[Discussion document] Global Warming: A Socialist Perspective - Part Four

We publish here the final part of Brian Baker's article on climate change. He gave the title "Global warming - a socialist perspective" to his article, and in the final part we are presented with his "Conclusions for socialists". The readers can judge for themselves, but although Baker attempts to challenge the science behind the idea of human caused climate change, we believe his conclusions do not reflect an all-rounded socialist approach.

Introduction by Fred Weston

We publish here the final part of Brian Baker's article on climate change. He gave the title "Global warming - a socialist perspective" to his article, and in the final part we are presented with his "Conclusions for socialists". The readers can judge for themselves, but although Baker attempts to challenge the science behind the idea of human caused climate change, we believe his conclusions do not reflect a genuine rounded out socialist approach. In passing, we would like to clarify, to avoid any confusion, that Brian Baker is not a member or supporter of the International Marxist Tendency, but simply a reader who has raised this issue of climate change.

In his article he refers to the needs of people in underdeveloped countries, such as the little boy who would like an electric light bulb to read his books by. He raises the issue of the development of Africa and other underdeveloped parts of the world. In doing this he portrays a picture of many socialists as people who are against development, and poses the position as simply one where capitalist industry has developed the economy. According to this logic we should just let capitalism rip loose and "develop the world", using the cheapest means of energy without any regard for the effects on the environment.

This is a very partial and one-sided way of looking at the whole question. Yes, there are elements within the Green movement who have an extreme point of view, that almost sees human beings as being the problem, as if they were an infestation on the planet. But the overwhelming majority of youth and working people have a justified and genuine concern for what is happening to the environment, without denying the need for development.

Human beings are the highest form of life on this planet. Evolution of the human species has led to the development of the human brain, the highest form of matter, as we know it. This places humanity in a position to consciously change the environment we live in, but that does not mean that we can ignore the balance of nature that we evolved in over millions of years.

Socialists are for development, but we are also aware of the fact that we are part of nature and not separate from it. We need to find ways of pushing forward development while striving our utmost not to tip the balance of nature beyond a point where we can change it so dramatically as to endanger our species and life on the planet in general. We believe the science and technology is there for this to be possible. For example, whereas under capitalism if an alternative means of producing energy is deemed to expensive it is shelved. Within a socialist logic the cost would not be simply viewed in money terms, but one would look at the overall cost for society, including within that the long term environmental damage and the costs that would be incurred by any attempt to repair that damage.

Brian Baker refers to discussions with Ted Grant in the past. Ted is no longer around to confirm or deny what Baker says. However, those of us who knew Ted well can see that Baker quotes him in such a way as to distort Ted's point of view. Ted paid a lot of attention to scientific questions. Testimony to this is the fact that he wrote Reason in Revolt jointly with Alan Woods, a book on the question of Marxist philosophy and science.

While Ted rejected the idea that we have to limit development to "save the human race" he understood that only a socialist transformation of society could guarantee harmonious development. He referred to superabundance in the context of socialist planning, i.e. a system where the resources of the planet are not controlled by a small clique of capitalists, but are at the complete disposal of the workers of the world, the only class that has a genuine interest in protecting the environment we live in.

The purpose of publishing Baker's article was to air a different point of view on one specific issue: the cause of climate change! We aim to focus this debate on that question. If the debate that flows from this serves to raise the understanding of all those who take part then it will have served a useful purpose.

In arguing his case, Baker raises other issues, such as DDT and genetically modified food. These are separate issues and are not really part of the climate change debate. One can understand that he uses these examples to show that science can be damaged by politics, and that that is what is happening to the science of climatology. He states that genetically modified food is safe, without taking into account that that can only be seen in the long term, as genetic changes can have effect over a very long period that we cannot predict now. Furthermore we cannot trust the capitalist class to apply genetic modification of food in a safe way. What drives them is profit, not the interests of humanity as a whole. On DDT the same things holds. The World Health Organisation has lifted the ban on the use of DDT for malaria control, but again it needs to be looked at carefully. Is it the only way of dealing with malaria, or are there other safer methods that need investment and promotion, something which the capitalists clearly see as a non-profit making operation?

