A very large chasm exists between those in power, including most of the 2020 presidential candidates, and environmentalists and scientists intent on acting now to resolve growing environmental crises. To reiterate what is known, the United Nations, through its IPCC and the IPBES committees, has provided comprehensive evidence that little time remains to avert catastrophic global warming. And the world is already in the midst of the sixth mass extinction.
Given that oligarchs, corporate executives and politicians are at least in theory physical beings as dependent on a livable world as the rest of us, it is incompatible views of the world that are illustrated by this indifference. Some people care more about wealth and power than they do about the environment, the planet and the rest of us. Lest this be confused with the human condition, the power to destroy the world has only existed for about seven decades.
The conclusion of the UN committees, considered conservative by many environmentalists, is that the opportunity to make incremental changes to industrial practices has passed. There is no way to achieve necessary goals without quickly and radically reorganizing Western political economy. And the alternative isn’t to continue on the current path. Doing nothing will alter the world in ways that will put hundreds of millions of people’s lives and livelihoods at risk.
The words and tenor of these UN reports, along with hundreds of related scientific papers, place the onus on governments to lead the transition away from industrial capitalism. Left to be worked through is the premise that governments and capital are separable. There are certainly differences by degree amongst capitalist nations, if not precisely type. However, in the belly of the beast— the U.S., the fantasy that capitalism moved beyond state dependence is belied by something as simple as property, which is 1) a legal device, 2) fundamental to capitalism, 3) enforced through state power.
For four or so decades the theorized line of political division was between those who believe climate science and those who deny it. From the perspective of power, these are equivalent appeals to different constituencies. Democrat Nancy Pelosi believes the climate science while doing everything in her power to assure that nothing substantial is done to address it. To date, the political contest has been to effectively manage the polity for the rich, not to enact legislation in the public interest.