Across the U.S., this winter has been unseasonably warm. According to the British Meteorological Office, 2007 will likely be the earths warmest year on record. This comes on top of a flood of recent reports on global warming showing that the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions will have a devastating impact on the planet and the world economy in the coming decades unless action is taken now.
The Stern Report, a study of the economic effects of global warming commissioned by the British government, warns that global warming could create an economic crisis more serious than the Great Depression, leading to the permanent loss of 20% of world economic output.
Floods in coastal cities could leave more than 200 million people homeless. The spread of diseases such as malaria and dengue fever will kill millions of people with especially devastating consequences for the neocolonial world. Changing weather will destroy ecosystems, creating a harmful imbalance in the environment and threatening the extinction of 40% of the worlds species.
The effects of global warming are already taking lives. A 2003 report by the World Health Organization estimated 150,000 die per year because of increases in diseases caused by global warming. Rising temperatures and disastrous weather phenomena such as Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Asian tsunami, as well as increasing allergies, skin cancer and respiratory diseases, are some of the immediate symptoms.
Yet despite the dire predictions about global warming, research into energy technologies by both government and industry has not been rising, but rather falling. (NY Times, 10/30/06)
The Bush administration has only allocated $3 billion per year for research to stop global warming and cut down on greenhouse emissions. In 2007, the administration will only increase this amount to $4.2 billion, but that is still a small fraction of what most climate and energy experts say [is] needed. (NY Times, 10/30/06)
The Stern Report also admits that the Kyoto Protocol, created by the UN to control the greenhouse effect caused mostly by carbon dioxide emissions, is not nearly enough. A report by the UN weather agency shows that despite the promises of Kyoto to cut greenhouse gases, heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a record high in 2005 and are still increasing.
According to the report, fossil fuel emissions will have to be cut 25% worldwide, and in industrialized countries, that number is 60%. This target cannot be met without funding new forms of clean energy.
Revealingly, Stern refers to climate change as the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen. The free market cannot be expected to solve this problem that it has created. The level of investment needed to combat the problem of global warming and develop renewable energy sources is not possible under capitalism, where resources are controlled by huge multinational corporations driven by the short-term maximization of profits.
It is up to us to make sure the planet continues to exist for future generations. In the U.S., we cannot rely on corporate-backed Republican and Democratic politicians to present any solutions to the problem. Both of these parties are funded by big corporations that profit from war and the oil industry. Oil and auto corporations will oppose spending on global warming, renewable fuels, and public transit because it would decrease their profits.
Global warming is proof of the destructive nature of capitalism. A system where governments are made to serve the interests of big corporations will inevitably ignore the needs of people and the planet.
Under a democratically-controlled, socialist society, working people will have a say on how much we want to spend to fight global warming and to find alternative fuels. Instead of the resources of society being controlled by a few profit-hungry corporations, we can use them to rationally plan economic development and ensure that this catastrophic phenomenon does not destroy our planet. It is time for a system change where the needs of the people and the planet are met.