The limitations in Baker's way of approaching the problem is to base himself on what has been possible under capitalism so far. We can take the example of genetically modified food. He argues in favour of it, presumably because he sees it as a way of guaranteeing abundant supplies of food. Here he misses the point altogether. The world is perfectly capable of producing enough food for all its inhabitants, without the need for genetically modified food.

Just one example will suffice. In the 1980s a study was made of Ethiopian agriculture. At that time Ethiopia had a population of around 30 million and suffered periodic famines, where hundreds of thousands and even millions died of starvation. According to the study, if there were an efficient irrigation system in place, with wells, pumps and pipelines, if the peasants had advanced agricultural machinery at their disposal, such as tractors and combine harvesters, and if they had adequate fertilisers, the land of Ethiopia could feed 100 million people. It is the profit motive that did not allow for this to happen. Millions of poor Ethiopian peasants do not have the capital with which to buy all the technique that is required and therefore for the capitalists who control the means of production these peasants do not exist as a "market". And yet in the advanced capitalist countries there is huge capacity to provide this technology. Under capitalism we see hunger in countries like Ethiopia and unemployment of skilled engineering workers in the advanced capitalist countries. An international socialist plan is the only way to get round this contradiction.

A socialist plan of production would free science from the constraints of the profit motive and would permit society to invest in research into all possible alternative methods of producing energy. At the moment the capitalists are not interested in investing in alternative energy sources in a serious way. They look simply at what level of returns, i.e. profits, they would get. The workers of the world take into account all costs, including such things as who is to deal with toxic waste. The capitalists make the money and leave the state to deal with the waste, which at the end of the day means that the workers have to pay for the mess the boss class creates.

Today we conclude Brian Baker's four-part article and publish it together with a Reply by Emil Reed who points to the fact that Brian Baker does not present an accurate assessment of the science. We leave our readers to read it and judge. We have also received other short comments that we will publish next week. Other readers, with differing points of view, have indicated that they are writing contributions to this debate, which we will publish as they come in.

We are creating a special space on the "Climate Change Debate" where we will publish contributions over the coming period. Any reader wishing to follow this debate can do so by going to this section, where they will also find all previous articles we have published on this question.


Conclusions for Socialists

In Parts 1, 2 and 3 of this article I have attempted to set the record straight by endeavouring to concentrate on the science. The first comment I suspect is that the scientists whose work is quoted in this article are, in the words of Al Gore, in a tiny minority. The consensus is with those that believe in AGW. Marxists can never be afraid of being in a minority, indeed like the Emperor Marcus Aurelius they know that, "The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane."

In the early seventies I discussed the prevailing ecohondria with Ted Grant. In those days the belief of the petit bourgeois was that the world was heading for another ice age due to pollution from industry and the depletion of natural resources. Ted's reply was that it was all hogwash and that the world had more than enough resources. The economics of this was quite simple; the greatest resource was the working class who alone created the surplus value. The capitalist class increased the exploitation year by year through increases in productivity, which is another was of saying that we do tomorrow what we did today using less resources, but always labour.

One could argue that the present day ecohondria and the previous bout in the 70's were a reaction to the exploitation of capitalism with the creation of a consumer society, satisfying the workers by increasing their standard of living. In other words capitalism has bought off the working class by stuffing their pockets with goodies. The environmentalists have no faith in the working class which is why they pour their attention onto supra-national bodies like the UN. It also leads them into labelling workers in energy intensive industries as climate criminals, such as they did at Land Rover and the Drax power station. In such circumstances to find some socialists espousing the same ideas is ironic.

For a Marxist to state that the evidence for Anthropomorphic Global Warming compared with natural variability can be demonstrated from the evidence, shows that he has no knowledge of dialectics or historical materialism. The world is constantly in a state of flux and to imply that the temperature, which is a poor proxy for heat capacity of the Earth, has been constant up until the industrial revolution, to within the ±0.2oC as Mann has stated, is banal.

