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ecosocialism

An Ecosocialist Path to Limiting Global Temperature Rise to 1.5°C

By Richard Smith - System Change not Climate Change, November 26, 2018

I. The IPCC Report “Global Warming of 1.5°C” and the imperative to immediately suppress fossil fuel production

The much-awaited report from the U.N.’s top climate science panel describes the enormous gap between where we are and where we need to be to prevent dangerous levels of global warming. The 2015 Paris climate accord committed industrial nations to reduce their emissions sufficiently to keep global temperatures within a 2°C rise over pre-industrial levels. In the final accord, highly vulnerable island nations and faith communities represented at the UN pressed the authors to include the 1.5°C limit as an aspirational target in the final draft of the accord with 2°C as the backup target.

Soaring GHG emissions over the past five years, rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations, ice-cap retreats, intensified storms, summer forest fires reaching even above the Arctic circle, and die-offs of the world’s coral reefs have all raised concerns about what even a little bit more warming would bring. Parts of the planet including the Arctic and many inland areas, have already warmed beyond 1.5°C. California is on fire most of the year. The worst hurricanes are twice as severe (more precipitation, slower passage, greater wind speeds) as they used to be. This is just a short start. Climate breakdown occurring much more quickly than expected is one reason why climate scientists now think that the goal just five years ago of limiting warming to 2°C  “increasingly seems disastrous in this context.”[2] The Paris pledges were never sufficient even to keep warming below 3°C let alone 2°C. Few of the signatories have even managed to meet the low bars they set for themselves and he world’s largest countries including China, the U.S., and Canada have us on track to a 4-5°C warming. As CO2 concentrations continue growing, preventing runaway warming is going to require ever deeper, truly draconian cuts in emissions, which will mean greater economic disruption. IPCC estimates already show us needing to achieve a near vertical drop in emissions in the early 2020s. Every day we delay getting off of fossil fuels increases the probability that we won’t be able to save ourselves.

The 2018 IPCC special report painted a stark portrait of how quickly the planet is heating up and called on governments to take immediate steps to suppress emissions:

If emissions continue at current rate, atmosphere will warm by as much as 2.7° Fahrenheit, or 1.5° Celsius, above preindustrial levels by between 2030 and 2052. Further, warming is more extreme further inland of large water bodies. [To keep temperatures from rising beyond 1.5° degrees] anthropogenic CO2 emissions [must] decline by about 45% worldwide from 2010 levels by 2030 . . . [This] would require rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure (including transport and buildings), and industrial systems. . . . These systems transitions are unprecedented in terms of scale . . . and imply deep emissions reductions in all sectors, a wide portfolio of mitigation options and a significant upswing in those options.[3]

Preventing ecological collapse requires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that “has no documented historic precedent.”[4] What would this take? Myles Allen, Oxford University climate scientist and an author of the report said, “It’s telling us we need to reverse emissions trends and turn the world economy on a dime.” To prevent 2.7 degrees of warming greenhouse emission must be reduced by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, and by 100 percent by 2050. Use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from 40 percent today to 1-7 percent by 2050.[5] Drew Shindell of Duke University, another author of the report said: “It would be an enormous challenge to keep warming below a threshold” of 1.5 degrees . . . What might that look like? In part, it would include things such as no more gas-powered vehicles, a phaseout of coal-fired power plants and airplanes running on biofuels,” he said. “It’s a drastic change,” he said. “These are huge, huge shifts . . . This would really be an unprecedented rate and magnitude of change.”[6] In response to the report, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres warned world leaders to “Do what the science demands before it’s too late.[7]

IPCC Report: First Thoughts on Next Steps

By Sydney Azari - Medium, October 14, 2018

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released an ominous report this week driving home an urgent and serious reality:without immediate action to transform society, climate catastrophe will not only be our children’s future, but our own.

The key takeaway from the IPCC report is this: if we do not radically transform every aspect of society starting NOW, we are facing ecological collapse and mass death in the short term. The report does not deeply analyse the geopolitical implications of such widespread environmental upheaval. Since human societies are inseparable from the environment, we know that the precarity resulting from collapsed ecological systems could lead to catastrophic and violent political outcomes as well.

The report has generated a shock through the consciousness of many people- mostly for what is unsaid. The foundation upon which we have built our lives is quickly crumbling. The American Dream, the white picket fence, and retirement will never be ours. It will never be our children’s. It will never be our children’s children’s. We are entering a time of uncertainty and pain that the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life hasn’t left much room to consider. This is a critical turning point, a challenge we must meet head on if we are to survive.

