—and the total may continue to rise.”

Fig. 5 – The deadly Cerberus heatwave, in Europe, July 2023

The report sees the effects of such ‘global boiling’ as becoming progressively more severe, running the real risk of a worldwide societal breakdown as a result of unbearable heat, frequent extreme weather events, food and freshwater shortages, rising seas, more emerging zoonotic diseases, and a resulting increase in social unrest and geopolitical conflict. The scientists actually warn that:

“By the end of this century, an estimated 3 to 6 billion individuals – approximately one-third to one-half of the global population – might find themselves confined beyond the liveable region, encountering severe heat, limited food availability, and elevated mortality rates because of the effects of climate change.”

Finally, the authors, who have spent years monitoring 35 of Earth’s ‘vital signs’ (e.g., global tree cover, greenhouse gas concentrations, ocean temperatures, and livestock populations), pointed out that 20 of those ‘vital signs’ are now at record extremes, up from 16 in 2022. Their conclusion is a clear one for the entire global climate movement:

“As we will soon bear witness to failing to meet the Paris agreement’s aspirational 1.5°C goal, the significance of immediately curbing fossil fuel use and preventing every further 0.1°C increase in future global heating cannot be overstated.”

More disruption, please!                                                                Given the ever-increasing amount of climate disruption we’re already experiencing and the greater amount of disruption that will come if we continue to boil Planet Earth, it may seem strange to call for even more disruption. But the kind of climate disruption I’m appealing for is disruption from the climate movement! Over recent years, an increasing number of brave activists in the UK, from organisations such as Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion, Just Stop Oil, Coal Action Network, and Earth First!, have taken peaceful direct action to try to force the government to stop its climate-wrecking policies and, instead, to pursue policies that put people and the planet first. Many have been arrested, fined, and even put in prison, and many continue to run all these risks.

Fig. 6 – Just Stop Oil activists slow-marching

Sadly, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that this government only listens to the fossil fuel companies—a state of affairs that, in this capitalist ‘carbon’system’, is hardly surprising. The time for moving beyond actions such as slow-marching and disrupting sporting events has now surely come. What is needed, as a first step, is for climate organisations and activists to start really disrupting the climate disruptors.

Those who deserve to be significantly disrupted—not just while at work but also when hoping to have relaxing weekends and holidays—are many:

  • the ministers who approve such anti-people, anti-nature policies
  • the CEOs and board members of the greedy fossil fuel companies
  • the bosses of all the banks and insurance companies that facilitate these deadly projects
  • the owners and editors of all those media outlets that still refuse to tell the truth about climate and ecological crises

In addition, and much more crucially, we need to organise a rolling programme of mass disruption of all new fossil fuel projects, involving tens of thousands of activists at a time.

Fig. 7 – Climate activists in Germany, blocking the railway tracks to a coalmine: the kind of ‘climate disruption’ we need more of!!

That kind of direct action, involving such huge numbers of people blocking the movement and operation of equipment, would be impossible for the police to prevent, no matter what draconian laws the Tories pass to try to prevent it. In the short term, this now seems to be the only way to prevent new climate-busting projects from getting off the ground. Surely, once we accept that we are facing a crisis involving such unprecedented threats, we actually need to act as though it really IS a crisis?

Ecosocialism, NOT Extinction!                                                                In the longer term, though, we need fundamental ‘System Change’ that transforms society from top to bottom, and it’s becoming clear to increasing numbers that that ‘System Change’ needs to be from capitalism to ecosocialism as the only way to achieve a socially just society and an ecologically sustainable economy.

Attending the Ecosocialism 2023 Conference, which Anti-Capitalist Resistance is hosting, would be a useful first step for those interested in learning more about ecosocialism. https://anticapitalistresistance.org/acr-appeal-for-ecosocialism-conference/   As the organisers rightly point out:

Capitalism is killing the planet. Every day, the news gets worse. The desperate drive for profit is tearing apart the ecosystem. Planetary boundaries have been breached as carbon and other greenhouse gases accumulate.”

Fig. 8 – Ecosocialism – the Ultimate ‘System Change’

This conference will take place in London and online – on Saturday 2 December; and tickets are now available here. Three broad aspects of ecosocialism will be examined on the day, including a morning session on ‘How capitalism destroys the environment’. Among the ecosocialist parties and organisations supporting this conference are Left Unity and Green Left. Those attending are likely to come away with a clear line of direction for what needs to be done from 2024 on!


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Allan Todd is a member of ACR’s Council and of Left Unity’s National Council, and an ecosocialist/environmental and anti-fascist activist. He is the author of Revolutions 1789-1917, Ecosocialism not Extinction, and Trotsky: The Passionate Revolutionary – and the forthcoming Che Guevara: The Romantic Revolutionary (out 30 May 2024)

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