Translated by: Bircan Tamer, Helin Nur Güler, Onur Yılmaz
Today we are faced with two main strategies for solving the problem of climate change. In the first, (symptomatic) measures are applied within the capitalist system, which tend towards “energy transformation” and alleviate symptoms, rather than addressing the causes. Examples of such policies in action abound in many countries: broadly similar, they defer to the interests of capital. This may be termed the hegemonic climate politics. The second strategy is that of anti-capitalist climate politics of the people as exploited workers and oppressed segments of society. The two policies differ not only in terms of solutions, but primarily in terms of their grasp of the causes of the climate question. Unlike the first, the second acknowledges that the climate has changed due to the functional laws of capitalism, its structural qualities. It is impossible to get rid of the structural characteristics of capitalism without eliminating capitalism, and as long as these characteristics exist, there can be no solution to climate change. I will not discuss here the details of the structural characteristics of capitalism that cause ecological destruction (for which, see Shepherd 2021). But I will examine the links between the structural contradictions of capitalism and the dilemmas created by climate policies in practice for the past three decades.
In this article, I aim to discuss the climate politics of the people in the face of hegemonic climate politics. The way to prevent climate change is to get rid of capitalism, which is the cause of the problem. However, there will be those who sneer at this approach by asking the following questions: “What happens until capitalism disappears? System change remains abstract, what are your concrete recommendations? Won’t the solution be deferred until after capitalism?” In reality, ending capitalism is a concrete eco-political goal in itself. None the less, an absurd understanding that there will be no social struggle with regard to the climate until this goal is achieved still appears.
We can take the first step to respond to the similar questions and views of those who object to the second style of politics, with the following initial proposal: anti-capitalist struggle and ecological struggle complement one another as two components of a single process (which we may term ecosocialist struggle). I will try to present below the basis upon which the two struggles are carried out in concert. It is not enough to determine the fact that the struggles are related to one another. It is also necessary to show how various fighting forces can act jointly for the same purpose. In the service of building a united front of forces in struggle, I consider that the discussion of the climate, the problem areas and solutions therein, can be more productive. Ultimately, uncovering the source of the problem also allows you to see what the solution is. In addition, by answering the question “what are your concrete recommendations?”, we can also head off objections of the sort “will it wait until after capitalism?”. In this context, I will deconstruct the climate question considering its various dimensions and causes specific to capitalism. I will try to identify the tactics of struggle that will lead us to a solution in terms of the cause of the transformation of the climate into a problem. Here are five questions which I will examine and the basic formulation of their solutions, or five theses:
Climate crisis is:
an ideological question / in need of ideological and scientific struggle,
a question with a spatial scale and a temporal dimension / a struggle that interacts between different scales and is not postponed to the future,
an economic question / an economic struggle,
a class question / a class struggle,
is a political question / solved by political struggle
I must emphasize that I only make these distinctions to facilitate discussion. A social struggle is carried out together with its economic, class, political, ideological, and scalear dimensions. Based on the five issues and solutions I have listed, I will discuss ways to develop joint action that will bring together the forces of struggle to overturn capitalism, which is the cause of the climate question. I will try to establish theoretical bridges between goals, subjects, and methods.
For a while there has been a trend of climate change denial. Representatives of capital in politics and the media argued that the climate had not changed at all. However, the symptoms of the changing climate could not be hidden. After a while, when this “denialism” did not pay off, right-wing ideologues began to seek new methods. A new trend which has been on the rise for several years is “climate racism”, also popularly known as “eco-fascism”. This time, those who try to confront various climate-related proposals with disbelief are completely distorting the relationship between problem and solution. They criminalise migrants affected by climate change, poor and oppressed peoples, as if they were the cause of ecological degradation. This trend, common around the world, has also been observed in Turkey. The last example of this in the summer of 2021 was during the fires that ravaged many places in the Mediterranean and Aegean regions due to the changing climate, when racists emboldened by hate speech blockaded roads to catch imagined criminals. As the fires burned, they stopped people and asked for IDs, published lies and distortions in the media, and helped to push forward a campaign of defamation with their own hate speech.
