Sunday, March 29, 2009

The End is Nigh

As a follow up to this earlier post , SOYMB reads that Europe’s leading expert warns of billions of refugees and environmental catastrophe if immediate action is not taken by all nations.
The World is heading for an unparalleled climate catastrophe unless rich and poor nations agree drastic cuts in pollution in just the next few months, the head of the European Environment Agency is warning.
Even if all the current promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions are honoured, the world will still see global temperatures rise by an average of four degrees centigrade by the end of the century, according to Professor Jacqueline McGlade, the EEA executive director. This is hot enough to make most of the world uninhabitable, killing or making refugees of billions of people in Asia, Africa and America. The EEA's prediction offers a vision of Earth where humans have been forced into the most far-flung areas of the world in order to rebuild civilisation, with people living in high-rise cities in areas like Siberia and Antartica which will become the most hospitable parts of the planet.
Even if Scotland, Europe and the US succeed in cutting their emissions by 80%, new coal and oil plants planned by China, India and other Asian countries will still double global carbon dioxide emissions to 16 billion tonnes by 2100. This would push carbon concentrations in the atmosphere well above the danger level. The resulting mega floods, droughts and storms would trigger mass starvation, mass migrations and resource wars, experts say. According to the EEA, this would result in concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increasing to well over 600 parts per million, which is two or three times higher than any levels in the last 650,000 years. This will cause average temperatures to rise by four degrees. It may not sound like much, but the consequences would be dire. It is twice the temperature above which scientists fear that catastrophic "tipping points" could be reached, triggering runaway climate change.The polar icecaps could suddenly start melting faster, the Amazonian rainforest could disappear, and a vast amount of the powerful greenhouse gas, methane, could be released from Siberia. Himalayan glaciers would melt, while the Indian monsoon season and the El Niño effect in the Pacific could be disrupted.These changes could make most of Africa, Asia and America uninhabitable. Many millions of people would migrate north or south, abandoning huge swathes of land around the equator.
Professor McGlade says 2009 is the most important year in the planet's four-billion-year history. If the world doesn't get in right in Copenhagen, there will be "untold decades of civil strife", she warned, and hunger across the globe. "The reality is we do not have enough on the table, globally, to get us anywhere near where we need to be to take carbon emissions out of the atmosphere," she added. "It's not a very pleasant picture."

SOYMB once more asserts that the only feasable alternative is to address the problem and that problem is Capitalism . The destructive nature of modern production has developed as an integral part of capitalism. Because we live in a competitive, profit-motivated system , enterprises come under an irresistible pressure to use the cheapest and most labour efficient methods. There is no choice about this. Companies simply have to go for low cost options and cannot afford to worry about the ecological consequences of this. To choose high cost options would be to commit economic suicide.Under capitalism the production and distribution of goods takes place - and can only take place - according to the economic laws which govern the profitable circulation of capital. These laws are of an absolutely compelling nature. What this means is that production methods cannot be chosen on their merits, as being environmentally friendly.
The Socialist Party holds that only socialism can set up the relationships of cooperation, the freedom and the rational control over our affairs which can get us out of the serious mess we’re in. For all their good intentions, and for all their apparent radicalism, the policies of the environmental experts such as the esteemed professor are impractical because they stand no chance of establishing the kind of world they want to see. The obvious, and only practical, way forward is to get rid of the whole insane capitalist structure.

In socialism we would not be bound to use the most labour efficient methods of production. We would be free to select our methods in accordance with a wide range of socially desirable criteria, in particular the vital need to protect the environment. It wouldn’t matter if ecologically benign methods of producing energy required more allocations of labour than destructive methods as we wouldn’t be producing commodities which have to compete in price for sales in the market. We’d be free of all that. A “steady-state” , eventual "zero-growth" society is something we should aim at. What it means is that we should construct permanent, durable means of production which you don’t constantly innovate. We would use these to produce durable equipment and machinery and durable consumer goods designed to last for a long time, designed for minimum maintenance and made from materials which if necessary can be re-cycled. In this way we would get a minimum loss of materials; once they’ve been extracted and processed they can be used over and over again. It also means that once you’ve achieved satisfactory levels of consumer goods, you don’t insist on producing more and more. Total social production could even be reduced. You achieve this “steady state” and you don’t go on expanding production. This would be the opposite of cheap, shoddy, “throw-away” goods and built-in obsolescence, which results in a massive loss and destruction of resources.

“The earth can no longer be owned; it must be shared. Its fruits, including those produced by technology and labour, can no longer be expropriated by the few; they must be rendered available to all on the basis of need. Power, no less than material things, must be freed from the control of the elites; it must be redistributed in a form that renders its use participatory.” - Murray Bookchin

No comments: