More capitalism will be mass death at some future point
Did y'all read the Maddaddam trilogy like I suggested?
The books depict a future in which more capitalism and its primary side-effect, abrupt climate change, have vastly degraded the civilization under which we currently live. In Atwood's world, commerce is all a scam, moral perversion is the norm, and the class distinctions we currently hide under American chumminess have been turned into a full-fledged apartheid system, with the rich in their Compounds and the rest of us in the Pleeblands. No doubt the infighting will be more intense as the capitalist buzzards pick the dead carcass of planet Earth clean.
The primary event governing the books is a mad scientist's attempt to wipe out the human race and replace it with a genetically-engineered version. Atwood speculates joyously about the sort of new animals which will dominate the landscape due to unrestrained genetic engineering: wolvogs, for instance, dogs with wolf genes bred to protect property, or pigoons, pigs engineered to supply human replacement body parts. I suppose capitalist for-profit technology will have to entertain us if it is to continue to advance as against a landscape of decline on all levels.
Now it is clear that capitalism sticks with its old energy supplies and merely supplements them with new ones. As Bonneuil and Fressoz remind us in their stunning volume The Shock of the Anthropocene, there has never been an "energy transition." This is most evident in China, where the fossil cars will no longer be sold but of course dominant coal is still not going away from the Chinese economy. And that great electric car solution? Cobalt might be a problem in scaling it upward too far.
There are actually two problems, depending upon which side of the situation one looks at. On the physics end, capitalist development (i.e. the primary cause of the "Great Acceleration," with "Communist" development being an imitative cause) will create climate problems that won't go away. The projected results are already obviously standard: floods, droughts, famines, plagues and so on. At some point the global population declines to that level that planetary ecosystems can support indefinitely. That development necessarily means mass death. The physics end of the problem is the end which people are familiar with.
The other end of the problem is the one that the philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis called the "social imaginary," in which society operates through a collective fantasy which is continuously re-imagined to keep the social arrangements functioning. Law, politics, marriage, capitalism, money, property, and other fictions have to be continuously re-imagined for continuous public belief in their existence. The collective fantasy isn't, then, entirely a fantasy -- it influences our every action, and thus the shape of the natures we build atop the world. But at core it's a fantasy, which should give us hope for the option of a new fantasy.
Our problem, then, is that the collective fantasy which governs world-society is a capitalist collective fantasy: the ideal is to start a business, exploit "resources" and "labor," get rich, and rise above "nature" with its limitations. The ultimate end is to join the utopia of money, in which all we desire can be paid-for. A new collective fantasy, one based upon an ecological reckoning with the future of life on Earth both human and non-human, might save us from the bad end discussed in our examination of the other side of the problem. The new collective fantasy would replace the utopia of money with a utopia of sustainability.
Christian Parenti had a recent (8/29/2017) piece in Jacobin titled "If we fail," discussing the general continuance of capitalism and its expected outcome. Parenti's piece is narrowly focused upon the effects of "natural" disasters upon coastal urban environments. There are of course a broad number of other ways in which climate change will make things worse for people. Here's an opening salvo:
In the near term, perhaps starting in the 2020s or 2030s, the foremost problem will probably be a new climate-driven urban crisis of disinvestment, abandonment, and depopulation caused by rising sea levels and large inundating storms that will leave rotting urban infrastructure. As the water rises and the floods increase in severity and regularity, the once posh shoreline will be the new ghetto.
But of course climate change under capitalism doesn't stop at that point. As large portions of planet Earth become uninhabitable, much of Earth's human population becomes nomadic. With four degrees of climate change, everyone will want to migrate to Canada, Alaska, Russia, or Scandinavia. Parenti continues:
Mass migration and a racist backlash to it are already hallmarks of the early climate crisis. By the 2030s and 2040s, far more people will likely be on the move. Already, right-wing demagogues from Arizona to Cote d’Ivoire, to Myanmar, to Paris have been raging against the outsiders. Too often the demagogues successfully ride the fear and rage to power, and once there, turn state repression against immigrants and other poor people.
Thus, as drought, neoliberalism, and militarism produce crises, warfare, and waves of refugees in the Global South, in the North they produce a reactive, opportunistic, authoritarian state hardening.
Thus politics in the age of abrupt climate change becomes mired in the immigration issue, thus offering another distraction from what is really needed to avoid the coming more-capitalist mass death: a revolution in the social imaginary. As for Parenti's invocation of technical solutions to climate change, he offers no analysis of whether or not said solutions can be scaled dramatically upward without hitting resource roadblocks.
What has to happen, then, is that everyday human energy needs must be scaled down to those energies which can be produced while at the same time offering some modicum of ecological safety to the human race. This is only going to happen if a major departure from the capitalist path is made to happen. The fossil fuel industries must be phased out, and the overall energy consumption of the society as a whole must fall to meet physical (as opposed to economically imagined) need. None of this is going to happen under capitalism, a system in which the imperative of economic growth means that reigning notions of resource "need" are endlessly shifted upward to meet the ever-increasing extravagance that is continually redefined as "earning a living."