Struggle for Climate Change is a Struggle Against Capitalism

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Last week, some of the headlines in the world media were dominated by climate strike call given by the students under the slogan of Friday for the Future”. Led by Greta Thunberg this event attracted worldwide attention. The New York Times wrote; “Lessons of the Day: ‘Protesting Climate Change, Young People Take to Streets in a Global Strike”, The Guardian’s headlines was “Global climate strike: Greta Thunberg and school students lead climate crisis protest-millions of people from Sydney to Manila, Dhaka to London and New York are marching for urgent action on climate breakdown”, similarly Financial Times made the headline “Climate strike: ‘Change is coming whether you like it or not’, Protesters have demonstrated on Friday in marches spanning from Asia to Africa, Australia , Europe and across the United States to call for action on climate change”. Even the Washington Post carried a similar story, “We will make them hear us’: Millions of youths around the world strike for action”.

The strike was observed in India as well, though not in that large numbers as it occurred in other parts of the globe. Some of the Indian cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata, among the bigger cities staged impressive marches. There was a strike call given by SFI, one of the largest left students organisation in India. There is widespread churning going on among the students for acting against the threats of climate change.

Whereas there has been a general acceptance of the demands of the movement for climate strike there also has been criticism and scepticism expressed by some of the groups and individuals who view it with cynicism, term it as ‘elite propaganda’ of the West that does not take into consideration the actual demands of the third world people and those of the least developed countries. According to them instead of a climate strike there should have been a ‘development strike’, which is urgently required in a developing world like India and other South Asian countries. Since some of these groups and individuals who have formed this criticism come from a democratic and left background it is pertinent that the issue is dealt in perspective.

A SILENT CRISIS

Whereas there are no two opinions about the urgent need to act on the climate crisis engulfing the world. The point is how it should be done? I shall try to comment on it in later paras. For now, let us understand how large the issue is. Not just to quote from various IPCC(Inter-governmental panel on climate change) reports that time is running out, there are several other phenomenon that point towards the urgency to act. ‘Anatomy of a silent crisis’, is a comprehensive report prepared by the Global Humanitarian Forum. It deals with the challenges that the earth and humankind face in the contemporary times of climate change.

The findings of the report indicate that every year climate change leaves over 300,000 people dead, 325 million people seriously affected, and economic losses of US$125 billion. Four billion people are vulnerable, and 500 million people are at extreme risk. matter of the report. These already alarming figures may prove too conservative. Weather-related disasters alone cause significant economic losses. Over the past five years this toll has gone as high as $230 billion, with several years around $100 billion and a single year around $50 billion. Such disasters have increased in frequency and severity over the past 30 years in part due to climate change. Over and above these costs are impacts on health, water supply and other shocks not taken into account. Some would say that the worst years are not representative and they may not be. But scientists expect that years like these will be repeated more often in the near future.

The report also summarises the impact of climate change on different parts of the world and how it is linked to the whole issue of global justice. Developing countries bear over nine-tenths of the climate change burden: 98 per cent of the seriously affected and 99 per cent of all deaths from weather-related disasters, along with over 90 per cent of the total economic losses. The 50 Least Developed Countries contribute less than 1 per cent of global carbon emissions. Climate change exacerbates existing inequalities faced by vulnerable groups particularly women, children and the elderly. The consequences of climate change and poverty are not distributed uniformly within communities. Individual and social factors determine vulnerability and capacity to adapt to the effects of climate change. Women account for two-thirds of the world’s poor and comprise about seven in ten agricultural workers. Women and children are disproportionately represented among people displaced by extreme weather events and other climate shocks. The poorest are hardest hit, but the human impact of climate change is a global issue. This brings us to the same argument as advocated by some of the groups that the developing world which has not much contribution to the crisis; why should it join such strikes?

The developed countries cannot negate their `historical responsibility’ and continue with their pillage of global climate at the expense of the vast majority of humanity. They need to be forced to continue to accept per capita emissions as the basis of energy equality as every human being on the planet, should have equal access to carbon space. Such inequality – per capita emissions in USA are 20 times greater than per capita emissions in India – cannot be allowed to persist. But there is this dilemma that those who are responsible for the havoc have little role to play in it; at the same time cannot evade from the responsibility. Responsibility to fight the climate injustice and also to ensure that the carbon footprint is reduced.