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Is Capitalism in Crisis? Latest Trends of a System Run Amok

By C.J. Polychroniou - Truthout, August 4, 2017

Having survived the financial meltdown of 2008, corporate capitalism and the financial masters of the universe have made a triumphant return to their "business as usual" approach: They are now savoring a new era of wealth, even as the rest of the population continues to struggle with income stagnation, job insecurity and unemployment.

This travesty was made possible in large part by the massive US government bailout plan that essentially rescued major banks and financial institutions from bankruptcy with taxpayer money (the total commitment on the part of the government to the bank bailout plan was over $16 trillion). In the meantime, corporate capitalism has continued running recklessly to the precipice with regard to the environment, as profits take precedence not only over people but over the sustainability of the planet itself.

Capitalism has always been a highly irrational socioeconomic system, but the constant drive for accumulation has especially run amok in the age of high finance, privatization and globalization.

Today, the question that should haunt progressive-minded and radical scholars and activists alike is whether capitalism itself is in crisis, given that the latest trends in the system are working perfectly well for global corporations and the rich, producing new levels of wealth and increasing inequality. For insights into the above questions, I interviewed David M. Kotz, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and author of The Rise and Fall of Neoliberal Capitalism (Harvard University Press, 2015).

EcoWobbles - EcoUnionist News #160 (Special Parexit Edition)

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 7, 2017

The reactions to President Donald J Trump's reckless and unstrategic decision to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement are numerous and range from condemnation to disdianful. We present an extensive but far from exhaustive collection here:

Trump's Decision

Fact Check

An Eco-Revolutionary Tipping Point?

By Paul Burkett - Monthly Review, May 2017

Trump goes for bust on the national-populist trail. What did you expect?

By Daniel Tanuro - International Viewpoint, June 15, 2017

The United States has denounced the Paris climate agreement, cancelled all the measures decided by the United States in application of this agreement and withdrew from the Green Fund for the Climate. These are the major decisions that Donald Trump finally announced, on Thursday, June 1, after a long period of suspense.

These decisions are in line with the promises made by the new President during his election campaign. In the past few months, some observers had wanted to believe that Trump would change his tune, but he did no such thing. On the contrary, the speech he delivered in the Rose Garden of the White House flowed from a disturbing nationalist and populist demagogy. What did you expect? - as the advertisers say...

Victimization and nationalism

For Trump, the Paris agreement was nothing but a scandalous piece of trickery imposed on the USA. "The Paris agreement is not about the climate," he said, "it’s about the financial advantage that other countries get compared to the United States. The rest of the world applauded when we signed the agreement. They were happy, for the simple reason that we suffer from a very great economic disadvantage."

Drawing an apocalyptic picture of the implications of the agreement, the president said it would lead to the loss of 2.7 million jobs, cost the US $3 trillion and would result in a loss of purchasing power for US citizens of up to $7,000 a year. He listed the figures of the reductions in economic activity that would affect the industrial sectors: "86 per cent in the coal sector", he said... omitting of course to mention that solar energy already gives employment to 800,000 US workers (against 67,000 in coal) and creates more jobs than the coal industry loses.[1]

For Trump, it is simple, there is a conspiracy: the poor Americans, who are too honest, are victims of an enormous injustice hatched by an evil machination of all the other countries. The denunciation of the agreement is therefore an elementary reaction of sovereignty and national dignity: "The heads of state of Europe and China should not have more to say about the policy of the United States than American citizens do. We do not want to be the laughing stock of the world. We will not be."

Donald Trump, the Paris Agreement, and the Meaning of America

By Paul Arbair - Paul Arbair, June 12, 2017

Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change has sparked a global uproar. Yet America’s reluctance to reduce its use of fossil fuels is, in fact, logical. Not only because of the U.S. president’s overt denial of man-made climate change, but also and more fundamentally because it reflects America’s historical essence and trajectory.

