Environment

“The ocean is rising, and we are too.” Climate change is no longer a thing of the future. Already, hurricanes are becoming more powerful, forests are burning, people are dying from heat waves, drought, floods, and famine. Such extreme weather events are quickly becoming the rule, not the exception.

The oceans are polluted by plastic and chemical waste, killing off fish and other marine life. Underground water supplies are drained or polluted, leading to a widespread scarcity of this most essential of resources. Every year, species are becoming extinct through the senseless destruction of ecosystems.

Immediate action is needed. A massive reduction in emissions and pollution levels is essential. And large-scale mitigation measures must be taken, such as the construction of flood defences and reforestation. But the capitalists and their political representatives are completely incapable of carrying out the radical changes that are required.

— From IMT statement: capitalism is killing the planet – we need a revolution!

“Money is the universal self-established value of all things. It has, therefore, robbed the whole world – both the world of men and nature – of its specific value.” – Karl Marx (1843)

From space, in various satellite images, you can see columns of smoke and suspended particles ascending above the most extensive and biologically diverse tropical forest in the world: the Amazon.

The international climate strike movement has created waves across the world. Over the past year, during the course of several global days of action, millions of young people from over 100 countries have walked out of school in order to join the ‘Fridays for Future’ protests, demanding immediate action against the climate crisis.

The fires in the Amazon and central-west regions of Brazil were felt in São Paulo. The sky darkened at 3pm and many people did not understand why. Then the news came, explaining that, besides the cold front, this was caused by the ground-clearing fires used in “slash-and-burn” agriculture. And then, a general commotion was stirred up on social media, in the newspapers, and across the international media. The environmental problem, which did not seem to be a major focus of public indignation, become a new point of expression for widespread dissatisfaction and government crisis. This issue fed the anger and resentment against the Bolsonaro government, which responded with nothing but

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The Chiquitania region of Bolivia has been on fire since early August. The wildfires started on 2 August both west and east from San José de Chiquitos in woodland areas and dry woods, reaching Roboré later on. Prime Minister Quintana accused the right-wing of provoking the fires for political and electoral purposes. Until he can prove this, we’ll have to take his statement as an assumption that the wildfires did not spread from Brazil, as the government initially claimed. Rather, the cause of this disaster is to be found inside Bolivia’s borders.

British left-wing organisation Momentum has launched a national campaign calling on banks to divest from fossil fuel corporations. And the Labour Party has launched its own call for a Green New Deal. This highlights the need for public ownership of the monopolies.

On 15 March, millions of school students and supporters came out onto the streets as part of a worldwide strike against climate change. This impressive achievement also reflects the radicalisation taking place amongst the youth on a world scale. Comrades of the IMT have intervened throughout these demonstrations, and we publish here a number of eyewitness reports and accounts of their activities.

“The ocean is rising, and we are too.” So read one placard at the recent #YouthStrike4Climate in London. Young people across the world are taking to the streets to address the burning issue of our epoch: the impending climate catastrophe. Starting in Sweden last August with the weekly protests of one school student, Greta Thunberg, the youth strikes have rapidly spread internationally. In every country the situation is the same: a new, radicalised generation is entering into political activity, demanding action and system change to avert environmental destruction.

At least 10,000 students across the UK walked out of school on Friday 15 February, marking the arrival of the international School Strike 4 Climate movement in Britain. This movement has already mobilised hundreds of thousands of students in over 40 countries, with young people around the world participating in incredibly militant strikes and marches – the aim of which is to force governmental action on climate change.

The School Strike 4 Climate movement started in August last year, when one 15-year-old Swedish student, Greta Thunberg, walked out of her school to campaign against government inaction on climate change. The demonstrations have rapidly developed into a uniquely militant, global and organised youth movement.

This summer has been one of freakish weather events the world over. No longer is climate change a thing of the future. From California to the Arctic Circle, exceptional temperatures are creating tinder box conditions. In Greece, 91 people were killed in a horrific blaze. In Japan at least 77 people have died and more than 30,000 have been admitted to hospital with heat stroke. 54 people have been killed by the heat in Quebec, Canada.

President Donald Trump announced on Thursday that the United States will withdraw from the Paris accord. After a fraught meeting with the other G7 countries, he unilaterally withdrew from the accords. This marks a decisive turning point in world relations, and shows the inability of capitalism to create a sustainable future for humanity on this planet.