In nationalist ideologies, an attitude towards refugees, migrants, and other peoples who stand outside the sovereign nation is developed by establishing a relationship between avoiding harm to the ethnic purity of the nation and avoiding harm to the purity of nature, citing disturbances to climate and environment. Migrants, for example, are presented as a kind of pest species that create ecological problems in the countries where they seek refuge and damage the national ecosystem (Turner and Bailey, 2021; Adler-Bell, 2019; Turhan and Armiero, 2017). Eco-fascist ideology is set in front of the climate demands of the people, while at the same time those demands are used for the expansion of racist politics. In addition, migrants are confronted with attempts to close borders under the pretext of environmental protection. Moreover, with climate racism, the responsibilities of capital and the state leading to ecological destruction and the climate impasse are obscured.1 Thus, both the real causes of the problem are hidden and the climate demands of the companies and the state, which are rising in society, are exacerbated by racism.
Another element that undermines climate politics is the creation of a language of expertise. There are numerous concepts, institutions, organizations, regulatory rules, reports and acronyms for the climate policies that countries put in place. It is impossible for ordinary people to participate in an esoteric discussion that only climate experts understand. Thanks to such specialization, a discourse suitable for deflecting both the causes and solutions of the climate question and misleading the public is born.
Representatives of governments, capital, and NGOs, as climate experts, produce climate policies in practice at United Nations meetings and ministry buildings. This can be termed the hegemonic climate politics. I will discuss various elements of this politics below. First of all, climate change, a multifaceted problem with many causes under capitalist policy, is reduced to a singular cause, carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.
Undoubtedly, fossil fuels that lead to greenhouse gas emissions need to be abandoned. But greenhouse gas emissions are not the underlying cause of the problem, they are a result. It is necessary to underline this fact. The cause of climate change is the capitalist totality formed by the following intertwined elements: Capital accumulation, commodity production, residues, profitability, private property, labor exploitation, commodity consumption, individualisation of environmental responsibility, energy hunger created by these processes, energy from fossil sources, problems contained by renewable energy, degradation of carbon and other natural cycles in all these processes, and the collapse of ecosystems. A politics that focuses on emissions does not have the capacity to solve all these phenomena. Moreover, the emissions it focuses on cannot be cured due to these facts. I will discuss capitalist facts and anti-capitalist solutions as I proceed.
The tools proposed as a policy of reducing carbon dioxide gases in hegemonic climate politics are renewable energy, carbon capture technology, “blue and green hydrogen”, “clean coal”, carbon (emissions) trade, carbon tax, fine, reforestation, donation of money for planting a tree every time a journey is made by air travel, reducing consumer waste and so on. These proposals within the capitalist order are spread by academics, associations, political parties, media and state institutions, decorated with expert language.
Since it is hegemonic politics, it magnetically attracts some of its opponents. So much so that even in some opinions where the emphasis is placed on “capitalism is the cause of the climate question”, the emission reduction proposals of hegemonic climate politics are adopted and reiterated. However, in terms of causal relationship, since the problem arises from the facts and processes of capitalism, the solution should be shaped by anti-capitalist methods.
In hegemonic climate politics, ideological propaganda is made as a means of solution of the elements that are actually part of the climate question. At the top of this inventory are market mechanisms that price nature, trees, pollution, carbon dioxide. However, the structural contradictions of capitalism are an obstacle to the success of even marketist solutions in the market economy. For example, a World Bank publication admits that while tax and similar carbon pricing proposals are very popular in many countries, current carbon pricing remains very low in the economies in which it is applied, meaning it does not work (World Bank, 2020). Similarly, reforestation through the donation of money to non-governmental organizations such as TEMA or by the Ministry of Forestry does not create a reforestation effect that will solve the climate question, contrary to what is suggested.
Only 7 percent of the world’s forests are the result of human reforestation, and the rest having formed on their own. Moreover, some of the trees are planted for the production of commodities as timber or firewood. Under capitalism, which destroys the environment through mining, construction, timber, tourism and similar commodity production activities, the solution to deforestation is sought in the production of trees as commodities! In sum, between 2010 and 2020, the total rate of reforestation caused by human reforestation and spontaneous reproduction combined is only half the rate of deforestation. In other words, reforestation is far from equating even the forests that are being destroyed (FAO, 2020).