So he did it. Donald J. Trump, 45th president of the United States of America, finally announced his decision to withdraw his country from the Paris Agreement on climate change. According to the White House occupant, this agreement negotiated by the Obama administration was a ‘bad deal’ for America, undermining its competitiveness and jobs, costing millions to its taxpayers, imposing disproportionate and unfair restrictions on its carbon emissions, and weakening its sovereignty. This agreement, he said, “is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States”. It is “a massive redistribution of United States wealth to other countries”, and “the American family will suffer the consequences in the form of lost jobs and a very diminished quality of life.” Such a bad deal is unacceptable to a president who has pledged to ‘Make America Great Again’ and to put America and its workers first.

Obviously, Trump’s core supporters have cheered this momentous decision. The billionaire real estate mogul-turned-president, they say, has made good on a pledge he made during last year’s campaign, showing once again that he meant what he said. The rest of America, on the other hand, as well as much of the world, couldn’t be more outraged. By reneging on its commitment to help fight climate change alongside the international community, America is abdicating its claim to global leadership, many argue. By joining the group of countries that are not signed up to deal reached in the French capital in December 2015, a group that so far comprises only Nicaragua and Syria, it is even turning into a ‘rogue state’, some suggest. A state that rejects science, progress and enlightened values, choosing instead a one-way trip back to the ‘Dark Ages’. A state that cannot anymore be relied upon, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel put it just a few days ago, or even that represents a growing danger to the world. Sad!

In the U.S., Trump’s announcement has triggered a sharp reaction from cities, states and businesses, which have vowed to meet U.S. climate commitments regardless of what Washington says or does. More than 1,000 city mayors, state governors, college and university leaders, businesses, and investors signed a “We Are Still In” open letter to the international community, saying they are committed to delivering concrete carbon emissions reductions that will help meet America’s emissions pledge under the Paris Agreement. Billionaire and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg even promised to provide up to $15 million in funding that he says the United Nations will lose as a result of President Trump’s decision to pull out from the climate deal. Emblematic CEOs such as Tesla’s Elon Musk and Disney’s Robert Iger announced they would quit Trump advisory councils, and anti-Trump demonstrations have been held across the country.

Outside the U.S., the reaction has been no less virulent, and Donald Trump’s decision has been vehemently condemned across the international community. Emmanuel Macron, the young and newly elected French president, rebuked his U.S. counterpart in a televised speech – the first speech ever given in English by a French President from the Elysée Palace – condemning his decision as a historic “mistake” and issuing a call to “make our planet great again“. This call, a direct jibe at Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ election slogan, went immediately viral on social media… The leaders of the European Union and China, backed by India and Japan, announced they would fully implement the Paris Agreement despite Washington’s withdrawal. The deal, they insisted, is not up for renegotiation, despite what the U.S. president might say. Trump’s decision, many observers suggested, could actually trigger a wide-ranging geopolitical shake-up that would isolate the U.S., or even make it a ‘global pariah’, and hand China a chance for global leadership.

Beyond America’s geopolitical standing and diplomatic reputation, the reactions to Donald Trump’s decision have of course focused on what it may mean for the planet’s climate. A number of observers have suggested that the American president might actually be doing the world and global climate a favour: outside of the Paris deal, the U.S. will not be in a position to block progress as it has done so many times in the past on climate negotiations, and the rest of the world will therefore be able to step up its efforts. The ‘climate revolution’ they say, is already unstoppable anyway, including in the U.S. The stunning growth of renewable energies, fuelled by rapid technological progress and by their falling costs, will ensure that the ‘decarbonisation’ of the global economy accelerates in the coming years, whatever Mr. Trump may say or do.

