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Sunday, 23 January 2011

capitalism and its effects on global warming

I've taken a greater interest in our environment in recent years and have been reading various green activists blogs and articles from the eco movement. I thought i'd run a little blog piece on the affects of capitalism on our planet and our environment as a whole.

As well as capitalisms many bad points i disagree with one of the worst parts of it the greater need for more and more money to keep the few at the very top of society pleased while the many suffer could not be any better summed up than on the point of the environment. Where industry is catapulted into the fore front of everyones mind in the western world during the times of the industralil revolution for example we almost grew so quickly we barely stod still to think of waht affect this will have on our planet and the world we live in today.

Now in the 21st century our western world is very commercialised with factories and industy in nearly every part we have severely lost sight of what is fundamental to human life surviving on this planet in its current form.

As we continue to grow as a largely capitalist system in the west anyway i see less and less thought being shown to the environment and the planet.

I have been doing a bit of research into this topic about how the capitalist system effects the planet and found this little short article interesting.

The issue of global warming has received increased attention in the major media, following record warmth in a number of regions of the globe. Studies have been published indicating that the effects of global warming are manifold, and are already beginning to show themselves. While much of what appears in the press is merely speculation, it is becoming increasingly obvious that something must be done to halt the flow of heat-trapping gases responsible for warming—most importantly carbon dioxide, which is released through the burning of oil and coal.

The environmental effects of global warming include increases in sea levels and precipitation; more severe weather patterns (hurricanes, etc.); and greater prevalence of illnesses transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks, such as malaria and Lyme Disease. Potentially more devastating would be the effects of climate change on agriculture, especially in developing nations, which lack the technology that would help developed nations adapt to climate shifts. It goes without saying that the immediate consequences of global warming, like the consequences of other natural disasters, will fall most heavily upon the poor.

The oil and coal industries are major economic forces, and thus the environmental issue of global warming takes on an economic and political character. In order to understand the current and possible measures to reduce global warming, it is necessary to understand how the political and economic factors interact. This is the problem that Ross Gelbspan deals with in his book The Heat is On, published in 1997 and revised in 1998.

The politics of global warming

The leading cause of human-produced CO2 comes from the combustion of fossil fuels, especially oil and coal. At present, oil and coal are essential energy sources for all of humanity. Thus, it is not possible simply to limit the consumption of oil and coal, as was done with ozone-depleting CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons). Indeed, as various countries such as China and India continue the process of industrialization, and as human population in general increases, more energy will be consumed.

In order to curb the process of global warming there must be a change in the means of energy production on a world scale, from oil and coal to more efficient sources such as solar power. If no societal restrictions were placed on human development, this in itself would certainly be a solvable problem. Already the basic technology exists that would allow for such a change. In a capitalist society, however, the main stimulus for change is not concern for human or environmental welfare, but rather the continual drive for profit.

The major point that Gelbspan makes in his book is that the conflicts over global warming policy are for the most part fueled by the contrary interests of different sections of big business. Certain sections of the capitalist class, most notably insurance industries, stand to lose a lot of money if the environmental effects of global warming are not prevented. There also exists a prominent group of corporations calling themselves the International Climate Change Partnership (ICCP)—consisting of AT&T, Dow Chemical, DuPont, General Electric and others—who have invested a lot of money on research in alternative energy sources and see in an energy source switch a potential for large increases in profit.

Opposed to these groups stand the enormous oil, gas, mining and automotive industries. These industries can strongly influence political decisions in a direct manner via campaign contributions. During the period of 1995-96, oil and gas companies donated $20.8 million to candidates for the United States Senate and Congress. During the same year, mining industries gave $2.7 million, and auto industries $3.8 million.[1] All these sectors have a vested interest in seeing oil, coal and gas continue as the principal energy sources. Their enormous size and capital reserves put them in a position to spend large amounts of money to contribute to politicians, hire scientists, and inundate the public with media campaigns supporting their practices and interests.

Gelbspan goes this far in his analysis. He claims that measures to stop global warming are blocked due to the political influence that these economically powerful industries can exert. Certainly this factor is important. To stop at this level, however, is to fail to realize that oil and coal play a much larger role in the economy of nations than other commodities, and that the effect of these commodities on political processes extends far beyond the lobbying of interest groups. All countries must have a source of energy in order to survive. Moreover oil and coal—to a greater extent than any of the other basic commodities (e.g., agriculture)—are localized commodities; they exist only in certain portions of the globe.

