This article was originally published in 2008 as a reply to a "discussion document" by Brian J. Baker, with the title Global Warming: A Socialist Perspective. Baker's article attempted to demonstrate that anthropogenic climate change is a myth, that no global warming is occurring, and that socialists should approach this problem with the following attitude: it's "an obscure scientific curiosity [...] become the multi-billion dollar industry that it is today", "a further method of keeping the working class in its place", and in any case "Warming is something that should be welcomed instead of feared". This response explains why Barker's arguments are unscientific and un-Marxist.
In a nutshell, Baker argues that global warming is a myth forged by a worldwide capitalist conspiracy in order to impose frugality on the working class; the Left should oppose any measure taken to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions because they just slow down progress and therefore the well-being of the proletariat, while the bosses enrich themselves. There is a contradiction here in Brian J. Baker's argumentation: how can they enrich themselves by consciously slowing down the economic development?
A debate is useful
Apart from Brian Baker and his unfortunate article, many other people on the Left do feel that there is something wrong in the way the TV and mass media are presenting this issue. The capitalists promote consumerism but then preach austerity. Their factories pollute our cities and destroy the health of millions of workers but then they abruptly turn "green". The politicians wage wars and endorse national and racial hatred but at the same time they want us to believe that all of a sudden they will unite and tackle this Herculean challenge. How can conscious workers and youth trust them? The answer of course is that they should not.
In the last decade, on Marxist.com and many other websites and journals in several languages the International Marxist Tendency has consistently supported the position that anthropogenic climate change is probably a fact but at the same time we always rejected the various forms of bourgeois ("Capitalism will solve the problem") and petty-bourgeois ("Save the planet by stopping economic growth") ideologies that usually accompany this scientific idea.
With this article I intend to show that:
- There is no scientific evidence so far in favour of global-warming denial. Baker's article is useful because it lists nearly all the arguments used by different subgroups within this unscientific trend and each of them can be more or less easily debunked. As long as they base their polemics on pseudo-science and generous funding by oil and coal corporations and right-wing lobbies, global-warming deniers should not be trusted by socialists.
- Conspiracy theory and Marxism are incompatible. In any case, there is absolutely no conspiracy going on to silence the proponents of alternative views on climate change. Instead, they have received for years, and are still receiving, a disproportionate coverage from the media and disproportionate support from politicians (usually from the Right).
- Marxism cannot embrace the theory that "we are all responsible for global warming" and therefore "we all must make sacrifices to save the planet". This is in fact a political ideology that is being superimposed on the facts in order to exploit the crisis caused by the ruling class... in the interests of the ruling class - with some good help from green petty-bourgeois radicalism.
- Fossil-fuelled capitalism, not economic development as such, is a non-sustainable system and climate change is further proof of its shortcomings. A worldwide society based on superabundance can be brought into being, but not without abolishing the private property of the means of production.
- It is rational to act to slow down climate change, but capitalism is not going to do that. Carbon emission trade is just a fraud, biofuels have appalling side effects, and fiscal measures miss the point.
- Humankind must prepare to adapt to live on a planet that changes, and the best way to do that is to abolish the national borders and to plan the economy in a democratic and centralised way on an international scale.
- It is time for the International Marxist Tendency, and for the international workers' movement as a whole, to start to develop a programme of transitional demands to defend the toilers of this planet in the face of the gigantic problems posed by climate change.
This will, hopefully, justify devoting so much space to countering Brian's effort to deal with the question. And it is a good opportunity to restate some important ideas.
Baker's article ridicules the argument about "scientific consensus". Is it important to know what the current scientific consensus about climate change is? Of course, truth is not "democratic": one billion people can be wrong and one individual can be right. Innumerable great scientists were initially mocked for their ideas, isolated and rather often victimised, only to be recognised as geniuses later, sometimes post mortem. This was the case with Galileo Galilei, Charles Darwin and others; however, this was also notably not the case with Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein (the latter did not have immediate success, but the viability of his ideas was soon recognised, even though he was later to be persecuted for being a Jew and a Socialist and his ideas blindly rejected by Nazi Germany). However long it may have taken, in all of these cases the superiority of more correct positions was eventually established and scientific consensus was formed.
Ideas that are still unacceptable to official society, such as Marxism, are still marginalised in ways that have nothing to do with the scientific method whatsoever. Nevertheless, Marxists believe that Marxism will also eventually prevail over opposing theories and acquire consensus. It will later evolve into even more precise, detailed and broad theories of history and society, like Newtonian physics was replaced/integrated with relativity dynamics, the Darwin/Mendel evolutionary theory was added to by molecular genetics and ecology etc.
Of course the scientific community does not operate in a vacuum but is very often subject to pressures coming from the sphere of ideology (politics, religion, social rules, prejudices) and directly from the market. But this does not invalidate the concept of scientific consensus altogether.
The concept of scientific consensus is not only useful in practice; it is also progressive from a theoretical point of view. It recognises that science is a collective effort to approach objective reality and therefore its conclusions have to be drawn collectively. To reach this result in an effective way, scientific debate must be free, fair and respectful of other people's opinions - which is usually not the case under capitalism!
"Free" means no ostracising against bona fide "contrarians". "Fair" means equal initial opportunities to access funding. "Respectful" means that prestige and hierarchy should not play a role in determining the outcome of a dispute.
When a relatively stable, genuine consensus has been obtained, then it is absolutely correct to use its results as a temporary and partial truth. This does not mean to deny that everything humans can say is just theory, but there are theories supported by more evidence and theories supported by less evidence - or by no evidence at all. The general public (and especially the youth) should be taught that everything they learn can some day be proven wrong, but this cannot imply that, for example, Darwinism and Creationism should be taught on the same level in schools. Not even Wikipedia works like that!
It is not by chance that people proposing reactionary claptrap such as biological racism, Holocaust denial, astrology, pro-Fascist historical revisionism, usually refuse the concept of scientific consensus and its natural consequence - the process of formation of generally accepted points of view based on scientific evidence.
In a way, the arguments against the very concept of scientific consensus could as well be applied against socialism and planned economy (and also democracy in general!). A planned economy is basically an economy where a sort of scientific consensus from below is attained on every key decision. A workers' democracy is based on the scientific method applied to social engineering, with the involvement of the masses at every level with the purpose of reaching a general consensus.
Science in turn should work more like a workers' democracy, where everyone has the possibility of developing and expressing a position and convincing the majority on the base of a serious discussion, rather than what we have with the capitalist "free market", where each individual pursues his own interests trying to crush the others without any co-ordination, fair play and common base. The latter form of competition eventually leads to the formation of monopolies, virtually abolishing any form of pluralism.
When scientific consensus becomes a monopoly that silences all opposing views, it is correct to denounce it, but that fortunately is not always the case. As a matter of fact, most scientists (not only big names, there are scores of researchers and ordinary teachers that live on a worker's wage) are serious people and do their best to follow scrupulously the principles of the scientific method. We, as scientific socialists, consider them potential allies in the fight to establish rationality in economic production as well as in theoretical knowledge.
Current consensus on climate change
Deniers very often make a straw man of the mainstream position on climate change, representing it as a caricature of the actual position endorsed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international body set up by the United Nations whose conclusions are supported by the overwhelming majority of the world's scientific bodies.
The last IPCC assessment (AR4) predicts the following:
- The average global temperature in the 2090-2099 decade is likely to be higher than the average global temperature in the 1980-1999 interval. How much higher depends on which of six realistic scenarios will come true. In the best scenario, there is a 66% likelihood that the temperature rise will be between 1.1 and 2.9°C. In the worst scenario, the range is between 2.4 and 6.4°C.
- The temperature range corresponding to the best scenario also corresponds to an expected rise in sea level by 18 to 38 cm. For the worst scenario it is 26 to 59 cm. This does not include the effects of "rapid dynamical changes in ice flow".
- There is a more than 90% chance that there will be more frequent warm spells, heat waves and heavy rainfall and a more than 66% chance that there will be an increase in droughts, tropical cyclones and extreme high tides.
As anybody can see, the predictions are very cautious about precise figures. This destroys any foundation for all of Baker's sarcasm about how the IPCC is trying to fabricate exact prophecies out of models heavily prone to approximation and unpredictability. But the point is: should we abandon any research on this very serious issue because in the end there are still a few chances that nothing much will happen? Does the data set any alarm bells ringing in our minds?
This is not alarmism but rational planning of risk management, something that unfortunately capitalism does not do very often! Socialists have no reason to oppose the introduction of some long-sightedness into a world dominated by short-term egoistic speculation.
The 2007 assessment also states that:
- In the last few decades, average global temperature and sea levels have displayed an upward trend while the snow cover in the Boreal Hemisphere has shown a decreasing trend as illustrated by the following graph:
- The IPCC is 90% confident that the global average temperature has grown since 1950, mostly because of the greenhouse-gas emission caused by human society. Greenhouse gases are not just carbon dioxide, but also methane, ozone, nitrous oxide, etc. However, other factors have given a positive or negative contribution to the temperature trend, as shown by the following graph:
Clearly, nothing is being hidden here. Negative effects are taken into account, as "model uncertainty" of course. The level of confidence of the scientific community in their knowledge of the mechanisms regulating the behaviour of each contribution is honestly declared in the column furthest to the right (LOSU). Incidentally, we can note that there is no anthropogenic dogma: a natural factor like solar irradiance is declared by the IPCC to be the most important factor after greenhouse gases contributing to global warming. Nevertheless, its role is dwarfed by the one played by pollution.
The IPCC position enjoys overwhelming support from all significant scientific bodies of the world. The only exception until 2007 was the American Association of Petroleum Geologists; the reason is quite clear from a Marxist point of view: this organisation suffers from very heavy pressure from the US oil lobby. Apparently, this pressure was exercised especially on the top bureaucrats of the Association that later abandoned their ambiguous position because of an opposite pressure from the "rank and file". The AAPG is now supportive of the IPCC findings.
The arguments used in Brian J. Baker's article to "debunk" global warming are many, and some of them are in contradiction with each other. Apparently, there are lots of blogs and websites (most of them run by conservatives and even overt reactionaries) devoted to climate-change denial. Most of their authors use the same set of arguments over and over again, and the same stuff has been pasted in Baker's article. I shall try to reduce each argument to its basic core.
Argument 1: Maybe there was a lot of CO2 a long, long time ago (so what?)
Some data show that possibly the correlation between CO2 and warming was different hundreds of millions of years ago. No big surprise therefore that our models do not work for the Phanerozoic period, if one considers that the Earth was quite different at that time. For example, land plants did not yet exist. It is quite clear that land vegetation is rather important as a weather factor.
However, this point is an important one and is not a complete hoax, but it hardly falsifies present-day thinking on global warming. Working out climate and gas concentrations for periods so remote in time is very complicated, and different methods are used for different time intervals. The result is the union of disjointed curves and anyway there is no lack of discrepancies between different data sets as this picture shows:
Baker, of course, picks the most dramatic data and forgets to draw the huge uncertainty range (look at the yellow shading) in the early-Cambrian CO2 spike. His unsourced temperature data seem even more suspicious. These graphs come from a notorious pseudo-scientist and producer of hoaxes, E-G. Beck, but we will talk about him later.
In general, Baker makes a curious usage of graphs in his article. For example, he adds a corollary: life flourished in these 600 million years and yet CO2 has been very high many times. Then, he shows a graph that proves exactly the opposite! Let us just take the graphs he himself uses and superimpose them:
Not an elegant diagram, but it illustrates a simple fact. The relevant curves are the red one (carbon-dioxide concentration) and the green one (thousands of Genera, a rough measure of biodiversity). Apparently, when the red curve goes up, the green curve is low and vice versa: if this data is correct, life flourishes when CO2 decreases as in the Cenozoic!
The correlation seems to be the opposite of what Baker was ineptly trying to prove. If that were true, we should seriously worry about the carbon emissions themselves and not just their effect on global warming.
Argument 2: In the Middle Ages it was quite warm too (so what?)
Baker compares two graphs issued by the IPCC, one allegedly from 1995 and the other one from 1998. In the first one, the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) seems warmer than now. In the second one, there is the "hockey stick", i.e. a long period with variations that show no large long-term trend followed by a clear upward trend in the last decades of the 20th century.
How can such a big change in the data be explained? Baker's answer is simple: they had to get rid of dangerous evidence. The truth is even simpler: the first graph (that comes from the first IPCC report of 1990) does not represent average global temperature but just the temperature of Central England. The excellent award-winning website RealClimate explains:
"It originally is taken from the first IPCC report of 1990 [...] At that time, no large-scale temperature reconstructions were available yet. To give an indication of past climate variability, the report showed Lamb's Central England estimate. (Unfortunately this was not stated in the report - an oversight which shows that IPCC review procedures in the early days were not what they are now.[...])"