There were scenes of jubilation in Paris last Saturday evening, as delegates from almost 200 countries celebrated the results of over two weeks of negotiations at the 2015 United Nations climate change conference, COP21. World leaders have declared the Paris agreement to be a “historic” landmark in the fight against climate change; an unprecedented display of cooperation in terms of international efforts to curb global warming.

In this recording from 28th June 2015, Shahrar Ali - deputy leader of the Green Party - and Adam Booth - editor of www.socialist.net - discuss the capitalist causes of the climate crisis, and the way forward for humanity.

The philosophical premise behind the consumerist strategy is the idea that we can in effect will a change in society through our purchasing choices. The idea is that if we could just change everyone’s mind about their role in the environment, then we would change society and its structure. If we could only convince everyone individually to be more caring towards the environment and to change their personal lives, then we could change the world.

The past seven months have seen the release of the Fifth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the international scientific body set up by the United Nations to provide the most comprehensive body of information and analysis about the process, risks, and impacts of climate change. The conclusions of the latest IPCC report are unequivocal: climate change is real; its effects will be disastrous; and nothing short of a revolution will do if we are to combat it.

The question of climate change and the environment is one of the burning issues for today’s youth.  It is becoming increasingly evident that unsustainable exploitation of the environment cannot continue unabated.  One measure that is championed by the bosses and the ruling class, and is supposed to relieve the pressures on the environment, is a carbon tax, such as the one implemented in British Columbia in 2008. Five years later, can we say that carbon taxes genuinely work in protecting the environment, or are they simply one more tool in the bosses‘ arsenal in order to transfer more money into the bank accounts of corporations?

Climate change, melting icecaps and new opportunities for access to valuable resources have reawakened a struggle for power in the Arctic. The Great powers are jockeying for control of the region.

Just five years ago, not a day would go by without global warming making the headlines. The American politician Al Gore’s documentary film about climate change, An Inconvenient Truth, was seen by hundreds of thousands in cinemas across the world. The Conservative Party rebranded themselves as the champions of the environment, nailing their ecological colours to the mast and urging people to ‘vote Blue to go Green’. Even the arch-reactionary American president George W. Bush was forced to concede that, maybe, the environment was worth thinking about.

Much is said in the news about the disastrous situation that now exists in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the Deepwater Horizon explosion. An ecological disaster of gigantic proportions has been created by the profit motive, which is what drives the BP executives. However, were the company to be thoroughly unionised, with workers’ representatives controlling every level of safety, this disaster could have been averted.

The huge spillage of oil in the Gulf of Mexico was an accident waiting to happen, as this brief comment from an ex-oil worker points out. It shows quite clearly that our environment cannot be left in the hands of a greedy, money-grabbing coterie of capitalists who own and control the means of production.

For many people, the idea of a revolutionary change in society seems like a pipe-dream that will never be possible in their lifetime. In this respect, Trotsky developed the idea of the “Transitional Programme”: a set of demands that could take society from our current situation under capitalism, towards our final goal of international socialism. What would such a transitional programme look like for the environment? What set of demands should socialists make regarding the climate change? In this article, we attempt to outline such a programme.

Capitalism has no solutions to the environmental problems facing humanity and our planet. International treaties that attempt to operate within the confines of capitalism are also doomed to failure, as was seen in Copenhagen last year. Capitalism cannot solve these problems – capitalism is the problem.

On Saturday, after two weeks of negotiations, the Climate Summit in Copenhagen ended in a complete failure. The outcome of the talks, a document known as the “Copenhagen Accord”, is merely a collection of hollow and vacuous statements, and does not contain any reference to a legally binding agreement.

The dramatic collapse of the talks at the Climate Summit in Copenhagen serves to highlight one thing: the capitalist governments of the world cannot solve burning issues, such as damage to the environment provoked by the anarchy of the market. The thirst for profit is in direct contradiction to the interests of the working people of the world. Social revolution on a global scale is the only real answer to the problem.

At a recent meeting of a local Labour Party Branch in Worcester, Britain, a slick high tech presentation was given by a group called Transition Worcester, who said they had the answer to the environmental crisis. It is to turn the clock back 200 years to a mythical age where all trade was local and people enjoyed the benefit of locally grown meat, fruit & veg. Within this presentation were ideas such as we should no longer trade with developing countries and we should therefore export our unemployment to the third world.

People are right to worry about emissions of greenhouse gases by big business and the threat they pose to the future of the planet. However, climate change is not happening on account of ‘human nature,’ because people are naturally greedy. Growth is not the problem. The problem is unplanned capitalist growth, growth driven by narrow selfish profit calculation and unconcerned with any wider considerations. The problem is capitalism.