The greatest achievement of hegemonic climate politics is that it hides the fact that capital is the primary perpetrator of the climate question. In this approach, even when the climate question is reduced to fossil fuels, companies that extract and sell oil, coal, natural gas, airlines that use gasoline, sea transportation companies, companies that generate electricity in thermal power plants, industrial livestock companies… they are not held responsible for the climate question. Typically, consumers are shown to be responsible for carbon. The consumer is told that “the planet is being driven to destruction because you do not reduce carbon dioxide emissions, sort your garbage, make a list when you go shopping, still do not buy energy-efficient appliances, do not insulate the exterior of your residence, do not drive an electric car”, etc. This ideological diversion saddles the individual with both the problem and the solution. Here again, the ideological framework of the capitalist approach is employed. Capitalism’s perception of individualism creates the illusion of an individual who is isolated from all capitalist structures, which, as a transcendental subject, can change the course of the world through their free consumption choices. It is beyond doubt that the consumer cannot succeed in undoing all the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere by fossil companies.
As can be seen, the culprits have been chosen: ethnic identities, refugees, consumers and carbon dioxide converted into a fetish. Thus, property relations under the economic and political structures of capitalism that cause the climate question and the capitalist class are ideologically defended.
Breaking Ideological Codes
Here are some examples from the content list of a struggle to lift the ideological veil from the climate question:
A clear understanding of the cause-and-effect relationship between climate and historical materialistic scientific analyses against ideological obfuscation. In order to be able to speak about the truth, we must raise the fight for the removal of barriers to the rights and freedoms of thought and expression, scientific research and dissemination of its results, through press, meetings and demonstrations, organizing for rights and freedoms.2 To build and support left, socialist, independent media outlets, newspapers and magazines that report the truth. An effective fight against hate speech, eco-fascism, and ecological racism. This means that the struggle to expand rights and freedoms, the struggle against ecological racism and fascism, and the climate struggle complement one another.
Not long ago, prestigious academic organizations in the west came together and issued two separate statements on biodiversity loss and climate change, calling for urgent action against the G-7, representing seven highly developed countries. In both statements, the climate crimes committed by companies, capitalist classes and G-7 states, the ecological destruction they commit, the financial responsibilities they must bear are not mentioned even in passing (see “Reversing…” 2021; “A Net Zero…” 2021 in Bibliography)
*An important item on the list of struggles also appears here: To ask and answer the question “why do we not discuss the responsibility of the fossil fuel companies that cause the climate crisis and the state that defends and protects them” in academic symposiums, UN meetings, parliamentary commissions and general assembly, climate rallies and newspaper columns, to open this discussion; In order to directly show the blame of companies and the responsibility of the state, the real causes of climate change will need to be emphasized ceaselessly, and the class dimension of the climate question I discuss below will need to be raised.
This debate is important because it opens the way to combating the influence of hegemonic climate politics that dominates the search for alternatives. If this is not done, hegemonic climate politics continues to ideologically colonize science, trade unions, democratic mass organizations, and left-wing politics as a whole. An example of such ideological bondage on the labor front is that trade unions run a lobbying event in the European Union that promotes the system of emissions trading. Worse, the steelworkers’ union federation (IndustriAll Europe) has defended demands that would weaken the emissions trading system in favour of employers (Thomas, 2021). Underdeveloped southern countries are also ideologically colonized by a climate policy that looks out for the interests of developed northern countries. Instead of raising the flag with internationalist networks against developed countries that change the climate with their cumulative emissions that have been going on for a hundred and fifty years, underdeveloped countries adopt the global north’s climate policy and chase a share of climate funding.
