Climate Change exists and is a product of reactionary capitalism, the Green Deal is capital’s non-solution

23 June, 2021

Galp refinery in Matosinhos, Port region, Portugal. Now it is being dismantled.
Galp refinery in Matosinhos, Port region, Portugal. Now it is being dismantled.

Climate change exists and has been caused by capitalism’s inability to generate real human development. The Green Deal, on the other hand, is a direct and immediate attack on living and working conditions whose goal is not to solve climate change but rather to revive an ailing global capital.

Table of Contents

Climate change exists and has been created by capitalism’s inability to generate true human development

Climate change.
Comparisons of simulated and reconstructed northern hemisphere temperature changes. Reconstructed temperatures are shown by gray shading. All data are expressed as anomalies from their 1500-1850 mean and smoothed with a 30-year filter.
CO2 Emissions
CO2 emissions by region since the start of the industrial revolution

The IPCC synthesis reports, with the next one to be published in 2022, reflect a massive, global scientific consensus with conventional treatment and abundant data.

The Synthesis Report confirms that human influence on the climate system is clear and increasing, and its impacts are observed on all continents and oceans. Many of the changes observed since the 1950s have been unprecedented in recent decades to millennia. The IPCC is now 95% certain that human activity is currently the primary cause of global warming.

Furthermore, the Synthesis Report concludes that the greater the perturbation of human activity on climate, the greater the risks of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts on people and ecosystems, and the more long-lasting the changes in all components of the climate system.

Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Edited by the Core Writing Team IPCC Synthesis Report. Rajendra K. Pachauri IPCC Chair, Leo Meyer Head of IPCC Technical Support Unit

From a historical perspective, what we see in the series is the evolution of capitalism and the leap between its progressive period and the phase where it is already a drag on Humanity and is increasingly incapable of producing true human development.

Capitalism represented at its inception such a mobilization of social energies, such an outburst of our species’ capacity to transform the Nature in which it unfolded, that it physically changed the world: it reclaimed land from the sea, made new rivers navigable, separated continents, created artificial islands… and yet global emissions – and the average temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere that we see in the first graph – only exploded exponentially after the world wars, when the development of the productive-forces was no longer doing so and the system was openly entering decline.

It is only then that average temperatures steadily and rapidly rose above those of the pre-capitalist period. In other words, climate change is an environmental expression of the system’s inability to generate human development in its historical decline. And it is not even the only one: from the dangerous and crude use of nuclear energy to produce electricity to the proliferation of zoonotic diseases such as Covid, the result of pushing the starving peasantry into exploiting wildlife for survival, decadent capitalism combines anti-human development and environmental predation.

What the data doesn’t say

Climate Change Evolution Scenarios (International Energy Agency)
Climate Change Evolution Scenarios (International Energy Agency)

What neither the scientific consensus nor the IPCC reports say is that the human species is even close to extinction. The discourse that has linked the prospect of extinction to climate emergency is pure apocalyptic and marketing delusion at once dismantled by very simple contrasts. Not even in the worst-case scenario outlined by the IPCC would the human species be endangered as such. Nor would it be the first time that our species suffers a 5º rise in average temperature to the calculated levels… and on previous occasions the capabilities of today did not exist.

In any case, what the scientists leading the institutions most involved in the study and monitoring of climate change point out is that we should work with the most plausible scenarios, not with the extreme ones… and that today this means a perspective of around 3º… or less. Far, far, far, far away not only from extinction but from a sudden and paralyzing catastrophe.

Which is not to say free of human costs. One only needs to look at what a drought means in famines or an increase in monsoons in order to realize that climatic variations can claim hundreds of thousands of lives. But here again, we cannot take the interpretation and correlation at face value. Climate change is a mass murderer… under the conditions of a capitalism that makes hundreds of millions of people vulnerable to it, not per se.

The Green Deal is the capitalist non-solution

Climate change isn’t going to put an end to capitalism either. Its statisticians and economists are already at pains to point out that its costs are bearable within a strategy of sustainable growth (=accumulation) of capital. Dealing with an existential threat is not why the Green Deal has been put in place. Nor to avoid human costs. After over a million direct covid deaths it is pretty clear that capitalism and the state are willing to sacrifice as many lives as it takes to maintain the profitability of capital.

The aim and essence of the Green Deal is not to save the natural environment or human lives, or even to avoid climate damage for its profits: its goal is to organize the biggest transfer of income from labor to capital since the world wars. Its implementation is making this brutally evident on both sides of the Atlantic in the energy prices, the housing, city planning, the food, the transportation and many more fronts…

This goal is dressed, unsurprisingly, in an ideological attire aimed at containing any social response, especially from workers. The Green Deal uses the idea of climate emergency to impose a climate sacred union which dresses up as a universal need what is nothing more than a strategy to revalue investments and reanimate capital.

