Climate change will hit poorest of poor hardest

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In February a UN-sponsored international committee of scientists, the IPCC, issued Part One of a report that concluded that climate change had started, as a result of human activity (principally the burning of fossil fuels: coal, gas and oil), and was likely to get worse. Part Two was released in Brussels on 6 April and spelt out the consequences of unmitigated global warming.

IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri predicted “it’s the poorest of the poor in the world, and this includes poor people even in prosperous societies, who are going to be worst hit”. The report speaks of extra energy in weather systems, brought about by rising temperatures (caused by increased greenhouse gases), adding to the frequency, or intensifying the effects, of famines, water shortages, extreme weather and floods.

Temperature rises at the poles will lead to increased sea levels and threaten hundreds of millions with coastal and tidal river flooding – from Bangladesh to London. Some studies have already linked the loss of sea ice in the Arctic to changes in rainfall patterns in southern and western Europe.

No continent will be immune from climate change, but perhaps Africa is one of the most vulnerable. The IPCC report warns that by 2020 between 75 million and 250 million people in Africa will be exposed “to an increase in water-stress”; basically seeing longer and more severe drought. Both floods and drought could lead to huge increases in migration and refugees as tens, perhaps hundreds, of millions of people move to escape.

If average temperatures rise by a further 1.5degC – 2.5degC, then the report predicts 20% to 30% of all plant and animal species would be “at high risk of irreversible extinction”.

The IPCC report is based on the work of thousands of scientists. But the final version was a product of pressure from politicians particularly from the US, Saudi Arabia, China and Russia, and was ‘edited’, in reality, toned down to deflect calls for action.

However, more and more people are concluding that urgent action must be taken to cut harmful greenhouse gas pollution. But against the tide of public opinion are the interests of the owners and shareholders in transport, energy and wider industry who do not want any reduction in their profits.

On a capitalist basis, all of the major parties would rely on ‘the market’ to deliver cuts in emissions. Any capitalist party will also do so at the expense of workers’ jobs in so-called ‘dirty industries’, or by bigger taxes on ordinary people’s energy and transport.

Socialists, on the other hand, will fight climate change with a programme of rational planning of resources, based on public ownership and public good – not private profit – and by the international action of millions of ordinary people seeking to build a planet with a sustainable, socialist future.

Without international socialist action billions of people face shortages of food and water, extreme weather and floods. Building an international working class alternative to unmitigated climate change is an urgent necessity. This is what the Socialist Party is working towards.

By SP reporters