We cannot pretend that climate change does not mean that EVERYTHING we are accustomed to must change in response. Change is inevitable. Pain is inevitable. Uncertainty is inevitable. The outcome is unknown. The only variable that can be manipulated to change outright planetary collapse is our own agency in the situation.

Whether the shock of the report leads us to retreat inward or rise to the challenge will be determined by our capacity to locate meaning in the future and perceive a way toward it. Determining a direction forward is the difference between shock exhausting us or serving as fuel for the long journey ahead.

I hope these tactics can offer a light to draw us from the darkness.

Radical Realism for Climate Justice

By Lili Fuhr and Linda Schneider - P2P Foundation, October 4, 2018

Limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial is feasible, and it is our best hope of achieving environmental and social justice, of containing the impacts of a global crisis that was born out of historical injustice and highly unequal responsibility.

To do so will require a radical shift away from resource-intensive and wasteful production and consumption patterns and a deep transformation towards ecological sustainability and social justice. Demanding this transformation is not ‘naïve’ or ‘politically unfeasible’, it is radically realistic.

This publication is a civil society response to the challenge of limiting global warming to 1.5°C while also paving the way for climate justice. It brings together the knowledge and experience of a range of international groups, networks and organisations the Heinrich Böll Foundation has worked with over the past years, who in their political work, research and practice have developed the radical, social and environmental justice-based agendas political change we need across various sectors.

Download a complete PDF of this collection of documents.

No, Capitalism Will Not Save the Climate

By Karin Nansen - The Ecologist, September 8, 2018

We are facing deep-rooted climate, social, and environmental crises. The current dominant economic system cannot provide solutions. It is time for system change.

For Friends of the Earth International this means creating societies based on peoples’ sovereignty and environmental, social, economic, and gender justice. We must question and deconstruct the capitalist logic of accumulation.

The climate catastrophe is interwoven with many social and environmental crises, including oppression, corporate power, hunger, water depletion, biodiversity loss and deforestation.

Equality and reciprocity

At its heart sits an unsustainable economic system, the sole aim of which is endless growth and profit. This system concentrates wealth, power, and obscene privilege with the few.

Corporations and national elites are empowered by that very system to exploit people and their livelihoods with impunity.

We must tackle climate change and the associated social and environmental crises by taking rapid and bold action to address the common root causes; privatization, financialization and commodification of nature and societies, and unsustainable production and consumption systems.

The magnitude of the crises we face demands system change.

That system change will result in the creation of sustainable societies and new relations between human beings, and between human beings and nature, based on equality and reciprocity.

We Can Beat the Climate Destroyers

By Bruce Lesnick - Socialist Action, September 7, 2018

Humanity faces a multi-faceted crisis. Endless wars of imperial aggression, both overt and covert—from Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan to Yemen, Palestine, and Central and South America. These conflagrations compel those at the bottom of the economic pyramid to fight and die to protect the wealth and privileges of those at the top. These wars destroy human beings and our natural environment, but also opportunities and resources that could be allocated to human betterment.

Nuclear arsenals remain on hair-triggeralert, with fearsome destructive potential, one accident or a single myopic policy decision away from wiping out the entire human race. Economic inequality, having already reached obscene proportions, is showing no sign of slowing down or reversing course.

Racism, xenophobia, sexism, and other forms of hate-filled discrimination are used to distract and divide those victimized by the current state of affairs and to hinder a united fight by all of the oppressed against our common oppressors.

And then there’s the matter of climate Armageddon. The world is heating up as a result of economic and energy policy choices. These choices have maximized profits for the super-rich 1% while threatening the very biosphere we all depend on for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

We know that the burning of fossil fuels and the resulting additional carbon in our atmosphere are driving rapid planetary warming. We know this, not because a majority of climate scientists believe it to be true—that’s not how science works; after all, majorities of scientists have been wrong on occasion. We know this crisis is real because a substantial amount of data has been collected that corroborates the climate change hypothesis, and because key scientific predictions based on the theory of human-accelerated climate change have been born out by evidence and experience.

(TUED Bulletin #76) New Unions and Regional Advances: A Mid-Year Report

By Staff - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, July 30, 2018

This report is intended to update TUED’s participating unions, allies and supporters regarding the project’s considerable progress so far this year.

The first part of the report covers organizational developments. The second part addresses our research and analysis, highlighting how major reports from both the International Energy Agency (IEA) and BP have corroborated the main conclusions of recent TUED working papers. We believe this is a very significant development that confirms both the legitimacy and the importance of TUED’s approach.

If your union is interested in being part of TUED, you can find more information here.

Main Developments

  • TUED continues to grow. Unions representing 560,000 members have joined so far this year, with others actively deliberating. Today the project consists of 64 union bodies from 24 countries.
  • Regional and national expressions of TUED are taking shape in the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, South Africa and Latin America.
  • TUED’s research and analysis continues to have an impact on trade union debates and policy. Earlier this year, TUED’s Working Paper #11, Trade Unions and Just Transition: The Search for a Transformative Politics, became available in English and will soon be available in Spanish.
  • Partnerships and collaborations with policy allies and movement-based NGOs are moving forward. TUED is playing an increasingly significant role in building a global energy democracy movement.

State, Capital, and Ecology: A Report to the International Marxist-Humanist Organization

By Mariah Brennan Clegg - Climate Justice Project, July 26, 2018

I would like to begin today’s talk with a quote from Kevin Anderson. No, not that Kevin Anderson. In discussing impending ecological collapse and the shortcomings of the now dramatically undermined Paris Agreement, climate scientist Kevin Anderson says, “You add up all of the commitments that every country has made, and it’s probably somewhere between 3 and 4 degrees Celsius warming.” “…there is a widespread view that a 4 degrees Celsius future is incompatible with any reasonable characterization of an organized, equitable, and civilized global community.”

To be sure, ecological calamity will not permit an organized, equitable, and civilized global community. Marxist Humanists and others would like to add, “it doesn’t come from one, either.” Anti-capitalism is becoming more mainstream as the (perhaps too easy) slogan, “Infinite growth cannot be sustained on a finite planet”, gains traction even on the centrist fringes of Left wing environmentalism. This is good news. From here, it is crucial that we develop a rigorous and concrete, alternative method of organizing our political economy and a plan for how to get there. Today I will begin with a Marxist-humanist analysis of the ecological crisis. From there I will explore a variety of common solutions and argue that there are theoretical and strategic reasons to pursue more radical alternatives. I will conclude by fleshing out one such solution based on freely associated labor and participatory governance.

Let’s begin with a statement of the problem. The fact that capitalism is causing ecological collapse has enough consensus within our group and has been written about so extensively that it is hardly possible to contribute anything new on the matter. Still, for the purposes of affirming a common footing, several points bear repeating. I do not endeavor to be exhaustive; I seek only to get to the main issues quickly so that solutions can be developed on solid ground.

The problem with capitalism most relevant to the ecological crisis is that it causes a rift in the social metabolism. Joel Kovel explains how this split begins with the dual character of money as use-value and as exchange-value. Because use-value is purely qualitative, physically grounded in the sensuous world, and only realized in use and for subsistence, the growth of use-value is finite. In contrast, exchange-value diminishes all things to an objective quantity, which by definition cleaves them from their particular subjectivity, their being for themselves. Moreover, exchange-value is entirely unhinged from use, its movement limitless and indifferent to natural and human content. Thus, where capitalism is built on exchange-value, we must reorient our economy toward the satisfaction of use-values.

The State Against Climate Change: Response to Christian Parenti

By BRRN Radical Ecology Committee - Black Rose Anarchist Federation, July 3, 2018

A response to Christian Parenti’s assertion that the state is the only way to meet the challenge of the climate crisis.

In the concluding chapter of Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence (2012), author Christian Parenti suggests that those seeking to mitigate and adapt to the disastrous effects of global warming can do so best by taking power of the State to implement the necessary changes to bring about a transition to a post-capitalist global society powered by renewable energies. In an address to the 2013 Left Forum, “What Climate Change Implies for the State,” in which he develops these ideas, Parenti asserts that the Left should adopt a strategy of recovering and reclaiming the territory of the State, “reshaping” it toward the end of an all-out short-term mobilization to resolve the impending threat of climate destruction. Though Parenti recognizes that the State’s primary role within the rise of capitalism to have been to facilitate the exploitation and destruction of nature, he somehow believes that this same mechanism could now serve the opposite end. He claims that climate change can be resolved simply through fiat by the Environmental Protection Agency: “we’re [just] waiting for numerous rules from the EPA.” He insists that the Left desperately needs to come up with “realistic solutions” to the gravity of the climate crisis, and that any strategy of merely “being outraged” or “invoking the righteousness of our cause” will utterly fail. [1]

What Is the State, and Is It Neutral? 

