By Fred Goldstein, April 14, 2014
The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued a dire report based on the findings of thousands of scientists and environmental experts. It shows that climate change has already left its mark “on all continents and across the oceans,” damaging food crops, spreading disease and melting glaciers.
Big business polluters like ExxonMobil shrug it all off. The Heartland Foundation, the chief corporate climate denier — backed by the Koch brothers, the Olin Foundation, Walmart and a host of other right-wingers — issued anti-science rebuttals to the IPCC report. The Republicans in Congress tried, unsuccessfully, to pass legislation restricting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from carrying on any research on climate change.
The report talks of “extreme weather events” that are leading to the breakdown of “critical services such as electricity, water supply and health and emergency services.” It also sounds the alarm about “the breakdown of food systems, linked to warming.”
The IPCC shows how environmental damage flowing from climate change hurts the poor in poor countries andrich ones, too. As environmental change intensifies the spread of disease, inadequate health systems are overcome. Food supplies are already diminishing, and food prices are rising globally, hitting the poorest the hardest.
By 2050, rising sea levels due to thermal expansion and the melting of the Arctic and glaciers around the world will threaten 345 million people living in coastal regions. Acidification of the ocean is a fundamental threat to marine organisms and oceanic ecosystems. Wildlife are already under pressure, as are the world’s forests and fresh water supplies.
In short, the IPCC has departed from its historically conservative, compromising reports, issued under pressure from the big imperialist polluting powers. In this report, the IPCC has pulled few punches.
Irreversible damage done to the land, sea and planetary ecology comes from greenhouse gases, created mainly by the burning of fossil fuel that keeps heat from escaping the earth’s atmosphere, raising the average temperature of the earth. This rise in the earth’s temperature, especially of the oceans, is the underlying problem.
Exxon defies IPCC report, declares profits will continue
ExxonMobil, the largest oil company in the capitalist world, immediately issued its own report. Exxon shareholders had demanded to know what impact climate change, and subsequent global policies to slow its impact, could have on Exxon’s assets and future profitability. Exxon acknowledged for the first time that there was climate change.
But it put a spin on this admission: “We believe producing these assets is essential to meeting growing energy demand worldwide, and in preventing consumers — especially those in the least developed and most vulnerable economies — from themselves becoming stranded in the global pursuit of higher living standards and greater economic opportunity.”
It said it expected carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels to peak by about 2030 and then begin to decline.
Without blinking an eye and without a word about the human and environmental devastation that carbon emissions are causing, Exxon assured its stockholders of its intention to continue to pursue oil profits without letup.
The company was brazen enough to openly defy warnings backed by 73,000 scientific papers from over 80 countries. But it’s not alone.
Chevron, BP, Shell, Total, ENI, Lukoil and all the other oil giants will not stop for a moment. The U.S. capitalist energy industry has discovered fracking. In the name of energy sufficiency, it is gearing up to market natural gas to the world. Nor will it stop seeking new supplies of coal.
On the contrary, the oil giants see the disaster of ice melting in the Arctic as a business opportunity. To them, this opens Arctic sea lanes so they can drill for more oil — which will cause more global warming, melt more ice and further endanger hundreds of millions of people and animal and plant species.
The Pentagon also studies climate change and the environment to see how these will affect its mission of global domination. It watches such phenomena as desertification, drought and diminished water supply in order to anticipate national conflict. But growing environmental degradation will not stop the Pentagon, which is the world’s single biggest consumer of fuel and the world’s worst polluter.
Means of pollution are means of production
Nor will General Motors, Ford, Daimler, Toyota, Nissan, Fiat, Volkswagen, General Electric, Peabody Coal, utility companies, airlines, shippers and all the other polluters stop their polluting. They know that the process of creating pollution is also the process of creating profit. And the capitalist system is driven by the law of the maximization of profit.
Of course, every effort should be made to block their path. The XL pipeline must be fought, as should fracking, mountain-top mining, the devastation of the rain forests — wherever new attacks on the environment, which are also attacks on humanity, occur.
The struggle of the polluters for profit grows more intense as the capitalist economic crisis and slow growth drag on. With capitalism at a dead end, the monopolies will try to find profit in every corner of the globe and will leave no environment undamaged as the crisis intensifies.
What must be recognized is that, under capitalism, the means of pollution are the means of production and the means of profit. Unless and until the economy is taken out of the hands of the profiteers, the millionaires and billionaires, and taken over by the workers and the communities, environmental protection and rehabilitation cannot be secured.
Fred Goldstein is the author of “Low-Wage Capitalism” and “Capitalism at a Dead End,” which has been translated into Spanish as “El capitalismo en un callejón sin salida.” See Web site and blog at lowwagecapitalism.com, where books are also available.