The crisis of climate change has led to a renewed influx of climate refugees. Many climate refugees have been displaced already, and many tens of millions more will be forced to emigrate in the next period. All of the existing factors driving mass migration will be augmented by new waves of scarcity and disaster brought about by shifts in climate. The response of the capitalists is to intensify border violence and militarize the exclusion and exploitation of refugees in rich countries.
The serious capitalists absolutely believe in climate change, and are planning to mitigate its effects. A 2014 Pentagon report referred to “immediate risks” from climate change acting as a “threat multiplier.” However, the capitalist program to address climate change aims to shape a world that is even more hostile to the interests of the workers of all countries. The rapid shifts in climate are forcing a reorganization of the previously established geopolitical contours underlying modern capitalism. One way or another, the response to these shifts will occur on a class basis. Humanity has two choices if it is to survive this challenge: socialism in our lifetime, or an unprecedented, devastating reorientation and militarization of borders on a capitalist basis.
Worldwide, in many places where climate change is expected to unleash catastrophic short-term effects including large numbers of climate refugees, militarization is well under way. The escalating deaths of refugees in the Mediterranean Sea, and the ongoing horrors taking place in Libya are a rehearsal for the new waves of violence that will be unleashed as the full impact of the climate disaster is felt throughout Africa, the Middle East, and Central and South Asia. In the Americas, Trump’s push for a border wall and bipartisan support for further militarization is just the beginning.
Arctic and Antarctic regions, historically at the extreme periphery of human society, are taking on new significance as polar ice continues to deteriorate. In the Arctic, where climate change means the disappearance of ice sheets, the destruction of existing indigenous communities, and the commercial emergence of formerly inaccessible maritime space, Russia is reopening old Arctic military bases to secure their influence over this new frontier. As the capitalists seek to gain every possible advantage over their rivals, a new “Great Game” is being played for the region’s vast oil and mineral wealth.
Elsewhere, the South China Sea is currently the site of some of the highest-stakes imperialist maneuvering on the planet. In addition to significant reserves of fossil fuels, the region borders many of the most densely populated cities on the planet in China, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines, with populations among those most vulnerable to rising sea levels. Further to the south, Australian immigration policy is responding to many of the same dynamics, maintaining refugee concentration camps on several islands with some of the highest rates of PTSD ever recorded.
With climate change unchecked, in the coming decades the habitable latitudes of the planet will shift rapidly away from the equator and toward the poles, with the limits of arable land in the northern hemisphere estimated to shift north as far as 1,200km. The complement to the militarized containment of workers in the poor countries will be the massive construction of new urban areas as new latitudes open up, and the rapid construction of exclusive, secure, and climate-controlled spaces in any equatorial cities that the capitalists continue to inhabit.
The rapid expansion of cities like Dubai in the past decade shows the bourgeois approach to this kind of construction: massive reliance on imported and hyper-exploited labor for construction, and later on, the maintenance of a long-term racialized underclass of immigrant workers, often from precisely those lands most affected by climate shifts, with strict controls on their freedom of movement and severe downward pressure on their wages.
Capitalism, the historical period of the planet’s passage into ecological crisis, began with an act of massive expropriation of workers and peasants by the nascent capitalists. The required solution extends beyond a “Green New Deal.” What is needed, as Marx explained, is to expropriate the expropriators, to socialize the capitalists’ wealth and resources, to erase their artificial national borders, and to democratically plan the world economy to stabilize climate factors and rebuild society on an equitable and sustainable basis.
Climate change is unlikely to lead to human extinction altogether. The world will not become lifeless—but it will change radically. The capitalist response to climate change will not lead to human extinction, but instead a targeted act of violence against workers in the ex-colonial countries who will be made to bear the full force of the climate disaster. The framework is being consolidated to support the enactment of a new genocide.
With each passing day, the cost of deferring the socialist revolution becomes increasingly severe. The bourgeois solution—to swerve fatalistically into assuming these costs and the massive “collateral damage” it will engender—is not the way forward. The working class has no nation, and the continued evolution of human life on the planet hinges on the working class embracing internationalism in a renewed way in the coming years and decades. The IMT has full confidence that the creative potential of human beings is capable of meeting these challenges—if we have a sense of urgency and are educated and organized. What remains is for the revolutionary working class to unleash this potential in time to avoid a cataclysm.