Once again, the representatives of the “free” market have sought to defy the laws of nature. This time, the venue was Copenhagen, Denmark, and the “free” marketeers think they have prevailed, but this is only round one. In the end, the laws of nature will dominate, one way or another.
Both the directly corporate-controlled as well as much of the “alternative” press pictured the conflicts at the Copenhagen global warming convention as being between the United States and China or between the developed nations vs. the G77 (the underdeveloped world). Nothing could be further from the truth. The conflict, such as existed, was between representatives of different wings of the owners of capital – the capitalist class.
The capitalist class lives by certain very definite principles, first and foremost of which is short term maximization of private profit. A corollary of this principle is to absorb as little cost as possible, and to place any longer term costs in the lap of “society” (meaning workers and peasants) as a whole. If workers cannot be made to pay, either because of the workers’ resistance or because they have already been squeezed as much as possible, then the idea is to get rival gangs of capitalists to pay. Towards this end wars – large and small – have been fought for as long as capitalism has existed, and as many lives – of others – as necessary will be sacrificed..
One of the foremost conflicts at the Copenhagen conference was over the demand of the representatives of the capitalist class from the underdeveloped world (the “G77”, which is actually composed of some 120 nations) that they be paid an untold amount for the damage already done by the emissions from the developed capitalist world. Of course, it is a natural principle that those who cause the damage pay the cost, but underlying this principle is the question of who, in the developed world will pay these costs? If it is to be the working class, then there will be outrage at home and political repercussions. If it is to be the capitalist class, then this will cut into profits.
The other side of the equation, that was never mentioned, including in the alternate press, is who is to receive whatever payments are made and how will the money be used. Consider who this G77 is: Governments such as that of Nigeria, which is more or less in the direct pay of Shell Oil (as well as being infamous for their outright corruption); Colombia, which acts as the principle outpost of US imperialism in Latin America and under whose rule the lives of union and peasant organizers are at risk daily. Afghanistan, whose regime is based on a group of drug dealers, war lords and war criminals; and Saudi Arabia, whose repressive regime features a super-rich, pampered and corrupt royal family which owes its life style to the sale of oil. Ninety percent of any money given to them will be used for champagne and caviar and anything left over will be sent to Swiss or Cayman Island bank accounts.
Some of any such money may be administered through some of the “non governmental organizations” or NGO’s, or as they are known in the US, the non-profit organizations. The non-profiteers running the main such groups have shown themselves to be as ready to roll over for big business as is a puppy dog for its master. They justify this as accepting “political realities”, and it will be the most pliant of such NGO’s who will receive any money given to these cliques. They will be sure it is spent in such a way as to avoid conflicting with the capitalist drive to maximize profit as well as to be in accord with the demands of the capitalist regimes of the underdeveloped world.
Then there were the representatives of Chinese capitalism. One of their principle commitments was to reduce energy “intensity” in China. This simply means that the amount of energy expanded for any given unit of production will decrease. However, if production as a whole increases, then CO2 emissions can also increase. The world’s weather cares not an iota about energy “intensity”; this is just a cover up for the willingness to sacrifice millions of lives for power and profit. Their concern for the issue is shown by the fact that they are building two new coal-fired power plants per week in China.
The representatives of Chinese capitalism posed as standing in unity with the G77 representatives. In fact, what they were doing by this pose was seeking to strengthen their base of support globally in their rivalry with US capitalism.
Then there were the representatives of the world’s other major polluter – US capitalism and the US administration. The approach to global warming there is similar to that in the struggle over “health care reform” within the US. When the Obama administration first stated discussing the health care issue, under the guise of wanting to “bring all the players to the table”, he convened discussion groups composed of representatives of the health insurance companies, the pharmaceutical companies, etc. This would be like convening a committee to discuss solving the drug problem in the US and putting on that committee representatives of the narco traficantes. Similarly, the auto industry, the oil and coal industries, etc. are given a major say in determining how to deal with CO2 emissions and global warming. It is the criminals running the prison… as well as the surrounding community (in this case the world community).
The European Union countries are some of the principle ones who signed the Kyoto Accords. They plan by 2020 to reduce carbon emissions by 20% from their 1990 levels. However, according to the Wall St. Journal (12/17/09) half of what they have already reduced is from a sleight of hand: A series of former Eastern Bloc nations joined the EU accord. Since their economies massively collapsed in the few years after 1990, so did their emissions. In addition, much of the rest of the “decline” in emissions is due to another sleight of hand – the use of carbon offsets (see below). In any case, their targets are so modest that they will not prevent a disaster if emissions continue at present rates.
