This month saw the publication of the fourth report from the UN’s climate science programme (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – IPCC). The report paints a bleak picture for the environment if global warming is not checked.
According to the IPCC, eleven of the warmest years since records began in 1850 have occurred in the last 12 years. The report revises the average global rise in temperature up to 2005 from the previous estimates of 0.6Âº C to 0.74Âº C.
The rise in temperature over the last 50 years is now reckoned to be twice the rate of the previous 100 years.
One of the main ‘greenhouse gases’ CO2 is now present in the atmosphere in higher amounts than at any time for the last 650,000 years. The primary sources for CO2 are the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) and the changing use of land.
The report notes that “numerous long-term changes in climate have been observed” and gives examples of rising Arctic temperatures, declining sea ice, widespread changes in rain and wind patterns, and aspects of extreme weather including droughts, storms, heat waves and intensity of tropical cyclones. And all that with an average rise in global temperature of less than 1 degree C!
So when the IPCC predicts that there could be temperature rises as high as 6.4Âº C before the end of the century, that could certainly lead to what NASA’s Jim Hansen has described as “a different planet”.
Change of that magnitude could produce rising sea levels which would displace hundreds of millions presently living in South-East Asia; heat waves and drought could make much of the sub tropics uninhabitable; and, according to The Independent, expanding deserts in Spain, Italy and Greece could lead to tens of millions of people seeking to move northwards (to Britain and Scandinavia) to live. And all that in the lifetime of children being born today.
If, as many scientists argue, the first major steps towards mitigation need to be taken within ten years, the campaign has to be stepped up now to win support for a radical and comprehensive programme of public ownership and planning of economies to reduce CO2 emissions by 60% to 80% within the next couple of decades at most.
Changing the way in which energy is produced requires fundamental change which will challenge the very existence of privately-owned multinationals and their profits.
That’s why it comes as no surprise when The Guardian newspaper revealed at the beginning of this month that a think tank funded by oil giant ExxonMobil – “with close links to the Bush administration” – was offering scientists and economists $10,000 each to write articles to rubbish the IPCC report!
Within 24 hours of the release of the IPCC report over 2,500 articles were produced in newspapers and on websites around the world, a large proportion of them under headlines “humankind to blame”. Not exactly. It is business activity that is to blame. It’s the lust for profit that risks all our futures.
Whilst it is laudable and necessary to change individual behaviour to live in a more sustainable way, changing individual behaviour will not be enough – it’s the system we have to change!
Socialists, trade unionists, environmentalists and young people have a relatively short time to bring together large enough forces to build a new workers’ party that can challenge a capitalist economic system which, unchecked, will lead to catastrophe.
Those forces then need to link with socialist and workers’ organisations worldwide to promote and develop international socialist planning of the planet’s resources, under the ownership and democratic control of the working class.
By Dave Nellist