You are here

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Climate Change As Class War: A Review

By Tom Wetzel - Ideas and Action, December 6, 2022

As the burning of fossil fuels continues to pump up the size of the carbon dioxide layer in the atmosphere, the global warming crisis becomes ever more acute. In its “Code Red for Humanity” warning in 2021, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said: “The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk. Global heating is affecting every region on Earth…”

But we’re losing the climate battle thus far. In Climate Change as Class War, Marxist geographer Matthew Huber argues that the climate movement is losing because it is rooted in the “professional class.” He argues that this class lacks the power to defeat the powerful capitalist interests that drag their heals against the kind of drastic cutting back of fossil-fuel burning that is needed. For Huber, the climate movement needs to be rooted in the working class to have sufficient power to enact radical structural reforms needed to effectively fight global warming. 

Huber analyses the existing climate movement as consisting of three layers. First, there are the “science communicators” like James Hansen who try to do popular education about climate change science. A second group are “policy technocrats” with expertise in law or policy studies and work in think tanks, the university world, or non-profits. Their orientation is to craft “smart” policy solutions. A third group are the “anti-system radicals” whose exposure to the science of environmental devastation “leads to a kind of political radicalization.” Huber views these groups as part of the “professional class” and tries to use his theory of this class to explain the politics of the climate movement. Huber pinpoints two features of the climate movement that he sees as sources of weakness: (1) The emphasis on high levels of personal consumption as a factor in global warming, thus leading to a “politics of less” — especially a feature of “degrowth” politics; and (2) an emphasis on science education. “Making climate politics purely about science evades the question of power. It allows us to attribute…inaction on climate change as simply due to misinformation rather than a lack of power.”

Huber appeals to the theory of the “Professional-Managerial Class” (proposed by Barbara and John Ehrenreich) to try to explain the origin of these features of the “professional class” climate movement. Here he points to the centrality of credentials which mediates the access of the “professional class” to the labor market. This includes “the existence of a specialized body of knowledge, accessible only by lengthy training,” degree and licensing programs, professional associations, which he regards as “forms of class organization.” This tends to encourage acceptance of meritocratic ideology which favors decision-making power for managers and professionals. This emphasis on the importance of knowledge and the role of professionals tends to favor the science education emphasis of the climate movement, as Huber sees it.

In the Ehrenreichs’ theory of the PMC their class position is based on their control over cultural and social reproduction. This is how teachers and writers are included in the class. Among both Marxists and libertarian socialists, however, class has historically been seen as an institutional group-to-group power relation in social production, as in Marx’s concept of capital as a social power relation. Looking at it from this point of view, I think the PMC theory tends to paper over a distinction between two different class groups. First, there is a group I call the bureaucratic control class. This group’s class position is based on their relative monopoly of decision-making power, via bureaucratic hierarchies that exist to control labor and run corporations and government agencies day-to-day. This includes not only salaried managers but high-end professionals who work closely with management to control labor and defend corporate interests, such as corporate lawyers, HR experts, and industrial engineers who design jobs and work organization. This class power relation is the basis of the clear antagonism between this layer and the working class. 

It’s noteworthy that school teachers, newspaper reporters, script writers, and nurses all form unions and occasionally go on strike. These lower level professional employees are not usually part of the management apparatus, and don’t manage other workers. As such, they have a structural position like the core working class of manual workers, not the bureaucratic control class. The people in this lower professional layer often have college degrees, and sometimes do show elitism towards the core manual working class. They also tend to have more autonomy in their work. However, the “skilled trades” in the early 20th century often showed elitism towards less skilled manual workers and often had relative autonomy in their work. But we generally regard skilled blue collar workers (such as tool and die makers) as part of the working class. 

Lower level professional employees may be tempted to middle class meritocratic ideology. As such they will be in a conflicted position, as they also share the subordination of the working class position. This is why Erik Olin Wright’s phrase “contradictory class location” is appropriate for this group — a point that Huber concedes.

The Case for Not Flying

By Fabrizio Menardo - Green European Journal, July 7, 2022

Although aviation accounts for 2.8 per cent of global CO2 emissions, its harmful impact rarely rises on the climate action agenda. In a globalised economy with businesses and lifestyles built around air travel, flying can be a hard habit to shake. To Fabrizio Menardo, individuals must make behavioural changes and policymakers must address the socio-economic challenges in the sector to bring travel in line with climate goals.

In 2015, under the famed Paris Agreement, almost every country on Earth pledged to limit the global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels and “pursue efforts” to keep warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities have already caused around 1.1 degrees of warming, leading to an increase in extreme weather and climate events such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, and droughts. Many of these impacts will last for centuries, and their magnitude will grow in line with cumulative future emissions. The IPCC estimates that, in order to achieve a 67 per cent probability of staying below 1.5 degrees Celsius, our cumulative CO2 emissions from the beginning of 2020 must remain below 400 billion tonnes. Current annual CO2 emissions stand at around 35 billion tonnes

Climate change: IPCC report confirms that just transition and green jobs are central to success

By staff - International Trade Union Confederation, May 4, 2022

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said: “This report lays out a stark reality: global greenhouse gas emissions need to peak before 2025, and we have to cut emissions by 43% by 2030 to give us a chance to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

“That’s a lot, but the report says that solar and wind energy have the potential to deliver over one-third of this target.

“It’s unavoidable: the world needs rapid, deep and immediate investments in jobs to build this infrastructure and deliver the cuts to emissions we need.

“At the same time, the report is clear that we have to leave the oil and gas in the ground to survive. We need fossil fuel infrastructure and subsidies to be repurposed.

“This requires just transition: a plan to convert these jobs in fossil fuels to jobs in clean energy. Every country, every industry, every company, and every investor must have a plan developed, in partnership with working people and their communities, and must implement it rapidly.

Our report with the World Resources Institute and the New Climate Economy showed that this shift makes economic and social sense too. Investing in solar power creates 1.5 times as many jobs as investing the same amount of money in fossil fuels.

“The IPPC has sounded a call to action for jobs in renewables. Investors, companies and governments need to make this a reality now. We know that for every ten jobs in renewable energy, there are another five to ten in manufacturing supply chains and, if these are good jobs with just wages, 30 to 35 jobs in the broader community.”

The IPPC report makes clear the transformational potential of just transition, saying it can “build social trust, and deepen and widen support for transformative changes”. It goes on to say: “This is already taking place in many countries and regions, as national just transition commissions or task forces, and related national policies, have been established in several countries. A multitude of actors, networks, and movements are engaged.”

Sharan Burrow added: “We need unions at the table everywhere to build these plans and to guarantee income support for secure pensions, reskilling and re-deployment.”

IPCC Report Calls for “Just Transition”

By Staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, May 2022

The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change emphasizes the need for immediate action to protect the climate and lays out detailed strategies for how to do it. The report includes a lengthy analysis of ‘just transitions’ in countering climate change. A just transition could entail that

the state intervenes more actively in the eradication of poverty, and creates jobs in lower-carbon sectors, in part to compensate for soon-to-be abandoned fossil-fuel-based sectors, and that governments, polluting industries, corporations and those more able to pay higher associated taxes pay for transition costs, provide a welfare safety net and adequate compensation for people, communities, places, and regions that have been impacted by pollution, marginalized or negatively impacted by a transition from a high- to low-carbon economy and society.

The just transition concept has become

an international focal point tying together social movements, trade unions, and other key stakeholders to ensure equity is better accounted for in low-carbon transitions and to seek to protect workers and communities.

 According to the IPCC, “just transition” also forms a central pillar of the growing movement for a “Green New Deal”—a “roadmap for a broad spectrum of policies, programs, and legislation that aims to rapidly decarbonize the economy while significantly reducing economic inequality.”

