The alarming disappointment that emerged from COP26 has an explanation that is difficult to admit for many, but inescapable: the warming of the earth’s surface is none other than the extreme and deadly imbalance produced by capitalist development. This thwarts any attempt at a solution as long as the latter still dominates the global system.
In the last 50 years, capitalism has spread in various ways and according to various metrics in the most diverse contexts. And this expansion has exacerbated some of its basic contradictions.
The main one is the increasingly unrestrained exploitation of natural resources. This exploitation has been accompanied by the abuse of power by the most industrialized countries over developing ones, especially when the latter are rich in raw materials. In fact, the former are imposing on the latter both the prices of raw materials, since they have the means to transform them, and of the products of that transformation which the latter need.
All this has made it increasingly easy to plunder the subsoil and soil resources of many countries in the South. And, at the same time, it has pushed them to focus mainly on the export of their raw materials, starting with fossil fuels, which today provide 85% of the world’s energy needs. Of course, fossil fuel deposits are not lacking in the more industrialized countries of the North, but, on the one hand, some of them, especially the U.S. and the Europeans, have already largely used up their reserves. On the other hand, the energy demand is only growing to power an ever-expanding mega-machine. In recent decades, the demand for other minerals used in new technologies for civil and military purposes has also increased considerably, and they contribute to pollution to a significant extent. And one must not overlook methane and nitrous oxide, emitted especially by agriculture and industrial breeding.
Intertwined with the first is the second contradiction characteristic of capitalism: the creation of growing inequalities, both between countries of higher and lower levels of development and within each one. And this too makes the reasons for conflict and antagonism more poignant.
The third contradiction derives from the increasingly marked competition between countries. This is a distinctive feature of inter-capitalist competition which has been further accentuated by globalization.
These contradictions emerged clearly at the COP26 and explain its failure. The leaders of the conference are well aware that today global warming has already exceeded 1.2°C and that it must be limited to 1.5°C by 2030 to avoid the risk of exceeding 2°C. If we were to cross this threshold, a fatal mechanism would be triggered in which the Earth would react by amplifying warming, thwarting any attempt to reduce emissions, with catastrophic consequences. Yet many leaders spoke of gradualism in the timing or of partial commitments.
In the face of such blindness, it should be clear, even to those who do not want to see, that global warming cannot be stopped without a total change of the system that is still dominant.
What should be offered instead is a model of close cooperation and solidarity, without discrimination or competition of any kind. A cooperation that would be completely equal and animated by the fullest convergence of intentions. Only a breakthrough of this magnitude can save us from the most destructive threat to the future of our species.
The movement active on this front is completely unprecedented in terms of breadth and spread across the world. But it cannot limit itself to denunciations, however vigorous. It is necessary that its militants should move from protest to struggle. For this purpose (as has happened on other occasions in the history of mass movements), we need a form of self-organization capable of exerting strong pressure from below and finding new forms of conflict consistent with the values, social models and collective behavior that are intended to be proposed.