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Global warming threat
Environment: not safe in their hands
ACCORDING TO the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report global warming, caused by 'man-made pollution' ie capitalist production, is at a critically dangerous level. The IPCC says that concentrations of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), are at the highest levels for 650,000 years.
The environmental impact from this rapid rise in global temperatures is catastrophic. The frequency of extreme weather events is increasing, including more severe droughts and floods. Global warming is also contributing to species decline and extinctions, including vital fish stocks.
Heatwaves, such as in France in 2003 which led to 12,000 extra deaths, will increase. But the main victims will be the world's poorest people. According to Christian Aid 182 million people in sub-sahara Africa could die of dieases directly linked to climate change.
So what are the world's 'leaders' doing to halt and reverse this environmental destruction?
The 1997 Kyoto treaty (which the US and Australian governments refused to sign up to) commits industrialised countries to cut their combined carbon emissions to 5% below 1990 levels by 2008-12. According to environmental scientists a 60% cut is the minimum requirement. Currently emissions are 25% above 1990 levels!
Emerging from Kyoto, the European Union (EU) established a carbon emissions trading market whereby carbon blocs are traded between under-polluting and over-polluting companies. Although permits were allocated to power generators for free, these companies passed on the notional costs of these permits to consumers netting them £800 million in profits!
Now it turns out that many EU member states allocated more allowances than needed, collapsing carbon prices and thereby reducing this 'market solution' to a futile nonsense.
US capitalism is the world's biggest polluter, contributing around 25% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Yet president George Bush remains in denial over the causal connection between capitalism and global warming.
Moreover, by relocating industrial production to countries outside its border, such as China, US capitalism has effectively cut its own emissions by 3% between 1997-2003. But this reduction in US emissions was more than matched by an increase in Chinese emissions. In 1997, exports to the US accounted for 7% of Chinese CO2 output; by 2003, the figure had risen to 14%.
In Britain, having pledged New Labour to cut CO2 emissions by 20% by 2010, Tony Blair quietly dropped this target at the request of the CBI bosses who say it would affect 'competitiveness'.
Blair is also lobbying, under the guise of 'debating future energy requirements', for a new generation of nuclear power stations. This is posed as a 'greener option'. In practice, it is an unsafe technology with no safe means of disposing of radioactive waste. It is also extremely expensive, which is why big business wants the public to pick up the huge tab for insurance and decommissioning.
Under capitalism, energy and industrial production, logging, mining and intensive forms of agriculture, etc are driven by the profit motive. This market-based system of competitive production and trade is unsustainable in terms of the environment. It also means that while the number of dollar billionaires is growing the poverty of billions is also increasing.
Capitalism cannot solve the world's problems. Only a socialist future embracing democratically planned economies can end the horrors of world poverty and solve today's acute environmental problems that, if capitalism is allowed to continue, threaten humanity's very existence.
Since this article was written Tony Blair has appeared to more openly give his endorsement to new nuclear plants, saying they were back on the agenda "with a vengeance" - ed
In The Socialist 18 May 2006:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Campaign for a New Workers Party
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news and analysis