Similarly, various environmental NGOs are subject to hegemonic climate politics with its rhetoric of consumer behavior change. This style of politics spreads its call for green consumption to the consumer average, which is a very consuming, very waste-causing and high emissions average in developed countries such as the US, EU countries, Canada and Australia. It presents this high average as a valid phenomenon for workers, peasants, unemployed, immigrants, poor women, oppressed races, nations and identities all over the world. It generalizes the bourgeois and small bourgeois consumer to all humanity by separating it from class and social divisions. Thus, this style of politics ignores the unpretentious interaction of the toiling and poor peoples with nature, and prepares the environment for the marginalization of an alternative social struggle suitable for this interaction. An example in Turkey is the demand for “reduce your portions” for everyone, even though the majority of the population lives below the poverty line (Doğan, 2021). A similar view appears in the proposal to prevent food waste by consumers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by food litter. However, even in a report of TÜSİAD (the Turkey-wide chamber of commerce), it is stated that the food waste that consumers are responsible for in Turkey does not exceed five percent of the total food losses. Food losses occur during production, processing, storage, distribution and at the consumer market itself (TÜSİAD, 2020: 34-5). As here, the climate crisis impasse is directly related to the mismatch between the real causes of the problem and the proposals presented as solutions.
In short, hegemonic climate politics based on carbon reductionism places its hope in market mechanisms and proposes consumer behavior change. It is imposed on the world by the imperialist countries of the north; When the ideological chains that colonize science, trade unions, chambers of commerce, democratic mass organizations are broken down, only the search for real solutions to the climate question can gain strength.
Part of the fight in the ideological sphere is the adoption of a language of struggle instead of the disgressive (and demoralising) directions of hegemonic climate politics. According to a study conducted in Australia, eco-anxiety and a feeling of eco-depression about climate change not only have no positive impact on personal well-being, it also does not trigger any positive behavior with respect to the climate. What’s more, the study found that a feeling of eco-depression weakens people’s tendency to participate in collective action. In contrast, those who report “eco-anger” about the changing climate show great interest in both personal behavior change and collective action. The social and geographical inequalities that people experience on ecological issues provoke eco-anger, and anger is a driving force for collective action. Because of these findings, the researchers are proposing the establishment of language that promotes eco-anger in the campaigns and training of climate struggle organizations. Such language is also compatible with the solution of the climate question, as it does not feed anxiety and depression, leading people to collective struggle while caring for public health (Stanley, Hogg, Leviston, Walker, 2021)
There is also the question of who eco-anger targets, and which institutions. Fascist, racist, nationalist parties and environmental organizations direct anger towards the “other” in society, racialized groups or outsiders to national identity, particularly immigrants. By doing so, anger arising from ecological and social injustice is used as a conveyor belt of inhumane fascist violence on communities in the grip of the same inequalities. In addition, by holding all humanity (“we did this,” “look in the mirror, see the culprit”) and the consumer individual accountable for the changing climate, the messages that fuel anxiety and depression create an environment suitable for climate inaction in a way that limits social struggle. Instead of the apocalypse that awaits humanity in the future, there is a good chance of success in a political strategy that places climate inequality between the bourgeoisie and the working classes, the current effects of the climate crisis, the companies that led to this effect, and government policies at the center of anger now.
Dimension of Temporal and Spatial Scale
In the late 1980s, the concept of “time-space compression” entered the discourse. With this concept, the effects of the time accelerated by the innovations in manufacturing, communication and information technologies were emphasized to the exclusion of discussions of space (Altvater, 1989; Giddens, 1990; Harvey, 1990; Massey, 1991). Class context, ethnic identity and gender inequalities should be taken into account when evaluating the findings that time is accelerating and reducing the importance of space. Online money transfers are examples of changing time-space relations in terms of air travel, digitized capitalism, capitalist classes and upper income clusters. In contrast, the reality of time-space compression is often highly controversial in terms of the working classes. For example, about 90 percent of Turkey’s population does not have a passport to allow time-space compression. Space neutralizes time, whether in the case of migrants fleeing their country or those displaced by ecological or other reasons, or if laborers are exposed to the effects of extreme weather events such as death, disability, trauma. The Covid-19 epidemic is also a period when space destroys time in terms of the workers who have to go to work and the working children who cannot go to school and do not have internet and computers.
Climate change, on the other hand, suggests removing the place from the shadow of the accelerated time of capitalism and treating the time-space relationship with past-present-future ties in the long term. If the hundred-year-long trend of rising temperatures continues in the coming years, the climate is expected to be affected in many places. Settlements and forests destroyed by fires due to rising temperatures, melting glaciers, thawing permafrosts, radical changes to land structure due to desertification are all expected (IPCC, 2021). Therefore, unlike the time-space compression thesis, which emphasizes speed and short-termism, the themes raised in the summer of climate change are urgency (measures that are urgently required to be implemented) and long-termism.
