Global-Warming Deniers and Climate Change Ideologues – Part Four: Bourgeois Ideologies

We continue Mauro Vanetti's article that looks at the different points of view within the world bourgeoisie on the question of climate change, and also explains that any real solution can only be achieved through international planning, which is only possible on the basis of world socialism.

A method clarification

Marxism and conspiracy theories

«in all ideology men and their circumstances appear upside-down as in a camera obscura»
Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology

Marxism is no conspiracy theory. This does not mean that we deny the existence of secret plots. Basically, every bourgeois or reformist political party or government is the public façade of a kind of secret plot, because its bodies hold private sessions where strategies in favour of the ruling class are worked out. George W. Bush will never literally declare "I have been given this position to defend the interests of the US ruling class", nevertheless this is exactly what he does, and he also states that by using cleverer expressions (as much as his notorious brain limitations allow him to compose clever sentences), like "It is my duty to protect the interests of the US economy and to implement business-friendly policies".

Is he conscious that the interests of the US bourgeoisie conflict with the interests of most of the US population (let alone the rest of the world)? We have no way of knowing, and in the end it is not relevant from our point of view. Quite often the ruling class believes its own propaganda. This does not change our attitude to them. In Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court, Arthur is very naïve and clearly intimately convinced of the official ideology. He maintains his feudal beliefs also when he disguises himself as a poor man to visit the country incognito and ends up enslaved by a slave trader.

Smarter rulers, especially the ones with a past record of involvement in the Left and comprehension of Marxism, might as well be acting maliciously and consciously use ideology to deceive the downtrodden. In a way, this makes them more vicious and dangerous for us.

Occasionally, the bourgeoisie resorts to true plots. The WMD hoax is one such case. Probably, a lot of people in the US administration and military, as well as in the neo-con intellectual clique, knew perfectly well that there was no such thing as a weapon of mass destruction hidden somewhere in the Iraqi desert. Nevertheless, they managed to convince a lot of people (namely, a relevant percentage of Americans in 2002-2003) that this was the truth; some of those who were convinced by them, thus becoming unconscious tools for the spreading of this hoax, could also be people in leadership positions in the US state apparatus, military, politics, press, religious hierarchies etc. They were not informed by the White House that it was just a trick.

However, people in the top layers of society were keen to be convinced because of their social position, their class background, and their material interests, for believing it was useful to justify their own privileges and parasitic role in society. As Lenin underlined in Marxism and Revisionism:

«There is a well-known saying that if geometrical axioms affected human interests attempts would certainly be made to refute them.»

Similarly, what is the interest of the ruling layers of society is postulated as an established truth notwithstanding what reason has to say.

Regarding WMDs, also a lot of people in the bottom layers of society shared the same false belief of their masters, at that time. That is how any form of dominant idea works - it spills from above but affects the bottom too. Only a (large) minority of US workers and youth opposed the WMD hoax from the beginning, either because they were more informed or they were following their class instinct. Most of them changed their mind later, when the lies were more effectively exposed - basically, because no super-weapon was found anywhere half-buried in the sand, and it was not very easy to forge a fake one in the unstable conditions of the Iraqi occupation.

As the WMD plot shows, keeping a plot completely secret is extremely difficult, also for the most powerful and ramified bourgeois apparatus of the planet, US imperialism and its British puppet. Sooner or later any plot will be exposed. It will expire and then rot - sometimes causing more harm than good to the cause it was forged for. "Weapon of mass destruction" has rapidly become a worldwide synonym for "government-forged lie". The propaganda machine turned into a boomerang.

It is much simpler and more useful to rely on the more subtle mechanics of standard propaganda and ideology-making, i.e. disclosed and overt lying instead of behind-the-scenes manoeuvring.

Capitalist society is a very complex organism, where conflicting interests, groups, lobbies, companies and political trends coexist. A country can easily have a strong political or commercial interest in exposing another country's plans, different mass media pursue different aims and single mavericks can have a decisive role in destroying very complicated constructions relying upon a false basement. For this reason, we need to be suspicious when somebody talks about large conspiracies involving tens of thousands of people from different countries and with different material interests. If global warming were a myth, this would imply an impossibly large conspiracy, including all scientific bodies of the planet - but, strangely enough, not the Republican delegation in the US Senate...

On top of that, the ruling class itself needs to keep the state apparatus, the scientific community and the media system under its control, which is impossible if, for instance, the bureaucracy of the secret services becomes too powerful or the scientists too corrupted. This is the main reason why documents are declassified after a certain time, a peer-review system for scientific articles is maintained etc. The rulers do not want to be themselves fooled!

The book by Eva Golinger The Chávez Code exposed the role of US interference in the right-wing plots to stop the Bolivarian Revolution and overthrow the legitimate government, only by using declassified documents provided by the CIA, the NED, USAID and other imperialist agencies on the basis of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Her website venezuelafoia.info contains a lot of such documents that have been disclosed (even though in a carefully censored form).