The story of this graph is quite complicated and has been explained in detail by comrade Emil Reed in a previous article. (Emil Reed replies to Brian J. Baker on climate change).
In fact, apart from the pollution that produces global warming, there is also a lot of rubbish denying global warming on the basis of local data produced every day, and it usually originates from the same greedy private companies! Also Baker's article is filled with at least eight charts based on local data (China, Central England, Arctic Pole...). In part three, we are also informed that "Kazakhstan was subjected to its coldest winter weather in 40 years". Inside my fridge it is very cold too and I did not notice any warming trend.
Global warming does not imply that every part of the planet will warm up. On the contrary, some opposite effects are expected on a local scale. This is the meaning of the word "average", as in "average global temperature". Global consequences of the climate change will nevertheless be felt almost everywhere, for example in the form of more frequent extreme conditions and rises in sea level.
Argument 3: Some say that the "hockey stick" is an artefact (but they are wrong)
«In the end, it's important not to lose sight of the forest for the trees, where the ‘forest' refers to the totality of scientific evidence for global warming.» (Richard L. Smith, reporting on the hockey stick controversy in the newsletter of the American Statistical Association, Section on Statistics & the Environment, Spring 2007 issue)
This is another old story, but it has a much more interesting political side. Baker tells the story but, even though his article is mistitled "A Socialist Perspective", he fails to mention that he is parroting the arguments used by the Republicans in the US Congress in a grotesque "trial" against climate change occurring in June 2005!
The famous hockey-stick-shaped graph shows how global average temperature spiked upwards in the last few decades. A climatologist called Michael Mann plotted the first hockey stick graphs in 1998 and 1999. For this crime against the free market, he has been put under investigation by a subcommittee of the US Congress chaired by the Texas Republican Joe Barton, a global-warming denier and a pollution deregulation fanatic, with clear links to the oil industry. The investigation immediately turned into an all-out attack on Mann's work and professional integrity. The "network of ties" between Mann and 43 other palaeoclimatologists has been put under examination, and the whole palaeoclimate community has been accused of having a very bad scientific record.
The approach of Barton and his stooges was clearly aimed at launching a witch-hunt on a part of the scientific community that was perceived as dangerous for the vested interests of his favourite lobby. If anyone is corrupting science in pursuit of their own political agenda, it is precisely these kinds of people!
The hockey stick graph has been replicated by several later studies trying to reconstruct the past behaviour of world climate. Some of their results are shown here:
The hockey stick part is the last millennium, since temperature began to decrease after the Medieval Warm Period until the latest global-warming phenomenon (incidentally, Baker writes that the MWP is "eliminated" in these graphs - he was probably looking at them upside-down like the biodiversity chart...).
The first important hockey stick graph was generated by Mann and others on the basis of the features of tree rings (the rings you can see if you cut a tree's trunk). Some trees are pretty old, therefore it is a good way of working out the temperature of a place centuries ago. Of course, several sets of data had to be used to give a picture on a global scale; Mann and the other authors of the first hockey stick graph actually focused only on the Northern hemisphere.
What is the relation between tree rings and temperature? They tried to determine it on the basis of instrumental data - the temperatures we actually know for sure. Using well-established statistical techniques to extract a pattern out of raw data, they tried to "sum up" a big amount of data reducing it to its "principal components". This makes sense also as a way of filtering out parts of the data ("noise") that are not related to climate.
Of course, the reducing of the whole data set to a simpler description had to pass through a validation check: if the principal components, calibrated on the basis of 20th-century data, were still significant enough to describe effectively the 19th-century data, probably no fundamental information was lost in the process and they could be used to guess the approximate temperature of previous centuries on the base of tree rings. Mann et al found two principal components, which were good enough to mimic the whole data set and they used them to produce a hockey stick graph out of the tree data.
Two researchers, Stephen McIntyre and the market fundamentalist economist Ross McKitrick, wrote an article against Mann et al in 2005. Climate change deniers see plots everywhere, with scientists being bought by powerful green lobbies (or capitalist lobbies, in the Baker variant of this conspiracy theory), but strangely enough they do not notice how Mr McIntyre signed his most famous article: "Stephen McIntyre - Northwest Exploration Co., Ltd., Toronto, Ontario, Canada". This man is not on the payroll of the oil and gas capitalists: he is an oil and gas capitalist! He founded Northwest Exploration Co., Ltd., to be taken over by CGX Energy Inc., who hired McIntyre as a strategic advisor. He also worked for the Canadian government and, more notably, is listed as an "expert" in the portfolio of the Marshall Institute, a lobby based in Washington, D.C. that campaigns for the Strategic Defense Initiative and space weapons, against climate change theories and in favour of the tobacco industry: warmongering professional deniers, hardly a useful source for "a socialist perspective" on imperialist wars, climate change or lung cancer.
Nevertheless, McIntyre, during a round-table chat organised by the very Marshall Institute, assures us that he acted only for the sake of truth:
"This is costing me money to do. Normally I would be working on some business deals. I spent quite a bit of time on this and I found it quite interesting. Fortunately I have had some stocks go up."
Fortunately indeed! We all hope that global-warming hysteria does not make them go down!
Without going into details here, the article by McIntyre and McKitrick questioned a detail of the statistical technique used by Mann and some other flaws in the usage of some series of data related to North American trees.
McIntyre proposes another way of picking the principal components. He applies an alternative way, and then he takes two (different) principal components again and argues that the result is different. Mann replies that by changing the way of picking the principal components, the number of significant principal components must change too. The correct number with the alternative technique is 5, according to Mann. Using 5 components, the result is the same again.
This is all very interesting, but could take us a bit off track. In the end, what is politically important is to know if this controversy makes some difference. It does not. Flaws in the data can be fixed and the hockey stick would still be there. The whole selection of principal components could be abandoned and the hockey stick would still be there. McIntyre's method could be utilised and if relevant data are not excluded the hockey stick would still be there. Methods that are different altogether can replace principal components analysis and the hockey stick would still be there.
Also graphs published by sceptical lobbyists like the Fraser Institute cannot help displaying a hockey stick:
Argument 4: Using different methods to plot the historical graphs, there is nothing special happening recently (just not true)
Comrade Louis Proyect, who maintains a successful mailing list about Marxism and an interesting website, had it right when he pointed out the light-minded usage of quotations by Brian J. Baker. Quite often he seems to have cited rumours and allegations more than actual statements. In three different cases, he assures us that there are alternative views that deny, or denied in the past, the global warming postulated by those blind believers that just use the silly graphs produced by mainstream dendro-chronology (study of the past through the examination of tree rings). But also these citations are not very scrupulous.
Craig Loehle should be one of the alternatives. He proposes a different opinion on the way tree rings depend on climate. Brian believes Loehle's view to obliterate his own position, but Loehle seems to be uninformed of that, because as late as March 2007 he co-authored an interesting article called Forecasting the Effects of Global Warming on Biodiversity.
Another candidate for leader of the denial movement, in Baker's opinion, is Shaopeng Huang. As Proyect suggested, he is hardly in disagreement with the scientific consensus on global warming. He is the custodian of the Global Database of Borehole Temperatures and Climate Reconstructions, available online. The idea supporting his research is that "Departures from the expected increase in temperature with depth (the geothermal gradient) can be interpreted in terms of changes in temperature at the surface in the past, which have slowly diffused downward, warming or cooling layers meters below the surface". So, according to a group of researchers, borehole data might be regarded as a buried memory of long-term trends of temperature. In the abstract of one of his 1999 articles Shaopeng Huang's findings are summed up in this way: "The results confirm the unusual warming of the twentieth century revealed by the instrumental record, but suggest that the cumulative change over the past five centuries amounts to about 1 K, exceeding recent estimates from conventional climate proxy". In any case, Shaopeng Huang is living proof that the hockey stick graph is confirmed by independent studies using a completely different way of deriving the temperature trends.
This is the global conclusion derived by 952 individual reconstructions based on borehole data, as shown on the Global Database of Borehole Temperatures and Climate Reconstructions:
The third mythical denier, according to Brian Baker, is Dr Stephen Schneider - not now, but 30 years ago. Now Schneider is one of the most famous supporters of the theory of global warming, but Baker says that "Before Global Warming became the politically correct scientific fashion of the 1990s, [...] it had become a scientific article of faith that the Ice Age was about to happen [...] Schneider wrote paper after paper describing the inevitability of the coming ice age".
This is a widely circulated double myth. First of all, Schneider did not write "paper after paper" predicting an "inevitable" ice age. He co-authored one paper, whose main author was S. Ichtiaque Rasool, that correctly stated that aerosol-like particulate pollution has a cooling effect, while greenhouses gases have a warming effect. In fact, in the Radiative Forcing Components table above, issued by the IPCC, we can see that aerosol emissions do have an effect that counters the prevailing warming trend also according to 21st-century science. However, the article by Rasool and Schneider seriously underestimated the effect of greenhouse gases on climate; therefore, it depicted the twofold pollution-caused radiative forcing as having a prevailing cooling effect instead of a warming one. Science is not about prophecies; this example just shows the evolution of the research on the subject. Strange as it may sound, the opposite conclusion is just the result of a finer tuning of the same basic intuitions of that obsolete article. Do we oppose the fundamental scientific idea that concrete quantitative considerations do have an effect on the results of a theory? Truth is always concrete, as Lenin said.
Secondly, there never was a "scientific article of faith" proclaiming a coming ice age. Perhaps the mass media did promote ice age hysteria, but this was never done with the support of complacent scientists.
Somebody actually counted how many scientific articles (peer-reviewed, published in scientific reviews etc.) during the last few decades predicted global warming, how many predicted global cooling, and how many took a neutral stance. One of such quantitative researches gave the following graphical result:
Figure 8. The number of papers classified as predicting, implying or providing supporting evidence for future global cooling, warming and neutral categories as defined in the text and listed in Table1. During the period 1965 through 1979, our literature survey found 7 cooling papers, 19 neutral and 42 warming. In no year were there more global cooling papers than global warming.
In striking contrast to the correct opinion already building up in the scientific community during the late Seventies, a survey by Maxwell T. & Jules M. Boykoff showed a different picture in 4 influential US newspapers as late as in the 1988-2002 period. The Boykoffs categorised 636 articles published by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times. Notwithstanding a scientific consensus had already been reached on the issue, 52.7% of the articles paid the same attention to global-warming and "sceptic" positions. Only 5.9% of the articles explained global warming without counterbalancing it with an opposing position - actually less than the number of articles that provided only "alternative" views.
The funny part of Baker's position is that he apparently believes that scientists are more politically motivated in their alleged pro-capitalist actions than journalists and conservative politicians. Isn't it an astonishing position for a Marxist? The true story is that public acceptance of global warming as a fact was consciously delayed by the very same lobby network that is now spreading scepticism.
Argument 5: A computer model is used (as for everything else)
Baker devotes a sizeable part of his article to criticise the use of computer models. He lists all approximations used in computer modelling and also gives us some insight into the problems of his own job.
What does such an argument imply? If one has to take it at face value, we should be proposing to abolish physical models. Whoever, like Baker himself, has worked with models knows that they can only roughly represent a partial aspect of reality; also the model of the most elementary physical processes are filled with instrumental data (underived by general principles), linearisations, simplifications, omission of "secondary" components. This is a great confirmation of the dialectical position on gnoseology, which denies the possibility of final knowledge and conceives the process of knowledge as a never-ending approach to an infinitely complex objective reality.
As Lenin wrote in Materialism And Empirio-Criticism:
«Two questions are obviously confused here: 1) Is there such a thing as objective truth, that is, can human ideas have a content that does not depend on a subject, that does not depend either on a human being, or on humanity? 2) If so, can human ideas, which give expression to objective truth, express it all at one time, as a whole, unconditionally, absolutely, or only approximately, relatively?»
The partiality of any knowledge does not necessarily imply partisanship in a bad sense. Here, the detail that computers are used is completely irrelevant. Models are an important part of science, and computers have just helped us in the construction of more complex models that we could never solve by hand.
Bourgeois theoreticians, with their open contempt of broad generalisations, have always had an evident hostility towards general models, usually favouring narrower correlations. In fact, this argument has been often used against Marxist economics and sociology.
