The UN NGO Climate Change Conference is over. There are some important features of a consensus developing at least in the non-governmental and scientific communities:
- that excessive heat is already leading to increased mortality rates and increased human suffering
- that the costs of inaction are greater than the costs of action
- that there are three basic responses to negative climate change--mitigation, adaptation, and suffering, and that the more mitigation and adaptation we do, the less human suffering
- that the impacts of climate change are unequal, usually matching already existing inequality, and that those facing the greatest impacts are different than the countries that have done most to create the problem--in other words, the US, Australia, and Western Europe have added the most carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, but the peoples and countries of Africa, South Asia, and island nations are going to face the most important and earliest impacts
- that the basic science is settled, climate change is happening, the causes are from human activity, and that humans have to change quickly
- that the longer we wait for major changes, the more difficult and costly it will be
These widely held propositions represent a major advance form where the debate was a few years ago. The science has gotten clearer, and politicians are being forced by public opinion to address the issue. Climate change touches almost all aspects of human life, environmental rights are human rights, and environmental rights requires other human rights.
Climate change will hurt (and already is hurting) food security, water security, increased violent conflict, soil degradation, increased desertification, and increasingly stresses our industrial, agricultural, transportation, and distribution systems.
We have to change. The necessary change involves individual lifestyle changes, social and political changes, changes in what we focus scientific research on, changes in what and how we produce food and industrial and consumer goods.
It is very significant that scientists and activists have come to these conclusions. It is even more significant that the general public, while less informed about the details, has come to similar conclusions and are forcing political changes already.
But climate change will force us to go farther, to draw more fundamental conclusions--that the market is not only not the solution it is a major part of the problem, that capitalism is incapable from fully addressing the basic change humanity's survival requires, that socialism is a neccesity for human survival.