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End Climate Crimes

by Fabian Schiedler Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015 at 3:17 PM

“Every city in our country has some serious similarities to New Orleans. Every city has some abandoned neighborhoods. Every city in our country has abandoned some public education, public housing, public healthcare, and criminal justice." (Bill Quigley quoted by Naomi Klein)

End Climate Crimes
Call to Mass Mobilization for the UN Climate Conference in December 2015, published on 8/27/2015

We are at a crossroads. We do not want to be compelled to survive in a world that has been made barely livable for us. From South Pacific Islands to the shores of Louisiana, from the Maldives to the Sahel, from Greenland to the Alps, the daily lives of millions of us are already being disrupted by the consequences of climate change. Through ocean acidification, the submersion of South Pacific Islands, forced migration in the Indian Subcontinent and Africa, frequent storms and hurricanes, the current ecocide affects all species and ecosystems, threatening the rights of future generations. And we are not equally impacted by climate change: Indigenous and peasant communities, poor communities in the global South and in the global North are at the frontlines and most affected by these and other impacts of climate disruption.

We are not under any illusions. For more than 20 years, governments have been meeting, yet greenhouse gas emissions have not decreased and the climate keeps changing. The forces of inertia and obstruction prevail, even as scientific warnings become ever more dire.

This comes as no surprise. Decades of liberalization of trade and investments have undermined the capacity of states to confront the climate crisis. At every stage powerful forces – fossil fuel corporations, agro-business companies, financial institutions, dogmatic economists, skeptics and deniers, and governments in the thrall of these interests – stand in the way or promote false solutions. Ninety companies are responsible for two-thirds of recorded greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Genuine responses to climate change threatens their power and wealth, threatens free market ideology, and threatens the structures and subsidies that support and underwrite them.

We know that global corporations and governments will not give up the profits they reap through the extraction of coal, gas and oil reserves; and through global fossil fuel-based industrial agriculture. Our continuing ability to act, think, love, care, work, create, produce, contemplate, struggle, however, demands that we force them to. To be able to continue to thrive as communities, individuals and citizens, we all must strive for change. Our common humanity and the Earth demand it.

We are confident in our capacity to stop climate crimes. In the past, determined women and men have resisted and overcome the crimes of slavery, totalitarianism, colonialism or apartheid. They decided to fight for justice and solidarity and knew no one would do it for them. Climate change is a similar challenge, and we are nurturing a similar uprising.
We are working to change everything. We can open the way to a more livable future, and our actions are much more powerful than we think. Around the world, our communities are fighting against the real drivers of the climate crisis, protecting territories, working to reduce their emissions, building their resilience, achieving food autonomy through small scale ecological farming, etc.

On the eve of the UN Climate Conference to be held in Paris-Le Bourget, we declare our determination to keep fossil fuels in the ground. This is the only way forward.
Concretely, governments have to end subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, and to freeze fossil fuel extraction by leaving untouched 80% of all existing fossil fuel reserves.
We know that this implies a great historical shift. We will not wait for states to make it happen. Slavery and apartheid did not end because states decided to abolish them. Mass mobilizations left political leaders no other choice.

The situation today is precarious. We have, however, a unique opportunity to reinvigorate democracy, to dismantle the dominance of corporate political power, to transform radically our modes of production and consumption. Ending the era of fossil fuels is one important step towards the fair and sustainable society we need.

We will not waste this opportunity, in Paris or elsewhere, today or tomorrow.


By Fabian Scheidler

[This article is translated from the German on the Internet,]

Large parts of the US are experiencing their worst drought in 70 years. A state of emergency has been declared in half of the states. Massive crop failures ensure higher world market prices for corn (up 70%) and wheat (up 50%). Colorado had the most devastating forest fires in the history of that state. There is a similar picture around the Mediterranean. After months of aridity and temperatures over 40 degrees C in Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece, large-scale forest fires have devastated in the last weeks. The meteorological backside of the rainy summer in Central Europe is underway. The most severe rainfall since the beginning of records in 1953 is occurring through large parts of China.

Every extreme wealth event is obviously not a consequence of climate change. The climate according to the definition of the World Meteorological Organization is nothing but the weather statistics over a time period of at least 30 years. Therefore individual wealth events can hardly be more than signs that the climate changes. However these signs have grown stronger in the last years and sh8ow that the past warming of one degree can inflict deadly climate chaos in many places of the earth.

In 2010 the most severe rainfall since the beginning of measurements fell over northern Pakistan. More rain fell from the sky on a single day than usually falls in a whole monsoon month. Four million people were homeless. Thousands died. At the same time Russia experienced the most devastating heat wave since the beginning of records with peat- and forest-fires that ravaged 188,000 hectares of land. Both weather events had a common cause: a so-called blocked weather situation with a stationary high over Russia and flanking low pressure zones over Central Europe and Central Asia. Scientists from the renowned National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado concluded that climate change played a crucial role in the duration and intensity of this extreme weather situation. [1] Blocked weather situations over Russia are not rare but are hardly ever longer than one or two weeks. In 2010 it lasted five weeks.

