One convenient explanation is that shifts in the climate have to do with “human activity” or “humanity.” There is even a name used to describe this period of history—the Anthropocene, a proposed name for a new geological epoch.
Carvalho of UNEP recently said, “Humanity must act with evidence-based urgency, ambition, and innovation to change the trajectory for this ecosystem.” Blaming “humanity” in general is far too vague. It fails to accurately point the finger where it must be pointed.
Firstly, the term Anthropocene obscures the fact that it is the massive productive powers of capitalism that generated carbon emissions based on the use of fossil fuels. It is not some vague term such as Anthropocene that explains the explosion of carbon emissions, but it is the social formation called capitalism that is central to global warming.
Secondly, since capitalism developed in an uneven way, with certain countries (the North) benefitting by use of force—what is called imperialism—these countries disproportionately benefited from the productive powers of capitalism. They have historically spewed the most carbon into the atmosphere and continue to do so on a per capita basis. Any policy that does not acknowledge the 1992 Rio formula of “common but differentiated responsibilities” will fail to see that while countries in Europe and North America benefitted and continue to benefit from fossil fuels, other places did not and do not benefit and, are yet, the most likely to be adversely impacted by rising temperatures.
Thirdly, the most important impediments to change have not been “humanity” but the corporate power and the United States government that not only diluted the 2015 Paris Agreement but then refused to be bound by the tepid agreements. It is telling that countries such as Jamaica and Mongolia updated their climate plans to the United Nations before the end of 2020—as mandated by the Paris Agreement—although these countries produce a tiny fraction of global carbon emissions. The funds that were committed to developing countries for their participation in the process have virtually dried up while external debt has ballooned. This shows a lack of basic seriousness from the “international community.”