Every year banks and corporations spend billions of dollars — wealth extracted from hundreds of millions of workers around the world — to fund scientific and technical research. This is done not out of a desire to cure disease, improve humanity’s well-being or save the planet. It is done so that new profit-making ventures can be generated, so that some new advantage can be gained in the capitalist world of cutthroat competition for the highest profits.
With all this science at their disposal, one might wonder why the wizards of high finance, the captains of industry, the corporate titans who rule over the world dismiss the universal chorus of climate scientists who are warning of the dire consequences of human-caused global warming.
After all, the evidence that the scientific community has presented is overwhelming. Huge glaciers are melting at an accelerating rate, threatening the fresh water supply of millions of people in Asia. Droughts in Russia in 2010 caused crop failures and wildfires that killed 15,000 people. A heat wave generated huge swarms of locusts that swept through China. Year after year wildfires are raging in Australia. A drought in Brazil caused the water level of the Amazon to drop by 15 feet.
Satellite images have confirmed that huge areas of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean have melted. The ice used to reflect the sun’s rays. The new, ever-growing patches of dark liquid water shown in these images mean that the ocean is being warmed at an accelerated rate, which affects life both in the sea and on land.
Monsoons have migrated westward, flooding areas of land that have not experienced them before, such as the upper Indus valley in Pakistan.
Even the current, unprecedented, bitterly cold temperatures and record snowfalls in the Midwest and down the Atlantic coast to Florida have their roots in global warming, as new “polar vortexes” drive cold air south and warm air north.
And then there are the super-storms — hurricanes and typhoons that have killed thousands and devastated the homes and lives of millions. Katrina, Irene, Sandy — climatologists have linked the frequency and ferocity of these storms to the global rise in temperatures and the water evaporation this causes, which in turn increases the intensity of these storms. Super-typhoon Haiyan in November killed 10,000 people in the Philippines and devastated the lives of 9 million more.
So why do the corporate giants not only ignore scientists’ warnings and public outrage about global warming, but instead create and fund huge campaigns to discredit it?
To start with, it helps to understand that capitalism and imperialism are a global economic and social system based on the production and sale of commodities and the accumulation of finance capital (money). Coal, oil and natural gas are mined and refined by human labor and sold on the market, generating trillions in profits. And the profits generated by each commodity at a particular time rule the market. The entire economy is shackled to the capitalist market. No overall plan to benefit either humanity or the planet could ever take hold in this market, since that would stand in the way of increasing profits.
But the earth’s climate is not a commodity. Yes, it has been and is being terribly impacted by capitalist production, but it cannot be bought and sold, cannot be exchanged for other commodities, cannot create a profit. So cries for its protection and regeneration are ignored on Wall Street.
Fracking, shale oil, deforestation — these money-making exploits are what grab the corporations’ attention, not warnings of disaster. Even if ocean water laps up to the front steps of their stock exchange, as it nearly did during Hurricane Sandy, profit and gain trump any other concerns of the big capitalists.
Reversing the devastating path of global warming is a staggering challenge, far beyond the capabilities of an economic system which thrives on the anarchy of the capitalist market and its drive for superprofits.
The productive forces must be owned and run by the workers and marshaled to fulfill human and environmental needs. Only a planned economy — a socialist system — can meet these challenges. And only the determined struggle of the workers and oppressed will achieve it.