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Confronting Climate Catastrophe

The COP26 global climate summit kicked off in Glasgow, where negotiators are faced with the urgent need to get the world to end its addiction to fossil fuels and secure a livable future. This is a critical juncture in the struggle to avoid climate catastrophe, but how will we respond? In this collection, we’ve gathered perspectives from across the left on what this moment means for the climate and our species.

  • Humanity at ‘doom’s doorstep’ says Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

    Top scientists responsible for the “Doomsday Clock” issued a stark warning about how close the world is to catastrophe due to the climate emergency, nuclear weapons, and “disruptive technologies in other domains.” Launched by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1947 as a symbol for “how close we are to destroying our world,” the clock remains at 100 seconds to midnight for the third year straight.

  • Omelas and the moral catastrophe of climate change

    The world’s wealthiest live in Le Guin’s Omelas: while they may or may not be “happy,” they have access to everything they could ever want. The only cost? The four billion people in the “basement” of the world, the Global South, who are being driven past the brink into a future that would be unimaginable if it weren’t already here, with water sources running dry, forests burning and crops failing.

  • Why poorer nations aren’t falling for green-washed imperialism

    Addressing climate without energy justice is only a new version of colonialism, even if it’s clothed in green. In the words of Vijaya Ramachandran, director for energy and development at the Breakthrough Institute, “Pursuing climate ambitions on the backs of the poorest people in the world is not just hypocritical—it is immoral, unjust, and green colonialism at its worst.”

  • Reducing conflict with China an environmental necessity

    Arms manufacturers and militaries utilize propaganda to hype Chinese military power to rationalize expenditures on weapons of war. This gobbles up public resources required for a just transition away from fossil fuels. Whatever lies and exaggerations the militarists may pedal, it’s the Western-led military–industrial complex we should be most worried about—and the environmental movement needs to confront this reality head-on.

  • Extinction Rebellion: ‘Shifting the zeitgeist’ through mass arrests

    Protest action that incurs the risk of mass arrest is a central part of the Extinction Rebellion movement, whose guiding philosophy is rooted in previous grassroots civil disobedience models, such as the civil rights and women’s suffrage movements. The rationale is that causing mass disruption in urban centres and overwhelming criminal justice systems is the only way to force the government to listen.

  • Luxury pollution and the rigging of COP26

    What’s being called “luxury pollution” by the mega-rich is having quite a moment in the media during the second week of COP26. That may be because space cowboy Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, addressed the representatives in Glasgow on November 2, where he shared his insights into the fragility of planet Earth and stated, “We must all stand together to protect our world.”

  • Justin Trudeau’s smoke and mirrors climate policy

    If we’ve learned anything over these past six years, it’s that Trudeau and his team are great at crafting their image, but rarely deliver the substance to back it up. As we see the government trying to greenwash itself once again, we should think back to 2015 and demand a climate policy that gets to the root of the problem. That means taking on the capitalist structures that created the problem in the first place.

  • Why Québec’s big bet on hydropower is bad news for the climate

    Hydro-Québec’s goal to be “the battery of North America” recently received a setback in Maine. Some 60 percent of voters in a November 2 referendum in that state decided to protect their forests and environment from the clear-cutting that would be needed to erect a massive hydroelectric corridor, but they may also have been responding to current scientific thinking that no longer sees all hydropower as “green.”

  • How to save the world (from a climate armageddon)

    To save human civilization, the US and China must dramatically reduce their CO2 emissions, while working together to persuade other major carbon-emitting nations to follow suit. That would mean setting aside their current antagonisms, however important they may seem to US and Chinese leaders today, and instead making climate survival their number one priority and policy objective. Otherwise, put simply, all is lost.

  • Fighting for transit in a world on fire

    Conditions are dire, but transit riders and workers continue to fight for change. Canadian Dimension spoke with two organizers with TTCriders—a grassroots, membership-based advocacy group in Toronto—about their current campaigns, organizing during the pandemic, the relationship between transit politics and climate justice, and advice for people who want to get involved in transit organizing in their own communities.

  • Noam Chomsky on the path to a livable future

    For the past several decades, Noam Chomsky has been one of the most forceful and persuasive voices confronting injustice, inequity, and the threat posed by human-caused climate chaos. Stan Cox was eager to know Chomsky’s views on the roots of our current dire predicament and on humanity’s prospects for emerging from this crisis into a livable future. The text here is an abridged version of a conversation they had on October 1, 2021.

  • Climate change viewed from the attic of the world

    From 1962 to 2006 the glaciers of the Himalaya appear to have lost more than a fifth of their ice. They did not all shrink at the same rate. In fact, some glaciers haven’t shrunk at all, but measurements of the overall trend in the Sikkim-Nepal region put the average loss at seven inches of depth every year across the whole extent of ice. And, of course, the melting continues.

  • Is a Cold War still possible in an overheating world?

    One way or another, however, we can be reasonably certain of one thing: as the term makes all too clear, the old Cold War format for military policy no longer holds, not on such an overheating planet. As a result, expect Chinese soldiers to be spending far more time filling sandbags to defend their country’s coastline from rising seas in 2049 than manning weaponry to fight American soldiers.

  • Electoral politics can’t solve climate change

    Climate change isn’t a technical problem, it’s a power imbalance problem. And polite participation in electoral politics—perform your civic duty then return to a quiet life of economic production—has never successfully challenged power before. We shouldn’t expect it to be able to now. Instead, we need to draw our lessons from major social breakthroughs of the past.

  • On the brink: the scenario the IPCC isn’t modelling

    The IPCC report bases itself on the physical laws of the climate system to tell us that we are on the brink of the abyss, on the verge of irreversibly tipping over into an unimaginable cataclysm; on the other hand, it objectifies and trivializes the political-technological headlong rush by which capitalism is once again trying to postpone the irreconcilable antagonism between its logic of unlimited profit accumulation and the limits of the planet.

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