Most analysts and climate activists, however, consider that the U.S. withdrawal will severely undermine the international community’s fight against climate change. The disengagement of the world’s only superpower and current second largest CO2 emitter – and by far the biggest carbon polluter in history – might in fact weaken the Paris Agreement in many ways. Not only because it may reduce incentives for some countries that only reluctantly signed up to the deal to meet their voluntary emissions reductions pledges, but also because it may slow down the pace of technological progress needed to enable the transition to ‘clean energy’. The U.S. indeed remains the world’s technological powerhouse, and a lot of the ‘solutions’ required to accelerate the deployment and use of renewable energies (e.g. concerning electricity storage or carbon capture) are expected to come from its research labs and tech companies. Without sufficient political support and government funding, these solutions may take longer to be developed, or even never emerge. In addition, America’s withdrawal will also undermine the Green Climate Fund, which aims to help developing countries reduce emissions and adapt to the changes already set in motion by past emissions, and to which the U.S. was the largest contributor in absolute terms. Trump’s decision, hence, appears to many as an irresponsible move, a ‘moral disgrace’ or even a ‘crime against humanity’. Future generations will reap catastrophes and conflicts, and “people will die” because of this reckless withdrawal, some have warned.

Wrong way! A climatic baby step forward beats a giant leap back

By Pete Dolack - The Ecologist, June 7, 2017

The world surely is approaching a danger point when the abrogation of an inadequate agreement is cursed as a disaster.

The Paris Climate Summit goals can't be characterized as anything significantly better than feel-good window dressing, but the argument that the world has to start somewhere is difficult to challenge.

Better to take a baby step forward than a giant leap backward!

As always, we must ask: Who profits? The Trump administration's decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord is due to factors beyond Donald Trump's astounding ignorance and his contempt for science or reality. There is a long history of energy company denial of global warming, a well-funded campaign.

Never mind that a widely cited 2015 study by the Stockholm Resilience Center, prepared by 18 scientists, found that the Earth is crossing several "planetary boundaries" that together will render the planet much less hospitable.

Or that two scientific studies issued in 2015 suggest that so much carbon dioxide already has been thrown into the air that humanity may have already committed itself to a six-meter rise in sea level.

Or that the oceans can't continue to act as shock absorbers - heat accumulated in them is not permanently stored, but can be released back into the atmosphere, potentially providing significant feedback that would accelerate global warming.

Trump spurns Paris Climate Accord

By Michael Schrieber - Socialist Action, June 5, 2017

“We’re getting out!” President Trump declared before the press and a knot of governmental officials who had gathered in the White House Rose Garden on June 1. “In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.”

Trump characterized the Accord as being “less about the climate and more about other countries’ gaining a financial advantage over the United States.”

He continued his xenophobic message: “The rest of the world applauded when we signed the Paris agreement—they went wild; they were so happy—for the simple reason that it put our country, the United States of America, which we all love, at a very, very big economic disadvantage.”

Trump singled out in particular the “Green Climate Fund,” which he said has been siphoning billions of dollars out of the U.S. economy, “a massive re-distribution of United States wealth to other countries.” The fund was intended to help underdeveloped nations move to renewable energy and mitigate the effects of climate change. So far, the fund has raised a total of around $10 billion from wealthier capitalist countries, including $3 billion from the U.S. (about one-hundredth of one percent of the U.S. budget).

According to the precepts of the Paris Accord, it will take more than three years for the U.S. to formally withdraw from it. But Trump indicated in his speech that he believes his announcement can help dampen any legal challenge to the measures that his administration has already put into place that weaken environmental safeguards in order to ramp up oil, coal, and other extractive industries.

And what about the climate? That burning issue was scarcely apparent in Trump’s June 1 speech. Although his address was long, rambling, and repetitive, Trump never found a single moment to utter the words “climate change.”

Our Responsibility After Trump's Climate Withdrawal

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers - Popular Resistance, June 3, 2017

President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement follows the path of previous presidents who have undermined international climate agreements. We disagree with Trump but it is important to understand his actions in the context of the history of the United States regarding previous climate agreements. Once again, the political problems in the US are bigger than Trump. His action brings greater clarity to the inability of the US government to confront the climate crisis and clarifies the tasks of people seeking smart climate policy.

The US Has Always Prevented Effective International Climate Agreements

The US has consistently blocked effective climate agreements because both parties in power have put the profits of big energy before the climate crisis when it comes to domestic and international policies. The Republicans proclaimed themselves the “drill baby drill” party while the Democrats are the “all of the above energy” party. Both slogans mean the parties seek to ensure US corporations profit from carbon energy. Both have supported massive oil and gas infrastructure and extreme energy excavation including the most dangerous forms, i.e. tar sands and fracking. Both parties have also supported wars for oil and gas. All of these positions will be viewed as extreme as the world confronts the great dangers of the climate crisis and the US will be deservedly blamed.