The time of processes in nature, for example, the carbon cycle, differ from the time of capitalist production. Fossil energy sources take a long time to form, millions of years. However, they are burned in a short period of time in order to obtain energy for economic purposes.. The climate-changing greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere during the burning of fossil fuels is long-lasting, lasting for five to seven hundred years. Under capitalism, the period of use of fossil fuel reserves has been shortened and the time for proportional accumulation of carbon dioxide gases in the atmosphere has accelerated compared to the past.
As Ian Angus (2021:147) points out, “there is a difficult conflict between the time of nature and the time of capital – between the cyclical processes of the world system that have evolved over millions of years and the need for rapid production, distribution and profit by capital.
Climate change is a problem created by capitalism from the past to the present, and the future is under threat as capitalism continues. Indeed, the climate question is a result of the fact that time in capitalism is always defined by today. Although the capital cycle is short, it is also dependent on long-term cycles of nature such as carbon, nitrogen, water, phosphorus. Capital accumulation occurs thanks to natural assets formed in these cycles. The carbon cycle, for example, allows coal to form, but the carbon dioxide released when coal is burned also affects the climate as it returns to the cycle. In contrast, capital resists the guidance of medium and long-term perspectives due to the phenomenon of making a profit in a short time. While capital creates a world in the form of its short-term cycle, the climate question shows the irreconcilable contradiction between the time of capital and the time of nature.
In addition, the time of capital and the time of labor are also in contradiction. In capitalism, the time of the capital cycle is short. This means that the money invested in production is to become profit as value as soon as possible, that is, it is desirable to complete the capital cycle quickly. Under capitalism, shortening time and increasing speed are important in terms of profitability. In a short time, a profitable activity is achieved by shortening the circulation time of the capital. This feature of capitalism contains a contrast in terms of laborers and nature. With profit, capital becomes reinvestment in the accumulation cycle. Thus, the new cycle begins in the exploitation of labor and the capitalist plundering of nature. However, it takes two decades for the workers who produce commodities to reproduce biologically, constituting a phase in the capital cycle. Social reproduction of the worker, that is, going to work healthy the next day, seems to be short-term, but health is a long-term concept. Air pollution and all kinds of chemicals as emissions to which they are exposed in the workplace on a daily basis degrade the health of the worker over. Greenhouse gas emissions, which have long-lasting effects on the climate, disrupt the health of the laborer as air pollution, the woman who reproduces labor and the baby who will be tomorrow’s laborer.
In addition, the consequences of climate change as extreme weather events are felt by laborers immediately, here and now.3 Drought, frost, floods, floods, typhoons, extreme cold, extreme heat waves and fires lead to the deaths, disability, health problems, loss of crops in agriculture and livestock, loss of workday, migration, displacement and displacement of many workers, peasants, unemployed, migrants, women, children and the elderly. While working people will experience such effects more frequently and more intensely in the future as climate change intensifies, they are experiencing severe ecological destruction even at present.
Jean-Marie Harribey (2014:201) reflects two inseparable propositions of a Marxist political ecology about time: “Respect for the [past] time that led to the control of all people over the time they lived and the development and complexity of living systems.” In capitalism, the dominance of capital over the present and the future is absolute, the same cannot be said for the control of other segments of society over time While capital is now moving, its future is already struggling to buy, to outperform its competitors, to create the conditions for future wealth. As a result of this practice, which does not respect the past accumulation of nature and humanity, the future of the earth is destroyed. Capital’s understanding of time, which rotates in the present and is disconnected from the past, is an obstacle to revealing the causes of ecological problems. In terms of working people, the importance of the concept of three-dimensional time is key here. The past roots, current mechanisms and actors of the order that led the earth to destruction are clarified by conceiving of time in labor. Thus, instead of a future that will deepen the ongoing destruction, it opens the way to building a future where salvation from that order can be achieved.