Real science is displaying that another Maunder Minimum may be upon us; the lack of solar activity is really worrying. During the previous minimum from 1645-1715 or in the Dalton Minimum 1790-1830 when the Thames iced over, William Herschel noticed that grain prices rose. We now have riots in Mexico because of the 400% increase in the price of Tortilla flour due to the increase in corn prices. We also have protests in Italy due to the increase in the price of Pasta. Both of these events are caused by a switch from planting crops for consumption to the cultivation of bio-fuels. All because of the petit bourgeois flagellation with sustainability.

In the name of sustainability, they wish to destroy the rural landscape of the country with highly subsidised windmills, promoted by two friends of the working class, John Selwyn "force feed ‘em burgers" Gummer and Michael ‘seven homes' Meacher. Without subsidies, not one windmill could be built. And without heavy subsidies not one could be connected to the grid. For anyone to build a conventional coal fired power station, they would have to bear the costs of connecting it to the grid. But not for the PB obsession, they will leave the working class to pick up the bill. A conventional gas fired station will produce 790 megawatts of power for the same price that a wind farm will produce 194 megawatts assuming that the wind is continuous, which has to be degraded to 65 megawatts because of its intermittent nature. To maintain continuity of supply, (we only boil our kettles when the wind is blowing?) 194 megawatts of conventional capacity will have to be built. This is green madness.

In response to an earlier letter, which I wrote to the Socialist Appeal on the present ecohondria, the late Phil Mitchinson stated that,

"I do not contend that we are all responsible (the horrible conceit of all kinds of liberals and trendies), but rather that capitalism is to blame for the appalling levels of carbon emissions which are contributing to climate change."

Phil covers two aspects, which are really worth examining. Marxists must examine why it is that sections of the capitalist class, over and above the liberals and the trendies, have jumped onto the ecohondria bandwagon. One of the primary arguments against sceptics is that they are in the pay of industry but nowhere do they disclose the funds that are supporting the green agenda. Why is it that investment funds such as the $5 TRILLION CERES fund managed by Mindy Lubber are pushing companies to come clean on what climate change means for them-and how they plan to deal with it in the future? Why is it that on March 17th the first carbon-linked derivatives contracts will begin trading on the Green Exchange, a joint venture between the New York Mercantile Exchange, Evolution Markets, a broker, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and others? Instead of indulging in ad hominem attacks on sceptical scientists they should explain why the environmentalists are in the same camp as Rupert Murdoch and his family. Or the fact that Hansen, Mann and Al Gore have been recipients of grants from Theresa Heinz of Heinz Foods. Could it be that they have now found how to make money out of hot air in the manner of the Dot Com boom or earlier the South Sea Bubble, but better since there is always hot air? Environmentalists and the UN are endeavouring to convince the world that there is a problem and the capitalists are going to profit from it. This is now a major industry but because they're going to save the planet they get a pass from many sections of the socialist movement.

The second point that Phil made is on the ‘appalling level of carbon emissions'. The people in the underdeveloped world are carbon poor. The Chinese bureaucracy realises that the way to keep the lid on revolution from below is to develop energy sources and industry. As such their emissions will overtake all the reductions achieved by all the signatories to the Kyoto Agreement by 2010. China's primary source of energy is coal and will be producing 1200 million tonnes of CO2 compared with the Kyoto signatories' reductions by 2010 of 115.8 million tonnes, which are many hundreds of millions short of the targets. In the absence of the Chinese emissions the Kyoto protocol would achieve, by the UN's own figures, a reduction of global temperatures of 0.07oC by 2050. The Chinese bureaucracy realise that the way to raise living standards is to emit carbon. In China's own history, temperatures were 1oC higher 1000 years ago when they were not emitting carbon, so it is going to be extremely difficult to persuade them that emitting carbon today and in the future is going to make them fry. The second part of the Chinese equation is that their average per capita emissions are a fraction of those of Western Europe and the US. So they will insist that a level playing field of some indeterminate average emissions per capita be adopted. If such a regime were to be imposed it would lead to enormous cuts in the standard of living of the working classes. That is the reality. And in that we have ignored the whole question of India.

