GUEST BLOG: Dave Brownz – Stopping Hothouse Earth –


Trump Lost in Space

The absurdity of Donald Trump calling for a new Military Space Command to make America Great Again, geographically expands the horizons of climate change denial. Not because space may provide a bolt-hole for rich climate refugees, assuming Elon Musk and others can provide the hardware, but because it proves that capitalism is blind to the extinction of our species if it is at a cost on profits.

As every major global crisis of capitalism has proven, capitalists must destroy the previous generation of sunk capital to revive profits and restore accumulation of wealth in their own pockets. Countries are laid waste, populations are wiped out in their multi-millions, and nature is sacrificed to the scramble for more carbon and more profit.

So, there is nothing new about Trump’s spatial adventure in pushing the level of destruction beyond planetary limits. It merely extends the carbon jackboot of US imperialism into the space left by Reagan’s Star Wars against the threat of Russian and Chinese imperialism. Proving beyond doubt that capitalism facing its own demise will bring the human race to an end rather than face any threat to its profits.

Or will it? Some like Guy Macpherson or Hillel Mayer say we are doomed and that we should prepare for near-term extinction.

However, mainstream climate science still believes that major changes to how capitalism operates capitalism can prevent human extinction, even while remaining vague about the ‘political will’ to make that happen. Their default position is liberal/social democracy, itself the democratic face of the bourgeois state that only exists to hide the dictatorship of capital.

For example, the recent publication of the article “Hothouse Earth” summarizes recent climate science and concludes that even at the Paris 2 degrees target we may not be able to avoid the “tipping point” into the “hothouse”. The “deep transformation of, and fundamental rejuvenation of, values, equity, behavior, economies and technologies” has to happen now! 

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“We explore the risk that self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilization of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a “Hothouse Earth” pathway even as human emissions are reduced. Crossing the threshold would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years and to sea levels significantly higher than at any time in the Holocene. We examine the evidence that such a threshold might exist and where it might be.

‘If the threshold is crossed, the resulting trajectory would likely cause serious disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies. Collective human action is required to steer the Earth System away from a potential threshold and stabilize it in a habitable interglacial-like state. Such action entails stewardship of the entire Earth System—biosphere, climate, and societies—and could include decarbonization of the global economy, enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, behavioral changes, technological innovations, new governance arrangements, and transformed social values.” 

What might these actions be and how can they be put into effect? Who or what will take charge of the “stewardship of the entire Earth System”? The debate that we need then, is not about accepting the science of runaway climate change, that is now a given, but how we can make the changes necessary to stop it before it is too late. In other words, when climate science is peaking and warning of impending doom, climate change denial is now passé. But why is social science stuck in the pre-Marxist mode of social class denial and calling for changes that cannot happen without ending capitalist class society?

Hothouse Earth and Neo-Liberalism

Hothouse Earth argues that it is neoliberalism that has caused climate change rather than capitalism itself.  The term ‘neo-liberalism’ is used here in the conventional sense. The turn to more-market-anti-state-intervention-supply-side economics of the 1970’s first tested in the Pinochet Coup of 1973. Neoliberalism therefore is crisis ridden capitalism attempting to resolve its crisis of falling profits by using an aggressive state to privatize assets and attack workers living standards. Yet this is the modus operandi of capitalism in crisis throughout history – the destruction of physical and human capital to create the conditions for the realization of profits.

If we ignore Marxism and claim an historically unique ‘neo-liberal’ period, even on the face of the facts of climate science this is ridiculous. It’s an improvement on the abstract carbon-dating ‘Anthropocene’, but it lets capitalism off the hook. Capitalism could not have been born in 18th century Europe had it not been already busy destroying nature in the ‘new world’ in the 16th and 17th centuries. Without those centuries of plunder and despoliation, capitalism would not have developed and survived to reinvent ‘neoliberalism’ in the late 20th century.  The damage that took 400 years to make cannot have happened in just 40 years. So, class-blind climate science makes a mockery of contemporary bourgeois social science of “deep transformations”.

The lead author of “Hothouse Earth” in an interview in the Intercept gets into more detail on how to rid capitalism of neo-liberalism – by putting us on a “wartime footing” and moving towards a ‘centrally planned economy’. 

By shifting to a “wartime footing” to drive a rapid shift toward renewable energy and electrification, humanity can still avoid the apocalyptic future laid out in the much-discussed “hothouse earth” paper, a lead author of the paper told The Intercept. One of the biggest barriers to averting catastrophe, he said, has more to do with economics than science.