From today until Friday next week, delegates from 192 countries are gathering in Copenhagen, Denmark, in order to create a new, “legally-binding”, global treaty on climate change. Global climate change treaties, such as the Kyoto protocol, are based on the assumption that the market, if given the correct regulation and incentives, can solve the problems of climate change. However, climate change can only be solved under Socialism – a system in which the economy is democratically planned according to the needs of people and the planet.

Enhanced climate change exists, and we are not currently living sustainably. There is little argument on these points. We all know that the earth has a natural cycle of warming and cooling, but humans are more than likely having a considerable effect on the current warming cycle. The industrialized countries alone, such as the US and much of Europe, have had a great effect on our air, and carbon levels are higher than in the last 2.1 million years, according to the journal Science. The gases entering our atmosphere are byproducts of capitalist industry and, to a lesser extent, our cars.

On 23rd March 1989 the oil tanker Exxon Valdez left normal shipping lanes and smashed into the Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Within hours, the once mighty vessel had spilled over ten million gallons of oil into the icy waters: the largest oil spill in ever recorded in US waters. As the company responsible, Exxon Mobile was slow to act.

We publish the fifth and final part of Mauro Vanetti's article on Climate Change, which began as a reply to a contribution by Brian Baker. In this part petit-bourgeois environmentalism is exposed as an unviable response to global warming - green "ideologies of abstinence" simply play in the hands of the ruling class. What is required is a genuine Marxist programme on this issue, which is outlined at the end of the article.

"The arguments used in Brian J. Baker's article to ‘debunk' global warming are many, and some of them are in contradiction with each other. Apparently, there are lots of blogs and websites (most of them run by conservatives and even overt reactionaries) devoted to climate-change denial. Most of their authors use the same set of arguments over and over again, and the same stuff has been pasted in Baker's article. I shall try to reduce each argument to its basic core."

Baker ridicules the concept of “scientific consensus”. It is true that the scientific community does not operate in a vacuum and that it is very often subject to pressures of politics, religion, social rules, prejudices and also directly from the market. But this does not invalidate the concept of scientific consensus altogether.

In a series of articles published in April 2007, the Financial Times described how a "carbon gold rush" has led to the setting up large number of carbon offset trading companies, which act as intermediaries between the buyers and sellers of carbon credits. What it meant in reality was that the polluters in the USA and Europe, and now also in China, could continue to pollute unchecked.

In contributing to the debate, Mike Palecek states that, "The idea that we could rule out solar activity as a factor in the climate of this planet is absurd, but this is the false dichotomy that is presented by global warming deniers. They misrepresent the consensus position among climatologists by reducing their understanding of contributing factors to CO2 and CO2 alone.

Emil Reed has written a reply to Brian J. Baker, which addresses some of the scientific issues raised. He claims that Brain J. Baker has given "an extremely misleading picture of the state of knowledge about climate change." And that "instead of making a positive contribution to the understanding of climate change Brain J. Baker repeats tired old arguments."

Mick Brooks questions the method applied in the four-part article by Brian Baker published this week. Brian Baker's article does not proceed from a Marxist framework. It tries to show that human activity has no part in climate change. Environmental problems such as climate change are inevitable under capitalism and that what is required is a world socialist plan that takes account of all the costs and benefits of human economic activity.

The degradation of the environment has consistently grabbed the headlines in the past few years as the way in which the world is arranged threatens the very existence of life on this planet. Mick Brooks, editor of the Socialist Appeal, talks at the Socialist Appeal day school in December on capitalisms contibution to the environmental problems we face today and and what alternative a socialist society can offer.

We are daily bombarded by news items about climate change. Now many capitalist firms have joined the bandwagon of carbon offsetting and so on, but a closer look at what they are doing reveals the same old greed for profit. Capitalism is incapable of dealing with this kind of problem. A good argument for socialism!

The environmental statistics have been pouring in, and the prognosis for the planet looks dire: global warming is accelerating, leaving environmental destruction in its wake.  Already we are witnessing some of its devastating consequences and there are trends which, if allowed to proceed unchecked, will culminate in humans huddled around the two poles in search of respite from the heat.

The Stern Report highlights the problem of global warming linked to the high emissions of carbon. Stern tries to find a solution within capitalism, without understanding that capitalism is actually the problem. The unplanned, chaotic nature of the system, where all is based on immediate profit means no real solution can be found within it. The answer lies in planning and that can only be achieved under socialism.