In a way, my article is exposing several right-wing and industry-funded plots to conceal or confuse the truth about global warming. I did not need to access any confidential paper. I did not even need to leave my desk to do that, because lobbies are openly declared institutions in the United States and in any case all the deniers' think tanks put on the Web everything they do, who they are and what their purposes are. They just rely on the fact that most people will not check the sources.

Another good example of how real plots occur under capitalism is the Italian secret Masonic lodge Propaganda 2, discovered and subsequently dismantled in 1981. In the Plan for a National Rebirth secretly issued by the lodge for its members (a project for social and political modifications according to the interests of the bourgeoisie) astonishing sentences like the following can be found:

«Political parties, press and trade unions can be stimulated with economic-financial manoeuvres. A fund of 30 or 40 billion Liras available seems enough to allow for loyal and selected men to conquer the key positions needed to gain control.»

This says a lot about how the bourgeois know that they can easily buy politicians, journalists and trade union bureaucrats. However, the dismantlement of Propaganda 2 did not prevent the Italian bourgeoisie to implement precisely the policies envisioned in the Plan, but this was not done secretly but in an overt way, for example by Berlusconi (himself a former member of Propaganda 2) and also by the centre-left governments. All main "reforms" implemented by the governments in power in Italy since the Eighties follow the lines established by the Plan for a National Rebirth. Ideology and the convergence of material interests were more effective than complicated and risky plots.

Ideologies of climate change

When we discuss issues like global warming, instead of looking for conspiracies we should analyse their political aspect mainly in terms of ideologies and evident class interests. With "ideology" we refer to "false consciousness" as explained by Engels (Letter to Franz Mehring, July 14, 1893):

«Ideology is a process accomplished by the so-called thinker consciously, indeed, but with a false consciousness. The real motives impelling him remain unknown to him, otherwise it would not be an ideological process at all. Hence he imagines false or apparent motives.»

The ideologies spread by the ruling class in dealing with the problem of global warming fall into one of two main categories. We have ideologies of inaction and ideologies of abstinence.

Ideologies of inaction are based on the ruling class's interest not to address global warming with effective yet non-profitable policies. They try to minimise the scope of the problem or to deny it altogether or to propose fake solutions that, incidentally, happen to be very good for their profits. Global-warming denial is an extreme case of inaction ideology but it is just the most evident top of the iceberg - an iceberg that is not melting, unfortunately.

Ideologies of abstinence are often the product of petty-bourgeois ideologies. These ideas, in one way, basically preach in favour of cutting the living standards of the majority of the world population. In an indirect way, they still play into the hands of the grand bourgeoisie, but they fit better with the outlook of the intermediate strata of society, like the typical social base of Green parties. These positions more often influence workers' parties and organisations and also pseudo-revolutionary tendencies that are always keen to adapt to the ideas of the petty bourgeoisie.

These ideologies deserve our attention because countering them has become a political necessity and part of the daily duty of a Marxist organisation.

Ideologies of inaction

Indifference

The bourgeois are repelled by the idea that global warming needs to be consciously addressed with a planned worldwide public intervention. This goes so much against all their theories about the self-regulatory virtues of the market - and against their vested interests - that they often try to spread an irrational indifference to this gigantic problem.

This ideological approach comes in different hues and gradations, that range from the argument that the world is warming but that this is all for the best (because, as Brian Baker said, "Cold kills more than warm") to an all-out denial of any climate change.

Sometimes the bourgeoisie applies to climate the same arguments they apply against economic planning. They say that it is a chaotic system. This is true of all complex systems; all of them have a chaotic component, which basically means that the exact behaviour of such systems is highly sensitive to small perturbations. But this does not prove that no prediction is possible. This rules out detailed deterministic predictions, not the discovery of patterns and long-term trends. Indeed, chaos theory does not regard complex systems as unpredictable and random; on the contrary it gives a powerful tool to explain statistically their apparently random behaviour while at the same time defining the limits of predictability.

As climatologists say, weather is unpredictable, climate is predictable (to a certain extent), both in its seasonal and geographical features and in its long-term trends. It is difficult to predict whether Christmas 2010 will be a sunny day in Paris, but you can easily predict that Paris in December 2010 will, on average, be colder than August 2010. In the same way, Marxism can predict some political and economic events even though it cannot precisely predict who will win a battle in a war or the precise date and time when there will be a crash on the stock exchange.

Another anti-planning argument is self-regulation. Any Marxist knows that this argument is weak as far as capitalist economy is concerned, but it is even weaker about climate. According to this argument, nature self-regulates therefore we should not be too worried about the planet. First of all, for Marxists humankind is a part of nature, therefore the self-regulation should include human behaviour too; and the way in which humans can self-regulate is exactly by taking appropriate conscious measures to counter global warming if it is becoming harmful. Secondly, if we consider nature and humankind as two separate things and we state that nature self-regulates, this might mean that this self-regulation includes the elimination of humankind or forcing a strong reduction of its negative influence. It is true that nature always finds a way out to "restore order" when there is a crisis, but very often this way out has implied mass extinctions and the rise of new breeds of living beings in the planet's ecological system.