In 2011 East Africa was visited by the worst drought in 60 years. Over eleven million people were directly impacted and could only be kept alive through food aid. The UN refugee commissioner spoke of the “worst humanitarian catastrophe of the world.” This drought was jointly caused by a climate phenomenon called La Nina that in the preceding winter caused the most severe floods in East Australia in 50 years. Whether climate change will strengthen La Nina is still uncertain. The emergency relief coordinator of the UN, Valerie Amos, reported in July 2011 that people in East Africa experienced a constant increase in droughts over the last decades. “Everyone with whom I have spoken said earlier a drought occurred every ten years, then every five and now every two years.” [2]

So the earth appears with an additional degree. But climate researchers predict an average warming up to six degrees by the end of the century if unburned fossil fuels are burned. [3] In the 2007 Report of the World Climate Council (IPCC), six degrees warming was regarded as the worst case. Today this benchmark is seen as a likely business-as-usual scenario by conservative international energy agencies. [4] This would even mean an additional ten degrees for Africa and the Arctic. Self-reinforcing cycles start when the tipping points of the climate system like the thawing of the permafrost soil, the melting of the West Antarctic ice shield or the collapse of the Amazon rainforest are exceeded. These self-reinforcing cycles cannot be contained any more.

In view of such scenarios, the horse-trader at the expense of the energy turn carried out in part by the German government acts like a ham actor theater on the Titanic. The physics of the earth’s atmosphere seems unimpressed by such economic considerations.

The excitement over the building delay of the Berlin-Brandenburg airport appears strangely surreal in this light. Every philanthropist must hope that this airport – like hundreds of others that are arising – will never become operational. CO2 emissions rise more quickly in air traffic than in any other area.

Every society and every economic system is a sub-system of the biosphere. If the higher system to which we owe our life is thrown out of joint, the sub-systems also inevitably totter. Therefore stabilizing the planetary climate system must have absolute priority and not be eclipsed by short-term economic interests. Curbing protection of the atmosphere for cost-reasons is like refusing to save a person with the argument that the life-saving measure could lower his living standard.

Whether every present extreme weather event is partly caused by climate change is ultimately indifferent. These events give a presentiment what the world will look like if we do not take radical measures very quickly against burning oil, gas and coal. Climatologists agree: such extreme weather events will increase with rising temperatures. Building coal power plants, freeways and airports now is at least negligent homicide.


In his book “The End of the Mega-Machine: History of a Failed Civilization,” Fabian Scheidler analyzes the roots of the destructive forces that put the human future in question today. In an historical study, he relates the pre-history and genesis of the capitalist world system that originated 500 years ago in Europe and subjected persons and nature to a radical exploitation. This system did not emerge from the pioneering spirit of discoverers and traders as the myth of the modern age insists but from a close linkage of the war economy, state power and financiers. The far-reaching linkage of states and bug business is one of the central obstacles for the necessary social-ecological transformation today. A whole civilization model is striking its limits today given climate chaos, financial crashes and intensifying social division.


Did the market economy and capitalism actually arose out of a “natural human inclination to exchange” as Adam Smith postulated 250 years ago? On the other hand, Fabian Scheidler argues that both the first market economies in antiquity and modern capitalism arose out of cycle of war, slavery, arms production and capital accumulation. The market- and money-economy had to be implemented with military force against considerable resistance in the population. Early stock corporations maintained fleets and armies and seized their wealth with cannons. Modern stock corporations are machines whose only purpose is to make more money out of money with all possible means – even at the cost of ecological and social devastation. Today it is important to extract this “genetic code” from the economy.


It is often said: democracy and capitalism are natural siblings, brother and sister. But is that really true historically? Social movements actually gained democratic rights in hard struggles over centuries against political and economic elites. These struggles continue up to today. The strategies of power have continuously changed. In the first half of the 20th century, large parts of the elites supported fascism to shatter the workers’ movement. In the meantime the concept of “guided democracy” arose in the US. The majority of the population – the “bewildered herd” – should be kept out of political decision-making processes by the filter of parties and the media. Given global systemic crises, the search for “genuine democracy” beyond this filter are more urgent today than ever.


In the 21st century, the global mega-machine strikes ecological, social and economic limits where it ultimately breaks down, Fabian Scheidler explains. The political and economic institutions which the system created in the last centuries fail to react adequately to these limits. Therefore we are moving ever deeper in a chaotic transitional process that can last decades. What will come out at the end cannot be predicted. Fundamentalist and fascist forces could gain followings. Beginning now with the exit from the mega-machine is crucial for a social-ecological transformation so people are ready for inevitable systemic breaches.



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