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
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
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