by James Plested, RedFlag: http://redflag.org.au/article/market-no-solution-climate-catastrophe
Amid the past month’s new round of terrorism hype, the release of a
major scientific study into earth’s “life support systems” - a study
that extrapolates from current trends to conclude we’re on a path to
environmental and social catastrophe - barely rated a mention.
The report, authored by an international team of researchers led by
Professor Will Steffen from the Australian National University,
identifies and analyses nine key ecological systems that make earth
inhabitable for human beings.
They conclude that there are four areas in which these systems have
already been pushed to breaking point: climate change, loss of biosphere
integrity, land system change and the pollution of the world’s oceans
with phosphorus and nitrogen used in fertilisers.
Asked about the implications of the report, Steffen said: “It’s clear
the economic system is driving us towards an unsustainable future and
people of my daughter’s generation will find it increasingly hard to
survive … History has shown that civilisations have risen, stuck to
their core values and then collapsed because they didn’t change. That’s
where we are today.”
The latest trends in global warming are alarming. After analysing
data going back to 1880, the US government’s National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration concluded that 2014 was the warmest year on
Globally, average land and sea-surface temperatures were 0.69
degrees above the 20th century average. Last year was the 38th year in a
row that global temperatures were above the long term average. All of
the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1998.
What can be done about it?
There is a seemingly endless line of global summits and negotiations
about the problem that lead nowhere. Intricately designed market-based
solutions, such as the EU’s much-vaunted emissions trading scheme, have
But, as Naomi Klein cogently argues in her recent book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate,
if we cast aside the idea that solutions must be tailored not to offend
the oh-so-sensitive deities of the capitalist market, the whole thing
is actually quite simple.
This much was made clear, incidentally, by the recent release of
another report, Oxfam’s investigation into global inequality, which
estimates that by next year the richest 1 percent of people will own
more than the wealth of the other 99 percent combined.
The world’s richest 85 people alone account for $2.1 trillion –
equivalent to the combined wealth of the poorest half of the population.
The top 1 percent is worth a whopping $134 trillion.
It would only take a small fraction of this amount to drive the kind
of large-scale rapid shift towards sustainability that we need. The
technology and resources to do so are available. The money is there.
But the rich show no sign of giving up even a fraction of the
tax-havens, super-yachts, private jets, multi-million dollar property
portfolios, or anything else that helps constitute the lifestyle to
which they are accustomed. They’d rather sacrifice the future of the
planet on the altar of their own short term gain.
So-called market solutions will get us nowhere. We need to confront the interests of the rich and powerful head on.