The capital cycle has short and long-term effects on workers, both in terms of exploitation and the consequences of a changing climate. Hegemonic climate politics, in turn, ignores the short-term capital cycle and its consequences. It also proposes a calendar spanning decades, rather than intervening now in the changing climate. The target year for decarbonization of climate policies in practice is 2050. In capitalism, measures to meet the long-term requirements of the climate are not implemented here and now, they are constantly postponed and delayed into the future. Thus, on the one hand, there is the time of capital and the time of climate policies implemented by states, and on the other hand, there is the time of laborers and nature who are in irreconcilable opposition to these two.
The climate crisis is historical. However, there is no yesterday and tomorrow in hegemonic climate politics. The past is ignored to trivialize the historical climate burden that the established companies of developed countries have created for a hundred and fifty years. The future is obscured by a scenario of a world heading towards climate catastrophe and apocalypse with the possibility of a six-degree temperature rise. The emphasis on doomsday no-tomorrowism is used as a means of public adoption of solutions of hegemonic climate politics, which claims to change that destiny. Because it is suggested that it is possible to get rid of the apocalypse, for example, to the extent that the Paris Agreement is implemented. This apocalyptic-liberation pendulum itself is an ideological tool that provides justification for climate policy tools in practice.
These findings lead us to two separate understandings of climate change in terms of timescale. What hegemonic climate politics is interested in is climate change as a possibility of a future apocalypse, against a climate change that the working classes are already experiencing in a concrete place, here and now, today.
Research findings honestly provides enough information about the future of the climate. Hegemonic climate politics, on the other hand, creates uncertainty that it justifies the adoption of its proposals: “If the following market mechanism measures are implemented as climate policies in the next three decades, if these technologies can be developed, if companies are supported with such a public budget,” etc. In this article, I try to show that these policies cannot be effective due to the internal contradictions of capitalism, and that the geo-engineering upon which it relies creates empty dreams. Moreover, it is clear that the research findings in climate indicators have set new records in the past three decades. For these reasons, we know that there is no real uncertainty, that the climate question under capitalism is locked into insolvency.
The question of whether to implement intra-capitalist proposals is left to uncertainty in climate politics, which also weakens the ability to predict future requirements. When it is not known what awaits society, what the requirements will be, under what conditions it is necessary to correct, the ability to set future-oriented policies and develop climate adaptation strategies for the effects of climate change is paralyzed. The devastating effects of the changing climate arise from the relationship between the risk of destruction and the predisposition to be harmed by destruction. The damage from destruction is related to which segments of society will be subjected to the effects, that is, the existing social order. In this respect, the effects of climate change do not show a break from the past, on the contrary, they are produced by the past (social relations) (Compton, 2020: 1-2)
So, in the existing capitalist order, the current political failure on climate change is also transforming into a lack of policy in terms of meeting the needs of the future. Moreover, the poor working classes that suffer the most from climate change are condemned to unprotected, policy-free destruction in the future as they are today. Both the climate uncertainty of the existing capitalist order and the impasse created by the wider population as climate fragility present us with a political struggle that will change this order as a solution. I will return to this point.
Rejection of A Future Adjusted to Capital
One can claim that adaptation measures to climate change have been developed for the laboring, peasant and “fragile” communities. However, the prescribed adaptation is a policy of adapting capital to the changing climate without harming capital, and determining the dispensable and indispensable population clusters among the popular classes as they are affected by the changing climate. With the adaptation policies on hand, it is decided who among those affected by climate change have the potential to endure the changing climate and to what extent they can do so. Those who can adjust are mostly unaffected, while those who are unable to adjust are forced to completely carry the burden and are harmed by climate change. For instance, climate refugees for whom no national or international protection measures are foreseen are at the top of the list of the dispensible.
A noteworthy division exists between adaptation policies. The first type are those policies to adapt to certain environmental conditions in a changing climate. The second are the adaptation policies that enable people to develop their capacity to respond to uncertain situations where it cannot be predicted to what extent the conditions will change along with the climate. Accordingly, through “capacity building”, it becomes possible for the affected people to make decisions and take action according to unstable conditions, even in ways they do not foresee (Compton, 2020: 4). In other words, the promise of the hegemonic climate policy to the working and poor people consists only of advising them to prepare themselves for the changing climate (develop their capacity). Among the suggestions, useful information and experience transfers can also be found. However, the programs organized with the support of the World Bank, European Union and similar organizations serve to ideologically colonize the political perspectives of local communities affected by climate change with hegemonic climate politics.
