THERE is one thing certain in our age of uncertainty: capitalism in its current form cannot continue. It’s eating the planet.

Climate change cannot be solved without tackling the inherent problems in this late-stage malignant form of capitalism that has marked the last 40 years of history. This is not a manifesto for Marxism – human beings need to trade, sell their labour, and accumulate wealth and property. To deny that is as foolish as to deny the need for food and sex. It’s part of who we are as a species.

But the current form of capitalism which holds sway over human affairs has nothing to do with trade or entrepreneurialism, and everything to do with rampant greed and institutionalised inequality. Unbridled mass consumption and the almost suicidal glee with which industries from fashion to farming trash the planet will be our undoing.

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So hard choices need to be made. What matters most? The super-rich or the planet? To me there’s no debate. A global one per cent versus the rest? I know which side I’m on.

Scotland is already seeing which way the wind is blowing, and having to act accordingly. The SNP Government has backtracked on its manifesto pledge to cut airline taxes, and was hammered by business leaders for hypocrisy.

Here’s an example of the difficult choices that governments around the world will have to start making: do we put economic growth above the safety of the planet? This is the taste of the terrible medicine we must drink. What’s the point of enabling lots of tourists to fly cheaply to Scotland if the planet has tipped over into crisis point within a generation?

Of course, seen from the old-fashioned perspective of early 21st century capitalism, the u-turn is deeply humiliating for the SNP. It’s another case of politicians lying, business says. To my eyes, it’s nothing of the sort. It was messily handled, but it was a hard decision that needed to be taken. After Nicola Sturgeon declared a “climate emergency”, what other decision could have been made?

The UN’s intergovernmental report on biodiversity and ecosystems, which was released last week, painted a devastating picture of the impact of humans on nature. One million animal and plant species face extinction.

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World population has doubled since 1970. To feed, heat and clothe us, forests have been obliterated – 100 million hectares of tropical forest went in just 20 years. Only 13 per cent of wetlands remain. Urban living has doubled. The world has become a rubbish tip. The report is screaming in our faces that we’re killing the planet, ourselves and our children.

Another report has warned that entire communities in the UK might need to move away from coasts and rivers as temperatures rise. The UK’s Committee on Climate Change logically suggests that global warming will inevitably restrict the growth of aviation in Britain.

The cold truth is that instead of paying less to fly, we need to pay more – not a lot extra, but certainly to cut taxes on carbon-emitting industries is tantamount to cutting our own throats. On a return flight from Glasgow to Barcelona, a single passenger is responsible for 0.37 tonnes of CO2. A mere £2.81 on the ticket price will offset those emissions. Is that going to kill us? No. Would cutting air tax kill us? Maybe. One day. Soon.

This difficult conversation is starting to happen at the right level, as we see with the SNP’s air tax dilemma, and Labour contemplating delisting companies from the Stock Exchange which fail to tackle climate change.

But there’s a reluctance within society to take the necessary “radical” steps. Since when was survival radical? The fear seems to lie in the belief that perhaps, some day, we might be rich too, and we don’t want to have to be taxed hard when that fantasy day dawns. Forget it. Your chances of doing anything other than financially struggling throughout your life are all but guaranteed. Unless you’re born wealthy, born a genius, born beautiful, born to kick a ball, or born to perform, your chances of becoming rich – and I mean really rich, not just owning a nice house and car that might one day be taken off you by the bank because you lost your job – are basically nil. Though you might win the lottery.

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The trajectory of the global economy over the last 40 years is as depressing as the climate. In his book Capital in the 21st Century, economist Thomas Piketty shows how since the 1970s the return on capital has been greater than the rate of economic growth. In other words, to quote the old 1920s song: “One thing’s sure and nothing’s surer, the rich get rich and the poor get poorer.”

Inequality was ameliorated to some degree in the wake of two world wars and the great depression with initiatives like the New Deal in America and the Welfare State in Britain – ideas at the time which were seen as wildly radical, primarily by mouthpieces of the rich.

There’s no question that we need a New Green Deal to tackle the climate crisis that late-stage capitalism has created – a game-changing set of policies, penalties and incentives to rebalance the economy. Carbon emissions need zeroed out at breakneck speed, green industries must replace dirty industries, the super-rich need to be subjected to wealth taxes, and human beings – each of us – need to face the fact that TVs aren’t meant to go on a scrapheap after five years; that two long-haul holidays a year might make us happy, but we’re killing the world for our entertainment.

Change won’t impoverish the likes of you or I. If we’re smart it will curb the Romanov-style greed of the super-rich and recalibrate an economy which will make our lives better, and even, maybe, our pockets fuller. The future is green: already China is dominating the international market for solar panels and electric vehicles. These technologies point the way towards new jobs. Capitalism can be tamed – it doesn’t need to tame us. Green economics offer hope and fairness.

We have to make the changes, otherwise we’re just idiot bystanders on a burning planet getting our pockets picked by the people who set the world alight in the first place.