What is the alternative proposed to models? Just statistical correlations, like the ones Baker likes so much: those produced by Svenmark and other deniers to suggest that the sun's magnetic field is the only factor in climate change. These studies just superimpose two graphs and try to demonstrate something in that naïve manner. RealClimate effectively mocked them using the following diagram that shows a mysterious correlation between Republicans in the US Senate and sunspots (the mock correlation undergoes an unexplained inversion event - a "phase shift" - around 1986):
The point is that correlation is not causation. Something can always happen together with something else and yet not be its cause: it could be its effect, instead, or both events might be caused by a third cause. A typical example to mock correlationists is to underline how global average temperature has increased as the same time as Caribbean pirates have decreased.
This logical fallacy is called cum hoc ergo propter hoc and is a typical feature of the pigeon brain. If a pigeon is fed while it is performing, for instance, a certain neck gesture, it will "infer" that the gesture caused the food to be supplied and will repeat the gesture in an attempt to obtain more food. For this reason, pigeons are sometimes described by ethologists as exhibiting a "superstitious behaviour".
Models give more insight (and make us cleverer than pigeons) because they explore the actual causal connections between processes.
Argument 6: Some people say that the sun is the only important factor (while they forge the data)
Natural changes in sun radiation are an important factor in global climate, of course. Baker's article states that they are the only important factor and tries to present this highly controversial conclusion as a fact denied only by anthropogenic-global-warming hard-liners.
Official graphs issued by the IPCC once more tell quite a different story (for the complete graph, with continental data too):
Both natural (blue line) and artificial forcings are needed to explain the observed temperatures. The IPCC does not neglect "solar activity and volcanoes", as the caption says. The point is that these natural phenomena do not display any significant long-term trend over the last four decades, therefore they cannot account for what we usually mean by "global warming". Nevertheless, they do account for some prior and present climate variability.
The idea that variations in the sun's magnetic field are the decisive factor comes from the work of a group around Henrik Svensmark, researchers at the Danish National Space Center. They believe they proved in 2006 that cosmic rays can trigger the formation of clouds. This was not actually proved in a direct way, but their research shows that the rays can act as a catalyst for cloud condensation nuclei. The official press release about the article explained:
«Interestingly, during the 20th Century, the Sun's magnetic field (which shield's Earth from cosmic rays) more than doubled, thereby reducing the average influx of cosmic rays. The resulting reduction in cloudiness, especially of low-altitude clouds, may be a significant factor in the global warming Earth has undergone during the last century. Until now, however, there has been no experimental evidence of how the causal mechanism linking cosmic rays and cloud formation may work.»
The contribution of this research team is widely considered as interesting and useful also by critics, even though most recent studies hold that the "Svensmark effect" is likely to be irrelevant in nature as opposed to lab experiments (mainly because condensation nuclei already exist everywhere in the atmosphere in large quantities).
Mr Svensmark has clearly overdone it in his abandonment of a sober attitude. If we want to have an honest examination of the politics of climate change, the fate of Svensmark's theory clearly demonstrates that in current times there is no conspiracy to prevent "heretics" from having their say about global warming, even when they do that in a very aggressive and hysterical manner.
In 2007, H. Svensmark wrote a pretentious book together with N. Calder titled The Chilling Stars that claims to represent A New Theory of Climate Change. The book had a very wide circulation and was advertised and reviewed by all the mass media.
In 2008, Klimamysteriet (The Cloud Mystery), a documentary on Svensmark's theory, was aired by a state TV channel in Denmark and is to be re-aired in other Scandinavian countries. The film is also favourably advertised on the official website of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The dubious findings of the Danish research team were also echoed by the award-winning British documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle aired on UK's Channel Four in 2007. Furthermore, the prestigious CERN of Geneva has launched the CLOUD project to investigate the role of cosmic rays in cloud formation.
So, where is the conspiracy to silence the dissenters? Apparently, governments, private and state-owned TV channels, big newspapers and publishing houses, gigantic labs like the CERN are giving a lot of space to these contrarians! However, the reliability of the Danish team seems to be seriously compromised by a detailed look at the soundness of the data and graphs they provided to the public to support these sensationalist declarations. The results of this investigation are summed up by a short 2004 article by Paul E. Damon and Peter Laut with the explanatory title Pattern of Strange Errors Plagues Solar Activity and Terrestrial Climate Data. We have already noted above (with the US Senate example) how easily a correlation can be found where there is no causal link, but Damon & Laut went a bit deeper and found something that comes across as something between incompetence and fraud.
In 1991, Eigil Friis-Christensen and Knud Lassen claimed important results on the basis of a wrong graph that used unfiltered data together with filtered data (a gross mistake). The correct graph was never included in any errata corrige because it would have looked absolutely flat, thus contradicting the main claim. To make things worse, another 1995 article by Friis-Christensen and Lassen used wrong maths, again to introduce the same non-existent correlation in the data.
In 1997, Henrik Svensmark joined the data forgers' team. In his 1997 article, he uses the US total cloud cover instead of the global total cloud cover, and once again striking correlation is found. The trick of using local data as opposed to global data has already been criticised above. Global data contradicted his thesis. In 2000, he shifted again to a new theory, the "low cloud cover" theory - of course without recognising that the total cloud cover theory had been falsified by the experience.
«The oceans and satellite records show no net warming since 1998 and the sun spot cycle indicates the onset of another ice age. A fact that is endorsed by both the Chinese and Russian Academy of Sciences, who never bought into the present ecohondriacs' dream.»
This is a good example of how many wrong allegations can be found in this kind of article if they are not carefully verified. In a few lines we can find no less than four errors.
The hoax about the global cooling after 1998 is easily explained: in 1998 El Niño (the gigantic periodic temperature anomaly in the Pacific Ocean) was particularly strong. This created a spike in temperature that temporarily concealed the long-term trend. Subtracting El Niño's effect or just smoothing the graphs the trend is still clearly there.
The sunspot cycle does not prove anything and in any case if an ice age was coming why is the evil capitalist conspiracy not using the ice age to squeeze some more surplus value out of the workers instead of clinging on to a global-warming myth that Baker firmly believes will be debunked in a few months? Are they unable to manage their own interests?
The Chinese Academy of Science is not opposing the theory of global warming or predicting an ice age. In 2004, an official press release of the Academy proudly congratulated the old meteorologist Prof. Ye Duzheng for being awarded the so-called "Nobel prize in Meteorology" assigned by the World Meteorological Organisation. The press release explains that Ye Duzheng's researches "focused on the effects of global warming since the 1980s". Two years later, Hu Jintao also awarded him with the highest scientific prize in China, the State Pre-eminent Science and Technology Award.
Also the Russian Academy of Science now supports the IPCC position. While the Chinese Academy has been openly supportive of the IPCC since the joint statement of 16 national science academies in 2001, the Russian Academy signed a similar statement only in 2005, like the US Science Academy. This delay hardly demonstrates any form of resistance of Russia against a capitalist conspiracy, on the contrary it shows that two imperialist countries with colossal interests in the oil and gas industry like Russia and the USA managed to refrain their own scientists from joining the worldwide scientific consensus but were eventually forced to back the IPCC as a consequence of a general recognition of the problem. The ruling class is now split, with a minority still trying to step back by funding the sceptics and the deniers, and a majority looking for an accommodation with reality that could preserve their own profits while showing a green face to public opinion.
Argument 7: Somebody found yet another curve of CO2 concentration (but he is completely unreliable)
Baker's article supports several positions that are in contradiction with each other. Somewhere on the Internet he found the writings of a German called E. G. Beck. Beck is a notorious master of graph manipulation, unfortunately lacking any other academic reference. He produces nonsensical graphs like the following, that are made fun of on the whole World Wide Web, but are fortunately taken seriously by no one except for a bunch of conspiracy theorists - and the German TV!
Besides its aesthetical aspects, that should already suffice to discard it from any serious scientific discussion, this childish graph uses local and obsolete data (the source is indicated as the 1990 IPCC assessment, but we already noted above that the graph used there just referred to Central England), there is no vertical scale, the curve is manipulated etc.
This individual's "findings" are so ridiculous they should not even be mentioned, but the fact that such material leaked into Baker's article shows that it is very easy to be hijacked when sound science is abandoned in favour of rumours.
Beck is quoted by Baker as the source of an incredible idea: the real data are old carbon-dioxide concentration data, collected in several (and inconsistent) obsolete ways along the last 150 years, contradicted by all updated (proxy) measurements. These "chemical data" are used by this amateur scientist to draw impossible diagrams like this (found in):
It has been shown that the rise and fall in carbon dioxide displayed by this graph is simply inconsistent with several known physical laws and completely unexplainable. The fallacy is even more evident in this plot:
Even a child of six could notice that there is something weird going on in measurements before 1960. On the other hand, mainstream data (derived by proxy measurements with modern techniques) perfectly fit with the instrumental post-1960 data.
Argument 8: Measuring temperature is not a good way to measure temperature (oh really?)
So far, we have mostly been engaged in disputes about models and historical series. Nevertheless, the most important issue from a policymaker's perspective is what is happening now. How is current global warming measured? With thermometers on land climate stations.
This simple fact scandalises Baker and the other deniers. They fancy heavenly indirect measurement from an orbiting satellite rather than earthly direct measurement from a trivial ground station. Why? Heaven knows.
Since there are some discrepancies between the two measurements, in Baker's opinion there is some ground for sarcasm. The result is not very satisfactory:
«In other words there is either something wrong with the land based measurements or the satellite measurements. There is something amiss with a network that has not been properly maintained due to funding shortfalls, that takes no account of the increasing urban sprawl or there is something wrong with an extraterrestrial calibrated measuring system. For those that are still trained with the scientific method which one would be worth a bet?»
To most terrestrial readers, an ET-calibrated system does not sound very reliable either! Here we have a failed attempt to badmouth everyday, common sense practice in favour of more obscure techniques.
By the way, this quotation scores another point against Baker's conspiracy theory. If land measurement is evil and a tool of the global-warming eco-plot and if the world bourgeoisie is manoeuvring to spread this new religion, why are there "funding shortfalls"?! In fact, the funding is actually poor but for exactly the opposite reason.
Baker says that land stations are biased because the UHI (Urban Heat Island) effect is not taken into account. The Urban Heat Island effect depends on urban development around measurement sites occurred during the lifetime of the stations. Fortunately, the UHI effect is taken into account in mainstream researches like the latest IPCC assessment, but Baker provides a quotation stating that it is massively underestimated. Who is the quotation from? Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, again, two lobby-connected, dubious, biased researchers that we have already been introduced to. No, thanks, comrade Brian, the hockey stick story was useless enough to have us pay them attention again.
Baker insists with the ET measurements and the ocean heat absorption estimates that do not fit well with land measurement and the global climate model. He also shows us two graphs, one from the stratosphere and one from the lower troposphere. The stratosphere data are interesting in a general way because they challenge the model, but they are not directly relevant here. The lower-troposphere data show an increasing trend in temperature corresponding to 0.178 degrees per decade. If we have to take these data as genuine, the contradiction with the consensus model is far from evident. 0.178 degrees per decade is 1.78 degrees per century, which is not so strikingly inconsistent with the predictions for (land) temperature increase that can be found in the IPCC report.
Ocean heat absorption has been estimated by the Argo project. According to some, these estimates do not fit very well with the global climate model in use. Baker provides the following comment:
«The final irony here is that it was at the Scipps Institute for Oceanography that Keeling first established the CO2 monitoring station on Mauna Lao in Hawaii, with the belief that ‘man was playing a dangerous experiment with the planet by the release of anthropogenic CO2 from fossil fuel burning.' But it is the same Institute that pushed for the deployment of the Argo buoys with the ‘belief' that it would prove that the oceans are absorbing the heat as required by the climate models.»
What should this prove? Indeed, this just shows the integrity and soundness of this field of research and of the scientists involved in it, and contradicts the theory that there is a plot to cover up the truth and cling on to unverified allegations.
Argument 9: Ice is not melting at the Poles and there is snow everywhere (so what?)
Baker explains that in the Antarctic the ice is not melting so much as is claimed and it is still quite a cold place. His article gives some examples of how the TV is vulgarising global warming and ice caps melting. We are all too familiar with pictures of white bears trapped on cracking icebergs, unscientific movies like Waterworld (where the sea level rises by thousands of metres, covering the whole planet apart from the Himalayan peaks), and summer reports from the Arctic and Antarctic (Baker calls the latter "winter reportages" but they are actually done in summer - winter and summer time in the year are inverted in the other hemisphere but their names are not).
This introduces another important faction in the politics of climate change: climate change ideologues. Media coverage and political opportunism should not be confused with scientific consensus. These people do more harm than good to the establishment of serious policies to counter global warming, and basically pursue a catastrophist agenda, which is not the position of the Marxists. Exaggerating the impact of climate change only plays into the hands of those who propose extreme solutions involving a reversal of all forms of large-scale industrialisation. This position is both reactionary and utopian at the same time.
