The warning today in the UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that global temperatures could rise by as much as 6.4C by 2100 has one simple implication: immediate, drastic action is needed to reduce CO2 emissions by 90%. Even the IPCC’s more conservative estimate of temperature rises of between 1.8-4C will lead to higher sea levels and more frequent extreme weather, affecting the lives of everyone on the planet. Basically, the planet’s ability to absorb CO2 is being undermined and the IPCC is 90% sure this is a result of “human activity” (or more precisely, the burning of the fossil fuels that drive the capitalist economy). So what has been the reaction of governments? At the meeting in Paris this week to finalise the IPCC report, government-appointed scientists from China and the US lobbied to reduce its impact. Their great achievement was that 10% of doubt. Even in the face of undeniable evidence pouring in daily from every climate research institute on the planet, attempts to pressure scientists mounts. A hearing of the US Congress this week heard that climate scientists working for US government agencies have been pressured not to use the words "global warming" or "climate change". Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded think tank with close links to the Bush administration, for articles undermining the IPCC report. And the reason for this desperation to find scientists – any scientists – who will support the case for doing nothing? This week Exxon, the world's largest oil company, announced profits of $39.5bn (£20bn) for 2006 - the highest-ever profit reported by an American company.
The major capitalist states will rely on market measures and untried technology when it comes to climate change. Nothing will be allowed to disrupt the global economy. For example, in his recent State of the Union address, Bush spoke of cars powered by hydrogen or bio-fuels. But the power used to make the hydrogen would give off more emissions than it would save, and to produce enough bio-fuels would demand that the whole of the Amazon rain forest be felled to plant palms! In Britain, New Labour favours an expansion of the carbon trading market, discredited carbon offsets and charges that airlines and passengers will absorb. Meanwhile, Stansted airport is to be expanded. Scientists have some positive ideas to reverse the damage caused by climate change such as carbon capture, carbon scrubbers, carbon sinks and some of the concepts for reflecting sunlight away from the atmosphere. But while science remains subordinate to the profit needs of global corporations and sponsored governments, under-researched actions could cause further damage to the eco-system while leaving the fundamentals unchanged. As Running a Temperature – an action plan for the eco-crisis, also published this week, explains: “In its vulgar pursuit of profit, capitalism separates us from our own nature, from the very source of the basics of food, air, shelter and clothing. It takes profound scientific accomplishments and our every-increasing knowledge of nature and perverts them in the name of market economics.” The authors argue against the idea that one-off market initiatives can solve the crisis and it calls for the liberation of science from the profit system, to support humanity in solving the climate crisis: “Science has explained global warming and will enable us to start restoring the damage done to the planet. In a networked world, sharing knowledge at the highest level, we can monitor more closely our impact on the eco-system and plan production and the development of society to ensure that bio-systems benefit from our actions.” Running a Temperature sets out detailed, immediate and long-term action plans that would halt climate chaos and makes the case for a revolutionary break with the old order for them to work. The IPCC report, which is the result of the work of 2,500 scientists, confirms that nothing less will do.
Penny Cole, co-author Running a Temperature