by Michael G. Livingston / December 2005 issue of Socialist Action newspaper
On the eve of the Nov. 28 to Dec. 9 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Montreal, the Bush administration was starting to feel the heat, both literally and politically, for its position on global warming.
The U.S. kept a low profile at the Montreal conference. The spokesman for the United States
incessantly repeated the Bush line that there is no proof that global warming is real.
Meanwhile, the evidence for global warming continues to pile up as global temperatures continue to rise. At this writing, as we approach the end of hurricane season, a record-breaking 25th named storm is being tracked in the mid-Atlantic.
In yet another study reported in the Nov. 25 New York Times, ice core samples taken from Antarctica show that the levels of three greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) has not exceeded current levels in the last 650,000 years. The study, which examined air trapped in successively older ice samples, destroys claims that the current level of greenhouse gases fall within the range of normal variability.
The study further shows that there has been a tight relationship during the last 650,000 years between air temperature and levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The study is another nail in the coffin of global-warming skeptics.
More disturbing evidence of global warming did not make it into the national print or electronic media. Studies compiled at the University of Wisconsin in collaboration with the World Health Organization show that global warming is changing the range, frequency, and seasonality of infectious diseases. One example of this is the spread of West Nile Virus in the U.S. Most of the examples, however, occur in Africa, Latin America, and tropical areas of Asia, and are thus almost invisible in the U.S. media.
The University of Wisconsin research was covered by The Herald of Bradenton, Fla., (Nov. 18, 2005) but ignored by most other newspapers. Given its importance, it should have been front-page news across the U.S. But such coverage would have raised difficult questions, not just for the Bush administration but for large sectors of the U.S. capitalist class.
The worse news of all comes not from the Antarctic or the University of Wisconsin, but from Greenland. This past summer record amounts of Greenland’s ice cap turned to water. The water has percolated down through the glaciers that cover Greenland and are now acting
as a kind of conveyor belt, speeding the movement of the glaciers toward the sea, where they will break off, forming first icebergs, then melting.
The research, published in the journal Geophysical Research and reported in the British Independent (Nov, 20, 2005), warned that disappearance of the Greenland ice cap will raise world sea levels by 20 feet, flooding London and other coastal cities like Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, and Boston and putting entire countries such as the Netherlands
and Bangladesh under water.
Researchers also warned that the influx of fresh water could slow down the Gulf Stream, which moderates the climate of Britain and Ireland, and would cause substantial loss of crops and animals.
Bush and his administration are also starting to feel the heat politically. New York state is set to follow California in adopting strict emission standards to cut greenhouse gas emissions (The New York Times, Nov. 26, 2005). Other states planning to adopt stricter standards include New Jersey, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware,
Oregon, and Washington.
The California standards require a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and a 40 percent increase in fuel efficiency (thus also addressing the looming problem of declining oil supplies). The standards are planned to being phased in between 2009 and 2016. Auto companies plan a massive legal challenge to the new standards, which are also opposed
by the Bush administration.
At the same time that coastal states in the East and West are moving against the Bush administration’s do-nothing policy on global warming, sectors of the environmental movement are forming broad coalitions around global warming and calling for demonstrations.
The Climate Crisis Coalition (www.climatecrisiscoalition.org) organized a demonstration
in Montreal on Dec. 3. Reports indicate that from 15,000 to 25,000 people took part.
Among the demands of the Climate Crisis Coalition are ratification by the U.S. of the Kyoto Protocol, support for clean, safe, non-nuclear energy, and an end to subsidies for oil and coal corporations. An additional important demand is for a Just Transition for workers, indigenous peoples, and others affected by the conversion to alternative energies. (Information on the Just Transition can be found at http://www.jtalliance.org and is also an important plank in the U.S. Labor Party platform.)
The Climate Crisis Coalition is also urging the formation of local coalitions. Actions were carried out in Toronto and other cities in Canada, in over 25 U.S. states, and in 29 other countries to coincide with the demonstration in Montreal.
In 2006 the coalition hopes to hold town meetings around the country on global warming followed by a national demonstration later in the year. This represents the first time the environmental movement has sought to mobilize people in the streets around global warming and is a significant step forward for the movement, which has been considered by some
environmentalists to be in a state of crisis.
Can the Bush administration resist efforts to protect the planet? The future is not yet written and will depend upon what you, and many others, do. What is certain is that Bush and Co. will resist any efforts to curtail the unrestrained quest for profit by their capitalist lords, and will make no concessions without a fight. That fight, like the future, is before us.