Climate change is far more than just the result of poverty and the poor use of resources. Actually its better understood as what Marx called a metabolic rift between humanity and nature. Capital's insatiable self-expansion is driven to appropriate and despoil nature, even to the point of altering the conditions of production.
Capitalism could probably survive even big changes in the climate - but millions of workers will not. For example the IPCC report last month said that
· If temperatures rise by 0.5ºC or more, there will be an “increased burden from malnutrition, diarrhoeal, cardio-respiratory and infectious diseases” and “increased morbidity and mortality from heat waves, floods and droughts”.
· In Africa by 2020, “between 75 and 250 million people are projected to be exposed to an increase of water stress due to climate change.”
The bourgeoisie e.g. the Stern review have already given up on stabilisation at 450ppmCO2, the level most scientists think will lead to a 2oC average rise. Even 550ppmCO2 may be exceeded, even if the current targets are met. Over 2oC, the effects are likely to accelerate. We can’t rely on capitalist firms or governments to do the job.
To stop this, emissions have to start falling by 2015. My view is that only a resurgent labour movement is strong enough to impose the necessary measures. Climate change adds to the urgency of our work to build such a movement and fight for socialism. We should start from the reality of climate change and not underestimate its significance.