Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/880/21794

From The Socialist newspaper, 25 November 2015

Socialist change not climate change

The growing threat of climate change and a socialist programme for the environment

Flooding in Bangladesh, photo by dougsyme (Creative Commons)

Flooding in Bangladesh, photo by dougsyme (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge)

Pete Dickenson

The forthcoming climate summit in Paris meets as evidence continues to grow of the threat of global warming, caused by the emissions of greenhouse gases. These are produced by the burning of the fossil fuels; oil, coal and gas. The main greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide, but far more deadly is methane, which has not so far dramatically increased.

The fifteen warmest years in history have occurred since 1998, 2014 being the hottest, with 2015 looking set to break that record. The main scientific body that monitors climate change is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose most recent assessment reports gave more proof of the looming danger.

The IPCC is predicting heatwaves in southern Europe, droughts in Australia, sea level rises, acidification of oceans and shifts of weather systems and rainfall patterns.

A significant change from the previous assessment report in 2007 is that sea levels are now predicted to rise by 1 metre by 2100, almost double the previous estimate. Other scientific studies put the sea rise at 2 metres. Either way, the result will be disastrous for hundreds of millions of inhabitants of low lying coastal regions, such as in Bangladesh.

Sea level rise

The IPCC says the sea level rise is partly linked to the speed of the melting arctic ice cap, which is unprecedented for at least the past 1,450 years and sea ice could disappear in summer by 2050. Even more worrying is the prediction that 80% of the permafrost in the polar regions could have melted by then.

Huge quantities of the deadly greenhouse gas methane are trapped in permafrost and will be released as it melts, which could create a so-called tipping point, beyond which warming could become uncontrollable.

This outcome is not included in the assessment report because of timing uncertainties, as the IPCC sees them, but the potential danger is real nevertheless.

The main cause of the changes in climate is the rise in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 400 parts per million, that is linked to human action (ie capitalism). The IPCC is now 95% certain that this is the case, up from 90% in the previous assessment report. To avoid the worst effects of global warming, the carbon concentration must be kept to below 450 parts per million, climate science is saying. On present trends this level will be reached in 25 years, and the IPCC sees little chance of it being avoided.

Since 1998 there has been an apparent leveling off in global temperatures and this is reflected in the assessment report. The predictions of a temperature increase have been slightly reduced at the bottom end, to 1.5 Celsius minimum rise, from 2 Celsius in the previous report.

This is welcome, but does it change the overall picture of climate change danger? Not at all, according to the IPCC climate scientists. The general trends are clear and unequivocal. In fact, although measured atmospheric surface temperatures may have temporarily stopped rising, deep ocean temperature rise never ceased.

Basing themselves on recent improved understanding of deep ocean behaviour, some climate scientists have claimed that the temperature measurements that have been taken up until now may prove to have been an underestimate.

Emissions

There have also always been other factors that determine global temperatures, such as solar activity and the prevalence of volcanoes, whose ash blocks heat from the sun. These can temporarily hide the effect of greenhouse gas emissions.

There could now be signs that the temperature leveling off is unfortunately ending, if indeed it ever happened. Regardless of this, 2014 was the warmest year ever and 2015 looks set to surpass it. The predicted return of El Nino, the Pacific Ocean warm current that was linked to very rapid warming in the 1990s, has occurred. Despite the caution of the IPCC, the mortal danger of global warming remains and urgent, decisive action is needed to tackle it.

The main industrial powers began talking about the danger of global warming more than 25 years ago in the run up to the 1992 Earth Summit at Rio. Since then greenhouse gas emissions have continued to balloon, not prevented by halfhearted, failed initiatives, such as the Kyoto treaty.

At the root of the problem is the capitalist profit system, in particular the rivalry between the main imperialist powers which has prevented any meaningful international agreement.

The Stern report on climate change, initiated by the last Labour government, but never implemented, said that 1% of economic output would need to be spent over 40 years to tackle global warming.

Further, Stern pointed out that this was a tiny amount compared to the potential cost of climate change if nothing meaningful was done.

This cut no ice though with the ruling classes of the world, who have shown time and again that any action that threatens short term profits, even to a limited extent, is unacceptable.

Despite the likely claims of a breakthrough by the organisers, the Paris summit will not provide any answers to the environmental threat faced by the world. Countries have been asked to come up with pledges of future cuts in emissions, but any pledge will be voluntary, their extent and time scale for implementation being completely up to each country.

