Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

Marxism and climate change – the debate continues

August 15, 2008

Responding to the comments made by JL in the previous post, SB replies:

JL says; “I don’t think that pointing out that the Earth is currently undergoing a warming, which will negatively impact on the lives of millions of people, is painting a picture of a doomsday scenario.” I agree entirely that it is not, in fact that was precisely what I was pointing out – just saying that would not be to paint such a picture. However, to state, as we have in the pages of ‘The Socialist’ that manmade CO2 emissions are the cause of that warming, and to imply that we may already have reached a ‘tipping point’ in CO2 in the atmosphere from which we cannot recover – in other words that Capitalism may already have destroyed the Planet – is most certainly painting such a scenario, and is hardly likely to inspire anyone to Socialism, or indeed any other activity other than depression, lethargy and nihilism.

He goes on to say: “Our role as socialists must be first and foremost to tell the unvarnished, warts and all truth to the working class.”  That is true, but we do not, and indeed cannot, know ‘the truth’ unvarnished or otherwise, about the impact of manmade CO2 emissions, we only ever hear one side of the story – one dimension, day-in, day-out, in the Capitalist Media. As Marxists our ‘duty’ is to look at the whole issue, at the science and the implications, to reach a rounded-out dialectical analysis – which is why we should welcome a debate on the issue and not attempt to do it down.

“No serious scientist now claims that global warming is not happening and that human activities is not the main cause of it. Even supposed ’sceptics’ such as the Danish economist Bjorn Lomborg accept that it is happening, though play down it’s potential impact.” This is rather missing the point, no-one can deny that there is an ongoing warming trend occurring, it is a simple fact, but the data quite simply contradicts the idea that this has any direct connection to CO2 or any other ‘greenhouse gas’ indeed the warming experienced in the past 50 years – some 0.7 degrees Celcius is broadly in line with what one would expect from the ongoing warming trend at this point in an ‘inter-glacial’ period.

“The impact though will be serious. Low-lying land will be flooded, and the area of land available for agriculture will shrink.” Of course the impacts will be serious, though they have certainly been overplayed by many hysterical ‘models’ which would have much of Britain already under rising sea levels. “All alternative theories as to why the planet is warming (which, on average, it undoubtedly is) have been discredited.” To make a sweeping statement such as this is certainly not constructive and frankly wrong, it is simply not true, models of – for example – solar activity against evidence of warming and cooling taken from ice core data, correspond far more closely than any showing C02 or other greenhouse gases in correlation, which simply do not match up. ‘All other theories’ have received almost no funding for research and have been quite simply drowned out amidst the shrieking of the ‘greenhouse effect’ lobby, which has rapidly become an industry in itself commanding billions of dollars annually in research grants, a very unscientific and profoundly Capitalist approach to ‘research’.

Where this statement is simply wrong, however, is when one looks at the regular periods of glaciation and inter-glacial periods throughout the entire geological record of the planet. The geological record, and Ice-core record, show periods of cooling and warming as regular as a heartbeat or the ticking of a clock. As close as we can judge, from records dealing with such huge epochs, we are in a warming period which has been going on for several hundred years – manmade CO2 emissions, or no manmade CO2 emissions. This is not a theory – it is a fact, supported by far, far more concrete evidence than the spurious tissue of assumptions and half-baked observations which make up the ‘manmade CO2’ as cause of global warming ‘scientific’ theory.

Once again, I reiterate however, the point of my article, that whatever the cause is largely irrelevant. We should not let differences over the cause divide us. What is relevant, and far more pertinant, is the fact that only Socialism can provide the system of motive change to save lives and save humanity from the results of global warming, whatever it’s cause. We should not get bogged down in doomsday ‘the end is nigh’ prophesies, but give the inspiration to people to transform society and make it better. We need to provide positive answers rather than being negative and defeatist in the face of such challenges – we, as a race, united, can surmount all obstacles and harness nature by working with it, rather than exploiting it.

Reply by JL:

I don’t believe that we have already reached a tipping point in dealing with climate change, although it is clear that certain tipping points may be reached within the next few decades if decisive and radical action is not taken to drastically cut carbon dioxide emissions, probably by as much as 90%.  I also don’t believe that these tipping points signal a ‘point of no return’.  They simply worsen the problem by acting as a positive feedback, and further increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.  They certainly will not destroy the planet, which will carry on existing until the Sun devours it in its death throes in a few billion years time.  It will have an impact on humanity though, probably contributing to a significant population decline due to drought, famine, or a combination.

SB says that “As Marxists our ‘duty’ is to look at the whole issue, at the science and the implications, to reach a rounded-out dialectical analysis – which is why we should welcome a debate on the issue and not attempt to do it down.”  I agree that there should be debate on important issues, and in fact there has been on this one, in the pages of ‘The Socialist’ and on this website.  However, this is almost equivalent to giving space to an argument over the merits of Darwinian evolution, such is the consensus among the scientific community around the science that points towards the recent (and future) planetary warming having a human cause.  The solar activity theory that SB cites as an alternative to the anthropogenic warming theory was pretty much the last alternative theory standing.  It has been discredited though, as studies have shown that the cosmic rays, affected by solar activity, are not linked to the recent increases in temperature – they have been fluctuating while the overall warming trend has been occurring.  For more information see http://www.newscientist.com/blog/environment/2008/04/sunset-on-cosmic-rays-theory.html and http://environment.newscientist.com/channel/earth/dn12234.

It is important to make a case for the reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide regardless of whether the warming has a human cause, though it will be difficult to make the case if it we do not demonstrate that it does.  It would be a bit like trying to build support for a campaign to repeal of the Law of Gravity.

Capitalists and their political representatives have in fact been straining every muscle to try and suppress the idea that carbon dioxide emissions from industry and transport is causing a planetary warming.  The actions of the oil industry friendly Bush in the US and corporations worldwide in trying to discredit climate change science are notorious.  Few world Governments enthusiastically accepted the idea that the capitalist system, through its overproduction, anarchy and waste, was contributing to a possible environmental disaster.  Only public pressure and the growing realisation by some capitalists that it might have an impact on profits (the Stern Report is an example of this thinking) has led to some attempts to combat climate change, however ineffectual and limited they may be.

It is clear that capitalism will not reduce carbon dioxide emissions significantly, if at all.  Any measures they may take will not hit profits, but will be paid for by working class and other poor people across the world.  This will be through ‘Green taxes’ for using cars and aeroplanes, and also through an increase in the cost of food and other essentials.  We must oppose these measures and also seek to ensure that preventing or mitigating climate change is accompanied by material development in the Third and First worlds.

This cannot be done on the basis of capitalism, where short term profit and exploitation is all.  It must be done on the basis of international socialism, where a democratic economic and environmental plan will ensure production of essential goods is done in an environmentally sustainable way, waste is eliminated, and transport, electricity generation and industry is made clean and green, and a servant of the worlds peoples.

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