Since the Marxists are not observers from without but active members of the biosphere, we are not going to accept a "solution" that would represent a catastrophe for human beings; on the contrary, our opinion is that humankind represents nature's attempt to become conscious of itself, an attempt that will only be completed when the reign of consciousness will reach its apex with the establishment of a worldwide planned economy, capable of tuning the ecosystem, climate and geography of the planet on the basis of a long-term plan to attain higher levels of energy usage, recycling and storage. This will finally reconcile humans and nature, making humanity a responsible member of the natural domain and nature a recognised component of the world economy.

Denial

Denial is more a provocation than an actual belief on the part of the bulk of the ruling class. The dominant approach among the capitalists is to cool down the global-warming issue, not to deny it. Denial is just an extra weapon in their arsenal, like Fascist gangs are sometimes used to pave the way for mainstream conservative parties, to spread racism and to attack left-wing militants, but only a very small number of capitalists would actually put the Fascists in power again.

Usually, special groups of deniers are set up that act like propaganda machines in order to disseminate confusion on the science behind global warming. Then the heavy artillery of the other, subtler, ideologies of inaction steps in.

One of those denial elite squads, GlobalWarming.org (aka Americans for Prosperity), commented on the behaviour of the heavy artillery behind them:

«You may have wondered why there has been no Congressional effort to actually legislate the "global warming" policies that will supposedly save the planet from itself.»

They are perfectly conscious that the governments are acting in a way that is not consistent with the global-warming alarm. They basically accuse the politicians that recognise global warming as a truth of hypocrisy, but at the same time they cannot hide their satisfaction with the governments' lack of action.

GlobalWarming.org is organising a "Hot Air Tour" against "global-warming alarmism" in defence of the Americans' right to prosperity, freedom and low taxation. In this tour they will visit all the main US cities to spread the latest climate-sceptical gospel. They boast on the Tour's website to have already received more than $250,000 in donations; I suspect this is not just from "true scientists" pursuing a "socialist perspective" like Brian J. Baker. (Nevertheless, one of the "true scientists" favourably quoted by Baker, Joseph D'Aleo, appears on the front page of their website.)

Indeed, they seem to have quite a bad opinion about socialism:

«Big-government, command-and-control technocrats believe that when central planning fails, the solution is a better plan and smarter planners. They never step back and look at whether planning makes sense in the first place. This was true of the Soviet Union, with tragic five-year plan after five-year plan. It was true of Communist China, with Mao's revolutionary upheavals. And today, here in the United States, it is true of government energy policy.»

This kind of politics is far from unusual among global-warming deniers.

A funny group is the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, "a coalition of clergy, theologians, religious leaders, scientists, academics, and policy experts committed to bringing a balanced Biblical view of stewardship to the critical issues of environment and development". They combine global-warming denial with Christian fundamentalism, rabid anti-Communism and laissez-faire economics. They are not the lunatic fringe of global-warming denial but typical representatives of this trend.

We could list several of those hoax-making task forces. Some have been named and exposed in my reply to Baker's science. Nevertheless, a frank description has to underline the fact that the US Republicans and the UK Conservatives are in the front line in this dirty game.

The webpage of the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works is a good example of the current situation. [62] The page is split in two halves; on the left, the Democrats are proposing to "Act now to stop global warming!" - by calculating your "carbon footprint" and thus putting the blame on the average worker; on the right, the Republicans are using the taxpayers' money to spread the pseudo-science of global-warming denial.

In Britain, the vanguard of Tory deniers comprises Baron Nigel Lawson, Chancellor of the Exchequer under Margaret Thatcher. Brian Baker's article states that Margaret Thatcher was the initiator of the global-warming mania in order to close down British coal factories. This theory has been taken by comrade Brian from a documentary called The Great Global Warming Swindle, but it has no real foundation. In fact, it was Nigel Lawson who prepared the attack on the coal miners when he was Secretary of State for Energy and a key economist within Lady Thatcher's administration! And he is a global-warming denier!

In his latest book against the climate change theory, An Appeal to Reason, Baron Lawson also states that the Greens are actually ex "reds" that are using global warming to smash capitalism. Probably, when Lawson "appealed to Reason", Reason replied "I'm busy now, try again later".

Refusal to plan adaptation

«[...] more extensive adaptation is required to reduce vulnerability to climate change.»
(IPCC, Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report)

Notwithstanding the opinion of Al Gore, who labelled adaptation to global warming as "laziness" in his 1992 book Earth in the Balance, part of the "lazy" approach is precisely the refusal to plan any form of pre-emptive adaptation to climate change. The debate is focused on the measures to take in order to mitigate the anthropogenic effects, while the problem of reducing humanity's vulnerability to global warming is neglected. The reason is clear: directly intervening in the structure of society to make it more robust according to a centralised international plan is a stronger menace to capitalist "freedom" and questions the viability of the obsolescent concept of national sovereignty. Not only are industrial production and transportation affected by the problem of adaptation, but so is global human society as a whole.

