Students all over the world took part in the first climate strike since the pandemic broke out, reports Jamal Elaheebocus
On Friday, school students across the world took part in the Global Day of Climate Action organised by Fridays for Future. There were over 3,000 strikes planned across the world, from the US and the UK to Namibia and Alaska.
Last year, over 7 million people took part in the Global Day of Climate Action on 20th September 2019 in 4,500 strikes across 150 countries. Demands included keeping climate change from pre-industrial levels below 1.5o C and following the Paris Climate Agreement.
This year the demands are centred around the pandemic. The strikes organised in Scotland, for example, are calling for a green recovery from the coronavirus crisis, creation of green jobs and an end to public investment in fossil fuel developments. Fridays for Future have said the following:
“The coming months and years will be crucial in ensuring a safe pathway below 1.5°C increase in global mean temperature, a target stated in the Paris Agreement. If we are to minimise the risks of triggering irreversible chain reactions beyond human control, we need to act now. It is therefore vital that the climate crisis doesn’t get forgotten in the shadow of the coronavirus but is regarded as the utmost priority”
Climate strikes organised by the UK Student Climate Network took place across the country. There were also a number of local online events because of coronavirus restrictions in the area.
The strikes come in the same week as a ‘Climate Clock’ has been unveiled in Union Square, New York. The clock has been co-ordinated by scientists and activists and counts down the time left before humanity burns through the “carbon budget, the amount of caron dioxide which can be released into the atmosphere while keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees. It currently stands at just under 7 years, 100 days.
The US continues to burn
Nothing has exemplified the importance of the climate strikes better than the wildfires which continue to rip through the West of the US. The fires are the worst in 18 years and have destroyed 6.7 million acres of land, equivalent to the size of most of South-East England. Plumes of smoke reached North Europe at the end of last week, according to the European Commission's Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).
There are still 106 fires burning across the West, in California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and several other states. The estimated economic cost is $20 billion.
California has been one of the worst hit; five of the six largest wildfires in its history are burning now. The largest fire in California’s history, the August Complex, is still raging, having already destroyed over 800,000 acres of land in the Tehama county. The SCU Lightning Complex has burned almost 400,000 acres and the LNU Lightning Complex has burned over 350,000 acres. The largest fire ever seen in Los Angeles, the Bobcat fire, does not even make it into the top six.
7,606 fires have been recorded across California, compared to 4,972 at this point last year.
Meanwhile, in Oregon the Almeda fire has been raging since 8th September. It has blazed through a 13-mile stretch of the N5 highway, destroying several towns on the way and causing the evacuation of 42,000 people. The combination of hot temperatures, wildfires and clear skies has led to the formation of an extraordinary ‘dust devil’ in Western Oregon, which looks almost like a tornado of dust.
Unsurprisingly, this year has seen the highest ever level of fire carbon emissions since the Global Fire Emission Database’s records began in 1997. Air pollution has reached record levels in Portland, Eugene, Medford and others. In some part of Oregon, the pollution is off the Air Quality Index’s scale.
Despite the existential threat climate change poses, it has hardly been mentioned by either candidate in the presidential race. The wildfires have forced both Trump and Biden to finally address the issue.
We know from the last four years of Trump’s presidency, where he has scrapped regulations on methane production from oil and gas wells, on power plants and on passenger vehicles, that the climate is not a concern.
Since day one of his presidency, he has subsidised the fossil industry and worked in the interests of the billionaires who own the most polluting industries.
Meanwhile, Biden has finally had to properly address the issue of the climate crisis, after avoiding it throughout most of the Democratic primaries. However, the best he could do was attack Trump’s dangerous policies, without offering a real alternative to take drastic action on climate change.
However, the Left and particularly Bernie Sanders’ campaign, have already forced Biden into more drastic policies on climate. Biden has now promised $2 trillion for green jobs and infrastructure in the next four years, undoubtedly to try and get the votes of Sanders’ supporters.
In the face of the widespread wildfires in the US and the extreme weather seen across the world this year, the lack of will from Biden’s campaign to radically transform an economy which is destroying the US and the planet is extremely worrying.
The new wave of climate strikes come at a crucial time for the planet. The wildfires have shown the devastating impacts of neoliberalism in the richest countries over the last five decades. As socialists, we must continue to make clear that the climate crisis is a capitalist crisis and that only the overthrow of the capitalist system will be able to prevent or at least reduce the severity of the climate crisis.
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