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Profit-hungry imperialism created global crisis

Washington sabotages climate conference

Published Dec 20, 2007 7:18 PM

The “unborn children” that the Bush administration professes to care so much about have yet another reason to curse this reactionary imperialist government. It has again dissed the world, especially future generations, by throwing a monkey wrench into plans worked out by thousands of scientists and officials to get all the countries in the world to agree on limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

It happened during the first two weeks of December at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, held in Bali, Indonesia.

Ministers and government heads attended from nearly 190 countries, most of which already have seen extreme weather events directly linked to global warming. They had been warned by scientists that urgent action is required.

In August the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which brought together both scientists and officials, had announced that the window of opportunity to prevent catastrophic changes to the planet’s climate is narrowing rapidly. Greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced between 25 and 40 percent by 2020, said the UNFCCC, or many changes may become irreversible, leading to massive extinctions of animal and plant species and economic havoc in many parts of the world.

In November the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, reaffirmed that view, issuing urgent warnings that a commitment must be made to turn things around and begin reducing greenhouse gases within 10 to 15 years.

But no action was adopted at the December meeting in Bali, despite two weeks of discussion.

The major roadblock, as has happened before, was the U.S. government, which at first refused to be part of any global action at all. The United States is the country most responsible for global warming.

Finally, at the very end, the delegation from Washington signed on to the weakest possible resolution: that it would take part in more discussions over the next two years. The scientists’ proposal that mandatory limits be placed on emissions was reduced to nothing but a footnote reference in the final document. That Washington agreed to anything at all was written up in the U.S. corporate media as though it were a big concession.

Among the 11,000 people present at this conference were many from NGOs that state their mission is to protect the interests of the poor of the world. For the first time, and largely because of their presence, much of the discussion focused not only on the science and technology of climate change but also on how to deal with the terrible social consequences of drought, floods, severe storms and other climate events that are predicted to grow worse in the poorest areas: drought in Africa, floods in South Asia and Latin America, melting of the permafrost in the Far North and the virtual disappearance of many island nations as sea levels rise.

Also under discussion was how to reduce emissions while promoting sustainable development in poorer countries. So far, according to the Global Footprint Network, only one country in the world—socialist Cuba—has been able to build up its infrastructure and raise the people’s educational and health levels without impacting adversely on the environment. Among the proposals at the Bali meeting was an “Adaptation Fund” that would provide some help to developing countries having to deal with dramatic changes in the environment.

A side meeting organized by developing countries heard an analysis by some of the social groups present that “revealed the depth of inequity the poor would face from some of the solutions that were being discussed,” commented Pakistani ambassador Munir Akram, who currently chairs the G-77 plus China group. (Inter Press Service, Dec. 17)

That meeting drove home the message that there was a “missing perspective in the discussion” of the official conference, said Rashed Al Mahmud Titumir, the Asian regional policy coordinator for Action Aid. “It can no more be limited to a discussion only about the environment. What we have in Bali are questions about politics and power, like the issues of trade and finance being taken up. That is why we are here.”

Action Aid, which originated in South Africa, used the conference in Bali to raise the perspective of “environmental justice.” The approaches being pushed by the wealthy imperialist countries would leave the underdeveloped countries—made that way by years of colonial domination and plunder—to take the brunt of climate change with the fewest resources.

How can this happen?

It is hard to imagine a more urgent and universal problem than global climate change. Scientists are no longer ambiguous or doubtful about it; rather, they are crying out in anguish that work must start immediately to turn the clock back before it is too late. Moreover, polls have shown that most people in the United States are aware of the dangers and are willing to support measures and regulations that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, whole new industries are now selling products that supposedly will benefit the environment—although they amount to little more than a drop in the bucket.

On the government level, however, nothing much seems to happen. And each year the scientific projections keep getting more ominous.

To understand this criminal dilly-dallying one must look beyond the personality of George W. Bush and his immediate cronies to the record of U.S. imperialism’s impact on the world over many generations. Take the beautiful island of Bali, for example, where the conference was held.

Just a little over four decades ago, in 1965 and 1966, the streams and rivers of Bali ran red with the blood of communists and nationalists when the Indonesian military overthrew the Sukarno government and installed General Suharto as the new ruler. Even the U.S. media admitted that the fascist coup killed upwards of 1 million people.

The generals had the blessings and material support of the CIA and the Lyndon B. Johnson administration in Washington.

On Bali, an estimated one-tenth of the population was slaughtered as the military went from village to village, picking out the activists—students, workers, farmers, women—and killing them.

The Suharto regime did exactly what U.S. big business wanted. It opened up the vast territory of Indonesia to breakneck exploitation. Vast fortunes were made by transnational corporations that pumped out the oil, cut down the mighty rainforests, and established factories where once there were green fields.

Bali and other islands were developed as havens for wealthy tourists. The mangrove swamps that had protected the shoreline were cut down to create beachfront hotels—some of which were washed away in the terrible tsunami of 2004.

The generals took their cut of this “development,” but the lion’s share went to wealthy investors in the West.

Global warming and climate change are the heritage of centuries of this kind of imperialist plunder of the earth’s people and resources, which frequently brings the added devastation of war, as we see today in Iraq and Afghanistan. All the suffering, all the crimes carried out by the capitalists and their agents have never yielded to conferences and discussions, no matter how well meaning. They have the power and they use it primarily to secure the profits that keep their system going. Everything else is window dressing.

The grim prospect of global climate change can only deepen the revolutionary mass struggle to bring down capitalism that is surely coming. It must be replaced with a socialist planned economy, like Cuba’s, that can bring about human development for all, free of the rapacious and destructive profit motive.