 “That “wartime footing” Steffen describes is a novel concept in 2018, but hasn’t been throughout American history when the nation has faced other existential threats. In the lead-up to World War II, the government played a heavy hand in industry, essentially shifting the U.S. to a centrally planned economy, rather than leaving things like prices and procurement of key resources up to market forces. By the end of World War II, about a quarter of all manufacturing in the United States had been nationalized. And while governments around the world continue to intervene heavily in the private sector — including in the U.S. — those interventions tend now to be on behalf of corporations, be it through subsidies to fossil fuel companies or zoning laws that favor luxury real estate developers…

“Many of the solutions to climate change, Steffen and his co-authors argue, already exist and are starting to work; the appendix to their paper lists out several such measures. “It’s not that the solutions aren’t there. It’s that we don’t have the economic and policy setting right to really ramp those up,” he said. The main constraints on action are “our value systems, politics, and legal systems,” Steffen told me, adding that taking climate change seriously also means taking “a completely different view of economics, going away from viewing the natural world as resources to viewing it as an essential piece of our life support system that needs to be maintained and enhanced.

“I think you simply have to go right back to the fundamental science of who we are, the planet we evolved into, how that planet operates and what’s happening to it,” Steffen maintains, “and that will tell you immediately that so-called neoliberal economics is radically wrong in terms of how it views the rest of the world.” 

This actually tells us a lot about the author’s assumptions about a “wartime footing”. Capitalism already faced two major crises in the 20th century that led to two world wars. While the official bourgeois history claims that these wars were necessary to defend democracy against autocracy/fascism, all sides actually went to war to defend and extend their global spheres of influence. They couldn’t have done it without ‘centrally planned economies’. But these centralized states were imperialist states consistent with state monopoly capitalism. Is this the alternative to ‘neo-liberalism’? No. It is just another face of the late capitalist state defending and extending the interests of its ruling class against their imperialist rivals. However capitalism branded itself, it was the workers in all countries that paid the price on the battle fields for the ruling classes to settle their differences on who owns what parts of the globe. So, what does a ‘war-time footing’ by a ‘centrally planned economy’ against climate change today mean?

We get back to the contradiction: ‘centrally planned economies’ going on a ‘war footing’ do so for the interests of the capitalist ruling classes. Yet these same class interests are the cause of climate change. So which class will control the state and plan the economy to rescue us? Bourgeoisie or proletariat? These are the questions that we need to pose urgently, and we need to debate the answers offered by non-Marxists and Marxists to find the truth.

Survival Socialism

Non-Marxists have taken a range of positions. Guy Macpherson gets as far as naming capitalism as the problem but cannot see a way to avoid near-term extinction.

Paul Beckwith proposes his three-legged bar stool solution – stopping carbon burning, extracting CO2 from the atmosphere, and re-icing the North Pole. Each of these is technically feasible and he calls for world leaders to declare a “climate emergency” to raise the funds to implement them.

The ‘evolutionary’ socialists, anarchists and liberals have a stake in promoting the ideal of a liberal or democratic capitalism that can be reformed by a progressive, ‘left wing’, social democratic government and make the changes necessary to avoid Hothouse Earth in time. Yet their token ‘Green agendas’ that fiddle with carbon credits and carbon taxes, and try to regulate Big Oil and Big Tech away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy, cannot possibly bring us back from the brink of predicted ‘tipping points’ in time. These ‘tipping points, are approaching with increasing speed and will be irreversible. Carbon burning is still rising along with the growing list of extinct species. The common problem face by the non-Marxist left is that the bourgeois state cannot act against the interests of the capitalist class. So long as it uses the state to defend its class interest against those of humanity-in-general then humanity will pay the price.

As Marx pointed out, the bourgeoisie claims to stand for the universal, common, national interest – Liberty, Equality, Fraternity – but in practice these are values reserved for the bourgeoisie. The proletariats’ Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity are abolished by the police and army whenever they threaten the private property owners most fundamental right to exploit and oppress the proletariat.  The bourgeois interest dictates the use any method necessary to defend private property and exploit the working masses, to death if necessary.


The obvious conclusion must be that our objective is the same as that of the Paris Commune 1871, Russia 1917, and every revolution since that was aimed at removing the ruling class and its state. The interests of the working masses are to overthrow the class that exploits and oppresses them, that is, to take state power. We need a workers’ state to create a new society based on the principles of workers’ democracy and central planning to produce to meet the needs of society and nature, restoring the unity of nature and society, and eliminating at long last, class society and the terminal war and destruction that are now heading inexorably to human extinction.

