Climate change: Imperialism and hypocrisy

Ray Goerke, Socialist Alternative (ISA in Canada)

(This article was first published on 4 November 2022)

It seems that no matter the scale of the social crisis, there is always money for war. Less than a year after COP26, the Trudeau government is boosting military spending, including $19 billion on new fighter jets. These 88 F-35 jets operating together would burn 5,600 litres of fuel per hour, about 10 percent of the rate of gasoline burned by every vehicle in Canada. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland are joining NATO, while the US and China are sabre-rattling over Taiwan. The whole world is preparing for war while the world burns.

Droughts are destroying food crops. In July, 43 percent of the United States was experiencing drought. The Horn of Africa is facing the worst drought in 40 years. Over 800 million people globally are experiencing extreme hunger. New studies show that glaciers are melting faster than expected, with sea levels on track to rise one foot by the end of the century. These glaciers feed rivers that much of the world’s agricultural land depends on.

An estimated 600 people died as a result of the British Columbia (BC) heatwave in 2021. In Europe, over 10,000 excess non-COVID deaths have been recorded in the ongoing heatwave. Many of the people who died in BC lived in apartments that didn’t have air conditioning, because they couldn’t afford it or weren’t allowed by their landlords. Safe housing is unaffordable for many Canadians, yet in 2021 there were 1.3 million empty homes across Canada, including many empty luxury condos.

Over three million private jet flights were reported in 2021, the highest year on record. Many of these were short trips — the rapper Drake is known to fly his jet between Toronto and Hamilton. Working people are expected to pay more at the pump for a carbon tax, while major industrial emitters are exempt. The richest one percent of humanity produces twice as much carbon as the poorest half, yet working people are shamed for not wanting to pay more taxes that don’t really tackle climate change.

The Liberal government boasts about mitigating climate change, but they’re doing everything they can to ensure Canada continues to produce fossil fuels forever. They claim Canada can achieve emissions reductions by making the oil and gas sector “greener.” But their “net zero” is based on carbon capture and offsetting the emissions of fossil fuel production, not measuring the emissions from burning them — since they are shipped to other countries first. But the atmosphere has no borders. To really reduce global emissions fossil fuel production has to decline.

The government promotes unproven carbon-capture technology. If carbon capture is going to help the world stay under the 1.5 degree warming limit, it would need to remove 17 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year. Not even the most strident proponents of the technology claim that this will be possible soon enough to avoid catastrophic tipping points.

The 2021 floods in BC destroyed sections of several major highways. Floods in the east threaten to cut off the only major road and rail link between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, requiring an estimated $200 to $300 million to be spent on dike upgrades. And yet, the Canadian government gives $18 billion dollars a year to the fossil fuel industry to keep it afloat! Despite its rhetoric, the government’s actions show it’s mainly concerned with two things: defending the profits of the oil companies and expanding the military to defend the interests of US imperialism.

Climate change is not a problem that can be solved by individual action, and it won’t be solved by Liberal or Conservative governments, who are both in the pocket of the fossil capitalists. The environment cannot win unless the fossil capitalists lose. Workers need to build mass movements, to organize in their unions to strike for climate demands, and to build an independent political party that will fight the rule of fossil capitalists head-on.