The technology exists to switch from polluting sources of energy to renewables, such as wind, wave and solar power. No scientific breakthrough is needed, just a political programme to rapidly switch over to green energy, which must address the reasons previous attempts have failed.

The capitalists will fight ferociously against such a programme, because it threatens their profits, but workers need not fear its effects on employment. Research sponsored by a group of trade unions has shown that one million jobs could be created with such an approach.

Socialist Alternative members on the People's Climate March in New York, 21 September 2014, photo Socialist Alternative

Socialist Alternative members on the People's Climate March in New York, 21 September 2014, photo Socialist Alternative   (Click to enlarge)

Markets

Since competitive markets degrade the environment, a green programme can only be made a reality by nationalising the main industries that dominate our economy.

Also, since climate change is global, ultimately a programme of public ownership must include at least the 147 multinational firms whose networks control 40% of the world economy.

This requires a new way of organising production and society. Democratic planning is not only a viable alternative to the 'hidden hand' of the capitalist market system, it has huge inherent advantages for saving energy. For example, it would avoid duplication of resources, planned obsolescence and the energy-wasteful booms and slumps inherent in capitalism.

A priority in a socialist programme for the environment must be the nationalisation of the energy and transport industries. This will lay the basis for a switch to renewables and the expansion of public transport.

Another crucial aspect in the move to a carbon neutral world will be to decrease the energy use needed in the production of all manufactured goods, services and housing.

The 400,000 strong demonstration in New York in September 2014, the biggest ever on a green issue, shows the potential to mobilise a movement on the environment.

One reason for this is that it is clear that the capitalists have virtually given up on serious measures to address global warming.

To the very limited extent that the ruling classes are still looking for answers, some are turning to nuclear power. But nuclear power is far from being a green alternative to fossil fuels, the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan was just the latest incident showing the dangers of this technology.

Potentially even more frightening than nuclear is the increasing interest by capitalist opinion formers in 'geo-engineering'. An example of this is seeding the atmosphere to recreate the effects of a volcanic eruption.

It's long been known that volcanic ash reduces global temperatures, but the effects of simulating this are largely unknown. One scientific study has found that it could result in famine and drought.

'Present trends'

The latest report by the IPCC says that on 'present trends' it will not be possible to prevent the global temperature rising by more than 2 Celsius, above which it could spiral out of control.

This is a historic indictment of capitalism and also indicates the urgency of taking decisive measures, so that 'present trends' are broken.

The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader has put socialist ideas back on the agenda. His and John McDonnell's promise of more interventionism is welcome if it produces real steps forward to address climate change. The more intervention there is, the more likely it will be to have an effect.

But John's vision of a very gradual, step by step, approach to transforming society fails to recognise the urgency for radical action to tackle global warming. Ultimately, piecemeal measures within the framework of capitalism will run up against the logic of the system, where profit comes first.

A rapid, root and branch transformation of society on socialist lines is what is needed to tackle the environmental threat facing us.


The Socialist Party calls for:

257 billion

According to the Overseas Development Institute, G20 nations are responsible for 257 billion a year in subsidies for fossil fuel production. Despite pledging in 2009 to phase them out

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 25 November 2015:


Socialist Party news and analysis

Back doctors' strikes

Stop the Tories' war on Syria

Autumn statement: bonanza for bosses, pain for us

Police finally own up to spies' relationships with target women

Transgender woman dies after spiteful courts pick men's prison

'Antibiotic apocalypse': profit system holds back research

Sun's racist lie about Muslim support for terror

Them & Us


Socialist Party feature

Socialist change not climate change


International socialist news and analysis

Bombing Syria won't stop Isis

Dictatorship's methods still reign in 'democratic' Chile

Myanmar: electoral defeat for the military, renewed class struggle ahead


Workplace news and analysis

Trade Union Momentum launched to organise to defend Corbyn

Lambeth library workers' wildcat strike

"I'm voting for Roger because I believe we need change in our union"

Steelworkers demand government action to Save Our Steel

Firefighters rally to defend pay and conditions

Solidarity with sacked BT worker

Protest demands reinstatement of John Vasey

Workplace news in brief


Socialist readers' comments and reviews

Tory MP made me sick with tax credit cut lies

Transgender access to healthcare is worsened by cuts


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Waltham Forest march demands homes for all