But how to get there? For Marxists, the method is transitional – to struggle every day to live and fight back until our power becomes a force against capital, and leads ultimately to the seizure of state power. These daily demands become transitional demands because when they come up against the ruling class interests, ‘human rights’ go out the window, ‘democracy’ goes out the door, and fascism prepares for a home invasion. Working class resistance to ruling class attacks teaches us all the crucial lesson that there is no future for humanity without a socialist revolution and a workers’ state to make the necessary urgent changes we need to survive.

The problem is capitalism, not neo-liberal economics. Five centuries of destruction of nature was not caused in the last half-century. We have to replace capitalism with a socialist society that returns to nature and produces for need not greed. Now!

For humanity to live, capitalism must die!


Interview with Meyer Hillman 

And even sci-fi writer Kim Stanley Robinson fatally underestimates runaway climate change. His “NY 2140” would still see Hillman’s great-great-grandchildren enjoying the high life.

Will Steffen et. al.

Intercept interview with Will Steffen

Guy Macpherson 

Paul Beckwith



Dave Brownz is TDBs guest marxist blogger because every left wing blog needs a guest Marxist


  1. yeah na, radical solutions needed not radical governments, runoff meters below farms, sustainable forestry and environment friendly transport in the city’s would be a start, switching to an LPG, Diesel filter transport model for the country folks.
    30% reduction is quite achievable for existing technology with a suitable funded scheme, plenty of people available for industrial clean ups and environmentally targeted plastic pollution clean ups of the bush and sea shores, make the polluters pay for it.
    We have the solutions we just need the political will to implement them, Make clean and green our moto again not rape and pillage.

  2. ‘Paul Beckwith proposes his three-legged bar stool solution – stopping carbon burning, extracting CO2 from the atmosphere, and re-icing the North Pole. Each of these is technically feasible’

    ‘technically feasible’?

    Hmm. Stopping carbon burning immediately condemns hundreds of millions to starvation, since the food system of all industrial nations is dependent on huge inputs of petroleum energy to run tractors, harvesters, processors and distribution systems etc..

    Stopping carbon burning also condemns tens of millions to freezing to death in regions where winter temperatures are generally below zero Celsius.

    I cannot imagine the governments of densely-populated industrial nations in the north, or the people living there, agreeing to any of that. Or many people in NZ, for that matter.

    As for ‘re-icing the North Pole, well the recent paper on using aerosol to reduce the heat reaching the surface pointed out that the effect on photosynthesis would be shockingly bad…back the starvation problem again.

  3. Good work in this D B.
    It is for sure that with capitalism in control of society and the economy
    instead of being required to operate within a framework that controls and constrains it to work for society, as is the situation at present, there are no forces at work , or that can be brought to bear to constrain industry, or finance to serve either society or the survival of the planet. Capitalism in itself has no master to serve except the profit of capitalist investors. It has never pretended to. It has no mechanism within it to do so.
    But that doesn’t mean that capitalism has no place. It just isn’t the place it occupies at the moment. I this country at least it was not that far out of it’s place 50 years ago though. Or even 40 yrs ago. The state owned and ran a central rail network, tragically inefficiently sadly, but appropriately as a natural monopoly. And the massive hydro electric power grid utilising irreplaceable waterways we all own were well run. Selling them to private entities was obscene and it should not have been legally possible for an administration to do that without making it clear to the nation before election that that is what they intended to do.
    The same applies to all those services that are needed for everyone whether for private or commercial need, that are natural monopolies.Pretty much how it was in NZ while I was growing up. (Boom Boom).
    From there on just how much state should run of commerce and industry is pretty flexible for most peoples lives I think. But eliminating all enterprise, having all decisions made by a central committee goes beyond what all but a tiny minority , the minority who imagine themselves to be the central planners, would choose. Let alone kill people for if that is what you have in mind by Marxist style worker’s revolution.
    And ” central planning” by it’s name, cannot be “the mass movement of working people”, It has to be the central planners. How are they to be selected? An elected government is just going to do as they are doing. Try and balance all the demands of commerce and society out. Succeeding or not according to their wisdom and courage or lack thereof.
    I do agree that as a country we should act to do all we can which in NZ is more than most countries, while we are undertaking to do less, and buy our way out of doing our share to reduce emissions. If we could unilaterally achieve carbon neutrality it would be a huge example to the rest of the world and go far beyond our 1% share of emissions. But to do that we would need to take complete control of our economy and finances.
    But to try to convince everyone that we have to go to a Marxist style completely centrally controlled system, that affords no-one the opportunity of running a corner store, or a taxi , or run a truck, or choose what crop to grow and offer for sale in order to achieve climate change management would prevent it from ever happening. Not that I can see any chance of us addressing it anyway. Only when there’s no oil left in the ground will we change our lifestyles as radically as would be needed. Even the central planners will eventually have to decide how many people the earth can support, and how they are to be selected, and what to do with the surplus.
    Cheers Dave
    D J S