Climate Change and the Need for a New Paradigm

By Yavor Tarinski - Resilience, June 1, 2017

Despite many international meetings, dealing with every subject from biodiversity to climate change, the national political elites have found it impossible to come to meaningful agreements to deal with the environmental crisis. […] There is no avoiding imagining new and different scenarios than the status quo. Surely another world is possible.”
– Dimitrios Roussopoulos[1]

We live in times where there seems to be a crisis in just about everything – from the so called financial sector, through the contemporary mass migratory processes, to the severe corrosion of the social fabric. The ruling elites, devoted to the dominant doctrine of economism, advocate for the priority that should be given to the economy, many activists struggle for the humane treatment of migrants, while growing numbers of new age mysticists call for escapism and individual salvation.

One crisis in particular, however, is being unevenly neglected, in comparison with the above mentioned crises – the climate one. There is reason why this serious problem is being constantly postponed by those in seats of power. Unlike the financial crisis, which offers a wide playground for different economic “shamans” to put forward their theories that do not leave the imaginary of economism, the climate change and the ongoing environmental degradation questions the contemporary dogmas of constant growth and domination, demanding solutions beyond them. Surely there are international summits and agreements for tackling this problem, but their outcomes are nonbinding and often neglected in the expense of economic “prosperity”.

The climate crisis, as growing number of researches are revealing, will have us pay a dear cost for the wasteful and destructive lifestyle that capitalism promotes. It will even deepen the rest of the ongoing crises. It is not yet completely clear what exact effects and processes will be triggered by the climate change, but it is increasingly clear that the results will not be favorable to us, unless we decide to change the contemporary dominant paradigm with a new one that will allow us to develop our potential inside the planetary limits.

Towards a Progressive Labor Vision for Climate Justice and Energy Transition

By Sean Sweeney and John Treat - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, June 2, 2017

Discussion document submitted to Labor for Our Revolution (LFOR):

This memorandum proposes an analysis and provisional framework around which to construct an ambitious and effective agenda for progressive labor to respond to the converging environmental crises, and to pursue a rapid, inclusive approach to energy transition and social justice.

Such an agenda could serve to bring a much-needed independent union voice to policy and programmatic debates on climate change and energy within Our Revolution spaces and processes. Labor’s voice in these debates frequently echoes the large energy companies on one side, or the large mainstream environmental NGOs on the other.

Unions that supported Bernie, alongside other union locals and individual leaders and activists who participate in Labor for Our Revolution (LFOR), understand that we cannot afford to regard environmental issues and climate change as peripheral concerns situated outside of labor’s “core agenda.” This is not the place to review the science, but recent assessments from climate scientists, already sobering, have become increasingly grave. The health impacts of rising airborne pollution and warming temperatures already cut short the lives of millions on an annual basis, and will increasingly do so without a major change in direction.

Importantly, a global movement has emerged that today challenges the destructive trajectory of “business as usual.” This is a movement that progressive labor in the US can work with and should support.

Progressive labor can and should articulate a clear alternative to the anti-scientific, “energy superpower” agenda being advanced by Trump—an alternative that can help build and strengthen alliances with the climate and environmental justice movements. Progressive unions are already involved in Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS) and / or Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED); both LNS and TUED bring significant experience and capacity, and can serve as platforms for expanded and accelerated collaboration and programmatic work.

Many would agree that progressive labor’s approach must be science-based and internationalist. It must aspire to be socially and economically transformative, and must be able simultaneously to inspire and mobilize union members, and provide a basis for durable, effective alliances with other social movements. This, then, is our starting point.

At the same time, progressive labor’s approach must recognize that incremental efforts to “move the needle” are no longer sufficient. For this reason, such an approach must also be built around clear programmatic commitments that are evidence-based, grounded in a realistic assessment of the urgency, and commensurate to the task.

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