The last IPCC documents recognise the importance of combining adaptation and mitigation, and also lament negligence of the governments in planning adaptation to climate change. Mitigation alone is not enough because also in the most optimistic scenarios climate change will occur and the carbon dioxide level will need centuries to restore a "natural" condition. It is just too late to prevent most of the negative effects happening and those groups that care about the distant future must take this into account. Marxists are one such group, because our aims have a very long timescale: the international federation of workers' republics cannot be implemented overnight and the transition to a communist stateless, classless and money-less society is an even longer process. Talking about the socialist future of humanity and ignoring the fate of the planet where the future men and women are still supposed to be living would be quite obtuse.

A list of proposals for adaptation to climate change is provided by the Panel. Most of these proposals use expressions like "national policies", "integrated management", "public policies", "regulations", planning", "international and regional cooperation" etc. [63] This is wishful thinking and the only language that can be used in a document issued by the United Nations, but in any case it expresses the direction that needs to be taken, which is consistent with our socialist views and clashes with the direction taken by the world under capitalism: deregulation, economic anarchy, private initiative, short-sightedness, international conflicts.

Several problems are so serious simply because of the irrationality of capitalism and this is especially the case for the most backward regions. Uneven development on an international scale means that the poorest areas, that will suffer the most from climate change, are also the least prepared to adapt.

An increase in sea level by less than one meter may not sound very menacing, but we have to consider that several densely populated areas of the world are centred on river deltas. For instance, 90 million people live in the Yangtze Delta Metropolitan Area. The Niger Delta is home to more than 30 million people; ironically, this delta is the world's highest single contributor to greenhouse gases.

Another serious problem is related to agriculture. According to many scenarios, global warming should increase crop productivity in the richest areas of the planet, that are usually located at higher latitudes, while the tropical and sub-tropical regions should experience a decrease in agricultural productivity. The global balance may as well be positive, but how do we expect capitalism to deal with this? World hunger will clearly be dramatically affected and mass migrations will occur.

As an extreme case of non-adaptation, instead of preparing for an exacerbation of malnutrition, capitalist governments on a world scale are actually pretending to counter the effect of global warming by... causing more hunger, through the promotion of biofuels that are contributing to a food crisis in most underdeveloped countries.

The planet is a complex system with subtle and sometimes unpredictable behaviours. Human society and its productive forces could be strong enough to balance undesired effects, but this is not possible as long as human economy works in a similar uncontrolled way! International socialism would find a way to implement rational policies against these problems, by putting humankind as a whole in control of the functioning of its own society. Control of the proletariat over social forces has become the precondition for the control of humans over natural forces.

We do not have a superstitious approach to natural processes. Humankind is a part of nature and has always actively modified natural processes, like diverting rivers, controlling floods, irrigating deserts, modifying animal and vegetal species, etc. Fantastic technologies to "fix" the planet can be introduced in the future, for example an article on Wired (June 2008 issue) mentions the following: "For the hapless birds and bees, wildlife scientists are plotting what they call assisted migrations".

Understanding this puts under a different light the remarks made by some scientists about the need for "authoritarian rule" to implement sound policies for the climate. There is at least a grain of truth in the argument by David Shearman and Joseph W. Smith that "authoritarian decisions based on consensus science can be implemented to contain greenhouse emissions". [64] It is true that the race against the clock for adaptation and mitigation cannot be run without harming anybody, because the alternative is to harm everybody. The bourgeoisie has now recognised that its own profits are at risk because of global warming, but wants to put the entire burden on the workers. The workers in turn will fight back and blame the system that is ultimately responsible for this and demand measures that will damage the ruling class. In both cases, there will be a resistance, either by the toilers or by the exploiters, and in both cases political tools to win this resistance will be forged.

In the bourgeois policies for climate change, especially those of the "green capitalist" kind, an authoritarian flavour is implied: the living standards will be mercilessly cut for the sake of "reducing the footprint"; factories will be closed without compensation to the employees and jobs lost with the excuse of pollution, etc. This cannot be effectively done without a certain level of state repression, like Thatcher did at the time of the closures of the coalmines.

But also socialist policies will be seen as authoritarian by the exploiters, because the workers in power will (and will have to) try to break through the limits of private property, the most sacred of all bourgeois "liberties", in order to impose a more rational organisation of the world economy. In the words of Engels (On Authority):

«Have these gentlemen ever seen a revolution? A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is»

As Marxists, we will be prepared to support all drastic measures that will be taken by the downtrodden majority against the tiny handful of irresponsible billionaires in whose interest the planet is facing the most serious risks.

