26 January 2013
Capitalism and Global Warming ( from Workers Vanguard )
The Earth as a whole is without question heating up. According to figures released in July by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, global land and ocean surface temperatures in June were the highest since monitoring began in 1880—the 304th consecutive month above the 20th-century average—while Arctic sea ice melted at a record-breaking pace. Undoubtedly, the heat can be attributed in good part to periodic and natural changes in ocean temperatures and surface air pressure. But there is some other factor at work behind the overall warming trend. A vast majority of climate scientists worldwide, including not only the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) but the national scientific academies of the U.S. and most other countries, identifies that factor as anthropogenic (human-caused) greenhouse gases.
In league with liberal environmentalists, reformist groups like the International Socialist Organization (ISO) have seized on “climate change” to beg the major capitalist powers to join hands in cutting back heat-trapping gases—a goal that significant sections of the ruling capitalist classes have laid claim to. Thus the ISO, Greenpeace et al. put great stock in the climate talks that took place last December in Copenhagen under the sponsorship of the UN, which is, simply, a den of imperialist thieves and their victims.
A new “international climate justice movement” was proclaimed after tens of thousands flocked to the Danish capital, in the main to demand that the world powers agree to curb greenhouse gas emissions and give financial support to Third World countries. The protests included a 100,000-strong demonstration in the middle of the two-week summit, during which heavily armed police squads arrested some 1,000 people. Soon after, thousands of observer delegates, including from such mainstream groups as Greenpeace, were locked out of the conference on its final days.
What some had dubbed “Hopenhagen” ended without reaching its stated goals of renewing the emissions-reduction commitments made by industrialized countries that signed on to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol (which the U.S. never ratified) and setting emissions targets for all other countries. This was a predictable outcome. For one thing, the world’s capitalist classes are divided internally over this issue. More fundamentally, each capitalist government is charged with protecting its own “national interests.” The handful of imperialist countries that dominate the world market are in competition with each other for spheres of exploitation around the world, and have already carried out two devastating world wars in their insatiable drive for profit.
The main human activity contributing to the release of heat-trapping gases is also the main activity turning the wheels of the modern economy: the combustion of fossil fuels, such as oil and coal.