Polar ice caps and glaciers are melting. The Sahara Desert is expanding. And sea levels are rising. The hottest 10 years on record have all been since 1997. And this is all happening much faster than climate scientists predicted.
The United Nations has held 15 conferences since 1992 to discuss what to do about it. In December, 193 countries attended the latest one in Copenhagen, Denmark. Hopes were high for a binding agreement and effective action. Instead, the U.S. engineered a completely non-binding and unspecific “accord” amongst a handful of countries — a blatantly undemocratic end-run around the whole process.
The closer climate disaster looms, the clearer it becomes that the wealthy developed countries which caused most of the crisis intend to do nothing. The few measures taken are mostly for show. But the world capitalist system will not and cannot address the survival needs of the world’s people and the rest of life on planet Earth.
Hope lies in the growing worldwide climate movement.
Defying climate criminals.
Mobilizing started on Nov. 30, with an International Day of Climate Justice Action that featured rallies and civil disobedience in 14 cities in the U.S. and Canada. On Dec. 5 about 50,000 people demonstrated in London. Some 10,000 marched in Glasgow, and 15,000 in Brussels. In Australia 90,000 participated in the Walk Against Warming on Dec. 12, 40,000 in Melbourne alone.
Copenhagen demonstrators that day were 100,000 strong. Police preemptively arrested and brutally attacked them, but they kept on coming throughout the two-week summit. A month later, some are still in jail.
An alternative people’s summit called Klimaforum09 coincided with the U.N. conference. Environmentalists from around the world attended, producing a declaration entitled “System change — not climate change.” It has already been signed by 500 organizations. But none of this organizing mattered to the power holders, operating in a separate and very exclusive bubble.
U.S. pushes sham accord.
Initially, the U.S. and Britain schemed with Denmark to propose an agreement that allowed developed countries to pollute almost twice as much as underdeveloped nations. It mandated carbon trading as the method of reducing carbon dioxide emissions (CO2), even though this “market solution” has been thoroughly exposed as a sham. (See, “An inconvenient truth — Carbon trading won’t stop climate change,” Freedom Socialist, April 2009.) Their self-serving plan placed the World Bank, which operates in the interests of rich nations, in charge of financing climate activities. Worse, any target dates for reducing atmosphere-warming gases were shifted from 2020 to 2050 — far too late given the urgency.
The poor countries, a huge majority at the conference, roundly rejected this proposal. They pushed for the U.S. and other rich nations to cut their CO2 emissions dramatically, and contribute money to help poor nations take action. Instead the U.S. met in back rooms to subvert the majority of nations.
Obama and his team cobbled together a “coalition of the willing” with China, India, Brazil, and South Africa. They came up with a useless “accord” — without any specific cuts in CO2 emissions, or any other commitments on actions countries must take. Uncle Sam tried to pressure the body to accept this sham "consensus," but most refused, and voted simply to "take note" of the document.
Said Nigerian Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International, "Justice has not been done. By delaying action, rich countries have condemned millions of the world’s poorest people to hunger, suffering and loss of life."
The solution: “change the system.”
Resistance to this rotten deal was led by Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba. Addressing the body, Evo Morales of Bolivia identified the problem as capitalism, and announced a world conference on Earth Day, Apr. 22, in Bolivia. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela stated that only socialism can provide the answer.
The outcome of the Copenhagen conference makes it clear that capitalism will never do what’s necessary to combat catastrophic climate change. As the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in Copenhagen and around the world showed, only the grass-roots working people of the globe can make it so.