It is a myth, propagated by environmentalists that you can have a portable carbon free source of energy. Carbon is a stabiliser for hydrogen allowing a room temperature transport. The next proposal is to invest in carbon capture after ignition, but the reality is that the biggest experiments in carbon capture in the US has just been closed down after 5 years of development. Its cost had nearly doubled from the $1 billion initial estimate.

The final part in response to Phil is that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant but a trace gas necessary for life on earth. As we showed at the early stages in this article, CO2 has been at 18 times the present level with a nearly constant temperature profile. No tipping point was reached. No positive feedback was experienced. Does it not strike one as odd, that the tipping point will arise at a few parts per million above the present level, and that at this juncture "irreversible damage will be done to creation"? Not my words but Dr Jim Hansen of NASA. The increase in CO2 is not leading to climate change but it does not stop the representatives of the petit bourgeois, like for example Professor Chris Rapley, Director of the Science Museum, stating at a recent colloquium:

"The precautionary principle is the strongest card we hold. Even a risk of planetary calamity demands urgent action since the stakes are so high.

and

"Energy is a fleeting BY-PRODUCT of burning fossil fuels; carbon gases are the REAL product".

Or this from Professor Celia Deane-Drummond, from Chester University:

"The problem is a near-universal breakdown in relationships. A new category of SIN is needed - anthropogenic sin".

It is only the petit bourgeois, completely divorced from the mode of production, living off the surplus value produced by others, who could issue such statements. Perhaps Deane-Drummond has in mind power station workers and miners being in need of redemption.

But environmentalists have introduced a new vocabulary in addition to Anthropomorphic Climate Change, Sustainable Development and the Precautionary Principle. They are all designed to stop development and production, irrespective of whether it leads to unemployment, starvation and death. One of the first icons of the 20th century environmental movement was Rachel Carson, who led the campaign for the elimination of DDT, even after all the claimed scenarios had been disproved. The US ban on the use of DDT was followed by environmentalist pressure around the world and led to its outright ban - even when used for indoor residual spraying. Since that time 95 million people have died from malaria of which 85 million are women and children. It is now being rehabilitated but the environmentalists don't give up easily, publishing a paper in South Africa which "proved" that the use of DDT led to impotency in men, pandering to male ego in order to condemn women and children to a grizzly death. In Uganda they had the local EU representative threaten to impose an embargo on food exports if DDT IRS was used in village huts. Before the ban less than 50,000 died per year of Malaria. The WHO has stated on lifting the ban that science and the "data had to replace politics in future." These people are responsible for a greater genocide than Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot put together.

Here's another precautionary principle. If Socialists follow the green agenda, it will have nothing to say to the millions of workers thrown out on the street, because the ultimate aim of the greens is to eliminate industrialised society. Indeed as stated in the introduction, Gavin Strong the Assistant General Secretary of the UN in 1992 said at the Rio Earth Summit,

"Isn't the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn't it our responsibility to bring that about?"

Doesn't it sink into the thick head of so-called socialists that these petit bourgeois are not interested in the use of energy? Did they not notice that Paul Erlich stated that,

"Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun."

The use of energy is what makes life liveable, whether it was the caveman with his wood fire or the modern worker with electrical appliances, which has liberated people from the home. Environmentalists wish to propel us back to when millions died at an average age of 35. Their mantra is ably demonstrated by the cartoon from cartoonbank.com.

Figure 21
Figure 21: Cave Man Humour

To call for an increasing use of renewables will lead to millions of deaths from starvation. Future life is going to be comprised by artificially engendered shortages. How ironic that socialists used to promote the ideas of a society of superabundance.