Emissions trade

"Carbon trading" is the main solution proposed by that part of the bourgeoisie that recognises the existence of the global-warming problem. The idea (supported by the United Nations) is very simple and applies the concepts of capitalist markets to the emission targets set by the Kyoto protocol in 1997 and enforced since 2005. In a nutshell, each state is given emission allowances based on the targets. The state (or multinational bodies like the European Union) can then give emission allowances to the polluting companies, thus setting a cap on their emissions. If they want to release into the atmosphere a larger quantity of greenhouse gases, they have to buy allowances ("carbon credits") from somebody else. Allowances can be bought also by investing into emission-reducing projects in the underdeveloped countries, like a monoculture tree plantation in India. India is, in fact, the largest recipient of such investments, with 32.9% of the share in 2008, followed by China with 17.8%, Brazil with 12.8% and Mexico with 10.4%. This international carbon offsetting scheme has been established under the Kyoto protocol and is known as Clean Development Mechanism. Another similar scheme is called Joint Implementation and applies to more developed countries like Eastern Europe and Russia "where equivalent reductions can be made more cheaply as costs and regulatory standards are lower", as underlined by the left-wing anti-carbon-trade website Carbon Trade Watch [65]. Different pollutants can also be traded with each other, thus introducing other degrees of freedom for capitalist polluters and further opportunities for them to make or save money.

So far, only the European Union has organised a complete and mandatory "cap & trade" programme for carbon emissions, the EU ETS. The US government has not ratified the Kyoto protocol, but a similar scheme has existed in the USA since 1990 for the reduction of sulphur dioxide (responsible for acid rain) and minor programmes are enforced on a local scale for other forms of pollution.

This system is flawed for several reasons. The fundamental problems are so serious that it is being exposed more and more often in the press as a blatant fraud, with arguments that certainly sound convincing to us.

A recent issue of New Scientist (19 April 2008) has an editorial that begins with the words of Nicholas Stern, former Chief Economist at the World Bank, defining global warming as "the greatest market failure the world has seen". We could not be more in agreement! The editorial, that introduces a long article in the centre pages that completely demolishes the carbon offsetting scheme, states:

«The world has just embarked on an audacious experiment [...] It is called carbon trading, or carbon capitalism if you prefer. [...] If we cannot trust financiers with something as apparently straightforward as the housing market, why should we imagine they can triumph at controlling global pollution? [...] As events continuously remind us, capitalism is an unpredictable beast.»

Of course, the perspective put forward by New Scientist is not a revolutionary one. They just call for a tighter control by governments, more state intervention in the whole process, etc. The point they do not and cannot underline is that  governments are the political expressions of polluting private industry itself, and state intervention is against the very rationale of carbon trading. Nevertheless, Socialists have the duty of developing these arguments into an all-out criticism of market-based solutions to market-caused problems.

The allowances can be traded for money, but they are given for free to corporate polluters. The usual system to allocate carbon credits is based on "grandfathering": each capitalist has the right to pollute as much as he has done so far, therefore whoever has polluted more is rewarded with a larger share of national carbon allowances. The credits will gradually decrease in subsequent years.

The emissions market has already become quite large. The sum of all deals in the mandatory trading of CO2 emissions has rocketed to the value of $60 billion, creating a market centred in London that is expected to grow more and more over the next few years. A much smaller market for voluntary reductions also exists, but only compulsory schemes like the EU ETS have the potential for creating real big business in the sector.

All notorious features of a capitalist market have developed in the emissions trade. New Scientist lists the following financial institutions involved in this business: Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Barclays Capital, JP Morgan. Weather derivatives have also been traded since 1997; they are not necessarily in relation to global warming, but UBS Investment Bank has actually launched a Global Warming Index. [66] Significantly enough, the company that most promoted weather derivatives in their early days has become famous for its 2001 bankruptcy and it is called Enron.

The dirty trafficking of speculators and brokers has its own dynamics. Bubbles and cracks are part of the way financial markets work, and a green bubble will sooner or later be inflated also in this sector, and it will eventually be burst. Investment banks, emission brokers, carbon offsetting companies are already there. Speculative interest will develop and corrupt even more the global-warming debate and the policies of the government. If there is something the planet does not need, it is the financial market in charge of deciding how to deal with climate change!

Most Green movements and NGOs are unlikely to criticise this system because they are a part of it and in general have opportunistically accepted carbon trade as "the lesser evil" in comparison to the total-deregulation approach of the likes of George W. Bush. Carbon Trade Watch (that rejects any corporate funding and maintains a clear link with the Left and grassroots movements in the Third World) honestly describes the reformist behaviour of most NGOs in these terms:

«The US rejection of the Kyoto Protocol accelerated this trend. The overwhelming majority of remaining critical NGOs and governments rushed to compromise in the hope of keeping sceptical governments on board and trying to win back the US. Many environmental NGOs have negotiated themselves into a corner, which allows little space for effective critique of pollution trading but provides ample opportunities for consultancy work in the carbon economy.»

