Climate change – the business connection

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As this is being written we are currently in one of the coldest snaps of winter weather the country has seen in a long time. Temperatures reaching -15 and below have been recorded and stocks of grit & salt for ensuring safe travel are at an all time low. The government has ordered that schools remain closed for almost a week. This is replicated right across the UK and continental Europe.So what about global warming and climate change? Well, firstly there is a difference between weather and climate. Weather is the immediate conditions a local area experiences. Climate is the much longer-term trend in weather conditions across the planet over periods of decades and longer.

And whilst it might not have felt like it in the past few weeks, the planet’s overall climate is heating up at an increasing rate. If this continue, it is predicted to reek havoc across much of the world, and create famines, mass migration, and resource wars unlike any previously seen in the history of mankind.

There have been previous changes in the earth climate, such as the beginning and ending of the “ice ages”. They have always had a catastrophic effect on living creatures as floods, droughts and the knock on effects within ecosystems caused relatively balanced food chains to collapse, leading to widespread species extinction. The rate of warming is greater than anything humans have experienced in the last 10,000 years.

The single biggest factor that has caused and still continues to cause climate change is the burning of fossil fuels to generate energy. This has been primarily in the western world, but this is changing rapidly across the globe. China is now the single biggest emitter of carbon, whilst the US remains the biggest emitter per head of population.

Without the use of these fuels, oil gas and coal we would not live in the type of world we live in today. It has been literally and metaphorically been the lubricant in the wheels of capitalism. It is this continued dependency upon fossil fuels that has massive implications for us all, as climate change recognises no borders. However it is the poorest and most marginalised who will near the brunt, while big business continues to profit from the exploitation of these resources. This is an issue of justice and power as much as it is one of science and energy.

At present it is estimated that 325 million people are seriously affected by climate change — a number likely to double by 2030, as more people are hit by natural disasters or suffer environmental degradation caused by climate change. There remains a gap between understanding the causes and forseeable impacts of climate change - which we do - and anything being done about it.

This is the backdrop behind last Decembers United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Copenhagen. Commonly referred to as the COP-15, the summit was hailed as the last realistic chance that governments across the globe had to reach a legally binding and enforceable agreement to reduce carbon emission across all our societies. However it was doomed to failure as the entire process of national and international discussion of climate change have been driven by ideology and greed rather than science and fact.

Governments talk about cutting carbon emissions yet we rarely get more than a few token gestures and a lot of empty talk. The only thing they are all agreed on is that working people will pay the price even though we have no control over the decisions that caused the problem. The new carbon tax is a good example.

Many of us have to use our cars to get to work because we don’t have regular and reliable public transport in our areas, many of us have to use oil or gas for home heating because that’s the system that came with our houses. Ordinary people didn’t take the decisions to run down public transport, to refuse to have a national programme of free home insulation, not to invest in solar, wind and tidal energy rather than having turf and oil burning power stations.

Dirty technologies need to be replaced by clean and sustainable ones. It is possible, but the ruling class is most unwilling to deal seriously with this. When there is a conflict between the needs of the majority and the profits of big business, guess where their loyalties lie!

We are facing a big problem, not something that will be sorted out by lobbying or publicity stunts. It will take a big movement fighting for conversion of power stations to clean technologies, for free and quality public transport, for sustainable growth to improve living standards worldwide.

As long as the capitalist minority controls industry, there will be a conflict between their interests and ours. This is not to say that we can’t force concessions from them; many of the things we take for granted, like paid holidays, the right to join a union or even legal contraception, had to be fought for by previous generations.

The best and most rational solution is to have those affected by decisions having a say in making those decisions. Would we be rushing into the prospect of big weather changes and flooding of coastal areas if we had workers’ control of production? The only long-term and permanent answer is to reorganise the economy to serve the needs of all. That means real socialism and real democracy, in one word ‘anarchism’.