To begin to respond to Parenti, we first have to ask, what is the State? Peter Kropotkin distinguishes between the State as bureaucratic despotism imposed from above and collective self-governance from below, otherwise known as self-organization or self-management. [2] Examples of the latter can be seen in the soldiers’, peasants’, and workers’ councils of the Russian Revolution; indigenous Latin American assemblies; the Paris Commune of 1871; the Gwanju Commune of 1980; the cooperatives, communes, and free cities of medieval Europe and today’s Rojava Revolution; and the Local Coordinating Councils of the Syrian Revolution, among other examples. Therefore, when we mention “the State,” all that is meant on the philosophical level—leaving aside for a moment the very real physical presence of the State, as embodied in militarism, prisons, and the police—is just centralism, or the concentration of decision-making power, whether that be a monarch, emperor, One-Party State, or modern multi-party western democracies.

In terms of ecology, it is clear that the State is not a “neutral” arbiter but rather, as Parenti argues, the facilitator of ecocides global and local. The EPA’s laws and regulations are often not enforced, even when the ruling class believes they should at least be on the books, and are currently being decimated due to the Trump Regime’s affinity for fossil capital. If enforced, these standards are too-often observed along a racial-territorial basis, exacerbating environmental racism. Centralism in practice leads to bureaucratic lack of accountability and popular dis-empowerment, among other problems, as Kropotkin specified. So then the question becomes, do we need centralism for a successful transition to a post-capitalist, “ecological” future? The answer to this is of course not.

If We All Became Vegan Tomorrow

By Chris Saltmarsh and Harpreet Kaur Paul  - New Internationalist, June 6, 2018

If everyone became vegan tomorrow, between 14.5 to 15.6 per cent of anthropogenic (human-made) global greenhouse gas emissions would be wiped out. That is huge. You would be forgiven if you thought it was higher, as a recent viral Guardian article, based on a new study out from the University of Oxford, sensationally reported that meat and dairy accounted for 60 per cent of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, without stating the proportion of global anthropogenic emissions attributable to agriculture specifically.

With a current global average surface temperature increase of approximately 1.2°C, climate change has already caused harms, and any reduction in emissions would curtail further damage. Land currently used for meat and dairy production could be reforested, grains fed to cattle could be directed, water would be saved, and environmental damage caused by animal agriculture would cease.

While noteworthy, prioritizing dietary solutions is not only insufficient, but problematic. Imposing veganism on the majority world would hurt the rural poor. A survey of 7978 households in 24 countries across Latin America, Asia, and Africa, found that reliance on wild meat is highest among the poorest households and fills a gap when other food sources are not available. Many traditional and indigenous cultures surviving in relative harmony with natures have hunted meat sustainably long before the capitalist industrialization of agriculture. They’ve done so often with a profound respect for the animal and their role in the co-production of natures.

Reflections on the First Ecosocialist International and the Academic Left

By Ingrid Elísabet Feeney - Climate Justice Project, June 7, 2018

“Socialism is not a thing but a process.” – Richard Levins

“Sí hay un socialismo del siglo XXI: y se llama ecosocialismo.” (Yes there’s a 21st century socialism: and it’s called ecosocialism). The words, painted in strokes of white gold, leapt in bold relief against their faded blue background: a concrete wall about two meters tall which encircled the central meeting square of Agua Negra, Yaracuy, Venezuela. Dusk had fallen and the material boundaries of the wall seemed to melt into the thick indigo of the heady, sweltering tropical night, its message appearing as if emblazoned from stardust on the infinite horizon of the sky itself. Across the square, on the opposite wall, another message. A frenetic scrawl of soil black upon bright, vegetal green: “Hasta la victoria siembren!” (Sow towards victory!).

 The square was lined with long folding tables piled high with plantains and chili peppers, handmade clothing and works of art, artisanal soaps, second-hand toys, and musical instruments. Dense throngs of people, young and old, crowded around the tables to negotiate barter transactions: soap for plantains; bottles of home-made chili sauce for a well-loved drum. Groups of children dressed in colorful garments expressing their afro-descendent heritage lined up in preparation to ascend the plaza’s built-in stage, their peals of laughter punctuating gathering drum beats, heralding the performance to come. Amidst the ebullient chaos of this celebratory trueque[1], a crowd of globally-renown and up-and-coming revolutionaries circulated, exchanging exhausted yet exhilarated expressions of gratitude and affection: a Peruvian peasant resistance leader shook hands with a Kurdish freedom fighter. A Kenyan human rights organizer embraced an Amazonian land defender, laughing through her tears. The collective energy of the crowd was electric— they had just declared the First Ecosocialist International.

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