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From The Socialist newspaper, 22 November 2007

Profit system wrecks climate

Climate change cartoon, photo Alan Hardman

Climate change cartoon, photo Alan Hardman

"WARMING OF the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level", said the latest report of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

Pete Mason

Rajendra Pachauri, a scientist and economist who heads the IPCC, said: "If there's no action before 2012, that's too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment".

Countries that make the smallest contribution to global warming will be worst affected, such as those in Africa and the Asia Pacific region. While the IPCC was warning of more frequent and more severe cyclones, an estimated 10,000 people were dying in floods in Bangladesh after the worst cyclone for a decade. These areas have already suffered enormous losses due in part at least to the effects of climate change.

More than four billion people in Asia, living in low lying areas, face similar dangers by 2020, the IPCC says. But it is happening now.

Some experts have criticised the IPCC for being too conservative. British scientist James Lovelock said: "Sadly, even the most pessimistic of the climate prophets of the IPCC panel do not appear to have noticed how rapidly the climate is changing… Scientists have let this potentially disastrous future steal up on us unaware".

Fast action is certainly needed. Carbon emissions are rising, not falling, and have already tipped the planet into a series of environmental catastrophes, such as fires and floods, and a sharp decline in food production. The world's natural carbon sinks (such as forests and oceans) are beginning to fail.

Yet the IPCC report correctly argues that the technology is available to achieve the necessary cuts in harmful emissions. They estimate that the cost to the world economy could be as little as 0.12 % of gross domestic product. Why has urgent action not yet been taken?

The answer lies in the fact that no individual capitalist wants to bear the cost as it would reduce their competitiveness and profits, and no capitalist government wants to impose substantial costs on its home industries if it impairs their competition with other industries worldwide. So each government talks down the dangers. The major powers are playing Russian roulette with the planet.

Gordon Brown says that a UK renewable energy strategy will not even be published until 2009. Rather than castigating the US administration for being one of the major players responsible for the dire situation facing the planet, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, speaking about the IPCC report, merely said, "I look forward to seeing the US and China playing a more constructive role".

The US government wants China to blink first. "The United States believes there is no clear scientific definition of the dangers of climate change although it recognises urgent action is needed" was the verdict of a US environment adviser, Jim Connaughton, at the recent Valencia IPCC conference.

Faced with the inaction of capitalist governments, the "urgent action" will have to be taken by the working class and oppressed masses of the world, moving in their billions out of absolute necessity, and pushing aside the national ruling elites.

Capitalist half-measures and IPCC deadlines will inevitably fail to do what is necessary. Spreading the idea of a socialist alternative is essential, as the only alternative to capitalism that will be able to reverse the effects of global warming.

Campaign Against Climate Change demonstration

Saturday 8 December

Assemble 12 noon, Millbank, Westminster, London

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