A significant part of all carbon offsetting projects is strongly suspected to be based on fraud. 1600 Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) had been approved by the UN before the beginning of 2008. In theory, a project is entitled to trade its emissions offset only if there has been an actual change in the production of greenhouse gases as a consequence of the involvement in the trading scheme. However, there is no real way of knowing how polluting the project was really supposed to be before, and there are also some doubts about the accounting system for the estimate of the pollution generated after the alleged reduction. Indeed, there was already a trend towards more rational and ecologically sustainable industrial technologies. Capitalists have simply found a way of being subsidised for doing what they were already planning to do.

The United Nations are not a worldwide government, they have no real power and they have no role in economic planning; their intervention in the economy can only be very partial and in practice allows any kind of fraudulent fix - "carbon markets leave much room for unverifiable manipulation" as the Financial Times admitted. [67] [68] Regulatory measures within the framework of capitalism have simply too often proven ineffective and superficial.

There are clear signs that a big number, maybe the majority, of CERs would have happened anyway without the subsidies of the CDM, and in any case the degree of reductions is likely to be overestimated. A major loophole (now closed) in the CDM also promoted the proliferation of obsolete Hydrofluorocarbon production facilities that could be upgraded with €100million, obtaining a carbon credit worth €4.6billion in the process. These factories, especially in China, got more than 55% of the credits assigned by the CDM as of February 2007, thus generating enormous revenues for their owners - in fact, the carbon credits were more profitable than the commodity produced!

The choice of which types of emission fall in the "capped and tradable" category is absolutely arbitrary and introduces new distortions. Megadams in China are included in the mechanism, that apparently considers social benefits related to climate change but ignores the human costs of these colossal works. Scientifically controversial "carbon sinks" are also eligible for credits, which means that land that previously sustained poor communities is bought by Western companies as a "carbon dump", expropriating indigenous communities and suddenly turning their forests (complex ecosystems with high biodiversity) into large-scale uniform plantations. In this way this dubious carbon offsetting also causes deforestation which is one of the largest contributors to emissions of carbon dioxide! In fact, forest conservation is not eligible for carbon credit but planting new trees is, another major distortion.

Carbon trade is treated as the easy solution to the gigantic problems of climate change, but it only addresses big industrial emissions in the most advanced areas of the globe, without questioning the worldwide socio-economic structure in its entirety. According to the EU itself, nearly half of the European greenhouse-gas emissions are not capped because they depend on transport (21%), agriculture (10%), small business and households (17%). In general, the accounting is only limited to the small part of the economic process that is under the bureaucratic spotlight, while its connections with the rest of the planetary economic organism are neglected. As a result,

«[...] market solutions to carbon emissions risk displacing the problem to activities and places where nobody is counting, and there are no penalties. Most obviously, companies facing limits at home can simply relocate their polluting processes to developing countries where there are no emissions targets.»
(Fred Pearce in the New Scientist article mentioned above)

However, the main problem is strategic and not in the short run. This system does not encourage Research & Development  on low-emission technologies in the advanced countries or genuine economic growth in the "Third World". In principle, if the system correctly accounted for actual marginal reductions in CO2 (which it clearly does not), it would cause an optimal static allocation of resources, but, as usual, market mechanisms do not guarantee an optimal dynamic allocation. Research & Development is undermined by the short-term "fix" easily obtained by Western companies through the cap & trade scheme, while at the same time the ex-colonial world is funded to slow down its industrial development and just compensate for Western sins, in a modern-day version of the sale of indulgences.

Somebody has called this system "carbon colonialism". It is important to note that the development of energy-efficient and low-carbon production in Europe, North America, Japan and Australia is the best way of reducing emissions in the developing countries. It is important to underline this to counter the argument that "while we (the West) spend billions in reducing emissions, the Chinese build two new coal power stations every year". Trotsky formulated the theory of uneven and combined development, stating that backward countries do not simply follow the development path of more advanced countries, because they can directly import the latest technologies skipping some phases altogether. If old European factories "go green", new factories built in India will be green from day one. If old European factories keep their obsolete high-pollution technologies but pay some Indian speculators to plant trees to offset their carbon footprint, new factories built in India will be likewise polluting.

This dialectical law is already operating in China. The first producer of photovoltaic cells is the People's Republic of China, covering 35% of the world market. China is in the forefront in the production of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and windmills, too. It will not take long before they start to replace their current super-polluting industry with a greener one at an accelerated pace, provided good technology becomes available and is not fettered by short-sighted private interests in the West.

Agrofuel (biofuel)

Global warming is also utilised as an argument to promote the use of "biofuels". A better word would be "agrofuels", according to the usage of most grassroots peasant movements, that want to underline the fact that such fuel is derived from agricultural produce.

Biofuels are mainly produced out of maize, sugar cane, palm oil, soy, jatropha, etc. Maize and sugar cane account for most of the production of ethanol fuel (the same substance as ethyl alcohol used for beverages).