    • David, I am not advocating the ‘central planning’ of Stalin’s Soviet Union. Nor am I conceding that all socialist revolutions must inevitably degenerate into some form of dictatorship.

      What I am advocating is workers’ democracy, which far exceeds phony capitalist ‘democracy’ subordinated to profits, based on workers councils which vote on what is needed in a plan, which is then referred to regional and then national councils, federated internationally, made of up elected delegates, both accountable and immediately recallable by those they represent, and paid no more than the average workers’ wage.

      Such a concept of ‘democratic planning’ was first advanced in the Paris Commune of 1871.

      This process allows the democratic representation of the working masses to be integrated nationally and internationally into a coordinated plan. This is a centralization process but not one dictated by a central body isolated from the mass base as became the case under the Stalinist bureaucracy.

      You can see this democratic model in operation during the early years of the Russian revolution where workers, peasants and soldiers soviets elected delegates to local, regional and national soviets. It was during the second national congress of soviets in October 1917 that the popular insurrection was organized and carried out with very little resistance.

      Workers democracy came under immediate attack with imperialist invasions and the defeat of the German revolution. The result was that, isolated and forced to fight a destructive civil war from 1918 to 1921, a centralized reconstruction only took until 1924 for Russia to recover its 1913 GDP. And despite the destruction and concessions forced on Russia, state planning was able to outstrip economic growth in the depressed capitalist West and avoid the fate of a Western colony.

      But this could never have been sustained, as socialism cannot be built in one backward isolated economy. As a result, the influence of capitalism externally and internally to destroy the revolution and restore capitalism, produced a bureaucracy fostering the enrichment of the capitalist owners at the expense of the workers’ democracy and living standards.

      The best account of the fight inside the CP to stop Stalin’s machine is that of the Left Opposition – a strong minority led by Trotsky – that fought the bureaucracy on the basis of a return to workers democracy in the state, and a democratic plan to boost growth and equality. Despite the execution of most of the oppositionists, the Left Opposition fought on into the 1930s when a new communist international was formed to fight for socialist revolution.

      In other words, Marxism that is not based on a genuine workers democracy, is not Marxism. The same applies to the terms “socialism” and “communism”. These both had specific meaning for Marx. Socialism was collective ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange based on workers’ democracy. The SU or USSR, was never going to reach socialism without a world revolution. Nor could it make the transition to communism which for Marx was a classless, stateless, society of the future.

      That is why humanity faces an existential choice, socialism, understood as a future democratic, egalitarian society, versus capitalism, dying on its feet and right now actually destroying most living species.

      • Hi Dave
        Thanks for that fulsome response. It was good to get more of the envisaged structure. You have clearly studied and thought about this a lot.
        I don’t think that all revolutions must inevitably revert to a dictatorship either , but I don’t think a change so comprehensive that it needs to be brought about by violence will be sustainable in a free society. I think people need to be convinced of the merit of the system so that they are in agreement with giving it a try is necessary. The present system by many economist’s prediction is approaching a state of flux. Both because of the earth approaching the end of what it can cope with re warming but also re ocean pollution, mineral depletion, loss of topsoil into the sea etc. And on the other hand the maturity of the inherent instability of the money (debt) exchange system. There is going to be an opportunity to present a comprehensive alternative to a public that will be extremely receptive to a better idea, which they are never going to be while things are going smoothly. So having a well worked out set of steps before hand would be a great idea. It could be achieved out of disruption caused by the “neoliberal settlement” rather than it’s own precipitated disruption and not require violence. That is how the socialist developments came about enacted by the first NZ labour government.
        Since that government and until 1984 we probably had the most socially leaning democracy allowed by the United States to exist in the world outside Russia and China’s domination and beyond the reach of the CIA without starting a nuclear war. How close to an acceptable balance of socialism and capitalism do you think those South American social democracies would have come to if the US had not destroyed them? How close was Syria, and how close might it become if it remains under Russia’s protection?
        I don’t accept that in spite of the pressure that US is prepared to place on nations that would be independent , it is necessary to change things globally or not at all. Monstering us would not be a good look for America. And an enormous country like Russia ,or like China must be able to manage without international trade if not already locked into it. We are going to see this happen by the looks.
        Cheers D J S
        ( I’d better do some work now)

        • Most of the violence of revolutions comes from the counter-revolution. The ruling class never gives up its power and property without a fight. Even the Russian revolution was almost without bloodshed as the revolution had won over the ranks of the military while imperialism was busy with its inter-imperialist war, which they hurriedly stopped to able to organize the invasion of the Soviet Union (how’s that for seamless bloody violence?).

