Climate crisis

The dystopia that awaits our children, and their children

The ladder has been well and truly pulled up on younger generations—and not just that, but the earth around them has been set on fire.

Not everyone shares equal blame for this; and not every state shares equal blame. It is a class system, and a class-divided world, combined with dominant global states and dominated nations and peoples.

But now young people everywhere face a dystopian future of crisis, chaos, ignorance, hatred, war, poverty, and very probably climate catastrophe.

The rate of warming is now twice what it was for the preceding hundred years. A conservative estimate has global temperatures rising by 1.5°C by 2050; other estimates suggest it will be over 2°C, and some warn of an increase of 4°C by the end of the century. Tipping-points are being well and truly passed.

An increase of 2°C would see glaciers melt more rapidly, and seas rising and becoming more acidic, killing off many species and much food. Much of the oceans would become dead zones, incapable of sustaining life. 70 per cent of coastlines would become flooded, making many parts of the world uninhabitable. Islands would vanish. Many water supplies would become undrinkable as a result of salinisation.

Basic food crops, such as maize, rice, wheat, and cereals, would fail, and yields would significantly decrease. Heat waves would make some places uninhabitable. Extreme weather events would increase, causing millions of deaths and much destruction. There would be an unprecedented migration of human beings and animals.

It is estimated that 1½ billion people will be forced to migrate by 2050 as a result of climate change, at first from rural to urban areas but increasingly from the global south to the north. Power supplies and power stations will be particularly vulnerable and at risk of catastrophe, killing many but also disrupting energy supplies.

This description of the impact we face could go on and on; but the message is pretty clear.

We are already seeing a re-emergence of a fascist right, well funded, around the globe, exploiting inequality and fear for their own narrow ends. This will continue as migration increases and the existing housing, health and low-pay crisis becomes unimaginably worse. The right will grow, and get into government, and militarised borders will increase. We will witness many more children being pushed back to their death in the sea or locked up in mass prison camps. Hatred and lies will spew and spread by means of communication technologies.

People will suffer like never before. Drug addiction and suicide will rise and depression spread. Wars will be constant and fought for every scarce resource, with the south bled by the global north. Those opposed to this world will be rounded up and, at best, imprisoned but probably “disappeared.”

This won’t happen in one year or one bang. We can actually see it happening around us today, but, like climate change itself, it will continue and strengthen unless confronted and stopped. The far right and climate change are two sides of the same coin. No social system has ever faced anything like this, and no existing social system will be able to cope with the multi-layered, multiple and interrelated crisis, including consequences not known, that is being unleashed.

None of this, however, is pre-ordained, predetermined, or guaranteed to happen. We have agency. Though much of the planet has been destroyed by a class of human activity and social and environmental relations, the metabolic rift, the planet can also be saved by human activity. We don’t necessarily have a blueprint for that, though we certainly see a blueprint for a dystopia emerging all around us.

Capitalism may be in crisis, but it can still rule us, and nothing yet has emerged to replace it. Our struggles, fights, reforms, transformations, changes must be with a view to replacing the rule of capital, its social relations and systems of governance, and undoing the rifts it has created environmentally and socially.