Accumulation of greenhouse gases a “planetary emergency”

The piling up of carbon and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere has become, in the words of James Hansen, one of the foremost climate change scientist in the world, a “planetary emergency.”

In other words, while the worst consequences will weigh most heavily and immediately on the working class, the racially oppressed and the poor, and especially on countries and peoples in the developing countries, no one will escape the clutches of climate catastrophe in the long run.

What makes matters worse is that time is becoming humanity’s enemy; the window to act is closing. Never before has such a challenge confronted the human species; and yet too many sensible people sit on their hands even as the motley gang of right wing climate change deniers do everything that can to resist the smallest measures that might cut down on carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Closer to home, the response of the left and broader democratic movements hasn’t been in any way commensurate to the danger. And if our Party were going to be graded on our performance, my guess is that we would get a D. And the only reason we wouldn’t receive an F is due to the regular coverage on climate change and the environment in the People’s World.

We can and must do better. I’m reminded of a quote from Martin Luther King in another context,

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time.”

If King’s eloquent words and scientific data don’t move you to be a better steward of this fragile place we call Earth, then make it personal; that’s what I do; I think of my two daughters, step daughter and stepsons, and, I think a lot about Violet and Pearl, my little granddaughters, ages 2 and 4, who hopefully will live long into this century and in climate conditions that are friendly to humans and other life forms.

Whether that happens rests on what tens of millions of people, including our small party, do in the next few years.

But here’s the good news if I have made you too gloomy! A movement is being born, and it includes a broad array of people, including the trade union movement, Labor understandably is concerned that working people not bear the weight of a necessary transition to a fossil free economy.

We should join this movement heart and soul. We should bring our energy and our whole tool kit, including our socialist perspective, which tells us that climate crisis is the result of human activity, but with this important caveat: it is activity in the context of a particular system – capitalism – whose logic is endless capital/profit accumulation, compound growth, massive waste in its multitude of forms, and rampant consumerism – all of which are increasingly unraveling and undermining the natural systems that sustain life in its multitude of forms.

In the fall, mass mobilizations are scheduled at the United Nations to demand action from the world’s leaders and governments to mitigate climate change. Can we agree that we will join as well as mobilize friends and neighbors for these actions?

A month or two ago I signed up, as did others in our leadership, to commit civil disobedience, if necessary, to stop the Keystone pipeline. How many of you will pledge to do so today?

New beginnings require a first step. And I think we have taken one today!

The article above was part of the report by Sam Webb, the CPUSA’s former chair, to the party’s national convention in Chicago in June. John Bachtell was elected chair of the CPUSA at the convention.



Sam Webb
Sam Webb

Sam Webb is a long-time writer living in New York. Earlier, he was active in the labor movement in his home state of Maine.