Climate Change -  Root Causes & Radical Solutions


The recent spate of unusually destructive hurricanes in the US and the severe floods in Eastern Europe over the last 2 years have seen the climate change issue climbing the headlines once more. A special report in Time magazine acknowledged that the “serious debate” about whether climate is, or is not occuring, has ended. There is now agreement even among skeptics that climate change is real and that human activity is causing it.

Of course the most important issue is whether  it is possible to significantly slow or reverse this phenomenon, and if it is, what are the actions we need to take? This is where we begin to most clearly see the bias of the mainstream media emerge.  Elsewhere in little 'green' columns around the media, journalists suggest that individual solutions like “eating organic food”, “planting a tree” or using energy efficent lightbulbs will save the planet. This is a myth, and a dangerous one at that. These are all market choices, made within an economy that is based on ever increasing growth and as such, these individualistic, 'environmentally friendly' shopping choices do not even begin to tackle the root causes of environmental problems. In fact, as these products become more successful, they are opening up new markets for these goods and increasing overall economic growth.

The conclusion that is so strenously avoided by media from Time magazine to the Guardian and the Irish Times, is that in fact the primary cause of Climate Change is the inherent drive to constantly increase corporate profit within a capitalist market system. Time magazine offers an opinion poll on possible ways to reduce climate change that reveals very little : two options involve increasing taxes (obviously few people opted for these) and two more popular options that involved giving companies tax breaks to develop alternative energy sources. However, nothing substantial was offered to back up the implied claim that our current energy demands can be met by non-fossil fuel alternatives.

The best that the liberal consensus has to offer is the ailing Kyoto protocol, which most climate scientists had regarded as being more of a symbolic victory than anything that would make serious inroads into slowing climate change. However, it is clear now that most countries are not on track even to meet these extremely conservative objectives. The 15 longest standing members of the EU (which includes Ireland) had agreed to reduce emissions by 8% by 2010 but are currently predicted to miss this target by 1.6%. The US, the world’s biggest contributor to global warming, actually walked out of the Kyoto talks in Montreal in December 2005, and has only committed to future talks on the stipulation that the dialogue “will not open any negotiations leading to new commitments”. The astounding complacency of liberal environmentalists in the face of this is extremely worrying – Greenpeace International’s political director Steve Sawyer called the meeting “historic” and said it had delivered “just about everything” he wanted.

Clearly, neither governments nor corporations are prepared to take the necessary steps to change course from our current catastrophic direction towards real, sustainable alternatives. We can only achieve a sustainable world if we work to build a genuinely sustainable economy, one that produces for need and not to blindly accumulate profits with terrible results for the environment.

Cian Lynch


This article is from
Workers Solidarity 92, published June/July 2006

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