Kyoto and Cap-and-Trade
At the time of the Kyoto meetings on global warming (whose agreement was adopted in 1997), representatives of the US government pushed through the “free” market cap-and-trade approach to dealing with global climate change (and then refused to sign the ultimate accord). Under cap-and-trade, companies can buy the right to emit extra pollution from other companies that are under their quota. They can also buy this right by paying for investment in green technology, saving rain forests, etc., known as buying carbon “offsets”. This is already creating a market similar to the derivatives market in the world of high finance.
The International Herald Tribune (12-14-09), reported that there has developed “a rogue’s gallery of corrupt politicians and entrepreneurs trying to literally create money out of thin air,” through this cap-and-trade approach. (What better way is there to make a profit?) The foremost US scientist on global warming, James Hansen, has described cap-and-trade thusly: “This (cap-and-trade) is analogous to the indulgences that the Catholic church sold in the middle ages. The bishops collected lots of money and the sinners got redemption. Both parties liked that arrangement despite its absurdity. That is exactly what’s happening. We’ve got the developed countries who want to continue more or less business as usual and then these developing countries who want money, and that is what they can get through offsets [sold through the carbon markets].”
It should be noted that the Nobel Prize winning ex-politician, Mr. Global Warming himself, Al Gore, was instrumental in getting the Kyoto Protocols to be based on cap-and-trade.
Global Warming Deniers
Major wings of Corporate America continue to fund a campaign aimed at casting doubt that the climate is even changing and that if it is that human activity is the cause. From peasants in the Andean mountains who are seeing the glaciers shrink, thus depriving them of their water source, to inhabitants of South Pacific islands, some of whom are already having to abandon their homelands due to rising sea levels, those peoples who live closest to nature know the truth of global warming/global climate change. Using bought-and-paid-for mouthpieces who happen to have a title as “scientist”, these wings of Corporate America tap into a most backward and selfish attitude. This attitude is exemplified by David Pontoppidan, a denier who was counter-demonstrating in Copenhagen (claiming that human-caused global warming doesn’t exist). As he put it, “We want to be able to live our lives like we’ve always led them before…” (International Herald Tribune, 12/12/09). In other words, if millions starve due to drought in Africa or are inundated by rising seas, that is not my concern. And regardless of Mr. Pontoppidan’s desires, one thing is certain: Even he, or at least his children, will not be able to continue living as they have; global warming/climate change will disrupt the lives of everybody.
Protests and Final “Accord”
Outside the conference, many tens of thousands protested. They understood the reality; if left up to the representatives of Corporate World, a disaster will occur. Danish police severely repressed the protests, but despite this, the protests succeeded in helping clarify the failure of the corporate controlled politicians from all parts of the world. As a result, the main government representatives did cobble together an agreement that is nothing but window dressing. No specific goals, no binding limits nor specific funding amounts for compensation from the industrialized countries’ capitalist classes were agreed upon. No means were agreed upon of making sure that maximum 2 degree Celsius climate increase by 2050 is achieved. It should be stressed that this goal is unacceptable and, in any case, every prediction of how quickly global temperatures will rise has proven to underestimate the problem. If they aim for a maximum off 2 degrees Celsius, this will almost certainly result in a significantly higher increase.
It now remains for those forces who were protesting to clarify that just as with the opposition to the bailing out of finance capital in the economic crisis, just as with the struggles for workers’ rights and better wages and jobs, this is a struggle of the interests of the overwhelming majority of the world vs. the interests of global capitalism. Certain preliminary steps can be taken to lessen the problem. These would include a workers’ global council to impose at least partial direct control over capital. For instance, where companies try to flee to those parts of the world where more pollution (and also lower wages) is allowed, then the world’s working class can take direct action, up to and including global strikes, to prevent this.
Both Bolivian president Evo Morales and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez blamed global warming on capitalism itself. But what do they mean by this? Is it simply modern “neo-liberalism”, which has given the owners of capital increased freedom? Or is it the private ownership of this capital and production for the profit of these owners? It is the latter that is the real cause of global warming/climate change, and it was these very same owners of capital who controlled the Copenhagen conference. In the last analysis, this private ownership of capital will have to be ended and capital placed in the hands of society, a society run by the working class itself. Then, and only then, can this looming disaster be prevented or at least a solution found.