Socialism or global warming barbarism?
The barbarians of profit are winning. They are destroying the planet and their own capitalist system. The Global Carbon Project in its Carbon Report released today says:
CO2 emissions from fossil fuels burning and cement production increased by 3% in 2011, with a total of 9.5±0.5 PgC emitted to the atmosphere (34.7 billion tonnes of CO2). These emissions were the highest in human history and 54% higher than in 1990 (the Kyoto Protocol reference year). In 2011, coal burning was responsible for 43% of the total emissions, oil 34%, gas 18%, and cement 5%.
CO2 emissions from fossil fuels burning and cement production are projected to increase by 2.6% in 2012, to a record high of 9.7±0.5 PgC (35.6 billion tonnes of CO2).
Both developed and developing countries contributed to the ongoing high level of emissions and the increase. The Report again:
The biggest contributors to global emissions in 2011 were China (2.5 PgC, 28%), the United States (1.5 PgC, 16%), the European Union (EU27; 1.0 PgC, 11%), and India (0.6 PgC, 7%). Contributions to global emissions growth in 2011 were largest from China (0.226 PgC above 2010 levels, 9.9% growth) and India (0.043 PgC, 7.5%). Emissions from USA were down by 0.028 (-1.8%) and EU27 down by 0.029 PgC (-2.8%).
Developing nations accounted for 60% of all emissions in 2011. Average per capita emissions of developed countries (Annex B) were 3.0tC/person, several times larger than those of developing countries (non-Annex B) which were 0.9tC/person. China’s per capita emissions were 1.8 tC/person and are now close to the average of 2.0 in the EU-27. India’s per capita emissions were much below at 0.5 tC/person.
So where are we headed then? 4 to 6 degrees warmer by the end of the century. The Report again:
Current trajectories of fossil fuel emissions are tracking some of the most carbon intensive emission scenarios used in the Intergovermental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC).
The current trajectory is tracking the Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 (of the latest family of IPCC scenarios) that takes the planet to about 4°C to 6.1°C above pre-industrial times by 2100.
So despite all the talkfests of capital and their governments, we are now on course for a possible increase in global temperatures of four to six degrees centigrade. As Prof Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research said: “These latest figures come amidst climate talks in Doha. But with emissions continuing to grow, it’s as if no-one is listening to the entire scientific community.”
Unless the negotiators in Doha wake up tomorrow and embrace a new green industrial revolution to rapidly change our energy systems, chances to stay below global warming of 2 degrees Celsius are vanishing very fast, if they are not already gone.
What is the cause of this growth in emissions at the very time reductions to limit the rise to 2 degrees centigrade were mooted by various gabfests and deemed defensible? Capitalism.
“Fossil fuels play a very central role in global economic development but raise serious implications for the Earth’s climate,” Gregg Marland, one of the authors of the Carbon Report paper in Nature Climate Change, said.
“Each year of increased emissions makes a two degree target harder to achieve. The only feasible way to keep below two degrees is global reductions in emissions and this can only happen if the top emitters in the developed and developing world have deep and sustained mitigation,” said lead author of the study Glen Peters of CICERO, a climate research institute in Norway.
Unfortunately the hangmen of capitalism are lining up to sell us their rope. This is the inner logic of capitalism. To make profits and reinvest those profits it has to destroy the planet. That is cheaper and more cost effective than saving it. Short term profit rules over long term viability.
Further, the competing imperialist blocs, the US and China, cannot make deep cuts to emissions for fear of advantaging their rival.
It gets worse. This analysis doesn’t include the impact of global warming on the permafrost. As a recent United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) report called The policy implications of warming permafrost says:
Arctic and alpine air temperatures are expected to increase at roughly twice the global rate and climate projections indicate substantial loss of permafrost by 2100. A global temperature increase of 3°C means a 6°C increase in the Arctic, resulting in anywhere between 30 to 85% loss of near-surface permafrost.
What is the impact of this? As the UNEP report says:
Carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane emissions from thawing permafrost could amplify warming due to greenhouse gas emissions. This amplification is called the permafrost carbon feedback. Permafrost contains ~1700 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon in the form of frozen organic matter, almost twice as much carbon as currently in the atmosphere. If the permafrost thaws, the organic matter will thaw and decay, potentially releasing large amounts of CO2 and methane into the atmosphere. This organic material was buried and frozen thousands of years ago and its release into the atmosphere is irreversible on human time scales. Thawing permafrost could emit 43 to 135 Gt of CO2 equivalent by 2100 …. Uncertainties are large, but emissions from thawing permafrost could start within the next few decades and continue for several centuries, influencing both short-term climate (before 2100) and long-term climate (after 2100).
The impact of permafrost melting could be as high as an extra 1.5 degrees centigrade warming.
Let’s cut to the chase. It isn’t profitable to cut greenhouse gas emissions so it won’t happen unless there is a revolution to do so. The ruling class, the petit bourgeois middle classes, the peasantry, intellectuals cannot lead the revolution necessary to overthrow the Sauron of climate change that is global capitalism. Only workers, the majority class, have that power.
In the two major polluting countries, China and the US, workers hold the key to the future. In China the dictatorship is creating its own gravedigger, a massive working class now with more than 300 million workers. In the US the working class is over 200 million. The workers in these two centres of capitalism have the capacity to change the course of history if they can overthrow their rulers and set up a system based on democracy and production to satisfy human need.
Far Fetched? So was global warming and the consequent global barbarism a few decades ago.
But there is hope. As internationalists we socialists recognise the reality of class struggle everywhere in the world. The second stage of the Egyptian revolution, with workers already on strike in major centres like Mahalla, could see a working class revolution assuming the current revolutionary conditions can mature and the revolutionary forces grow.
That spark could set off a chain reaction to sweep the spectre of environmental destruction off the planet and the rotten system producing that possibility with it, including in the two bellies of the beast, China and the US.
It is not profitable at the moment to move to a totally renewable society. In Australia Beyond Zero Emissions has estimated it would cost about $370 billion over ten years for Australia (with about 2% of global GDP) to become fully renewable. A lot but not insurmountable if government and business had the will. They can’t and don’t because any move to do so would both impact on traditional profit centres based on fossil fuels and change the game of competition within Australia and globally.
It would also raise the question of who should bear the cost. The bosses would want us to pay for the cost of fixing up their polluting system. Our living standards are already under attack so any attempt to pass on the costs to we workers might be met with resistance.
Remember the sturm und drang the mining industry unleashed when the Rudd government attempted to impose a small super profits tax on them? Multiply that by about 1000 to understand the response if any government tried to move to a fully renewable society in the next ten years and wanted the bosses to contribute to let alone pay the cost.
If the resistance of the bosses to really addressing climate change is systemic, then only a working class revolution, one that gets rid of the profit motive and puts human need at the centre of production, can these challenges.
What impact will warming of 4 to 6 degrees have? In Australian terms it brings Rockhampton to Melbourne. But it does much more than that. It would wipe out most of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area as a food producer. It would mean much more flooding and many more bushfires.
Sea levels could rise over a metre, putting at risk over $220 billion worth of infrastructure in Australia, including many houses. Some Pacific Islands would be wiped out and there peoples would want resettlement before that happens.
The urgency is great. Capitalism cannot cure itself. It is driven by its internal logic to destroy the planet in the search for profit and the reinvestment of any surplus value we create.
The choice is becoming starker and starker. It is either socialism with democracy, planning and satisfying human need leading to a secure and safe environment or the continuation of capitalism and the descent into global warming barbarism.