          I don’t think Labour’s reforms were more than state capitalist measures to implement a living wage for workers under historical conditions which allowed protection of the economy under the supervision of the Bank of England which was guaranteed repayment of NZs state debt. When the conditions changed in the 1980s and protectionism worked against US international investors, Labour did a 180 degree jump to deregulate and open up the economy. It is stuck in that mode today and no advert for kiwi even half-hearted socialism.

          NZ can be compared to the Latin American democracies as all are neo-colonies dominated by US and other imperialist states. While ‘socialism’ was bandied about by the left parties in these neo-colonies they were not allowed to advance real socialism (as defined in Marxist terms). They were met by organized violence at home and blockades backing military juntas (regime change). So even without any organized armed movement geared up for insurrection, imperialism unleashed its political, economic and military violence to suppress and reverse all economic independence.

          The same can be said for Syria, a neo-colony of France and now Russia. The popular revolution has been suppressed by the violence the regime and its allies that surpasses anything seen since Nazi Germany.

          An international revolution will not happen until workers learn the lessons of the victories and defeats of the past and present and overcome their national and other divisions to organize a new international that links up the socialist movements in all countries and prepares for power.

          • Revolutions are violent because they happen when everything else failed. When taking up arms against the government its far too late for negotiation and platitudes. The time for that is the protest and civil disobedience stage.

          • Don’t you see a parallel between what has happened to all the socialist governments in South America in the past, what is happening to Venezuala at the moment, and what has been happening to Syria? I don’t think she is a neo-colony of Russia, She is an ally . And where do you think the US France and the UK fit into the “revolution” ? And where does ISIS and al Qaeda fit in? Are they the workers of Syria? .. I think that what is happening in Syria is a socialist government has survived the crusher for the first time because Russia took up the invitation to help. Assad runs a sovereign banking system. That is not allowed. Or hasn’t been in the past. I think he is on the same side as you are.
            Cheers D J S

            • There is nothing socialist about Venezuela (and any of the Latin American populist regimes). The working masses do not control the governments. The regimes are dependent on imperialist powers (my definition of neo-colony).

              Syria is not equal to Russia. Russia is now imperialist. Russia came to Assad’s rescue against the popular revolution of Syrians – not US stooges and in the process recruited as firm allies, Syria, Turkey, Iran and Qatar.

              ISIS is the child of al Qaeda, the fanatical enemy of the US with good cause, but which is also the enemy of a genuine democratic socialist revolution, so not part of the Syrian revolution.

              The ‘parallels’ you cite are the familiar ones of a binary left conspiracy theory – US banks bad, anti-US good – rather than the underlying antagonism – capitalist bad, anti-capitalist good – which reflects the real class war that explains everything else.

              • Y’all are lucky to get off the farm. Capitalism, if it was real capitalism at least 60% of all capitalist would go bankrupt almost immediately from the lose of all of the low wage government subsidies. I’d actuall really, really, really like to see a lot of these guys try and compete on a real free market. And I garrantee no one buys a bullet to the head.

  4. Can you possibly postpone this rather urgent revolution for a few months, Dave
    I would not be seen dead in the streets with the dilapidated old pitch fork my greatgrandfather left under the house. So we need time for the likes of M10, Bunnings and the Warehouse to come on board with our needs and send buyers off to China and the stock to arrive. For such a momentous occasion I intend to splash out and get a LED lit model with eco friendly LiOn rechargeable, blue tooth red ant interconnectivity etc which can live stream this life changing event that will also completely shred my portfolio . . . um hang on a minute . . .

  5. I’m with both Hitler & Churchill on this one. In times of existential crisis, like right now when the survival of our nation & species hangs in the balance, democracy as we know it is not fit for purpose, as an adaptive war footing response is the only sane solution. Only heartfelt common sense, a lust for life & level headed ruthlessness will save the day.

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