Reversing industrialisation would mean to move the clock back to the 18th or 17th century, thus removing any possibility of an actual solution to the problems of the masses on a world scale. The Marxist point of view is that industrialisation and the wonderful development of the productive forces unleashed by the bourgeois revolution and the establishment of capitalism as a worldwide system was a progressive achievement because for the first time in human history the productivity of labour has reached a point where, with a different organisation of society, it could be used to introduce socialism and workers' democracy.
As a consequence, notwithstanding our opposition to climate change denial, we join hands with serious scientists and essayists in denouncing and exposing all the nonsense spread by doomsday preachers. Marxism is an optimistic philosophy and, while not completely ruling out the menace of a collapse of civilisation into barbarism ‑ if the proletariat should repeatedly fail to take power ‑ we firmly believe that humankind will very probably be able to remove capitalism and survive extinction.
So, is the ice melting or not? It depends. Ice is melting in the Arctic Sea and in the mountain glaciers; it is not melting so much in the Antarctic.
Baker talks about snow and storms. He shows us two images representing the snow coverage of the Boreal Hemisphere, in 1980 and 2008. Then he lists a lot of large snowstorms occurring in winter 2007-08 in different parts of the world. In the opinion of many global-warming deniers, this should demonstrate that the world is getting colder.
According to the ABC of meteorology, snow and ice are two different things. RealClimate explains:
«snowfall is often predicted to increase in many regions in response to anthropogenic climate change, since warmer air, all other things being equal, holds more moisture, and therefore, the potential for greater amounts of precipitation whatever form that precipitation takes.»
In a nutshell, in some areas and in some weeks of the year, if it is warmer, but still under 0°C, it will snow more than before. Nevertheless, weather conditions in one season do not prove anything, using them as an argument is just wrong whatever conclusion is drawn. This applies to TV vulgarisations by naïve climate change ideologues as much as blog posts by naïve global-warming deniers.
Ice is a different story. Everybody can check what happens to the ice in the North Pole in real time (at an online service, maintained by The Cryosphere Today). The important thing is to distinguish ice (violet) from snow (white) - if Baker had done that, he would have noticed that the pictures he provided prove the opposite of what he believes. I compared the situation at my birth date and at my 28th birthday and the change is impressive:
The Antarcti was not predicted to melt quickly by the IPCC reports. What the simplified ideology says is completely another issue. This can be easily verified by anyone by reading the latest IPCC assessment where we read:
«Current global model studies project that the Antarctic ice sheet will remain too cold for widespread surface melting and gain mass due to increased snowfall.»
Despite this, Baker's article states that the actual conditions of the Antarctic falsify the position of the IPCC. Joseph D'Aleo, a meteorologist, is quoted as a source of this evaluation. And who pays Mr D'Aleo to say that? Joseph D'Aleo is the leading name of a team that produced one of the global-warming deniers' gospels, the Independent Summary for Policy Makers of the Text of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. This is a truly astonishing document. It is basically a fraudulent and deceptive manoeuvre to spread a spurious interpretation of the IPCC Fourth Assessment. It maliciously uses the IPCC's name only to criticise its true conclusions. This document, freely downloadable from its original and official source, is the final proof of the existence of a conspiracy about global warming - yes, but a conspiracy that has the purpose of denying it!
The co-ordinator of the team that produced the Independent Summary is our old friend, Ross McKitrick, the right-wing economist that tried to discredit the hockey stick graph; his accomplice, the oil and gas speculator McIntyre, is given credit in the acknowledgements. Two individuals called Schneider (Prof. Friedrich Schneider and one Nicholas Schneider) have also been involved in this shameful project, probably just in order that people will confuse them with Stephen Schneider. It is the same old trick: throw mud in every direction, some of it will stick somewhere.
The organisation that issued this rubbish is the Fraser Institute, a "libertarian" think-tank, funded by Exxon Mobile and connected through its board of directors to several other North-American energy, oil and gas companies. Their commitment to the free market is openly declared in the document itself, of course by using the typical rhetorical devices of capitalist propaganda:
« Our vision is a free and prosperous world where individuals benefit from greater choice, competitive markets, and personal responsibility.»
The reference to personal responsibility is really ironic in the mouth of these irresponsible mercenaries. Funnily enough, they submitted their work to 43 reviewers (picked by them) and included the feedback results in the document itself. This is very unusual behaviour. Probably, they have a guilty conscience. On top of this, to improve their marks they had to "fix" them in the elegant way displayed by the following quotation:
«In addition, 11 reviewers asked to remain anonymous.»
Oh, please. (Including the "anonymous reviewers", the marks were excellent.)
Baker's "scientific" arguments are extremely weak. Moreover, if one traces them back to their material base, vested economic interests and conservative politics is what will be found. We would do better to move on to the political points. Unfortunately, they do not reveal a stronger argument.
A method clarification: Marxism and conspiracy theories
«in all ideology men and their circumstances appear upside-down as in a camera obscura»
Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology
Marxism is no conspiracy theory. This does not mean that we deny the existence of secret plots. Basically, every bourgeois or reformist political party or government is the public façade of a kind of secret plot, because its bodies hold private sessions where strategies in favour of the ruling class are worked out. George W. Bush will never literally declare "I have been given this position to defend the interests of the US ruling class", nevertheless this is exactly what he does, and he also states that by using cleverer expressions (as much as his notorious brain limitations allow him to compose clever sentences), like "It is my duty to protect the interests of the US economy and to implement business-friendly policies".
Is he conscious that the interests of the US bourgeoisie conflict with the interests of most of the US population (let alone the rest of the world)? We have no way of knowing, and in the end it is not relevant from our point of view. Quite often the ruling class believes its own propaganda. This does not change our attitude to them. In Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court, Arthur is very naïve and clearly intimately convinced of the official ideology. He maintains his feudal beliefs also when he disguises himself as a poor man to visit the country incognito and ends up enslaved by a slave trader.
Smarter rulers, especially the ones with a past record of involvement in the Left and comprehension of Marxism, might as well be acting maliciously and consciously use ideology to deceive the downtrodden. In a way, this makes them more vicious and dangerous for us.
Occasionally, the bourgeoisie resorts to true plots. The WMD hoax is one such case. Probably, a lot of people in the US administration and military, as well as in the neo-con intellectual clique, knew perfectly well that there was no such thing as a weapon of mass destruction hidden somewhere in the Iraqi desert. Nevertheless, they managed to convince a lot of people (namely, a relevant percentage of Americans in 2002-2003) that this was the truth; some of those who were convinced by them, thus becoming unconscious tools for the spreading of this hoax, could also be people in leadership positions in the US state apparatus, military, politics, press, religious hierarchies etc. They were not informed by the White House that it was just a trick.
However, people in the top layers of society were keen to be convinced because of their social position, their class background, and their material interests, for believing it was useful to justify their own privileges and parasitic role in society. As Lenin underlined in Marxism and Revisionism:
«There is a well-known saying that if geometrical axioms affected human interests attempts would certainly be made to refute them.»
Similarly, what is the interest of the ruling layers of society is postulated as an established truth notwithstanding what reason has to say.
Regarding WMDs, also a lot of people in the bottom layers of society shared the same false belief of their masters, at that time. That is how any form of dominant idea works - it spills from above but affects the bottom too. Only a (large) minority of US workers and youth opposed the WMD hoax from the beginning, either because they were more informed or they were following their class instinct. Most of them changed their mind later, when the lies were more effectively exposed - basically, because no super-weapon was found anywhere half-buried in the sand, and it was not very easy to forge a fake one in the unstable conditions of the Iraqi occupation.
As the WMD plot shows, keeping a plot completely secret is extremely difficult, also for the most powerful and ramified bourgeois apparatus of the planet, US imperialism and its British puppet. Sooner or later any plot will be exposed. It will expire and then rot - sometimes causing more harm than good to the cause it was forged for. "Weapon of mass destruction" has rapidly become a worldwide synonym for "government-forged lie". The propaganda machine turned into a boomerang.
It is much simpler and more useful to rely on the more subtle mechanics of standard propaganda and ideology-making, i.e. disclosed and overt lying instead of behind-the-scenes manoeuvring.
Capitalist society is a very complex organism, where conflicting interests, groups, lobbies, companies and political trends coexist. A country can easily have a strong political or commercial interest in exposing another country's plans, different mass media pursue different aims and single mavericks can have a decisive role in destroying very complicated constructions relying upon a false basement. For this reason, we need to be suspicious when somebody talks about large conspiracies involving tens of thousands of people from different countries and with different material interests. If global warming were a myth, this would imply an impossibly large conspiracy, including all scientific bodies of the planet - but, strangely enough, not the Republican delegation in the US Senate...
On top of that, the ruling class itself needs to keep the state apparatus, the scientific community and the media system under its control, which is impossible if, for instance, the bureaucracy of the secret services becomes too powerful or the scientists too corrupted. This is the main reason why documents are declassified after a certain time, a peer-review system for scientific articles is maintained etc. The rulers do not want to be themselves fooled!
The book by Eva Golinger The Chávez Code exposed the role of US interference in the right-wing plots to stop the Bolivarian Revolution and overthrow the legitimate government, only by using declassified documents provided by the CIA, the NED, USAID and other imperialist agencies on the basis of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Her website venezuelafoia.info contains a lot of such documents that have been disclosed (even though in a carefully censored form).
In a way, my article is exposing several right-wing and industry-funded plots to conceal or confuse the truth about global warming. I did not need to access any confidential paper. I did not even need to leave my desk to do that, because lobbies are openly declared institutions in the United States and in any case all the deniers' think tanks put on the Web everything they do, who they are and what their purposes are. They just rely on the fact that most people will not check the sources.
Another good example of how real plots occur under capitalism is the Italian secret Masonic lodge Propaganda 2, discovered and subsequently dismantled in 1981. In the Plan for a National Rebirth secretly issued by the lodge for its members (a project for social and political modifications according to the interests of the bourgeoisie) astonishing sentences like the following can be found:
«Political parties, press and trade unions can be stimulated with economic-financial manoeuvres. A fund of 30 or 40 billion Liras available seems enough to allow for loyal and selected men to conquer the key positions needed to gain control.»
This says a lot about how the bourgeois know that they can easily buy politicians, journalists and trade union bureaucrats. However, the dismantlement of Propaganda 2 did not prevent the Italian bourgeoisie to implement precisely the policies envisioned in the Plan, but this was not done secretly but in an overt way, for example by Berlusconi (himself a former member of Propaganda 2) and also by the centre-left governments. All main "reforms" implemented by the governments in power in Italy since the Eighties follow the lines established by the Plan for a National Rebirth. Ideology and the convergence of material interests were more effective than complicated and risky plots.
Ideologies of climate change
When we discuss issues like global warming, instead of looking for conspiracies we should analyse their political aspect mainly in terms of ideologies and evident class interests. With "ideology" we refer to "false consciousness" as explained by Engels (Letter to Franz Mehring, July 14, 1893):
«Ideology is a process accomplished by the so-called thinker consciously, indeed, but with a false consciousness. The real motives impelling him remain unknown to him, otherwise it would not be an ideological process at all. Hence he imagines false or apparent motives.»
The ideologies spread by the ruling class in dealing with the problem of global warming fall into one of two main categories. We have ideologies of inaction and ideologies of abstinence.
Ideologies of inaction are based on the ruling class's interest not to address global warming with effective yet non-profitable policies. They try to minimise the scope of the problem or to deny it altogether or to propose fake solutions that, incidentally, happen to be very good for their profits. Global-warming denial is an extreme case of inaction ideology but it is just the most evident top of the iceberg - an iceberg that is not melting, unfortunately.
Ideologies of abstinence are often the product of petty-bourgeois ideologies. These ideas, in one way, basically preach in favour of cutting the living standards of the majority of the world population. In an indirect way, they still play into the hands of the grand bourgeoisie, but they fit better with the outlook of the intermediate strata of society, like the typical social base of Green parties. These positions more often influence workers' parties and organisations and also pseudo-revolutionary tendencies that are always keen to adapt to the ideas of the petty bourgeoisie.
These ideologies deserve our attention because countering them has become a political necessity and part of the daily duty of a Marxist organisation.
Ideologies of inaction
The bourgeois are repelled by the idea that global warming needs to be consciously addressed with a planned worldwide public intervention. This goes so much against all their theories about the self-regulatory virtues of the market - and against their vested interests - that they often try to spread an irrational indifference to this gigantic problem.
This ideological approach comes in different hues and gradations, that range from the argument that the world is warming but that this is all for the best (because, as Brian Baker said, "Cold kills more than warm") to an all-out denial of any climate change.