Thus, the ability to access these areas is a major measure of world power. Those nations that control oil can assert themselves on a global scale. The United States has fought two wars in the past 10 years—in Iraq and in Yugoslavia—in which access to oil was a major factor. On the international scale, capitalist competition exists not only between individual corporations, but also between individual nations (i.e., competition between states representing rival capitalist classes). Because of the peculiar character of the energy commodity and its importance on a global scale, competition between corporations for access to energy transforms itself into competition between nations over world markets and world power. Those nations who currently and potentially have control over oil and coal reserves have a vested interest in maintaining the energy status quo.

Given these facts it is not surprising that every attempt to institute carbon emission reduction measures has proved ineffective. The treaties upon which the international capitalist community has actually reached an agreement have been utterly useless. The Kyoto treaty signed in 1997 was so full of loopholes (euphemistically called "flexibilities" by the US government)—such as "emissions trading," whereby the industrial nations can buy CO2 credits from other nations whose emissions were below the level stipulated in the treaty—that no basic change could occur. In addition, a viable means of enforcing such treaties does not, and will never, exist. Nevertheless, the treaty failed ratification in the United States Congress, and has proved ineffective on an international level.[2]

In addition to the failure of carbon emissions reduction treaties, oil and coal industries continue to receive subsidies from all major developed nations.[3] These subsidies serve to drive down oil prices, disrupting the "natural" process of capitalist competition, and ensuring that oil and coal maintain their dominant position in the energy market. Within the capitalist system, these subsidies will necessarily continue; imperialist powers will continue to fight over oilfields and world power, contributing to the inexorable development towards future wars and the breakdown of the capitalist system.

I found this article very interesting for several reasons but the main point which worries me the most and is the main point i'd like to make from this blogpost here is taht it is very concerning that the richa nd the people in the world who focus on their money would rather care more for how much money they have made per week than how much of an affect their exploitation of the planet we all share has had over that given week.

All the signs are very worrying from environmentalists and scientists alike that our earth is on a course for disaster not that long off.

People living today may feel that this may never happen in their life time but it really can and well might if we keep on developing in the shape and speed of which we are.

With the fast growing countries like India and China this will only add to the speed of this process.

Socialist views on global warming :

Socialists as i will detail below in Marx's thoughts are not all environmentalists and care for the planet but there are a strand of eco-socialists which tap into the green movement who do care deeply about our planet and the destruction capitalism is having on our planet. I would like to see if socialism ever gets re-introduced into peoples thoughts that environmental issues become an important factor in socialism too. I for one would love to see a class less system which focus's on protecting our planet while at the same time providing for everyone in a efficient manner. Be that food or energy. I believe this can be done with a change in the way we think.

As some of you may or not know i have been reading a lot of what Karl Marx has said a bout socialism and his written pieces are becoming very relevant i feel. So below i have found a piece of what Marx thought on the environment.

Marx thoughts :

Marx is, for a lot of people, seen just as being a single-minded proponent of industrialism, and the extent to which he was a critic of industrialism - or of capitalist industrialism - is sometimes overlooked. And certainly there were a lot of Marxists who were anti-ecological, just as there have been anti-ecological thinkers in all of the major political traditions. The text that people most often read is The Communist Manifesto, and they remember his panegyric to the bourgeoisie - the first part of the manifesto where Marx glories in capitalist industrialisation, the constant revolutionisation of the means of production, the development of modern industry and its expansion across the globe. What they fail to recognise is that at the same time Marx was seeing this as a major development - in many ways a progressive development - he was also critical of it in many ways, seeing the other side of industrialism not only with respect to class but also with respect to the environment. Marx's more ecological writings are usually skipped over or ignored. In his work Capital he wrote about the effects of the industrialisation of agriculture and the destruction of the soil.

There is a lot of propaganda, misinformation and some facts of history about Marx's ecology that give people these perceptions. The irony is even though Marx is portrayed as anti-environmental, we are increasingly relying on his ideas in order to understand the relationship between environment and society.

He actually came up with an understanding of sustainable development. He specifically argued that we have to protect the earth - he talked about what would happen if we destroyed the soil, creating the metabolic rift between human beings and nature. The Marxist notion of metabolic rift is now being used by various thinkers to analyse the problems of the oceans, global warming and so on. There are no other thinkers of that period, the 19th century, who really had such a penetrative insight into the relationship between ecological crises and the construction of our society.

So to conclude i do think that capitalism and globl warming do go hand in hand. Global warming for me is a by product or a effect of capitailism and a ending of one will end the other. So when opposing capitalism we must never forget the environmental issues and arguements too which will add further weight to our arguements for a better society for all.

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