The hegemonic climate policy’s emphasis on “urgency” does not offer measures that will soon improve the situation of workers who are currently being affected. The “net zero carbon” target, envisaged by the international climate regime for thirty years later, has been adjusted to the transformation of capital in the long run. In this respect, these policies aim at the smooth exit of the capital from the climate crisis and its trouble-free adaptation to the requirements of decarbonization without experiencing an energy problem. Long-term emission reduction and adaptation policies restructure capital in the face of the climate question without harming capital.
A climate-changing future is the result of political decisions made already. For this reason, the future of the climate in fifty years is built by the policies that have been put into practice in the past (that is, today) and those that have not. In this respect, the importance of the timing of policy objectives cannot be overstated. The contradiction between the emphasis on the implementation of “urgent” measures in the international climate regime and the postponed targets to 2050 allows for the possibility of paralyzing the alternative climate struggle. When climate experts spread the warning of urgency, it causes climate-reactive elements to tail the inadequate official policies. Elements anticipating urgent measures are brought to the point of accepting policy tools that do not have the power to solve the climate question, such as the minimal promises of the Paris Agreement, the minimal effects of carbon trading, the minimal effects of introducing electric cars, the minimal effects of using energy-efficient light bulbs at home, and the bare minimum set by future emission reduction targets. The word urgency, framed in this way, becomes one of the ideological tools of climate policy. In the face of the urgency-target contradiction, the task of the climate struggle is to make it a problem that the targets have been postponed to thirty years later, and to make the capital interests behind this postponement to the agenda to meet the targets ‘early’. When these 2050 policy goals are achieved within a few years, the urgency of the problem has been responded to ‘adequately’.
There may be some objections to this determination, arguing that “exit from the fossil cannot take place in a few years”. It is precisely this objection that feeds the urgency-goal contradiction. As a matter of fact, hegemonic climate politics does not see an end to fossil fuel use as an immediate goal. It is indexed to the smooth adaptation of capital, especially fossil fuel companies, to the “energy transformation”. Without such an immediate goal, no effort is made to find policy tools to achieve it, no concern is shown to answer the question “energy for what, for whom?”.
Climate inequalities are both social and spatial. The effects of climate change are unevenly distributed in terms of local, rural-urban, regional, national and international scales. For example, 24 million people around the world have been displaced, relocated or migrated due to disasters related to extreme weather events in 2019 alone. The vast majority of these people are in underdeveloped countries (International Displacement Monitoring Centre, 2020). Poor coastal cities and island states are unevenly affected by sea level rise. Agricultural activity areas are in the grip of drought and desertification. On a neighborhood scale, extreme heat and cold are not felt in the neighborhoods where the wealthy live, and have deadly effects in the neighborhoods of the laborers.
It is clear that hegemonic climate politics is not only blind to the contradictions between the time of capital and the time of labor and nature, but also indifferent to spatial inequalities. In terms of an anti-capitalist climate struggle, what needs to be done is a line of struggle that is based on temporal contradictions and spatial inequalities. There is no time for working and poor people to wait for capital to be restructured for “decarbonisation”. For instance, those affected by the flood in the Eastern Black Sea Region, the people damaged by the drought in the region, the villagers whose bees and cattle were burned in the fire in Manavgat, the small fishermen affected by the warming sea water in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, the orchards in Aydın whose products are destroyed by “clean” energy source GES in the place of fossil fuels, people protesting against thermal power plants in Bartın, the miners and local people who are exposed to the deadly consequences of the coal mine in Soma, the problems of all these individuals are now the organizing areas of the climate struggle at local-regional scales.
These examples also demonstrate that climate, just like labor exploitation, is an issue uniting working people in different regions and countries. The common ground of being exposed to climate questions and labor exploitation for the working people, peasants and oppressed segments of society creates an opportunity for the establishment of organizational and operational ties between climate struggles from the local to international scale.