Sometimes the bourgeoisie applies to climate the same arguments they apply against economic planning. They say that it is a chaotic system. This is true of all complex systems; all of them have a chaotic component, which basically means that the exact behaviour of such systems is highly sensitive to small perturbations. But this does not prove that no prediction is possible. This rules out detailed deterministic predictions, not the discovery of patterns and long-term trends. Indeed, chaos theory does not regard complex systems as unpredictable and random; on the contrary it gives a powerful tool to explain statistically their apparently random behaviour while at the same time defining the limits of predictability.
As climatologists say, weather is unpredictable, climate is predictable (to a certain extent), both in its seasonal and geographical features and in its long-term trends. It is difficult to predict whether Christmas 2010 will be a sunny day in Paris, but you can easily predict that Paris in December 2010 will, on average, be colder than August 2010. In the same way, Marxism can predict some political and economic events even though it cannot precisely predict who will win a battle in a war or the precise date and time when there will be a crash on the stock exchange.
Another anti-planning argument is self-regulation. Any Marxist knows that this argument is weak as far as capitalist economy is concerned, but it is even weaker about climate. According to this argument, nature self-regulates therefore we should not be too worried about the planet. First of all, for Marxists humankind is a part of nature, therefore the self-regulation should include human behaviour too; and the way in which humans can self-regulate is exactly by taking appropriate conscious measures to counter global warming if it is becoming harmful. Secondly, if we consider nature and humankind as two separate things and we state that nature self-regulates, this might mean that this self-regulation includes the elimination of humankind or forcing a strong reduction of its negative influence. It is true that nature always finds a way out to "restore order" when there is a crisis, but very often this way out has implied mass extinctions and the rise of new breeds of living beings in the planet's ecological system.
Since the Marxists are not observers from without but active members of the biosphere, we are not going to accept a "solution" that would represent a catastrophe for human beings; on the contrary, our opinion is that humankind represents nature's attempt to become conscious of itself, an attempt that will only be completed when the reign of consciousness will reach its apex with the establishment of a worldwide planned economy, capable of tuning the ecosystem, climate and geography of the planet on the basis of a long-term plan to attain higher levels of energy usage, recycling and storage. This will finally reconcile humans and nature, making humanity a responsible member of the natural domain and nature a recognised component of the world economy.
Denial is more a provocation than an actual belief on the part of the bulk of the ruling class. The dominant approach among the capitalists is to cool down the global-warming issue, not to deny it. Denial is just an extra weapon in their arsenal, like Fascist gangs are sometimes used to pave the way for mainstream conservative parties, to spread racism and to attack left-wing militants, but only a very small number of capitalists would actually put the Fascists in power again.
Usually, special groups of deniers are set up that act like propaganda machines in order to disseminate confusion on the science behind global warming. Then the heavy artillery of the other, subtler, ideologies of inaction steps in.
One of those denial elite squads, GlobalWarming.org (aka Americans for Prosperity), commented on the behaviour of the heavy artillery behind them:
«You may have wondered why there has been no Congressional effort to actually legislate the "global warming" policies that will supposedly save the planet from itself.»
They are perfectly conscious that the governments are acting in a way that is not consistent with the global-warming alarm. They basically accuse the politicians that recognise global warming as a truth of hypocrisy, but at the same time they cannot hide their satisfaction with the governments' lack of action.
GlobalWarming.org is organising a "Hot Air Tour" against "global-warming alarmism" in defence of the Americans' right to prosperity, freedom and low taxation. In this tour they will visit all the main US cities to spread the latest climate-sceptical gospel. They boast on the Tour's website to have already received more than $250,000 in donations; I suspect this is not just from "true scientists" pursuing a "socialist perspective" like Brian J. Baker. (Nevertheless, one of the "true scientists" favourably quoted by Baker, Joseph D'Aleo, appears on the front page of their website.)
Indeed, they seem to have quite a bad opinion about socialism:
«Big-government, command-and-control technocrats believe that when central planning fails, the solution is a better plan and smarter planners. They never step back and look at whether planning makes sense in the first place. This was true of the Soviet Union, with tragic five-year plan after five-year plan. It was true of Communist China, with Mao's revolutionary upheavals. And today, here in the United States, it is true of government energy policy.»
This kind of politics is far from unusual among global-warming deniers.
A funny group is the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, "a coalition of clergy, theologians, religious leaders, scientists, academics, and policy experts committed to bringing a balanced Biblical view of stewardship to the critical issues of environment and development". They combine global-warming denial with Christian fundamentalism, rabid anti-Communism and laissez-faire economics. They are not the lunatic fringe of global-warming denial but typical representatives of this trend.
We could list several of those hoax-making task forces. Some have been named and exposed in my reply to Baker's science. Nevertheless, a frank description has to underline the fact that the US Republicans and the UK Conservatives are in the front line in this dirty game.
The webpage of the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works is a good example of the current situation. The page is split in two halves; on the left, the Democrats are proposing to "Act now to stop global warming!" - by calculating your "carbon footprint" and thus putting the blame on the average worker; on the right, the Republicans are using the taxpayers' money to spread the pseudo-science of global-warming denial.
In Britain, the vanguard of Tory deniers comprises Baron Nigel Lawson, Chancellor of the Exchequer under Margaret Thatcher. Brian Baker's article states that Margaret Thatcher was the initiator of the global-warming mania in order to close down British coal factories. This theory has been taken by comrade Brian from a documentary called The Great Global Warming Swindle, but it has no real foundation. In fact, it was Nigel Lawson who prepared the attack on the coal miners when he was Secretary of State for Energy and a key economist within Lady Thatcher's administration! And he is a global-warming denier!
In his latest book against the climate change theory, An Appeal to Reason, Baron Lawson also states that the Greens are actually ex "reds" that are using global warming to smash capitalism. Probably, when Lawson "appealed to Reason", Reason replied "I'm busy now, try again later".
Refusal to plan adaptation
«[...] more extensive adaptation is required to reduce vulnerability to climate change.»
(IPCC, Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report)
Notwithstanding the opinion of Al Gore, who labelled adaptation to global warming as "laziness" in his 1992 book Earth in the Balance, part of the "lazy" approach is precisely the refusal to plan any form of pre-emptive adaptation to climate change. The debate is focused on the measures to take in order to mitigate the anthropogenic effects, while the problem of reducing humanity's vulnerability to global warming is neglected. The reason is clear: directly intervening in the structure of society to make it more robust according to a centralised international plan is a stronger menace to capitalist "freedom" and questions the viability of the obsolescent concept of national sovereignty. Not only are industrial production and transportation affected by the problem of adaptation, but so is global human society as a whole.
The last IPCC documents recognise the importance of combining adaptation and mitigation, and also lament negligence of the governments in planning adaptation to climate change. Mitigation alone is not enough because also in the most optimistic scenarios climate change will occur and the carbon dioxide level will need centuries to restore a "natural" condition. It is just too late to prevent most of the negative effects happening and those groups that care about the distant future must take this into account. Marxists are one such group, because our aims have a very long timescale: the international federation of workers' republics cannot be implemented overnight and the transition to a communist stateless, classless and money-less society is an even longer process. Talking about the socialist future of humanity and ignoring the fate of the planet where the future men and women are still supposed to be living would be quite obtuse.
A list of proposals for adaptation to climate change is provided by the Panel. Most of these proposals use expressions like "national policies", "integrated management", "public policies", "regulations", planning", "international and regional cooperation" etc. This is wishful thinking and the only language that can be used in a document issued by the United Nations, but in any case it expresses the direction that needs to be taken, which is consistent with our socialist views and clashes with the direction taken by the world under capitalism: deregulation, economic anarchy, private initiative, short-sightedness, international conflicts.
Several problems are so serious simply because of the irrationality of capitalism and this is especially the case for the most backward regions. Uneven development on an international scale means that the poorest areas, that will suffer the most from climate change, are also the least prepared to adapt.
An increase in sea level by less than one meter may not sound very menacing, but we have to consider that several densely populated areas of the world are centred on river deltas. For instance, 90 million people live in the Yangtze Delta Metropolitan Area. The Niger Delta is home to more than 30 million people; ironically, this delta is the world's highest single contributor to greenhouse gases.
Another serious problem is related to agriculture. According to many scenarios, global warming should increase crop productivity in the richest areas of the planet, that are usually located at higher latitudes, while the tropical and sub-tropical regions should experience a decrease in agricultural productivity. The global balance may as well be positive, but how do we expect capitalism to deal with this? World hunger will clearly be dramatically affected and mass migrations will occur.
As an extreme case of non-adaptation, instead of preparing for an exacerbation of malnutrition, capitalist governments on a world scale are actually pretending to counter the effect of global warming by... causing more hunger, through the promotion of biofuels that are contributing to a food crisis in most underdeveloped countries.
The planet is a complex system with subtle and sometimes unpredictable behaviours. Human society and its productive forces could be strong enough to balance undesired effects, but this is not possible as long as human economy works in a similar uncontrolled way! International socialism would find a way to implement rational policies against these problems, by putting humankind as a whole in control of the functioning of its own society. Control of the proletariat over social forces has become the precondition for the control of humans over natural forces.
We do not have a superstitious approach to natural processes. Humankind is a part of nature and has always actively modified natural processes, like diverting rivers, controlling floods, irrigating deserts, modifying animal and vegetal species, etc. Fantastic technologies to "fix" the planet can be introduced in the future, for example an article on Wired (June 2008 issue) mentions the following: "For the hapless birds and bees, wildlife scientists are plotting what they call assisted migrations".
Understanding this puts under a different light the remarks made by some scientists about the need for "authoritarian rule" to implement sound policies for the climate. There is at least a grain of truth in the argument by David Shearman and Joseph W. Smith that "authoritarian decisions based on consensus science can be implemented to contain greenhouse emissions". It is true that the race against the clock for adaptation and mitigation cannot be run without harming anybody, because the alternative is to harm everybody. The bourgeoisie has now recognised that its own profits are at risk because of global warming, but wants to put the entire burden on the workers. The workers in turn will fight back and blame the system that is ultimately responsible for this and demand measures that will damage the ruling class. In both cases, there will be a resistance, either by the toilers or by the exploiters, and in both cases political tools to win this resistance will be forged.
In the bourgeois policies for climate change, especially those of the "green capitalist" kind, an authoritarian flavour is implied: the living standards will be mercilessly cut for the sake of "reducing the footprint"; factories will be closed without compensation to the employees and jobs lost with the excuse of pollution, etc. This cannot be effectively done without a certain level of state repression, like Thatcher did at the time of the closures of the coalmines.
But also socialist policies will be seen as authoritarian by the exploiters, because the workers in power will (and will have to) try to break through the limits of private property, the most sacred of all bourgeois "liberties", in order to impose a more rational organisation of the world economy. In the words of Engels (On Authority):
«Have these gentlemen ever seen a revolution? A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is»
As Marxists, we will be prepared to support all drastic measures that will be taken by the downtrodden majority against the tiny handful of irresponsible billionaires in whose interest the planet is facing the most serious risks.
"Carbon trading" is the main solution proposed by that part of the bourgeoisie that recognises the existence of the global-warming problem. The idea (supported by the United Nations) is very simple and applies the concepts of capitalist markets to the emission targets set by the Kyoto protocol in 1997 and enforced since 2005. In a nutshell, each state is given emission allowances based on the targets. The state (or multinational bodies like the European Union) can then give emission allowances to the polluting companies, thus setting a cap on their emissions. If they want to release into the atmosphere a larger quantity of greenhouse gases, they have to buy allowances ("carbon credits") from somebody else. Allowances can be bought also by investing into emission-reducing projects in the underdeveloped countries, like a monoculture tree plantation in India. India is, in fact, the largest recipient of such investments, with 32.9% of the share in 2008, followed by China with 17.8%, Brazil with 12.8% and Mexico with 10.4%. This international carbon offsetting scheme has been established under the Kyoto protocol and is known as Clean Development Mechanism. Another similar scheme is called Joint Implementation and applies to more developed countries like Eastern Europe and Russia "where equivalent reductions can be made more cheaply as costs and regulatory standards are lower", as underlined by the left-wing anti-carbon-trade website Carbon Trade Watch. Different pollutants can also be traded with each other, thus introducing other degrees of freedom for capitalist polluters and further opportunities for them to make or save money.
So far, only the European Union has organised a complete and mandatory "cap & trade" programme for carbon emissions, the EU ETS. The US government has not ratified the Kyoto protocol, but a similar scheme has existed in the USA since 1990 for the reduction of sulphur dioxide (responsible for acid rain) and minor programmes are enforced on a local scale for other forms of pollution.