The prime purpose of science is to create in a few years the resources that nature took millions of years to produce. We will also be able to make biopetroleum, not from corn, but from algae. Boeing expects to have an aircraft running on algae derived fuel in 2 years. Science can make 20,000 cubic metres of biopetroleum per 1 square kilometre of algae compared to 680 cubic metres of biopetroleum from palm oil, which is the most efficient of the land based methods. But there is no need yet as there is no sign that present oil reserves are becoming exhausted. Just a green imposed clamp on exploration and development shown ably in their campaign against oil exploration in the Arctic Wildlife Preserve.

What exactly will the green movement have to say to striking workers protesting and demanding wage increases to compensate for the rises in fuel and food prices? Do you think that any socialist movement will survive such an upheaval in a land of food and energy shortages if they have blandly parroted the green agenda? The Kyoto accord called for a 10% reduction of CO2 emissions from the 1990 level. No country has achieved this; in fact all have increased their emissions. The crazy greens are now saying that is not enough and to prevent a tipping point being reached they need an 80% reduction. How many workers will be thrown out of work in that scenario? Do you think they will listen to you explain that this was all the fault of the capitalists or will they look at you as the apologists for such disorder and find the nearest tree to suspend you from?

We live in an era of accelerating increases in the price of food caused by conversion of vast areas of the planet to grow corn and palm trees and by the growing demands of Asian countries. These are two of the most inefficient ways to generate energy. Yet what do we find? The US government subsidising "American farmers" for the production of bio ethanol. And who are the recipients of this largesse? For that we have to find an article by Mark Steyn the right-wing Canadian commentator in a speech he gave to the Hillsdale College:

"Almost three-quarters of these subsidies go to 20,000 multi-millionaire play farmers and blue chip corporations. Farm subsidies are supposed to help the farm belt. But there's a map of where the farm subsidies go that you can find on the Internet. And judging from the beneficiaries, the farm belt runs from Park Avenue down Wall Street, out to the Hamptons, and then by yacht over to Martha's Vineyard, which they really ought to rename Martha's Barnyard. Among the farmers piling up the dollar bills under the mattress are Ted Turner, Sam Donaldson, the oil company Chevron, and that dirt-poor, hardscrabble sharecropper David Rockefeller."

And so we find that the family, who profited from the great Wall Street crash and the depression, is now profiting from the sustainable development of bio-fuels. Socialists should be aware of these developments, because the reason that these capitalists support the green lobby is for no other reason that they can become richer than they already are. Only this time they have given legs to the fairy story of the emperors' new clothes. They can make money from trading in hot air!

But where is all this leading. I have examined a small section of the science that refutes the ‘science' of the impending catastrophe. In particular we can summarise the following refutations:

  • Catastrophic climate change caused by excessive release of CO2 cannot happen. The geological history of the Phanerozoic period showed that high levels of CO2 and its rate of change over the eons do not correlate with temperature. Furthermore high levels of CO2 coexisted with the greatest expansion of life on earth.
  • Recent temperature profiles, over the past 2000 years have exhibited cooler and warmer periods than are experienced today. Evidence from ground borehole measurements rather than tree data is proof.
  • There is a social milieu among the relatively new science of climatology, allied to elements of the political establishment specifically at the UN and the environmental movement, who have constructed a biased account of the history of life on earth in order to ‘prove' that any recent minor warming is unprecedented. They have endeavoured to ‘prove' that the recovery in Earth's temperature from the Maunder Minimum is linked to the emission of CO2 from industrial processes. They have used corrupted computer programs to provide a veneer of respectability and use process simulation computer models to promote a scary future for mankind.
  • Even NASA only allows the promotion of one view on climate change, that of the house of Hansen. When even their own researchers find a mathematical proof that this is not so, the work is suppressed.
  • A worker sees the sun and the clouds and perceives correctly that these are the determining factor in the Earth's climate. All attempts to show that these facts dominate have to be ruthlessly dismissed.