Imperialist relations that are the subject of international scale, create national and local consequences. The oil and mining operations of international companies both render the local scale uninhabitable and violate human rights (Shell, which produces oil in Nigeria, ignores the right to life of the Ogoni people; In Bolivia, where the lithium battery and raw material Tesla needs for the “green transformation” in automobiles are extracted, one of the reasons for the military coup is this very same mineral lithium, the search for natural gas in the Mediterranean reinforcing/feeding the tension between states). In addition to imperialism, the global context of the climate question also makes the international scale highly important. Policy instruments in practice are sectarian in the payment of “climate debts” of developed countries to underdeveloped countries and in terms of climate refugee issues. Because of the many issues of the international climate regime that I have addressed above, a critical debate on an international scale is on whether to tackle it inside or outside the UN system, or both inside and outside. Recently, various ecological organizations have given up hope on the UN climate negotiations, attempting to create a struggle outside of this system (i.e., Glasgow Agreement, 2020). The international organizations of the socialist and communist parties under various names do not lead and operate an effective struggle on the climate question, and the international ecology and climate networks do not have the power to challenge the UN climate diplomacy. The task of developing organized actions and methods of struggle that will ensure interaction and unison between these structures outside the UN stands before these organizations. Otherwise, under current conditions, the question of whether it is inside or outside the UN is meaningless, because the UN climate regime will continue to impose its hegemonic climate policy on the world in the empty space it finds.
The causes of climate change pointing to developed countries highlight the need to raise the struggle on an international scale. However, the conditions in which the climate struggle develops make it necessary to take into account the transitivity between spatial scales. The struggle against domestic air pollution, the effects of coal stoves at home and in the atmosphere, energy insulation of the house, etc. starts right at home. But a struggle that emphasizes the individual consumer in the household is tantamount to surrendering to liberalism’s concept of the individual. A collective struggle should be promoted against the problems that are personally affected in the home, expanding the scale. Additionally, the source of almost all problems that occur at the home scale is realized on other scales. The coal that comes to the house is mined in the coal mine. A miner who burns coal at home is poisoned while extracting coal on a workplace scale. That mine is operated by a company. The state gives the licenses to that company on a national scale. The state apparatus carries out the planning of the coal-based energy sector. All kinds of mines, thermal power plants, oil extraction platforms, oil refineries, automobile factories, and cement plants are built on a local scale. Struggles also necessarily take place on a local scale. Municipalities and provincial organizations of ministries exercise various powers at the local level. Climate action plans are made at the city/municipal scale. Local governments will fight against the decisions taken or not taken by the local governments. However, most of the permissions granted for the facilities that I have just mentioned and that are implemented on a local scale are issued at the central level, at the national level. Besides, the principles of economic development, plans, programs, sectoral priorities, which energy sources will be utilized to obtain energy, and which capital group that will be responsible for ecological destruction will take the tender from the state are determined at the central level. In this case, a national-scale struggle that expands from the local scale to the national scale is developed and this struggle is tied/knitted with solidarity, unison in action, alliances and unions between local and national organizations. Therefore, raising the opposition to the decisions taken on a national scale and to the government that shapes these decisions is utterly inevitable. On the other side, an internationalist struggle against the UN climate regime and institutions organized on an international scale is carried out on an international scale. Here also, the expansion of local and national organizations to an international scale is the question. In short, while raising the struggles at home, workplace, neighborhood, local, national and international scales, it is an obligation to establish the transitivity between them.
1. In Turkey, the climate report of the Grey Wolves, a fascist organization tied to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) bypasses the responsibility of capital and the State.
2. Freedom of organization has always been limited in Turkey. But for the past year, suppression and crackdown on associations with the change of law that obliges professional associations, public benefit associations, trade unions, cooperatives, and foundations to provide the Governorships with member information, enabling blacklisting (Official Gazette, 26 March 2020), by putting them within the scope of audit of the State Supervisory Council (Official Gazette, 20 August 2021), as well as imposing punitive fines on ecology watchdogs, trade unions, and activists struggling for the rights of women, LGBTI+ and other human rights activists by intimidating and terrorizing unionization and union activities.
3. For the multifaceted effects of the climate change on laborers in interaction with economic and political inequalities, and injustices of access to information and health system, see Çoban 2016.
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