The US Green New Deal Resolution for example positions structural inequality, poverty mitigation, and a just transition at its center. In 2019, the European Green Deal proposed including a UDF100 billion “Just Transition Mechanism” to mitigate the social effects of transitioning away from jobs in fossil based industries. National level green new deals with strong just transition components have been proposed in South Korea, Australia, Spain, UK, Puerto Rico, Canada, as well as regional proposals across Latin America and the Caribbean.

The report provides a list of organizations supporting just transition, including the Labor Network for Sustainability.

The report treats a just transition as part of the broader question of climate equity. Its section on “Equity in a just transition” says,

Looking at climate change from a justice perspective means placing the emphasis on

  • a) the protection of vulnerable populations from the impacts of climate change;
  • b) mitigating the effects of the transformations themselves, including easing the transition for those whose livelihoods currently rely on fossil fuel-based sectors; and
  • c) envisaging an equitable decarbonized world. Neglecting issues of justice risks a backlash against climate action generally, particularly from those who stand to lose from such actions.

Rallies Held Across US for 'Climate, Care, Jobs, and Justice'

By Kenny Stancil - Common Dreams, April 23, 2022

Scores of people in communities around the United States took to the streets on Saturday to demand swift and bold legislative and executive action to tackle the fossil fuel-driven climate crisis as well as skyrocketing inequality.

At "Fight for Our Future" rallies held in Washington, D.C., Phoenix, Atlanta, and more than 40 additional cities across the country, the message was simple: Time is running out for Congress and President Joe Biden to make the bold investments needed to create millions of unionized clean energy and care sector jobs that can simultaneously mitigate greenhouse gas pollution along with economic and racial injustice.

The nationwide mobilization—organized by a coalition of more than 20 labor, civil rights, and environmental justice groups including SEIU, NAACP, the Sierra Club, the Sunrise Movement, the Center for Popular Democracy, and the Green New Deal Network—took place one day after Earth Day.

Nationalize the U.S. Fossil Fuel Industry To Save the Planet

By Robert Pollin - American Prospect, April 8, 2022

Even as Vladimir Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine proceeds and concerns over the subsequent high gas prices proliferate, we cannot forget that the climate crisis remains a dire emergency. The latest report of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—the most authoritative source on climate change research—could not be more explicit in reaching this conclusion. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres described the report as a “file of shame, cataloguing the empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unlivable world.” This follows several equally vehement studies in recent years, as well as those from other credible climate researchers.

If we are finally going to start taking the IPCC’s findings seriously, it follows that we must begin advancing far more aggressive climate stabilization solutions than anything that has been undertaken thus far, both within the U.S. and globally. Within the U.S., such measures should include at least putting on the table the idea of nationalizing the U.S. fossil fuel industry.

War in Ukraine: reflections and proposals for internationalist union action

By Simon Pirani - Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières, March 31, 2022

From the Solidaires Union web site. These notes from the Solidaires Union bureau set out its approach to building solidarity with Ukrainian working-class resistance to Russian military aggression. They are a useful starting point for discussion.

This statement is based on the assessment made during the Solidaires national board meeting in March, the contributions of our member organizations, the work of our international commission, and inter-union exchanges both nationally, through the inter-union CGT/FSU/Solidaires, and internationally, through the International Labour Network of Solidarity and Struggles. All of this has also been fuelled by the exchanges and reflections held within larger unitary frameworks in which we take part. [1]

Beyond producing assessments and analyses, union commitment is about action. The following proposals are based on the international work that Solidaires has been doing for years and are expressed in the initiatives, connections and publications of recent days. They aim to respond – on the basis of concrete actions and not useless polemics – to the sectarianism displayed by some statements from other trade union organisations, and especially to the hypocrisy of government and employers’ declarations.