So to answer a question raised at the beginning of this essay: what are the political aims of this scientific milieu? A clue can be obtained from the response of James Hansen to the proposed building of a new coal fired power station in Australia. Hansen wrote on NASA headed notepaper, directly to Kevin Rudd the new Labour prime minister imploring him to listen to the science of the ‘experts' and rescind the proposal. Notice that he has not written to the Indian prime minister who has just secured funding for a giant 4 Giga-watt coal fired power station in Gujarat state, nor to the Chinese bureaucracy who built 91 giga-watts coal fired capacity in 2007 and are building 2 coal fired plants each week and will continue to do so until at least 2030 by which time it will have surpassed the generating capacity of Europe and the US combined. As Andy Revkin of the New York Times put it:

"Is all of this bad? If you're one of many climate scientists foreseeing calamity, yes. If you're a village kid in rural India looking for a light to read by, no."

And we have yet to add to this mix: Sub Saharan Africa whose population of 700 million have less generating capacity than Poland!

Hansen's letter to Rudd gives us an inkling of the political approach. He calls on Rudd to listen to the experts - him and like-minded experts of course. A government of experts?

In a new book "The Climate Change Challenge and the Failure of Democracy", Shearman and Smith argue that liberal democracy has failed humanity and the planet. They conclude:

"that an authoritarian form of government is necessary, but this will be governance by experts and not by those who seek power. There are in existence highly successful authoritarian structures - for example, in medicine and in corporate empires - that are capable of implementing urgent decisions impossible under liberal democracy. Society is verging on a philosophical choice between "liberty" or "life." But there is a third way between democracy and authoritarianism that the authors leave for the final chapter. Having brought the reader to the realization that in order to halt or even slow the disastrous process of climate change we must choose between liberal democracy and a form of authoritarian government by experts, ... Unpalatable as this choice may be, we call for the adoption of this fundamental reform of democracy over the journey to authoritarianism."

One of the most alarming aspects of this treatise is the number of senior academics who endorse this transformation. It reminds one of the Russells' & the Webbs' endorsement of the Stalinist transformation of the Russian Revolution, a process which Trotsky so ably criticised in ‘Their Morals or Ours'.

Just supposing that they achieve their wish of stifling debate on the climate question and bring about by bureaucratic diktat this bonapartist regime, how will they deal with the emissions of China, India and the rest of the Third World whose workers strive for a better standard of living? A new World War followed by a new imperialism?

It's all there in the attitude of the environmentalists today, the bureaucratic mindset that brooks no dissent, the complete disregard of the poverty and destitution of two thirds of humanity, added to which the adoption of policies that would throw millions out of work in the developed world, and the spending of billions of dollars on ‘hot air'. Working class movements throughout the ages have encouraged debate to raise the consciousness of all. With these people we have to leave it to the experts to guide us to the new utopia.

Socialists schooled in the methods and aims of the Russian bureaucracy should recognise these developments. Not for them the methods of the Marxist revolutionary who patiently explains the role of capitalism in the development of society and the role of the working class in the transformation of society. Debate is never curtailed. For the ecohondriacs it is distain for the proletariat, and those ‘boring evening meetings'. They wish to transform society from the top, but following the famous bureaucrat's diktat, ‘Do as I say not as I do', which is why Al Gore, believing in sea level rises of 15-20 feet, buys a $5million beachfront condo with his earnings from ‘An Inconvenient Truth'. Gore left power in 2000 worth $1million and by charging $100,000 per lecture has amassed a fortune of $100million in the past 8 years. Complete with of course a pass from the green movement for the use of his private jet to speed him around the world.

The next round of the Kyoto talks will be just that, ‘talk'. China, India and the rest of the "Third World" will demand that their emissions are treated on a per capita basis, which the western capitalist powers will resist as it will mean massive reductions in the standard of living to achieve precisely nothing in terms of the climate. In the meantime as recession bites less will be heard, apart that is from rhetoric, about the necessity of addressing climate change. If the lights start going out and new 3-day weeks are instigated, because of the failure to ensure new generating capacity, socialists who have allied themselves to this green ecohondria, will be swept aside, just as the Heath government, who likewise thought they would garner support against the miners in 1973/74 by instigating fuel rationing and a 3-day week.

[End]


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