Fire cuts cost lives

Save Dorothy Lucy centre


 

Home   |   The Socialist 25 November 2015   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

Environment:

triangleCarbon dioxide hits 800,000-year high: end profit-driven pollution

triangleOpposition to new academy school being built on Leeds playing fields

triangleHackney Socialist Party: How can the environment be saved?

triangleTories 'flouting duty' on poison air, says UN

triangleExtreme weather events and global warming

Socialist:

triangleTheatre: 'Young Marx' shows growth in great platform for his ideas

triangleSocialist Party women's meeting brings together members to share experiences

triangleSouthampton Socialist Party: Is there a global nuclear threat?

triangleCardiff Socialist Party: Why Labour and Plaid councils must set no-cuts budgets

Climate change:

triangleMovement growing against fracking giant Ineos

triangleProfit-driven pesticide use now threatens life

Global:

triangleA world in crisis, ripe for revolution

triangleSE London Socialist Students & Socialist Party: Global warming - A global threat

Energy:

triangleCourt maintains injunction against fracking protesters

IPCC:

triangle'Freedom riders' lobby against violent policing

Global warming:

triangleThe Socialist inbox

Gas:

triangleMovement challenges Iranian regime

Green:

triangleEqual sick pay rights for staff at Charlton Park Academy

Carbon:

triangle47,000 kids exposed to illegal toxic air

Technology:

triangleNationalise to save jobs at BAE Systems

Renewables:

triangleScotland: BiFab workers' occupation and march secures jobs and pay guarantee

Methane:

triangleDithering in Durban

Public transport:

triangleArriva bus drivers' action wins pay rise

Nuclear power:

triangleFukushima nuclear disaster - a terrifying legacy

Oil:

triangleKurdish referendum declared illegal

York:

triangleYork Socialist Party: After the election - the fight for change

Britain:

triangleSalford Socialist Party: Britain in 2018

Bangladesh:

triangleBrutal repression of Rohingya people sparks massive humanitarian crisis

Australia:

triangleAustralia: massive yes vote for marriage equality

Cuts:

triangleCorbyn's Labour needs 100% anti-cuts strategy and fight for democracy

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis

17/1/18

Labour

Corbyn's Labour needs 100% anti-cuts strategy and fight for democracy

17/1/18

Trump

Victory! Trump's UK visit cancelled by fear of protests

17/1/18

NHS

NHS crisis: under pressure from all angles - end cuts and sell-offs!

15/1/18

Carillion

Carillion crisis: demand action to save jobs and services

10/1/18

Tories

Cabinet chaos as shambolic reshuffle underlines Theresa May's impotence

10/1/18

NHS

Sustained mass movement needed to stop Tories wrecking our NHS

10/1/18

Education

Bigot Toby Young quits - now scrap the new uni regulator driving privatisation

10/1/18

Them & Us

Them & Us

10/1/18

Teachers

Teacher recruitment falls by a third - cut workload, not funding

3/1/18

Fire service

Fire service victory

3/1/18

Fares

Rail: fares up, bosses' pay up - delays and cancellations up

3/1/18

Higher Education

Mobilise against rip-off executive pay

3/1/18

Virgin

NHS in winter crisis as Branson creams off 1bn

3/1/18

Homes

Thousands live in tents and sheds - seize empty homes

3/1/18

Fat cats

Widening wealth gap, increase in poverty...make the fat cats pay

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle16 Jan Home care workers to strike

triangle15 Jan Carillion crisis: Demand action to save jobs and services

triangle12 Jan Outrage against 'monster block' plan

triangle12 Jan Mini-strike wave continues and intensifies

triangle10 Jan Strike wins biggest pay rise in ten years

triangle10 Jan Movement of workers and youth challenges Iranian regime

triangle10 Jan Cabinet chaos as shambolic reshuffle underlines Theresa May's...

More ...

triangle17 Jan Cardiff Central Socialist Party: Planning for 2018

triangle17 Jan Salford Socialist Party: Housing crisis - the socialist solution

triangle17 Jan Hackney Socialist Party: Slum housing in the past; and the crisis today

triangle17 Jan Caerphilly Socialist Party: Mass movement challenges Iranian regime

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

January 2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2