The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Global Warming:
Those Responsible Don’t Pay

Dec 21, 2009

The Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change closed with Obama’s claim of “an unprecedented breakthrough.... For the first time in history, all major economies have come together to accept their responsibility to take action to confront the threat of climate change.” But this 15th international U.N. conference did not produce any more substantive results than those that came before it. The so-called “breakthrough” clearly did not impose a real limit on how much carbon dioxide (CO2) could be emitted into the atmosphere, even though atmospheric CO2 is one of the main components in global warming.

One of the questions up for debate was which countries would have to make the financial and industrial efforts needed to reduce CO2 emissions. The main developed countries, especially the U.S., threw a major part of this effort on the so-called “emerging countries,” that is, the poor countries. This desire to make the poor countries pay a part of the cost of atmospheric pollution is obscene.

In fact, in the years to come, hundreds of millions of people in the poorer countries are going to be plunged into still greater misery than they know today, thanks to global warming, caused by a century-and-a-half of activity by industrialized countries.

The big powers argue that the “emerging” countries are helping to create greenhouse gases, because they are trying now to develop industry in their countries!

The rich countries point the finger at uncontrolled deforestation in the tropical zones of Brazil, Asia and even Africa, as well as the economic development of India and China. It’s true that China has become the leading emitter of CO2 with 6.1 billion tons a year (compared to 5.75 for the U.S. and 3.9 for the European Union). But these emissions represent only 4.7 tons per person in China, compared to 18.9 tons per person in the U.S. or 8.9 tons in Europe.

And the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere didn’t just begin today – it began with the industrial revolution, with the rich countries polluting ever since.

Over the past 150 years, the U.S. has emitted four times as much overall as China. The responsibility of the capitalists of the rich countries is overwhelming: first of all, because their industries never tried to control pollution. Next, because their society is organized around commuting to work. Workers certainly aren’t responsible for the lack of public transit that compels them to use a car to get to work, or for the high cost of housing that forces them to live a long distance from work. But these things create much more CO2.

There is no reason for the workers of the rich countries to pay the cost of atmospheric pollution, as they pay through a carbon tax, nor for the population of the poor countries to pay.

Finally, the great industrial powers agreed to contribute about ten billion dollars per year for the next 10 years to work on the problem. But it’s already known that six to ten times as much money is needed.

This conference produced – like those before it – nothing but pious vows and ineffectual recommendations.

And none of it is addressed to those mainly responsible, the industrial capitalists of the rich countries.