In the Seventies, Brazil had begun massively using alcohol-based fuel. Thanks to its vast cane fields, this fuel is now supplying 40% of cars and other light vehicles in the country, contributing to her energy independence. Incidentally, the story of Brazilian agrofuel is interesting because it shows how the viability of a technology can be decisively influenced by initial investments, which very often amounts to a political decision of the government. For decades, agrofuel made in Brazil was not economically very convenient notwithstanding government investment in this strategic option; today, Brazil has a precious economic asset thanks to previous investments in this sector. We should remember about this when short-term economic accounting is used as an argument against investment in renewable energy sources.

In March 2007, George W. Bush made a long tour of several Latin American countries, namely Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico. This propaganda tour became famous because Hugo Chávez organised a simultaneous alternative tour (in Argentina, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Jamaica and Haiti) to promote his own diplomatic agenda. Bush's tour was haunted by innumerable protests by trade unions, social movements, youth groups, left-wing militants, etc., as opposed to Chávez being welcomed by mass demonstrations and grassroots meetings as the leader of the Bolivarian revolution.

One of the main aims of the 2007 Latin American tour of Bush was the promotion of agrofuel in the Americas through commercial agreements between the USA, Brazil and other countries of the region. This was clearly a manoeuvre to free the US economy from its current dependence on fossil fuel coming from "unreliable" countries like Venezuela, Iran or Iraq; in a way, it was another attempt to solve the same problems that made them play the card of the invasion of Iraq. And its consequences risk being no less bloody.

On March 29th, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party, Granma, published an interesting and well-documented article by Fidel Castro [69] This article predicted a terrible hunger crisis on a world scale as a consequence of the shift to agrofuel implemented by the White House through political pressure, commercial levers and direct state intervention in the form of subsidies to domestic producers and consumers. The occasion for the article was given by an official meeting between the US president and the general directors of General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Daimler Chrysler AG. This meeting corroborated prior heated declarations of Hugo Chávez in Buenos Aires suggesting that in a capitalist society, it's more important to feed a car than a human being. [70]

The main points raised by Chávez and the ex-Cuban President are correct and consistent with the stance of progressive groups like the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST), the largest movement of Brazilian landless peasants.

The free market is useless with resources being intrinsically limited like fossil fuels; if the demand for computers increases, their price decreases because of scale economies and the improvement of production techniques, but if the demand for Renaissance paintings increases either counterfeit paintings are produced (fiddling is always an option for a cunning businessman) or the price of the existing ones will inevitably rocket as well.

Cultivable land is a limited resource and using it for fuel conflicts with using it for food or forests. This is more evident with important and scarce diet ingredients like maize, because different usages (for food or as a combustible) of the same produce enter into direct competition. Nevertheless, something similar on a more limited scale can also happen with other types of biofuel; for example, cane cultivation in Brazil competes with cultivation of soy and more and more soy fields are switched to sugar cane. Crops like jatropha and sweet sorghum, whose usage is on the rise in Asia, do not seem to have the same setbacks if reasonably utilised to produce fuel, but they also raised controversy; for example, the military junta in Burma (Myanmar) has been accused of overdoing things in its adoption of jatropha (a toxic weed that can grow in wastelands) to the extent of replacing productive arable land with jatropha cultivations, an economic madness that contributed to the political crisis in 2007. This shows that no technology is safe in itself in the hands of the capitalists and state bureaucrats whose material interests are completely divorced from those of the mass of humankind.

The results of short-sighted policies and the correctness of the prediction of the Cuban and Venezuelan governments have been confirmed before the ink on Fidel's article had dried: in the 12 months spanning from March 2007 to March 2008, corn price has risen by 31%, rice by 74%, soy by 87%, wheat by 130%. This is the trend on the world market, but in some individual countries foodstuff inflation displayed even more frightening figures. The poor in the underdeveloped regions are suffering the most from this situation, but the working class in some advanced countries is also affected; just ask the average Italian worker about the record rise in the price of their daily pasta.

The food price crisis is clearly connected to the spike in oil price, but it also depends on the agrofuel mania. The causal link is quite clear if one considers the timing of the price take-off: a barrel of crude oil was already selling at twice its 2003 price when the crisis started, which, by the way, happened just after a temporary fall in the oil price. This graph [71] from the International Monetary Fund (that also includes their usual hyper-optimistic "projections" - wishful thinking) shows it clearly:

Figure 18

Also the World Bank clearly stated that agrofuel made a major contribution to the rapid increase in world hunger:

«Surging demand for food crops has increased faster than supply due primarily to biofuel policies in industrialized countries and to a lesser extent changing diets in rapidly-growing developing countries. Biofuel policies have diverted food crops from traditional export markets to production of ethanol and biodiesel.» [72]

In Mexico the price of tortilla, a corn-based flat bread representing a basic component of the traditional diet of Mexican workers and peasants, rose from an average of 6 pesos per kilo to twice or three times this value over a few months. This caused riots and a nationwide struggle that eventually forced the (illegitimate) President Felipe Calderón to step back and resort to emergency measures like price controls (not very consistent with the neo-Liberal dogma...), introducing a fixed price of 8.50 pesos that still amounted to a 42% increase! [73] On top of that, at least maize-derived agrofuel is not really a way of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide. In fact, it is more likely to increase the emissions than reduce them.

