In the weeks leading up to the Paris Climate talks, dozens of climate activists were placed on house arrest in Paris. The excuse was the state of emergency declared after the terrorist
attacks the previous month, but the real emergency is the state of the world’s environment, including its climate.
Provisions of the Deal
Hoping to be freed of the pesky protesters, the corporate-controlled heads of state came up with a deal which they claim is a huge step forward.
- The basic goal of the deal is to hold global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial global temperatures. Even at this increase, permafrost thaws (releasing methane gas), glaciers continue to melt, and the oceans continue to acidify. However, it is almost ruled out that they will even achieve this goal.
Other basic provisions include:
- Forest Preservation – Governments are “encouraged to take action” to preserve forests, but who’s going to pay for it? As Justin Gillis, climate science reporter writes: ‘Tropical countries would likely be paid with both public and private money if they succeed in reducing or limiting destruction of their forests due to logging, or clearance for food production.” Private money? Yes, right. Public money? In this day of “debt reduction?”’
- Costs – the industrialized countries “should continue to take the lead in mobilizing finances” to pay the costs of any changes. “Should” is the operative word. Can anybody living in any of the industrialized countries – the US, Britain, Germany – seriously expect that these governments will take on additional spending when the entire political mantra is “debt reduction”? Will Merkel, after her campaign against Syriza?
Aside from the yawning gulf between the decisive action that is desperately required and what this deal actually provides, there is another huge lapse. As this article explains:
- In all the 32,731 words of the climate document discussed there, one world you won’t find is “military”. Yet the US military alone is the single largest user of petroleum in the world. This doesn’t include the release of greenhouse gases through the use of military weapons. (Hint: Think Syria, Iraq, Libya.)
As the world hurtles towards increasing wars, including proxy wars, does anybody seriously expect military expenditures will decrease?
Wall St. Journal
The Wall St. Journal (12/14) was pretty clear also. They report that even as planned, this deal doesn’t meet the level of cuts that the agreement itself targets. Just as with other problems, the plans are to be implemented in the future, “by governments that haven’t yet been elected” and that “the plans aren’t legally enforceable.” Maybe that’s why Benjamin Spartan, chief executive of the World Coal Association, “said the agreement left room for the coal industry to grow.”
Aware that there is growing popular concern over this disaster-in-waiting, the representatives of world capitalism have trumpeted its success.
- “We came together around a strong agreement the world needed—We met the moment,” said Barack Obama. This is the same president who has called for an “all of the above” energy policy (use all energy sources, including coal, oil, etc.), has
encouraged fracking, and recently okayed oil exploration in the Arctic. On top of that, there is the Trans Pacific Partnership Obama is pushing – a partnership between corporations which will make it many times more difficult to impose any sort of environmental regulations by any of the governments that have signed it.
- “The agreement is not perfect, and there are some areas in need of improvement…. This does not prevent us from marching forward with this historic step,” said the representative of the Chinese government. Meanwhile, China receives 60% of its electricity from the dirtiest source possible – coal – and plans to continue building new ones until 2030.
- “I think it’s really, really an historic moment. Finally we are moving to actions and not just talking problems…. What we have today is an historic moment, in a friendly atmosphere, and I feel a new confidence in the political world’s ability to deal with climate change,” Isabella Texeira, Brazil’s environment minister is reported to have said. Meanwhile, the deforestation rate in Brazil doubled in the last quarter of 2014 and the first quarter of 2015.
- “This agreement sends a powerful signal that the world is fully committed to a low-carbon future. We’ve shown that the world has both the will and the ability to take on
this challenge,” said UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon. This is the General Secretary of an international body which has proven itself incapable of taking any decisive action on anything from Israel’s war crimes to the disaster in Syria. As for global climate change, the UN’s own aviation regulatory body, the International Civil Aviation Organization, has opposed any international regulations that would decrease airline global warming emissions.
Maybe that’s also why Cliff Willmeng commented: “There’s no way the fossil fuel industry can conduct business without having an apparatus of near totalitarian control…. So you have Paris, where the representatives of capitalism have come together and… ‘shockingly’ have come out with no mandate whatsoever. Then, of course, you’ve got all the Big Green organizations (Food and Water Watch, Sierra Club, etc.) where after 40 years of repeating a failed environmental strategy, their solution to the Paris failure is to double down on the exact same strategy, meaning to recognize that we don’t have any power as people so we have to depend on the good graces of the corporate politicians. So we have to just go back to letter writing and lobbying. And let’s not forget fundraising. We can’t forget that.” (Cliff Willmeng, is a leading anti-fracking activist in Colorado. See this interview.)
Big Green and Climate Scientists
Many Big Green environmental groups as well as the foremost climate scientists have panned the deal. Foremost among them is James Hansen, who’s considered to be the “father of global warming science”. He has bluntly called the deal “bullshit”. He’s right. But what’s his solution? A global carbon tax.
It’s truly amazing that scientists such as Hansen, who demonstrate bold and courageous thinking when it comes to science, are so timid and unimaginative when it comes to politics. He seems incapable of considering any alternative to the anarchic, profit addicted and destructive capitalist system of production.
As for the Big Green groups, they are so compromised with the major corporations and, in the United States, with the corporate-controlled Democratic Party, that nothing serious can reasonably be expected from them.
In the United States, the Republicrats are in league with each other. While the Republican wing is dominated by climate deniers who appeal to the most backwards thinking, the Democratic wing pretends to give something with one hand, while they take away even more with the other. But at least the pretense is there. First and foremost, what’s needed is an alternative to these two wings that represent Corporate America. This seems most likely to start through local movements running their own candidates outside of and opposed to the Republicrats.
Global climate disruption/global warming is also connected to all different movements.
- Police and Government Repression: As we saw with the arrests of climate activists in Paris, the police and the criminal (in)justice system will be given a free hand to repress and if necessary brutalize people in order to repress a movement against corporate environmental destruction. That’s why it affects the movement against police racism and repression in the United States.
- Income Inequality: Global climate change will hit the poor the hardest.
- Housing: Rising sea levels will sharply hit housing supplies in many major cities.
- Unions: In the United States, the unions are dominated by a layer of bureaucrats who increasingly do little but represent the employers and the Democratic Party inside the working class. The union leaders always look to team up with “their” employers to make sure that environmental regulations don’t affect “their” employers’ profits. They also team up with the Democrats to try to make sure that no social movement goes beyond the bounds of what’s acceptable to the liberals inside that party. The struggle against global climate disruption is integrally linked with the struggle to transform the unions.
From housing to transportation to energy sources, the source of the problem is the anarchic, and profit-driven system of production called capitalism – a system that has completely outlived itself and must be replaced. While partial goals are necessary along the way, the ultimate goal of replacing it with a planned economy – one under the democratic management and control of the working class itself – must be the ultimate goal.
And there’s not a whole lot of time to accomplish that.
Categories: environment, Uncategorized
Excellent article. Good points on the link between climate change, neo-liberalism, inequality and the suppression of protest.