The introductory statement to the debate of the national board the 9th March recalled the position of the Solidaires union from the first day of the war (actually even before the start of this war, since all that follows is part of the tradition and practice of internationalist unionism that we try to implement):

□ The immediate withdrawal of Russian troops – the right of peoples to self-determination – the need for an immediate ceasefire and for building a negotiated peace – supporting people fighting against war, especially in countries at war – the dignified and massive reception of all refugees, regardless of their origin, and the fight against all inequalities and discrimination – taking part, on our own terms, in mobilisations and demonstrations for peace – (joint) participation in the initiatives of solidarity with the Ukrainian people, such as the “union convoy” which aims to provide Ukrainian workers with relief supplies – denouncing nationalism and capitalism as the causes of war – internationalism, as an alternative to nationalism – fighting to end tax havens – the urgency of an ecological transition towards the end of the massive use of fossil fuels.

End the addiction to fossil fuel- support the Ukrainian resistance

By Alan Thornett - Red Green Labour, March 24, 2022

Putin’s merciless invasion of Ukraine – which is his next step in the restoration of the Russian empire – has been stalled by the remarkable popular resistance that has been mounted against it. The southern port city of Mariupol is been flattened by Russian artillery and is facing a humanitarian catastrophe but has refused to surrender. On the other hand, the invaders have been pushed back on several fronts.

The Ukrainian resistance has relied heavily on both Western economic sanctions and Western military aid including hand-launched anti-tank and surface to air missiles without which Putin’s blitzkrieg might have been unstoppable. The economic sanctions have not just put Putin under pressure at home, but they have given the population the confidence to resist such an overwhelming force.

As the Russians have met much stronger resistance than they expected they have resorted to ever more indiscriminate, long-range bombardment of the civilian population with missiles launched from ships in the Black Sea and from Russia itself. The result of which has been a rapid escalation of civilian casualties. Putin has thousands of planes and missiles, of course, and could wipe Ukraine off the map. But whether that would be politically sustainable (or survivable for him at home) is another matter.

Russia is now a brutal kleptocracy, with Putin as the new Stalin. Anti-war demonstrators facing up to 16 years in jail and opposition politicians, who oppose war, driven into exile. Ten million people, a quarter of the population, are internally displaced and with almost five million already refugees abroad. Many thousands, mostly civilians, are dead. EU countries, to their credit, have opened their borders, suspended visa requirements, and taken in millions of people. This is in sharp contrast to Boris Johnson’s miserable Little Englander government that has been running around in circles in a (very successful) attempt to give refuge to as few people as possible.

How can the climate and anti‑war movements come together?

By Christian Zeller - Red Green Labour, March 23, 2022

Translated from the German- originally published here.

Exit from the fossil economy and rearmament, solidarity with the Ukrainian resistance

We live in a time of abrupt turns. [1]

Global warming is accelerating. The climate is changing faster than previously thought. The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine is largely aimed at the territorialconquest of a neighbouring state, the destruction of its army and the overthrow of its government. [2] This is something that has not existed in Europe in this way since 1945.

Even before this assault, the NATO countries, Russia and China started an arms race. The antagonisms between the various imperialisms intensified enormously. [3]The wave of rearmament that was already being prepared and launched before the war in Ukraine is an expression of intensifying competion for access to scarce resources that are so urgently needed in connection with the energy transition.

Global warming, this war and the danger of wars to come are interconnected and should be understood in a common context.

Another Silent Spring: Strategies for the Climate Struggle

By Paul Fleckenstein - Tempest, March 15, 2022

After the worst year yet of climate disruption, 2021 closed with another failure of international negotiations at COP26 and the slow death of President Biden’s meager legislative climate agenda.

North America faced heightened levels of drought, heat, fire, flooding, wind, climate-enhanced migration, and crop failures. Yet the climate movement’s support and campaigning for Biden and Democratic Party achieved little. Expectations are even lower for the next three years.

To respond to this impasse the climate movement, particularly the predominant organizations in the U.S., needs to reorient away from the over-emphasis on electoral politics, and toward protest and struggle as the priority strategy.

Fortunately, there are some glimpses at how to expand this potential, but the central question remains, what socialists and the Left, in general, can do now to best catalyze more disruptive, sustained, and mass-based climate action.

Pages

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.