As the evidence for an unexpected acceleration of global warming spurs concerns of a sudden and catastrophic change, the propaganda war over climate change is reaching a crescendo. Today sees the UK nation-wide release of Al Gore's film An inconvenient truth which presents in a dramatic way a mass of incontrovertible scientific evidence about climate change. This Sunday, a training programme begins for hundreds of volunteers who will learn how to deliver Gore's message.
Earlier in the week, The Guardian printed extracts from George Monbiot's book Heat which exposes ExxonMobil's campaign of disinformation aimed at undermining climate science. And as a further step in California's programme to reduce carbon emissions, the state is suing six car makers for contributing to global warming. Billionaire Richard Branson has committed future dividends and proceeds from the sale of assets to investment in renewable energy initiatives, not least of which is his new Virgin Fuels initiative. Branson pointedly calls it the Gaia Capitalism Project.
In the USA 483,523 people, including Republican politicians, musicians, astronauts, journalists, army generals, actors and broadcasters have signed up to The Stop Global Warming Virtual March, committing to each other that "together, as our numbers grow, we will use our collective voices to demand that governments, corporations, and politicians take the steps necessary to stop global warming".
The list of actions that individuals can take is growing day-by-day: reduce air travel, use compact fluorescent bulbs, inflate your tyres, change your air filter, fill the dishwasher, use recycled paper, adjust your thermostat, buy minimally-packaged goods, buy a fuel-efficient car, plant a tree, take shorter showers.
Behind all this activity lie two narrow assumptions: 1) 'we' as consumers are mainly responsible for the climate crisis and changes in our consumption habits are a precondition for moving forward 2) on no account can actions be taken that might in any way undermine the functioning of the global market economy.
Yet the source of the acceleration in climate change is not simply the result of human activity in general. This assertion gets us nowhere fast and, of course, leaves out of the equation the underlying structures and purpose of the economic system that drive consumption patterns.
In A World to Win’s view, climate change is primarily the consequence of the last three decades of unprecedented, uncontrolled and uncontrollable expansion of competitive profit-seeking production by globalising corporations which, even as they profess their green credentials, are maximising returns to shareholders.
It is this competitive drive for expansion that requires them to plunder the planet for resources, and ruin it with waste and pollution. It is in the very nature of the capitalist system to produce ever-increasing quantities of commodities which they must sell to us, making us into ever more heavily-indebted consumers. We urgently need to break out of the constraints of capitalist production and capitalist thinking. AWTW has outlined a crash programme for recovering the planet:
- Establishing a new, more democratic political framework
- Replacing the absurd private ownership of natural resources and social products with collective stewardship
- Replacing commodity production for profit with planned production for need
- Zero-waste production under the control of the workforce in alliance with consumers, producing goods built to last
- An end to production for obsolescence and the artificial creation of new "needs" by advertising and marketing
- Life-cycle production that respects eco-systems, including humanity's
- Massive investment in solar, wind and hydro - energy, hydrogen fuel cell propulsion systems, and biofuels to replace carbon-based energy sources
- Scrapping of unnecessary transport of food and goods around the world
- Implementation of new technologies to reduce carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane emissions
- Public investment in new forms of affordable public transport tailored to individual needs in both urban and rural areas
- The long-term phasing out of mass private car use and a switch to car pools. An end to mass road building programmes
- Renewal of urban settlements to make them more energy efficient, based on people having to travel short distances for work.
This is a rough guide to a different future. Join us on October 21 for a day of discussion, debate and planning about how we can turn it into reality. Time is not on our side!
Gerry Gold, economics editor