This system is flawed for several reasons. The fundamental problems are so serious that it is being exposed more and more often in the press as a blatant fraud, with arguments that certainly sound convincing to us.
A recent issue of New Scientist (19 April 2008) has an editorial that begins with the words of Nicholas Stern, former Chief Economist at the World Bank, defining global warming as "the greatest market failure the world has seen". We could not be more in agreement! The editorial, that introduces a long article in the centre pages that completely demolishes the carbon offsetting scheme, states:
«The world has just embarked on an audacious experiment [...] It is called carbon trading, or carbon capitalism if you prefer. [...] If we cannot trust financiers with something as apparently straightforward as the housing market, why should we imagine they can triumph at controlling global pollution? [...] As events continuously remind us, capitalism is an unpredictable beast.»
Of course, the perspective put forward by New Scientist is not a revolutionary one. They just call for a tighter control by governments, more state intervention in the whole process, etc. The point they do not and cannot underline is that governments are the political expressions of polluting private industry itself, and state intervention is against the very rationale of carbon trading. Nevertheless, Socialists have the duty of developing these arguments into an all-out criticism of market-based solutions to market-caused problems.
The allowances can be traded for money, but they are given for free to corporate polluters. The usual system to allocate carbon credits is based on "grandfathering": each capitalist has the right to pollute as much as he has done so far, therefore whoever has polluted more is rewarded with a larger share of national carbon allowances. The credits will gradually decrease in subsequent years.
The emissions market has already become quite large. The sum of all deals in the mandatory trading of CO2 emissions has rocketed to the value of $60 billion, creating a market centred in London that is expected to grow more and more over the next few years. A much smaller market for voluntary reductions also exists, but only compulsory schemes like the EU ETS have the potential for creating real big business in the sector.
All notorious features of a capitalist market have developed in the emissions trade. New Scientist lists the following financial institutions involved in this business: Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Barclays Capital, JP Morgan. Weather derivatives have also been traded since 1997; they are not necessarily in relation to global warming, but UBS Investment Bank has actually launched a Global Warming Index. Significantly enough, the company that most promoted weather derivatives in their early days has become famous for its 2001 bankruptcy and it is called Enron.
The dirty trafficking of speculators and brokers has its own dynamics. Bubbles and cracks are part of the way financial markets work, and a green bubble will sooner or later be inflated also in this sector, and it will eventually be burst. Investment banks, emission brokers, carbon offsetting companies are already there. Speculative interest will develop and corrupt even more the global-warming debate and the policies of the government. If there is something the planet does not need, it is the financial market in charge of deciding how to deal with climate change!
Most Green movements and NGOs are unlikely to criticise this system because they are a part of it and in general have opportunistically accepted carbon trade as "the lesser evil" in comparison to the total-deregulation approach of the likes of George W. Bush. Carbon Trade Watch (that rejects any corporate funding and maintains a clear link with the Left and grassroots movements in the Third World) honestly describes the reformist behaviour of most NGOs in these terms:
«The US rejection of the Kyoto Protocol accelerated this trend. The overwhelming majority of remaining critical NGOs and governments rushed to compromise in the hope of keeping sceptical governments on board and trying to win back the US. Many environmental NGOs have negotiated themselves into a corner, which allows little space for effective critique of pollution trading but provides ample opportunities for consultancy work in the carbon economy.»
A significant part of all carbon offsetting projects is strongly suspected to be based on fraud. 1600 Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) had been approved by the UN before the beginning of 2008. In theory, a project is entitled to trade its emissions offset only if there has been an actual change in the production of greenhouse gases as a consequence of the involvement in the trading scheme. However, there is no real way of knowing how polluting the project was really supposed to be before, and there are also some doubts about the accounting system for the estimate of the pollution generated after the alleged reduction. Indeed, there was already a trend towards more rational and ecologically sustainable industrial technologies. Capitalists have simply found a way of being subsidised for doing what they were already planning to do.
The United Nations are not a worldwide government, they have no real power and they have no role in economic planning; their intervention in the economy can only be very partial and in practice allows any kind of fraudulent fix - "carbon markets leave much room for unverifiable manipulation" as the Financial Times admitted. Regulatory measures within the framework of capitalism have simply too often proven ineffective and superficial.
There are clear signs that a big number, maybe the majority, of CERs would have happened anyway without the subsidies of the CDM, and in any case the degree of reductions is likely to be overestimated. A major loophole (now closed) in the CDM also promoted the proliferation of obsolete Hydrofluorocarbon production facilities that could be upgraded with €100million, obtaining a carbon credit worth €4.6billion in the process. These factories, especially in China, got more than 55% of the credits assigned by the CDM as of February 2007, thus generating enormous revenues for their owners - in fact, the carbon credits were more profitable than the commodity produced!
The choice of which types of emission fall in the "capped and tradable" category is absolutely arbitrary and introduces new distortions. Megadams in China are included in the mechanism, that apparently considers social benefits related to climate change but ignores the human costs of these colossal works. Scientifically controversial "carbon sinks" are also eligible for credits, which means that land that previously sustained poor communities is bought by Western companies as a "carbon dump", expropriating indigenous communities and suddenly turning their forests (complex ecosystems with high biodiversity) into large-scale uniform plantations. In this way this dubious carbon offsetting also causes deforestation which is one of the largest contributors to emissions of carbon dioxide! In fact, forest conservation is not eligible for carbon credit but planting new trees is, another major distortion.
Carbon trade is treated as the easy solution to the gigantic problems of climate change, but it only addresses big industrial emissions in the most advanced areas of the globe, without questioning the worldwide socio-economic structure in its entirety. According to the EU itself, nearly half of the European greenhouse-gas emissions are not capped because they depend on transport (21%), agriculture (10%), small business and households (17%). In general, the accounting is only limited to the small part of the economic process that is under the bureaucratic spotlight, while its connections with the rest of the planetary economic organism are neglected. As a result,
«[...] market solutions to carbon emissions risk displacing the problem to activities and places where nobody is counting, and there are no penalties. Most obviously, companies facing limits at home can simply relocate their polluting processes to developing countries where there are no emissions targets.»
(Fred Pearce in the New Scientist article mentioned above)
However, the main problem is strategic and not in the short run. This system does not encourage Research & Development on low-emission technologies in the advanced countries or genuine economic growth in the "Third World". In principle, if the system correctly accounted for actual marginal reductions in CO2 (which it clearly does not), it would cause an optimal static allocation of resources, but, as usual, market mechanisms do not guarantee an optimal dynamic allocation. Research & Development is undermined by the short-term "fix" easily obtained by Western companies through the cap & trade scheme, while at the same time the ex-colonial world is funded to slow down its industrial development and just compensate for Western sins, in a modern-day version of the sale of indulgences.
Somebody has called this system "carbon colonialism". It is important to note that the development of energy-efficient and low-carbon production in Europe, North America, Japan and Australia is the best way of reducing emissions in the developing countries. It is important to underline this to counter the argument that "while we (the West) spend billions in reducing emissions, the Chinese build two new coal power stations every year". Trotsky formulated the theory of uneven and combined development, stating that backward countries do not simply follow the development path of more advanced countries, because they can directly import the latest technologies skipping some phases altogether. If old European factories "go green", new factories built in India will be green from day one. If old European factories keep their obsolete high-pollution technologies but pay some Indian speculators to plant trees to offset their carbon footprint, new factories built in India will be likewise polluting.
This dialectical law is already operating in China. The first producer of photovoltaic cells is the People's Republic of China, covering 35% of the world market. China is in the forefront in the production of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and windmills, too. It will not take long before they start to replace their current super-polluting industry with a greener one at an accelerated pace, provided good technology becomes available and is not fettered by short-sighted private interests in the West.
Global warming is also utilised as an argument to promote the use of "biofuels". A better word would be "agrofuels", according to the usage of most grassroots peasant movements, that want to underline the fact that such fuel is derived from agricultural produce.
Biofuels are mainly produced out of maize, sugar cane, palm oil, soy, jatropha, etc. Maize and sugar cane account for most of the production of ethanol fuel (the same substance as ethyl alcohol used for beverages).
In the Seventies, Brazil had begun massively using alcohol-based fuel. Thanks to its vast cane fields, this fuel is now supplying 40% of cars and other light vehicles in the country, contributing to her energy independence. Incidentally, the story of Brazilian agrofuel is interesting because it shows how the viability of a technology can be decisively influenced by initial investments, which very often amounts to a political decision of the government. For decades, agrofuel made in Brazil was not economically very convenient notwithstanding government investment in this strategic option; today, Brazil has a precious economic asset thanks to previous investments in this sector. We should remember about this when short-term economic accounting is used as an argument against investment in renewable energy sources.
In March 2007, George W. Bush made a long tour of several Latin American countries, namely Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico. This propaganda tour became famous because Hugo Chávez organised a simultaneous alternative tour (in Argentina, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Jamaica and Haiti) to promote his own diplomatic agenda. Bush's tour was haunted by innumerable protests by trade unions, social movements, youth groups, left-wing militants, etc., as opposed to Chávez being welcomed by mass demonstrations and grassroots meetings as the leader of the Bolivarian revolution.
One of the main aims of the 2007 Latin American tour of Bush was the promotion of agrofuel in the Americas through commercial agreements between the USA, Brazil and other countries of the region. This was clearly a manoeuvre to free the US economy from its current dependence on fossil fuel coming from "unreliable" countries like Venezuela, Iran or Iraq; in a way, it was another attempt to solve the same problems that made them play the card of the invasion of Iraq. And its consequences risk being no less bloody.
On March 29th, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party, Granma, published an interesting and well-documented article by Fidel Castro This article predicted a terrible hunger crisis on a world scale as a consequence of the shift to agrofuel implemented by the White House through political pressure, commercial levers and direct state intervention in the form of subsidies to domestic producers and consumers. The occasion for the article was given by an official meeting between the US president and the general directors of General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Daimler Chrysler AG. This meeting corroborated prior heated declarations of Hugo Chávez in Buenos Aires suggesting that in a capitalist society, it's more important to feed a car than a human being.
The main points raised by Chávez and the ex-Cuban President are correct and consistent with the stance of progressive groups like the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST), the largest movement of Brazilian landless peasants.
The free market is useless with resources being intrinsically limited like fossil fuels; if the demand for computers increases, their price decreases because of scale economies and the improvement of production techniques, but if the demand for Renaissance paintings increases either counterfeit paintings are produced (fiddling is always an option for a cunning businessman) or the price of the existing ones will inevitably rocket as well.
Cultivable land is a limited resource and using it for fuel conflicts with using it for food or forests. This is more evident with important and scarce diet ingredients like maize, because different usages (for food or as a combustible) of the same produce enter into direct competition. Nevertheless, something similar on a more limited scale can also happen with other types of biofuel; for example, cane cultivation in Brazil competes with cultivation of soy and more and more soy fields are switched to sugar cane. Crops like jatropha and sweet sorghum, whose usage is on the rise in Asia, do not seem to have the same setbacks if reasonably utilised to produce fuel, but they also raised controversy; for example, the military junta in Burma (Myanmar) has been accused of overdoing things in its adoption of jatropha (a toxic weed that can grow in wastelands) to the extent of replacing productive arable land with jatropha cultivations, an economic madness that contributed to the political crisis in 2007. This shows that no technology is safe in itself in the hands of the capitalists and state bureaucrats whose material interests are completely divorced from those of the mass of humankind.
The results of short-sighted policies and the correctness of the prediction of the Cuban and Venezuelan governments have been confirmed before the ink on Fidel's article had dried: in the 12 months spanning from March 2007 to March 2008, corn price has risen by 31%, rice by 74%, soy by 87%, wheat by 130%. This is the trend on the world market, but in some individual countries foodstuff inflation displayed even more frightening figures. The poor in the underdeveloped regions are suffering the most from this situation, but the working class in some advanced countries is also affected; just ask the average Italian worker about the record rise in the price of their daily pasta.
The food price crisis is clearly connected to the spike in oil price, but it also depends on the agrofuel mania. The causal link is quite clear if one considers the timing of the price take-off: a barrel of crude oil was already selling at twice its 2003 price when the crisis started, which, by the way, happened just after a temporary fall in the oil price. This graph from the International Monetary Fund (that also includes their usual hyper-optimistic "projections" - wishful thinking) shows it clearly:
Also the World Bank clearly stated that agrofuel made a major contribution to the rapid increase in world hunger:
«Surging demand for food crops has increased faster than supply due primarily to biofuel policies in industrialized countries and to a lesser extent changing diets in rapidly-growing developing countries. Biofuel policies have diverted food crops from traditional export markets to production of ethanol and biodiesel.»
In Mexico the price of tortilla, a corn-based flat bread representing a basic component of the traditional diet of Mexican workers and peasants, rose from an average of 6 pesos per kilo to twice or three times this value over a few months. This caused riots and a nationwide struggle that eventually forced the (illegitimate) President Felipe Calderón to step back and resort to emergency measures like price controls (not very consistent with the neo-Liberal dogma...), introducing a fixed price of 8.50 pesos that still amounted to a 42% increase! On top of that, at least maize-derived agrofuel is not really a way of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide. In fact, it is more likely to increase the emissions than reduce them.
State subsidies have a distorting effect. In many countries fuel for agricultural usage (combustible for tractors and all other machines used in mechanised farming) is tax-free. If agrofuel receives state funding, in some cases it could even become economically viable for farming enterprises to produce two gallons of agrofuel by using three gallons of conventional fuel - hardly a reasonable way of polluting less. It is generally recognised that Brazilian ethanol made from sugar cane is 3 to 9 times more effective than US maize-derived agrofuel in reducing emissions, and also the energy efficiency of "the American way" is risible.
Apparently, fuel derived from palm oil has a debatable effect on the environment too, because its introduction is causing massive deforestation as rainforests are cleared to allow for new palm plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia. Deforestation is responsible for one-third of total anthropogenic CO2 emissions, according to the IPCC, therefore the ecologic balance of converting rainforests into palm plantations is clearly negative. This is only one example of the effects of land usage shifts on carbon emissions. These effects are still not completely taken into account by the IPCC reports because it is very difficult to have a precise picture of their impact on a world scale but many believe them to have a major role in carbon dioxide pollution.
Widespread criticism on US maize-based agrofuel industry, together with a conflict on US import tariffs on Brazilian bioethanol, is making Brazil distance itself from the United States in the last few months. Lula wants to avoid Brazilian ethanol made from sugar cane (that always had a good reputation) to be associated too closely with the unsustainable US production of agrofuel.
In fact, the landless Brazilian peasants of the Sem Terra movement not only criticised the US, but also the implementation of agrofuel in Brazil. In an article they published on their website, Horacio Martins de Carvalho writes:
«The process of income and wealth concentration in the rural areas with reflex in the concentration and internationalization of land property, in the disarticulation of territories and rural economy, in the growth of deforestation and environmental pollution, as well as in the increase in workforce exploitation for the sugar-cane harvesting, suggests that the agribusiness decisively contributes [to] the neo-colonial dependence of the Brazilian economy on the USA, the European developed countries and Japan.»
Their conclusion is that cane-derived fuel is not "evil" in itself, but a sound exploitation of this resource without appalling side effects can only be achieved under a planned system that integrates the rural proletariat and poor peasants into a participated and co-operative organisation of cane harvesting, as a result of the expropriation of the latifundia and big farming corporations. A similar reflection was made by Fidel Castro when he explained in Granma the historical link between cane fields and slavery. Some have calculated that 200,000 people already work as semi-slaves in sugar cane plantations in South America!
Agrofuel as we know it today is clearly not a viable alternative. This is not an abstract position or a prejudice and does not apply to any possible past, present or future form of fuel derived from plants. Energy efficiency of different methods must be seriously taken into account with a holistic approach, considering the overall effect of a technology on the planet along its entire economic cycle. As Marxists, we are in favour of massive development of the productive forces and, as a consequence, we understand the importance of the development of new sources of energy and agricultural produce is but a form of recycled solar energy, collected by self-evolved leaves instead of artificial photovoltaic cells. Incidentally, it should be underlined that this is what happened for centuries with the use of wood as a source of energy, and also coal or petrol are just another way of exploiting the solar energy captured by trees. The difference is that biofuel is based on a pool of stored energy that constantly renews itself.
Jean Ziegler, a Swiss left-wing Social Democrat with a radical position on several issues (he has frequently declared his support for Cuba, criticised the USA and its military allies like Israel, and exposed the connection between Swiss banks and the Holocaust Shoah), has been (controversially) appointed as Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food for the United Nations in 2000. He used his position in 2007 to call for a 5-year moratorium on the conversion of new land to agrofuel production and also called the rise in food prices caused by agrofuel "a crime against humanity". According to Ziegler, half a decade would probably be enough for science to develop the technology required for "second-generation biofuel", i.e. fuel derived by non-agricultural plants (like jatropha) and, more interestingly, agricultural waste. Third-generation biofuel is also expected to become a reality when industrial use of algae to make fuel will become feasible. And yet, as usual, the point is that necessary investment in research & development for new-generation biofuel will not take place if the market is just left free to (not) operate.
From our point of view, the development of energy-efficient and ecologically sound processes to produce fuel is a progressive step forward and is the only alternative to an unacceptable reduction in living standards. We don't stand for a slowdown in the development of the productive forces, on the contrary we are in favour of a massive blossoming of material abundance, but we oppose the exploitation of workers and peasants to be used as combustible for the current profit-driven mode of production.
Ideologies of abstinence: False individual solutions
«The greatest folly is the ‘what you can do' fairy tale. [...] we shouldn't fool ourselves that individual eco-conscious behavior can prevent dangerous global warming»
(Sharon Begley, Sounds Good, But..., in the May 5th, 2008 issue of Newsweek)
Marxists are not in favour of individual solutions to collective problems. We stand for actions of the working class through its political and economic organisations as a way of influencing decisively the course of human history. Any form of individual shortcut (or "long-cut"!) to social change, like boycotting "evil" capitalists in favour of the "good" ones, "life style" manias, focusing on petty issues like political correctness in the language of our leaflets, articles and speeches, individual terrorism or small acts of sabotage and gratuitous violence, just draws attention away from the main issue which is, in the last analysis, organising the workers for the seizure of political power.
Public debate on the solutions to global warming has been clearly dominated by the idea that every little bit helps; while we are not opposed to the idea that children are taught how to save energy and recycle ‑ because this knowledge and civic consciousness will be useful in the future socialist society they will have to build ‑ we do reject the false notion, that is usually imposed on them in schools and TV programmes, that if we all did our share the problem would magically be solved. Even if "all of us" did our share, this would still not be sufficient to compensate for the wider damage being done by the system. Demanding that the passengers drive carefully does not make much sense.
This idea originated in petty-bourgeois circles but was later subsumed by the bourgeoisie as a comfortable way of unloading blame on the bulk of the population for something that the top elite is exclusively responsible for. The petty bourgeois are instinctively prone to moralistic preaching and love the feeling of being allowed for once to make a decisive contribution to the progress of society instead of having to be perennial bystanders as the structure of society dictates to them. This naturally flows from the position of shopkeepers and small capitalists, middle-class intellectuals and well-educated professionals within the capitalist mode of production. Green nonsense gives some of them a belief system and moral obligations that well suit their class outlook.
A typical example of this approach is voluntary individual carbon offsetting. This scheme is based on the carbon trading scam that we have already exposed above, but applied to individuals instead of companies or states. There is a plethora of carbon offsetting companies that sell offsetting certificates (indulgences) to "environment-friendly" individuals, promising that they will compensate for the emissions they caused by flying or doing other activities that produce CO2 - and of course, these "green" companies make a profit out of this system, exploiting the good will of a lot of people. Some airlines already generously offer their customers the possibility of buying a more expensive ticket if they want to fly without feeling guilty... You can thus buy your way out of guilt!
Concepts like "your carbon footprint" are used in the mass media to convey the feeling that the whole problem is about the sum of billions of individual emissions. This is consistent with the typical reactionary approach that blames "human nature" for the ills of society. The truth is that the contribution of workers' life styles to carbon emissions is not very relevant and in any case they cannot do much to reduce them. As we have already underlined, in the European Union the contribution of transport to greenhouse gas emissions is 21%; this includes planes, trucks, public transport and luxury cars used by the rich. We can imagine that private cars used by workers do not influence the emission budget by more than around 10%, and in any case most of these emissions come from commuters that have no real choice. Car pollution and traffic are a problem for other reasons and they must be addressed with a plan of state-run public transport and also with a more rational city planning (beyond a certain extent, commuting is irrational and a consequence of the anarchistic character of capitalist production), but they are not the main reason for carbon emissions in the West, Japan or Australia, let alone in less developed countries.
Small businesses and households in the EU account for an even smaller share of greenhouse gases: 17%. Workers' homes are just a part of this 17%, and most of their consumption is necessary and cannot be reduced if they wanted to. Air conditioning is usually taken as an example of how evil and ecologically insensitive the average American is, but the truth is that also in a country affected by an A/C mania like the USA, "Heating the country releases nearly eight times more carbon" (Wired, ibid.). Also power waste due to things like obsolete light bulbs or appliances is basically to be blamed on capitalism that produces energy-inefficient commodities with a short life cycle. That way they sell more and more often, thus upping their profits.
Life styles can be changed, but as a part of a social transformation and not on an individual basis while business goes on as usual. From a Marxist point of view, forcing such a change onto the workers is even worse than just preaching it. This is what Green parties aim to do with the increase of consumption tax on oil, gas, power, etc. For the general interests of the ruling class and not just those of the "greedy oil companies", as Gordon Brown defined them ("also known as... oil companies" commented a UK TV programme), this green proposal is welcome because it gives an ecological flavour to an anti-working class measure. Especially in the North European countries, this has been used to force a shift from progressive income tax (they were traditionally relatively high there) to regressive indirect taxes.
Chris Huhne, MP, is the shadow Environment Secretary for the British Liberal Democrats. We cannot but recognise that he is very explicit in his explanation of why his pro-capitalist party supports those measures. In a 2006 article, he enthusiastically quotes the following fact sheet published by the Danish National Environmental Research Institute:
«Sweden is undertaking an overall tax shift replacing taxes on income with taxes on energy, transport, and pollution amounting to several billion Swedish kronor. Estonia, in 2005, decided to lower income taxes by 6 per cent and substitute them in part with new environmental taxes.»
Huhne's comment explains (in the typical liberal jargon) their plan and motivation:
«There is even a "double dividend" with positive environmental effects and benefits for employment and competitiveness. [...] It is precisely this green tax switch - from taxes on income from work on to taxes on carbon emissions and other pollutants - that Britain needs today. [...] We need fairer and greener taxes, but not higher taxes overall.»
Here we provide our translation into plain, proletarian English:
«We don't really care about climate change but we can use it as an excuse for something else ("double dividend"). In fact, it can be used as a justification to pursue a policy that is good for the bosses ("benefits for employment and competitiveness"). We can replace direct taxation with indirect taxation ("not higher taxes overall"), thus shifting more tax burden onto the working class ("fairer taxes") and reducing the taxation on profit ("income from work"). This is what the British bosses need ("what Britain needs").»
As a matter of principle, we oppose the increase of indirect taxation like VAT because it is a regressive form of taxation. It hits in a uniform way the wealthy and the poor, while the traditional left-wing position has always been in favour of progressive taxation like income tax, imposing a higher rate (not just a higher absolute amount) on higher incomes.
Indirect taxation is a return to the Nineteenth Century or, in other words, to Thatcherism and Reaganomics. It is a well known fact in Britain that the end of Margaret Thatcher was caused by her attempt to introduce an extreme form of indirect taxation on a local basis, the infamous poll tax (a per capita fixed tax that made no distinction at all between different income levels).
This attack on the living standards of the working class was met by harsh resistance. The Marxist tendency in Britain, organised at that time in the Militant tendency within the Labour Party (now Socialist Appeal), had a leading role in the mass movement that opposed the poll tax. Thousands of people refused to pay; mass demonstrations were staged in several cities, as well as the collective burning of tax bills and picketing against Thatcher's bailiffs and their offices.
Opposing indirect taxation is part of our political heritage and we will not give it up just because it comes with ecological pseudo-justifications attached.
It can be easily shown that the ruling class in the imperialist countries is pursuing an agenda on fuel prices that is exactly the opposite of the interests of the exploited. They try to reduce the oil prices at the source, by squeezing more oil out of the poorer oil-exporting countries for less money, while at the same time they increase the price of oil for the average consumer through indirect taxation.
Today's skyrocketing oil prices are only partially an expression of the low supply compared to demand for oil. The exhaustion of oil reserves will become a reality one day, but such a scenario is still quite far off in the future. The steep rise in the price at source (now over $130 per barrel) is more directly related to the failure of US imperialism in Iraq, the strength of Iran and its grip on the neighbouring Iraqi territory, the loss of control by the USA on energy producers like Venezuela and Russia, the instability of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi regime (the weak link of the OPEC) has recently been doing its best to give some oxygen to its imperialist friends by increasing production and therefore acting as a scab against tougher oil exporters (President Bush would probably call them "rogue exporters") like Iran and Venezuela.
Also "pipeline wars" in the Balkans, the Caucasus, Afghanistan, aimed at creating efficient long-distance supply alternatives for the West, have not really delivered. All this can be summed up in one sentence: the price of crude oil is growing mainly as a consequence of the difficulties experienced by the White House in keeping its grip on the former colonial peoples.
What is not acceptable is that the burden of increasing oil prices is loaded onto the shoulders of the working class in petrol-importing countries and - even worse - that energy inflation is further aggravated by "green" taxes. By the way, since, as explained above, the energy consumption of working-class households cannot be reduced in a relevant manner, green taxes on the final consumer will not really have the effect allegedly hoped for. It will just result in the exacerbation of daily tribulations for low-purchasing-power families.
Oil multinationals and middlemen are to be hit by fiscal measures, not the workers or "Third-World" exporting countries.
It is just too easy to blame industrialism and economic development as such for the problem of global warming. This reactionary stance is irresponsibly spread by organisations and individuals of various political leanings and has often leaked into the ranks of left-wing or progressive organisations, especially by means of the jargon of the anti-globalisation movement. Among several anti-globalisation theoreticians, the Gospel of Zero Growth or even negative growth has become quite fashionable.
Basically, they propose to stop the development of the productive forces and possibly also to destroy some of them - incidentally, we would note that this is what capitalism usually does through wars in order to limit the overproduction of capital.
This insane idea has been criticised several times by the Marxist tendency. In a brilliant article titled "Sustainable de-growth": a reactionary idea, comrade Jérôme Métellus explained:
«[...] pollution and other risks connected to the energy industry depend, not on "growth", but on the basic mechanisms of capitalism. As a consequence, they will not disappear as long as this system itself is not overturned. Only rational and democratic planning of the economy and energy resources will allow for a reconciliation between the development of the productive apparatus and the ecological equilibrium of the planet. [...] Far from reducing production, a socialist organisation of society will result in the liberation of productive forces from the fetters of a capitalism in full decline.»
Jérôme clearly demonstrates in his article that the theoretical grandfather of all those theories against economic growth and development is the petty-bourgeois utopian Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, accused by Marx of dreaming of rolling back the wheel of history.
De-growth gurus like Professor Serge Latouche are always favourably cited by reformist leaders like Fausto Bertinotti (ex-leader and hijacker of the Italian Communist Refoundation Party). Unfortunately, what sounds very smart and "post-modern" in the clean and aseptic halls of La Sorbonne, has a very poor taste in a "Third-World" slum, where economic growth is a vital need, or even in a working-class neighbourhood in the Parisian banlieues where survival for the proletarians depends on capitalism "continuously revolutionising itself" (in the words of the Communist Manifesto).
This little problem is of course recognised by the proponents of stagnation or de-growth, who are all very wise and intelligent men and women, and it is replied to with a score of subtle variants of the anti-growth theories, some of them limiting the need to stop the economy only to physical goods (but energy and physical inputs are consumed in the production of any good, physical or immaterial), some others implying different de-growth patterns for advanced and underdeveloped countries.
In the last analysis, this is just Malthusianism or a revival of the unscientific and discredited "findings" of the Club of Rome in 1972 (The Limits to Growth,) when this group of academics and incompetent economists proclaimed the non-sustainability of unlimited economic growth in the face of limited resources, predicting an early end to world economic growth because an intrinsic ceiling would be reached. All these theories do not address the real point, which is what kind of economic development we need and how this depends on production relations and their legal mirror image - property relations. What is unsustainable is the profit-driven economy (growing, stagnating or receding), not mass production and consumption in itself.
The productivity of labour can compensate for the limitedness of resources, as happened, for instance, with food. The following graph shows the constant growth of food production per capita in the last half century:
Hunger has clearly a different explanation than Rev. Malthus thought.
A sense of proportion is also needed when we have this kind of discussion. Accelerated development of the productive forces in the last few centuries had a profound progressive content and for the first time in history made poverty and exploitation unnecessary. Of course, capitalist development in itself does not abolish poverty and exploitation (this task belongs to the international socialist revolution), and in relative terms it could be argued that capitalism actually intensifies them.
Ecological sensitiveness, forest conservation (implemented for the first time by the Bolsheviks after the October Revolution), care for animal welfare, understanding and accounting of the effect of our action on the planet... all these steps forward in human interaction with nature are only possible as a by-product of economic, social and scientific advancement.
Neglect of human impact on nature has been around for the whole history of civilisation. Only primitive communist societies, like those in prehistoric times, as well as North American natives or some tribal African communities, display a certain respect for the environment. Nevertheless, also in that case it is mostly of a ritual and symbolic character, for example, ceremonies to thank the spirits of wild animals for providing meat or to apologise to them for the need to hunt game.
It is debatable whether industrialism actually extended the scope of human destruction of nature to a qualitatively higher level, like some moralistic environmentalists want us to believe. Of course, the growth of the world population on a planet dominated by capitalism has multiplied the potential for "human-caused" damage to the environment, but that would only be a partial view of things. Inefficient and ecologically unsound and non-sustainable practices also existed in the past. If more than 6,600 million of us all lived like our ancestors did, there is no guarantee that our "ecological footprint" would be much smaller - but our life expectancy certainly would.
An example is the extinction of natural species. This is not a recent phenomenon at all. On the contrary, what are new are the recognition of the problem and the concept of biodiversity.
Human societies caused the extinction of hundreds of species long before the industrial age, just by hunting, farming and transforming the natural habitats in many ways. Elephant birds are an example. These gigantic 3-metre tall birds lived in Madagascar and were completely wiped out by the actions of the island's human population before contact with the Europeans was established.
More to the point: urban human societies have always used non-renewable raw materials in a way that harms the environment. Also oil was used, to make tar for lighting and insulation, although the consumption of fossil fuel was clearly much lower than it is today. Wood was collected and burned in a way that implied the destruction of forests and the release of significant amounts of CO2. That was no problem for the atmosphere because of the tiny world population, but it did have nasty hydro-geological side effects at times.
Also today, underdeveloped societies are not an ecological model, quite the opposite. It's been calculated that in the so-called "Third World" two billion people cook in primitive ways or using inefficient stoves, resulting in huge consumption of wood and therefore significant carbon-dioxide emissions (though they are still giving only a small contribution in comparison with industrial activities). According to Mr Vijay Modi, an engineer at Columbia University, a Third World family of five could easily save one ton of wood every year just by using newer (and more expensive) stoves (10 Fixes for the Planet, by Anne Underwood, Newsweek, ibid.). We have already mentioned the huge impoverished population of the Niger Delta: the irrational and inefficient usage of fuel there makes the Delta the highest single contributor to greenhouse gases in the world.
Frugal, traditional life styles are clearly not a way out.
Socialism in one planet
Fossil fuel and capitalism
Brian J. Baker found amusingly silly the idea that somebody could ask himself where does all this fossil fuel come from and question the usage of non-renewable energy sources. He wrote:
«There were however those in the early days of the industrial revolution who questioned the use of stored energy, which had taken millions of years to produce under conditions of intense heat and pressure, in a century or two which is a blink of an eye in geological terms.»
We do not really know who he is referring to here. Refusing to use fossil fuel is clearly not our position, nevertheless there is a grain of wisdom in what those unnamed critics said. The point is that capitalism has massively used fossil fuel since its beginnings, thus building the whole fabric of world economy upon a relatively unreliable base.
Humans have used fossil fuel for a very long time. For example, we mentioned tar above. However, no society prior to capitalism has ever developed such a complete dependence on fossil energy. And we know that dependence can easily turn into addiction. Addictions are especially harmful when the substance you are addicted to is only available in a limited supply: withdrawal can be experienced. The anarchic nature of capitalism implies that this mode of production is relying on non-renewable energy sources as if these were eternal. They exploit what there is and do not prepare for the future. In this context the emergence of the problem of global warming has simply accelerated the crisis that would have occurred in any case at some point. As soon as the most exploitable reserves are depleted, the extraction costs of oil, gas and coal would become too high to consider them as viable energy sources even if emissions were not taken in account.
In 1936, the Venezuelan journalist, writer and politician Arturo Uslar Pietri coined the phrase "to sow petrol" ("sembrar el petróleo") as a metaphor of a correct usage of oil for Venezuela:
«Oil, instead of being a curse converting us into a parasitic and useless people, has to be the lucky conjuncture that allows with its sudden wealth to accelerate and to strengthen the productive evolution of the Venezuelan people under exceptional conditions.»
Notwithstanding Uslar Pietri's pro-capitalist ideas, this concept has been reused several times in the Venezuelan political debate and can be applied to the relationship of the whole of humankind with all non-renewable energy sources as well. The state oil company of Venezuela, PDVSA, "re-nationalised" by Chávez and now turned into a major financial resource for the propulsion of the "social missions" introduced by the left-wing government, declares to have the aim of "sowing oil" to develop and transform the country and to alleviate its social problems, in order to eventually free Venezuela from its complete dependence on oil income. The social improvements in Venezuela, obtained just with very partial measures that have not abolished capitalism so far, give us just a tiny example of what could be possible if fossil fuel, this free gift from the distant past of our planet, were used to promote a thorough social transformation of human society.
It is the alternative one has when one wins a big amount of money at a lottery: one can spend everything in luxurious cars, expensive trips and big villas, and when the money is over one will be in big trouble just to pay for the car insurance or the house expenses; or this same patrimony can be invested carefully and intelligently (one can use it to pay for one's education, for example).
From a broad historical point of view, capitalism is wasting our fossil heritage to produce weapons and to finance wars, to delay its replacement with a more progressive mode of production and support the obsolete bourgeois institutions, and to preserve scandalous luxuries for the ruling class. In the process, it is also creating gigantic ecological problems such as global warming.
A transitional programme
From what I have written, we can derive some political conclusions that can define a draft transitional programme on the issue of climate change. A transitional programme was defined by Trotsky as a bridge between the current conditions and consciousness of the masses and the final aim of international socialism.
As far as climate change is concerned, such a programme can be outlined as follows:
Expropriate the commanding heights of the economy (and the biggest polluters) without compensation, in order to give the workers control over the economic levers of society, a pre-condition for reorganising the productive system and the life style of the masses (and the rich!) in a more rational way.
No confidence in the capitalists' "treaties" such as Kyoto. We denounce the greed of the US imperialists who refused to sign even the mild Kyoto agreement, but at the same time we expose the futility of such treaties that will never solve the problem as long as the world economy is in the hands of the capitalists, and are actually often used to promote counter-productive measures.
Abolish "cap & trade" systems and implement strict policies on individual plants. This policy must be enforced at zero cost for the workers; if an employer claims to be unable to meet the conditions required, the company's books must be opened to workers' representatives and the company eventually expropriated under workers' control.
No to new regressive indirect taxation, even if "justified" by alleged ecological concerns. Hit the profiteers and middlemen, not the average consumer who often has no choice but to use a car.
No to "green" sackings. We support serious measures against polluting companies but this cannot be done at the workers' expense. The alternative is not between accepting pollution or sacking workers - there is a third option: sack the bosses! The ecological rationalisation of production must involve workers' control and the preservation of every job.
Organise an international plan for adaptation to predictable, inevitable climate changes with public funding and under the control of the population involved.
Promote a scientific appraisal of the problem. Teach the scientific basis for climate change in schools, giving adequate space to genuine scientific debates on the issue. No brainwashing of our children with ideologies of inaction and abstinence that distort their perception of the responsibilities behind this disaster and make them underestimate the scope of the problem. Counter the penetration of capitalist arguments within the workers' organisations and the Left.
Raise state funding for renewable and rational energy sources. The economic viability of different technologies often depends on long-term R&D investments that cannot be sustained by short-sighted profit-driven private labs controlled by energy multinationals.
Stop using food as fuel and all irrational agrofuel madness (state subsidies and imperialist "ethanol diplomacy"). Fund public research to develop safe alternative forms of biofuel (second and third generation), that do not affect the availability of food in any direct or indirect manner (such as the use of algae for example, rather than maize).
Climate change is a global question, and it requires a global solution that only international socialism can provide. Rational planning of the economy on a world scale is necessary to tackle the problems posed by this issue, but this planning can only be organised in a democratic way with the active participation of the masses. This is what we call workers' democracy, and it is our aim.
This question is directly connected with the control of energy supply and sources, decisions that have a strategic significance for the future of the human species. This poses once again the question of the ownership of natural resources and the means of production. As John Reed said in Baku in 1920, only with social revolutions in the imperialist strongholds as well as in the less developed countries, "the last foundations of capitalism will collapse, and then the peoples will endeavour to create a social order in which not only oil but everything produced by human hands will belong to the working masses".