Naomi Klein’s latest book This Changes Everything outlines their dismal record since these Conventions began in 1995. Hamstrung by climate change deniers, right wing governments and big business backsliders, the optimism of climate change activists is repeatedly crushed by the emptiness of ‘binding’ Treaties.
The Copenhagen conference was typical. That particular disappointment was one Klein describes as “the moment when the climate change movement realised that no one was coming to save us.”
“Climate change has become an existential crisis for the human species,” she insists. Why such an apocalyptic conclusion? Because the scientific consensus reached grave conclusions about climate change long ago.
The Ohio State University climatologist Lonnie G Thompson, a world-renowned specialist on glacier melt, found in 2010 that “virtually all the world’s climatologists are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilisation.”
Climate change is an important issue for the left because the science reveals an enormous challenge. Moreover as Naomi Klein rightly points out capitalism simply cannot solve it.
And the overwhelmingly middle class protest groups are fatally compromised by their touching faith in mainstream politicians and their own material attachment to comfortable corporate capitalism.
They are incapable of leading on this question. Klein even accuses some in the climate change movement of being in bed with big business highlighting “the extent of the collusion between big polluters and big green.”
“Our only hope of reaching internationally agreed targets limiting temperature rises to 2ºC above Industrial Revolution levels,” she concludes, “is for capitalist corporations to cut their emissions by 8-10 per cent per annum.”
But as she points out they are still increasing. “The ‘free market’ simply cannot accomplish the task facing it. The bottom line is that our economic system [capitalism] and our planetary system are now at war.”
Klein’s frustrations are manifest. “And yet rather than responding with alarm and doing everything in our power to change course, large parts of humanity are, quite consciously, continuing down the same road. What is wrong with us?” she asks.
“The answer,” she concludes, “is far more simple than many have led us to believe: we have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions these past 20 years because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the period we have been struggling to find a way out of this crisis.”
And adding, “the actions needed to counteract the impending catastrophe threaten the elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process and our major media outlets.”
“The three policy pillars of this era—privatisation, deregulation and lower corporate taxation—have systematically sabotaged our collective response to climate change. How could governments regulate, tax and penalise fossil fuel corporations when all such measures are condemned as principles of the ‘command and control’ economy and ‘communism’?”
Who then is standing in the way of solutions? The multinational coal, oil and gas lobby in the US, China, Australia and Russia to name but four of the most powerful. The US generates 29 per cent of its electricity from coal the worst CO2 emitter there is.
Global emissions rose 5.9 per cent in 2010 the year of the much-hyped UN climate change conference in Copenhagen, the highest annual increase since the industrial revolution. Big business continues to spew out Carbon Dioxide, Nitrous Oxide and Methane in greater and greater quantities defying all the climatologists evidence.
“The thing about a crisis this big,” concludes Klein, “is that it changes everything. Climate change changes everything. It is a civilisational wake-up call. Brutal disasters are headed our way now no matter what we do. But it is not too late to avert the worst of them. Is it possible to halt global warming without challenging the fundamental logic of deregulated capitalism? Not a chance.”
Climate change is a class issue and so is its solution. It is the poor the world over who suffer most from its devastating impact. Poor countries and poor people in rich countries need protection now.
SSP activists should make every effort to join with thousands of others on the protest in Edinburgh on November 28 and begin to push the climate change movement in Scotland left.
• The Stop Climate Chaos Scotland protest assembles at Edinburgh Meadows at noon on Sat 28 Nov and marches to Princes St Gardens. Further details: stopclimatechaos.org
• Naomi Klein’s book ‘This Changes Everything’ is published by Penguin