State subsidies have a distorting effect. In many countries fuel for agricultural usage (combustible for tractors and all other machines used in mechanised farming) is tax-free. If agrofuel receives state funding, in some cases it could even become economically viable for farming enterprises to produce two gallons of agrofuel by using three gallons of conventional fuel - hardly a reasonable way of polluting less. It is generally recognised that Brazilian ethanol made from sugar cane is 3 to 9 times more effective than US maize-derived agrofuel in reducing emissions, and also the energy efficiency of "the American way" is risible.

Apparently, fuel derived from palm oil has a debatable effect on the environment too, because its introduction is causing massive deforestation as rainforests are cleared to allow for new palm plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia. Deforestation is responsible for one-third of total anthropogenic CO2 emissions, according to the IPCC, therefore the ecologic balance of converting rainforests into palm plantations is clearly negative. This is only one example of the effects of land usage shifts on carbon emissions. These effects are still not completely taken into account by the IPCC reports because it is very difficult to have a precise picture of their impact on a world scale but many believe them to have a major role in carbon dioxide pollution.

Widespread criticism on US maize-based agrofuel industry, together with a conflict on US import tariffs on Brazilian bioethanol, is making Brazil distance itself from the United States in the last few months. Lula wants to avoid Brazilian ethanol made from sugar cane (that always had a good reputation) to be associated too closely with the unsustainable US production of agrofuel.

In fact, the landless Brazilian peasants of the Sem Terra movement not only criticised the US, but also the implementation of agrofuel in Brazil. In an article they published on their website, Horacio Martins de Carvalho writes:

«The process of income and wealth concentration in the rural areas with reflex in the concentration and internationalization of land property, in the disarticulation of territories and rural economy, in the growth of deforestation and environmental pollution, as well as in the increase in workforce exploitation for the sugar-cane harvesting, suggests that the agribusiness decisively contributes [to] the neo-colonial dependence of the Brazilian economy on the USA, the European developed countries and Japan.» [74]

Their conclusion is that cane-derived fuel is not "evil" in itself, but a sound exploitation of this resource without appalling side effects can only be achieved under a planned system that integrates the rural proletariat and poor peasants into a participated and co-operative organisation of cane harvesting, as a result of the expropriation of the latifundia and big farming corporations. A similar reflection was made by Fidel Castro when he explained in Granma the historical link between cane fields and slavery. [75] Some have calculated that 200,000 people already work as semi-slaves in sugar cane plantations in South America!

Agrofuel as we know it today is clearly not a viable alternative. This is not an abstract position or a prejudice and does not apply to any possible past, present or future form of fuel derived from plants. Energy efficiency of different methods must be seriously taken into account with a holistic approach, considering the overall effect of a technology on the planet along its entire economic cycle. As Marxists, we are in favour of massive development of the productive forces and, as a consequence, we understand the importance of the development of new sources of energy and agricultural produce is but a form of recycled solar energy, collected by self-evolved leaves instead of artificial photovoltaic cells. Incidentally, it should be underlined that this is what happened for centuries with the use of wood as a source of energy, and also coal or petrol are just another way of exploiting the solar energy captured by trees. The difference is that biofuel is based on a pool of stored energy that constantly renews itself.

Jean Ziegler, a Swiss left-wing Social Democrat with a radical position on several issues (he has frequently declared his support for Cuba, criticised the USA and its military allies like Israel, and exposed the connection between Swiss banks and the Holocaust Shoah), has been (controversially) appointed as Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food for the United Nations in 2000. He used his position in 2007 to call for a 5-year moratorium on the conversion of new land to agrofuel production and also called the rise in food prices caused by agrofuel "a crime against humanity". According to Ziegler, half a decade would probably be enough for science to develop the technology required for "second-generation biofuel", i.e. fuel derived by non-agricultural plants (like jatropha) and, more interestingly, agricultural waste. Third-generation biofuel is also expected to become a reality when industrial use of algae to make fuel will become feasible. And yet, as usual, the point is that necessary investment in research & development for new-generation biofuel will not take place if the market is just left free to (not) operate.

From our point of view, the development of energy-efficient and ecologically sound processes to produce fuel is a progressive step forward and is the only alternative to an unacceptable reduction in living standards. We don't stand for a slowdown in the development of the productive forces, on the contrary we are in favour of a massive blossoming of material abundance, but we oppose the exploitation of workers and peasants to be used as combustible for the current profit-driven mode of production.

[To be continued...]


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