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Climate Change and Capitalism

By Michael Roberts - Originally published at The Next Recession, September 28, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The 5th report by the International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) was released this weekend. The IPCC brings together hundreds of scientists in the field of climate change to cooperate in drawing up a comprehensive analysis of the state of the earth’s climate and forecasts about its future.  The IPCC report raised its estimate of the probability that human activities, led by the burning of fossil fuels, are the main cause of global warming since the mid-20th century to “extremely likely”, or at least 95 percent, from “very likely” (90 percent) in its previous report in 2007 and “likely” (66 percent) in 2001.

The IPCC said that short periods are influenced by natural variability and do not, in general, reflect long-term climate trends.  So the argument of those whom deny global warming is man-made or is not getting worse cannot rely on the recent slowing of the rise in average atmospheric temperatures in the last 15 years.  The IPCC went on to say that temperatures were likely to rise by between 0.3 and 4.8 degrees Celsius (0.5 to 8.6 Fahrenheit) by the late 21st century.  Sea levels are likely to rise by between 26 and 82 cm (10 to 32 inches) by the late 21st century, after a 19 cm rise in the 19th century.   In the worst case, seas could be 98 cm higher in the year 2100.

The IPCC estimates that a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere would lead to a warming of between 1.5 and 4.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 and 8.1F), lowering the bottom of the range from 2.0 degrees (3.6F) estimated in 2007 report. The new range, however, is the same as in other IPCC reports before 2007.  It said the earth was set for more heatwaves, floods, droughts and rising sea levels from melting ice sheets that could swamp coasts and low-lying islands as greenhouse gases built up in the atmosphere.

The IPCC admitted that it was still unclear about the causes for the slowdown in climate change in the past 15 years, but insisted that the long-term trends were beyond doubt and that a decade and a half was far too short a period in which to draw any firm conclusions. The temperature rise has slowed from 0.12C per decade since 1951 to 0.05C per decade in the past 15 years – a point seized upon by climate skeptics to discredit climate science.  Professor Stocker said:

“People always pick 1998 but that was a very special year, because a strong El Niño made it unusually hot, and since then there have been a series of medium-sized volcanic eruptions that have cooled the climate.”

Explaining a recent slower pace of warming, the report said the past 15-year period was skewed by the fact that 1998 was an extremely warm year with an El Nino event – a warming of the ocean surface – in the Pacific.  It said warming had slowed “in roughly equal measure” because of random variations in the climate and the impact of factors such as volcanic eruptions when ash dims sunshine, and a cyclical decline in the sun’s output.

But the deniers of climate change and manmade global warming remain unconvinced. Professor Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta responded by saying that “Well, IPCC has thrown down the gauntlet – if the pause continues beyond 15 years (well it already has), they are toast.” But Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC, retorted that the reduction in warming would have to last far longer - “three or four decades” – to be a sign of a new trend.  And the IPCC report predicted that the reduction in warming would not last, saying temperatures from 2016-35 were likely to be 0.3-0.7 degree Celsius (0.5 to 1.3 Fahrenheit) warmer than in 1986-2005.

The sceptics or deniers are a tiny percentage of scientists in the field of climate change.  An analysis of abstracts of 11,944 peer-reviewed scientific papers, published between 1991 and 2011 and written by 29,083 authors, concludes that 98.4 per cent of authors who took a position endorsed man-made (anthropogenic) global warming, 1.2 per cent rejected it and 0.4 per cent were uncertain. And more recent studies made after the laborious IPCC compilations confirm that the earth is warming up at a rate that can only be explained by human activity. Indeed, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was reported to have passed 400 parts per million for the first time in 4.5m years.

Capital Blight - A Visit from the New Flat Earth Society

By x344543 - September 25, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

We post a lot of class struggle environmentalist relevant news on our Facebook page, an average of over 75 stories a day. Naturally, we expect them to incite comments and occasional disagreements from any number of directions. Having just surpassed 750 "likes", however, we're just getting started at this point, so we don't expect a lot of the big discussions or debates you might find on the Facebook pages of, say, the Sierra Club,, or Occupy. Considering that, it was quite a shock to see a contrarian response to this story (shared from DeSmog Blog) from a user named Tom Harris, reading (in part):

It is revealing that almost none of the above piece even addresses the science of the new report. Instead they employ logical fallacy attacks: guilt by association, ad hominem, motive intent, etc. Smart people are not swayed by such rhetorical tricks.

It is humorous that the writer calls the report just issued "the International Climate Science Coalition's report" when it was no such thing. I wish it were. It is a massive, heavily referenced and impressive document - see We are simply helping the publishers (there are three, of which one is Heartland) of this fine book to promote the publication. And no, the funding for the book did not come from industry.

No one involved in this report is a climate change denier. They, the publishers and ICSC know that climate changes all the time and so we must prepare for these changes. We simply question the causes of climate change and do not agree with the politically correct version boosted by the UN IPCC, etc. So we deny that we deny climate change. We are denial deniers, if you want a label.

...Happily for society, especially those of us who want to use the best in science to engage in fact-based environmental protection, the press is indeed paying attention to the NIPCC report—see some of the coverage at the top of our Web site.

The full quote can be read here.

"Just what exactly is going on here and why is any of this relevant?" one might ask. Here is my answer: as Harris states, the ICSC has just published a document called "Climate Change Reconsidered", in a preemptive attempt by the NIPCC to undermine the AR5 report that has just been published by the IPCC.

If you are confused, that's precisely the result that Harris and his ilk have desired by spreading their misinformation. Fortunately there are folks like myself who will try and clear up that confusion and steer you in the right direction.

Capital Blight – Dealing in Doubt, Austerity, and Lung Cancer

By x344543 - September 19, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The venerable environmental organization Greenpeace has fired a broadside at the science denial wing of the capitalist class with a scathing new report, Dealing in Doubt. This 67 page document argues, convincingly, that all of the claims that global warming is not caused by human activity are manufactured pseudoscience, and furthermore, those responsible are all linked to the fossil fuel industry, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the Koch Brothers. Much of this has happened under the cover of a front group known as “the Heartland Institute”.

The working class (and the broader “99%”) should care a great deal about this report, because (although Greenpeace doesn’t come out and say it) the very same interests that are going to great lengths to deny that climate change is happening at an accelerated pace due to (capitalist) human activity are the very same that are also pushing the broader capitalist class in general to engage in increased class warfare, which includes stepped up austerity measures, union busting, statist repression, and the transfer of wealth from the 99% to the 1%. Likewise, the same forces attempting to spread pseudoscientific nonsense about global warming either mot existing or being the result of “natural causes” are those who tried for years to obscure the truth about the links between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.

The key players in this unholy cadre (other than the aforementioned forces) include a veritable who’s who of right wing and so-called “libertarian” (read market fundamentalist) think tanks, and yes, the Joseph Coors founded Heritage Foundation (whose original purpose was to destroy private sector unionism in the United States) is one of the big contributors to these efforts.

The Conflicts Between Ecology and Capitalism

By John Bellamy Foster - excerpt from Chapter 6 of The Vulnerable Planet - used by permission of the author

Four laws of ecology

In order to understand the ecological impact of these trends, it is useful to look at what Barry Commoner and others have referred to as the four informal laws of ecology: