The ecological and social implications of climate change have – or should – become a central parameter for all discussions of work and capitalism. It is generally agreed that reliance on the burning of fossil fuels as the pre-eminent energy source for production and consumption over the history of capitalism is the critical factor in the ruinous greenhouse gas emissions triggering global warming, which would become irreversible if the earth's atmosphere were brought to a ‘tipping-point’. The leading scientific estimates project that a rise in average global temperatures of 2°C (and now often just 1.5°C) is the threshold for irreversible climate change; that this can be expected from an accumulation of 1 trillion metric tonnes of carbon in the atmosphere; that we are approaching 600 million tonnes; and that the carbon ‘tipping-point’ may well be reached in 30 years unless carbon emissions can be reduced by 2-5% per year (and now often even more severe reductions). The unrelenting build-up of greenhouse gases has led to the jarring conclusion, drawn by climatologists, ecological militants and union activists, that an exit from reliance on fossil fuels for energy needs to occur with some urgency.
Greg Albo and Lilian Yap