the climate catastrophe



Does the globalized capitalist mode of production show political will, is it capable and reasonable enough to face climate change?

On August 8, 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the report, made every two years, on the Earth's climate situation, the result of research by more than one hundred experts from 52 countries. The document has never been so clear as it is now, unlike previous reports. Before, it was stated that there was a 95% certainty that global warming was anthropogenic, that is to say, of human origin. It is now unreservedly maintained that it is a consequence of human beings and their way of inhabiting the Earth, especially because of the use of fossil energy (oil, coal and gas) and other negative factors.

The scenario is dramatic. The Paris Agreement specifies that countries must “limit warming to well below 2°C, and pursue efforts to limit it to 1,5°C”. The current report implies that it will be difficult, but that we have the scientific knowledge, technological and financial capacity to face climate change, as long as everyone, countries, cities, companies and individuals, make a serious commitment.

The current situation is worrying. In 2016 global greenhouse gas emissions amounted to approximately 52 gigatons of CO annually2. If we do not change our current course, we will reach between 2030 and 52 gigatons in 58. At that level there would be a fantastic decimation of biodiversity and a proliferation of bacteria and viruses like never before.

To stabilize the climate at 1,5 degrees Celsius, scientists say, emissions would need to drop by half (25-30 gigatonnes). Otherwise, with the Earth on fire, we would experience terrifying extreme events.

I am of the opinion that science and technology alone are not enough to reduce greenhouse gases. It is too much belief in the omnipotence of science that until today does not know how to fully face Covid-19. Another paradigm of relationship with nature and the Earth is urgently needed, one that is not destructive but friendly and in subtle synergy with the rhythms of nature. This would require a radical transformation in the current capitalist mode of production, which still largely operates under the illusion that the Earth's resources are unlimited and therefore allow for an equally unlimited growth/development project. Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Sì: On Caring for Our Common Home (2020) denounces this premise as a “lie” (n.106): a limited planet, in an advanced degree of degradation and overpopulated, does not tolerate an unlimited project. Covid-19 in its deepest meaning requires us to put into action a paradigmatic conversion.

in the encyclical Fratelli tutti(2021) Pope Francis seized this virus warning. It opposes two projects: the current one, of modernity, whose paradigm consists of making the human being dominus (lord and owner) of nature and the new one proposed by him, that of frater (brother and sister), including everyone, humans and other beings of nature. This new paradigm of frater planetary would found a fraternity without borders and a social love. If we do not make this crossing, “everyone is saved and nobody is saved” (n.32).

This is the big question: does the globalized capitalist mode of production show political will, does it have the capacity and reasonableness to allow this radical change? he made himself dominus (maître et possesseur of Descartes) of the Earth and all its resources. Its mantras are: the greatest possible profit, achieved through fierce competition, accumulated individually or corporately, through a devastating exploitation of natural goods and services. This mode of production gave rise to lack of climate control and, what is worse, a culture of capital, of which, in some way, we are all hostages. How to save us from both?

We have to change, otherwise, according to Sygmunt Bauman, “we will swell the procession of those heading towards their own grave”.

Logically, this urgent paradigm shift takes time and implies a transformation process, as the entire system is oiled to produce and consume more. But the time for change is expiring. Hence the feeling of the world of big names, whose unquestionable credibility is not simple pessimism, but a well-founded realism.

The first is Pope Francis who warned in the Fratelli tutti: “we are in the same boat, either we all save ourselves or nobody is saved” (n.32).

The second, the formulator of the theory of the Earth as a living super-organism, Gaia, James Lovelock, whose last title says it all: Gaia: final warning (Intrinsic).

The third is Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal of the United Kingdom: Final hour: environmental disaster threatens the future of humanity (Companhia das Letras); no comment.

The fourth is Eric Hobsbawm, one of the most renowned historians of the XNUMXth century. He says at the end of The age of extremes (Companhia das Letras): “We don’t know where we are going. However, one thing is clear: if humanity wants to have a meaningful future, it cannot be by prolonging the past or the present. If we try to build the third millennium on this foundation we will fail. And the price of failure, i.e. changing society, is darkness.” This warning is valid for all those who think of the post-pandemic as a return to the old and perverse normality.

The fifth is the well-known French geneticist Albert Jacquard with his Has the countdown started yet? [Le compte à retours at-il commence? Stock, 2009]. Theyustenta: “we have a limited time and by dint of having worked against ourselves, we risk forging an Earth in which none of us would like to live. The worst is not certain, but we have to hurry.”

Finally, one of the last great naturalists, Théodore Monod with the book And if the human adventure were to fail [Et si l'aventure humaine devait échouer. Grasset, 2003] asserts: “Human beings are perfectly capable of foolish and insane behavior; from now on we can fear everything, everything, even the annihilation of the human species".

The processes of cosmogenesis and anthropogenesis also favored the emergence of faith and hope. They are part of the total reality. They do not invalidate the aforementioned warnings. But they open another window that assures us that “the Creator created everything out of love because he is the passionate lover of life” (Wisdom 11,26:XNUMX). This faith and hope allow Pope Francis to speak “beyond the sun” with these words: “Let us walk singing, that our struggles and our concern for this planet do not take away the joy of hope” (Laudato Si, n. 244). The principle of hope overcomes all limits and always keeps the future open. If we cannot avoid the lack of climate control, we can take precautions and mitigate its most harmful effects. It is what we believe and hope for.

*Leonardo Boff is a philosopher and ecologist. Author, among other books, of The painful birth of Mother Earth: a society of fraternity without borders and social friendship (Voices).


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