Climate change

The looming tragedy of extinction

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Global capitalism is not only creating climate change but bringing about the extinction of millions of animal and plant species. Sarah Ensor explains the crisis, and what we can do to stop it.

In less than 80 years global capitalism has created a biodiversity crisis on a scale that has never been seen before in human history. One million of the estimated eight million animal and plant species on Earth are currently at risk of extinction. If the causes of this catastrophe aren’t challenged, many will die out without ever being identified, named, understood or appreciated for their vital role in our ecosystems.

Iraq's climate crisis: war, water and resistance

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The ‘land of the two rivers’ renowned for its fertile valleys and agriculture is turning into a vast wasteland. Richard Donnelly explains how the US occupation and neoliberalism has drained the country of life.

Iraq is thirsty. A water crisis is gripping the country. One-in-five of its 38 million people do not have access to clean water, and its historically fruitful farming lands are increasingly scorched and sterile.

Australia's political firestorm

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The startling effects of climate change have highlighted the global catastrophe for people who might have thought they were immune. Camilla Royle explains the political context of the crisis and Caitlin Doyle looks at why the government wants business as usual, despite the evidence.

The huge fires ripping through the Australian bush over the past few months have brought climate change home. Although people in the Global South are the most vulnerable, and the fires come at the same time as devastating floods in Jakarta, Indonesia, the climate catastrophe is also reaching the wealthier countries.

Should we build more houses?

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The answer seems obvious but, as thermal efficiency expert Fergus Nicol says, once global warming and energy conservation are factored in, the solution to the housing crisis is more complicated.

The shortage of housing, particularly for people on low incomes, is a major issue. The extent of the shortage is made visible by the number of homeless people forced to sleep rough on the streets. According to research by the housing charity Shelter, at least 320,000 people are homeless in Britain, with more than 4,000 of these sleeping rough. The need for council housing vastly outstrips supply, with around 1.24 million UK households on local authority waiting lists.

From civil resistance to revolution

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Extinction Rebellion places non-violent resistance at the heart of its strategy, and looks to claims made by US academics Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephen that just 3.5 percent of a population can topple a dictator. Sue Caldwell applauds XR’s actions, but questions the conclusions its claims can lead to.

In just over a year, Extinction Rebellion (XR), alongside Greta Thunberg and the school student climate strikes, has forced the climate emergency onto the front pages. Last month’s International Rebellion against climate change inspired activists around the world. The aggressive police response, from the use of water cannon in Brussels to effectively banning protests in central London, shocked many supporters and fed into debates about strategy and tactics.

How can we get system change?

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This year has seen a global movement in response to climate crisis. Lewis Nielsen asks how that can lead to deeper change.

Will 2019 go down as a year of mass revolt? Perhaps it is too early to say, but we can now add Chile, Catalonia and Lebanon to the likes of Hong Kong, Sudan and Algeria as places that have been rocked by mass protests this year. A notable feature of the protests has been a generalisation from an initial trigger — a WhatsApp tax or metro fare hike — into demanding much wider change.

Is our diet wrecking the environment?

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In the first of a series on food and the climate crisis, Amy Leather explains how capitalist agriculture has shaped our diet and the planet.

Earlier this year the Lancet medical journal published what they called the “planetary health diet”. They claimed that if their universal scientific targets for healthy diets were adopted, not only would it save at least 11 million lives but would also help avert global environmental catastrophe and prevent the collapse of the natural world. Their central message was that “the world’s diets must change dramatically” to both save ourselves and the planet. The diet they recommended was largely plant-based, and therefore boosted the claim that only by going vegan can we save the planet.

Are there too many people on the planet?

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Martin Empson unpicks the arguments of those who claim that population growth is to blame for the climate crisis.

At some point between October 2011 and March 2012 the world’s population surpassed 7 billion people. Whenever such a milestone is passed there is a rash of alarmist articles in the media warning of the dangers of uncontrolled population growth. In the years since 2012 the total has increased by a further 700 million people, which for some activists, politicians, demographers and media commentators only fuels the panic. As a result, you don’t have to campaign around environmental issues for long before someone will tell you that the problem is “too many people”.

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