Let’s be clear: the Green Deal, at best, can reduce CO2 and methane emissions, but this reduction is only an instrumental goal, a guideline. And more importantly, it will not harmonize the dysfunctional relations between Humanity and Nature, it will aggravate them.

If the Humanity-Nature metabolism is broken and operates on an antagonistic logic, it is because Humanity is broken into antagonistic social classes under a mode of production whose imperatives are increasingly antagonistic to the universal needs of our species. Needs that include reconstituting the relationship with the rest of Nature.

Therefore, to restore that relationship between Humanity and Nature, to constitute a common metabolism, the human community must first be restored. And that can only be achieved by overcoming capitalism as a whole at once and re-establishing a universal human community. Without restoring the community of the species there can be no common metabolism with Nature.

Moreover, if the Green Deal revitalizes, as it purports to do, accumulation, we will be no closer to a solution to an antagonism with Nature sold by capitalism as inevitable, but further away.

The reactionary response of the petty bourgeoisie

The offensive of impoverishment entailed by the Green Deal does not only affect workers. It also affects all those broad middle layers that make up the petty bourgeoisie. The problem with these middle strata is that their primary goal, keeping their social position within the system, aligns them with a capitalist understanding of the world… even when they rebel against its consequences.

They simply have no alternative model: they cannot imagine a world in which capitalism or its premises do not exist because they would cease to exist themselves as a class. They are therefore politically impotent and historically reactionary. And that is why their demands end up being easily instrumentalized by the state or by ruling class groups against the workers.

In case an example is needed, one need only recall the role of the hoteliers during the pandemic: they served to stage a social pressure on the state which, at the cost of thousands of lives, allowed the ruling classes to do what they wanted to do to revive national capital as soon as possible and no matter what. And at the same time the antivaccine movements, well fed by certain sectors of the American bourgeoisie and their gravy train, were used as a battering ram in the battles between imperialisms and segments of the ruling class and were driven by a denialism built in equal parts on a base of anti-scientific thinking and reactionary idealism…

With the Green Deal, the expressions of the petty bourgeoisie are repeating the same template. On the one hand we have denialism, trying to prove that scientific papers are the product of a conspiracy. They use rhetorical techniques and para-academic networks similar to those used for decades by tobacco companies to deny the link of their product to cancer. Beyond a few spontaneous ones, in the end they are funded by similar sources.

On the other hand we have catastrophism, there is even a strain which purports to be Marxist, the discourses of extinction and the youth movements organized from the state (Greta and her epigones), playing a role similar to that of the hoteliers with the Covid. They serve to cause climate angst in the Anglo-Saxon world as well as providing an excuse for the German Constitutional Court to force the state into speeding up the Green Deal against the opinion of the corporate bourgeoisie and neighboring countries, increasing climate targets when competition with China and the USA require it.

Denialism is used to avoid the inconvenient reality for a precarious and fearful class which does not care about human costs as long as they are able to save their businesses. catastrophism releases their existential anxieties with a show of reactionary anti-capitalism.

One and the other make the ideal foil to the internal frictions and battles of the ruling class… on their terms. Both are used and modulated by the opinion industry in order to shepherd intuitive resistances against the Green Deal. That is, both are narcotic ideology useful for redirecting at a moment’s notice any class response that puts universal human needs first.

Labor, climate change and the Green Deal

Rally in Barcelona against the electricity price hike imposed as a development of the Green Deal
Rally in Barcelona against the electricity price hike imposed as a development of the Green Deal

For working people Climate Change poses a historic threat. It is capitalism destroying the foundations of possible abundance, capabilities and the future of Humanity. There is no room for denialism.

The Green Deal, on the other hand, is a direct and immediate attack on living and working conditions whose aim is not to solve Climate Change but to resuscitate a global ailing capital; it means impoverishment and precarization in all fields, from diet to sleep schedules and housing, it reduces at every step the capacity of the most basic consumptions and subordinates the most trivial elements of daily life, at work and at home, to the big play of a increased exploitation dressed as sustainable technological change.

The struggle for the universal satisfaction of human needs must confront both. Climate change and Green Deal are not alternatives but two products of the same anti-human and anti-historical system. They can only be fought effectively by refusing to choose between the bad and the worse, and by confronting the common root linking them. Something that we can only do as workers, fighting as workers and with the means that are ours.