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climate change

Green illusions and the carbon tax

By Tim Anderson

April 30, 2011 -- The proposal for a carbon tax raises the issues of tax equity and political strategy. Yet despite their inter-relatedness, we need to disentangle these issues to focus on the original question. As a mean of addressing climate change, the carbon tax proposal comes in the context of difficult global negotiations, where almost any proposal has been seen as a breakthrough, and where (after the last financial derivatives bubble) there is justified suspicion of emissions trading schemes.

In Australia the political context includes a narrow, two-party debate which has reverted to tax incidence, with both major parties basically captured by the major investor groups and Labor having recently been humiliated over a failed proposal for a new mining tax. Into this mix we have the Greens, presenting as an alternative, yet signing an accord with the Labor government over its carbon tax.

I would like to briefly touch on the tax equity issue, before moving to the carbon tax and then to the question of political strategies.

Tax equity

Breaking the real taboo in the population debate

By Ian Angus

April 27, 2011 -- Climate and Capitalism -- Is there a taboo against attributing environmental problems to population growth? Are populationist views being suppressed?

Sir David Attenborough thinks so. On March 10, the noted naturalist and broadcaster told a meeting in London that there is a “strange silence … some bizarre taboo” about the population issue. This “absurd taboo” has “a powerful grip on the minds of so many worthy and intelligent people”. Attenborough urged his listeners to “break the taboo”, by raising the population issue whenever and wherever they could.

Who was he talking to? Who were the brave people who dared to listen to a talk on this forbidden topic? Was it some secretive group, hanging on despite all odds, somehow keeping alive the truths that are suppressed by the powers that be?

Well, no.

Climate finance leadership risks global bankruptcy

By Patrick Bond

April 24, 2011 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- South Africa’s most vocal neoliberal politician, Trevor Manuel (pictured above), has just been named as co-chair of the Green Climate Fund. On April 28-29, 2011, in Mexico City, Manuel and other elites met to design the world’s biggest-ever replenishing pool of aid money: a promised US$100 billion of annual grants by 2020, more than the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and allied regional banks put together.

The Climate Justice lobby is furious because, as the network of 90 progressive organisations wrote to the United Nations, “The integrity and potential of a truly just and effective climate fund has already been compromised by the 2010 Cancún decisions to involve the World Bank as interim trustee.” A Friends of the Earth International study earlier this month attacked the World Bank for increased coal financing, especially $3.75 billion loaned to South Africa’s Eskom a year ago.

Montreal conference rallies support for rights of nature

By John Riddell

April 23, 2011 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Bolivia marked Earth Day (April 22) this year by formulating the Law of Mother Earth, which—when adopted—will establish 11 new rights for nature, including the right not to be polluted and the right to continue vital cycles free from human interference.

On April 20, the United Nations General Assembly debated a proposal introduced by Bolivia, with support of other South American countries, to adopt a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Nature. The proposed global treaty says that “Mother Earth has the right to exist, persist, and to continue the vital cycles … that sustain all human beings”.

Meanwhile, Canada’s political and media establishment have organised an election campaign in which the world’s ecological crisis is barely mentioned.

South Africa: As Durban climate summit approaches, industrial policy hits green wall

South Africa’s trade and industry minister Rob Davies.

By Patrick Bond

April 18, 2011 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Hosting the Durban COP17 – let’s rename it the “Conference of Polluters” – starting in late November puts quite a burden on the African National Congress government in Pretoria: to pretend to be pro-green.

Embarrassingly, last week’s US Export-Import Bank loan of US$805 million to South Africa will feed huge profits to the notorious US corporations Black & Veatch so that a vast coal-fired power plant, “Kusile”, can be constructed, mainly on behalf of huge smelters run by BHP Billiton and Anglo American Corporation – whose profits soar away to Melbourne and London.

Why George Monbiot is STILL wrong on nuclear power

By Ricardo Sequeiros Coelho

April 6, 2011 -- Cool the Earth -- George Monbiot has decided to fight back and justify his pro-nuclear stance. He directs his aim at what he calls double standards from environmentalists, making all sorts of accusations that only serve to diminish his credibility (see Monbiot.com). It is worth looking at them in detail, but a prior point should be made.

In the debate over nuclear power, Monbiot did not explain whether he was is merely arguing against the closure of existing nuclear plants or if he was further, arguing for building new ones. These are two different issues and conflating them is an important part of his deceptive arguments for nuclear power.

Why George Monbiot is wrong on nuclear power

By Ricardo Sequeiros Coelho

“This is a very serious accident by all standards. And it is not yet over.” – Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

March 29, 2011 -- Cool the Earth -- George Monbiot, the well-known environmentalist and journalist, managed to surpass the nuclear power lobby in the downplaying of the Fukushima disaster. First, he wrote that the disaster should not lead to an end of nuclear power, since that would mean more coal plants, so we should build more nuclear plants (Monbiot.com). Then, he wrote that since no one died from Fukushima he is now a nuclear power advocate (Monbiot.com). Amazing.

His arguments are as far fetched as they are deceiving. It is worth discussing them in detail, going through the four strategies that he uses to make his point.

Nuclear means catastrophe: The lesson of Fukushima

People are tested for radiation exposure near Fukushima. 

By Daniel Tanuro

March 17, 2011 -- International Viewpoint via Climate and Capitalism -- What has happened was entirely predictable: yet another major nuclear “accident”. At the time of writing, it is not yet certain that it will take on the dimensions of a disaster similar to Chernobyl, but that is the direction in which things, alas, look set to evolve. But whether it develops into a major disaster or not, we are once again faced with evidence that nuclear technology can never be 100% secure.

Climate change: Rupert Murdoch’s 'Australian' peddles damaging bad science

By Renfrey Clarke

March 6, 2011 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal – Readers of Rupert Murdoch’s flagship, the Australian, will have noticed a flurry of self-justifying articles and editorials in recent months, as the editors try to deflect criticism of the newspaper’s global warming coverage. What has the Australian been saying on the topic, and does this measure up to the responsibilities of a major news outlet?

In Britain in 1998, the medical science journal The Lancet published a study that claimed to identify a link between the mental disorder autism and the administering to children of the widely used measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Soundtrack to a revolution: interview with Asian Dub Foundation's Chandrasonic

February 23, 2011 -- British-born South Asian punk-dance band Asian Dub Foundation (ADF) released their latest album A History of Now just as the revolution in Egypt was starting to build. Someone unknown to the band edited news footage of the revolt to the album’s title track and stuck it on YouTube (above). 

The video, which set ADF’s brittle shards of guitar and searing eastern strings to images of hurled tear gas canisters and bloodied revolutionaries, built a following to rival the crowds in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Green Left Weekly's Mat Ward spoke to guitarist and band leader Steve Chandra Sevale -- who is better known as Chandrasonic for his habit of detuning all his guitar strings to one note and playing the instrument with a knife. Here is the interview in full.

* * *

South Africa: The ANC government’s ‘talk left, walk right’ climate policy

Dumping on Africans. "Durban's methane-electricity conversion at three local landfills shows the futility of the CDM, not to mention the historic injustice of keeping the Bisasar Road dump (Africa’s largest) open in spite of resident objections to environmental racism."

By Patrick Bond

February 2, 2011 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- It’s worth downloading a copy of the South African government’s new National Climate Change Response Green Paper (http://www.climateresponse.co.za) to prepare for the local deluge of technical and political debate for the next round of UN climate talks that Durban will host in eight months’ time.

Cuba: The Campesino-to-Campesino agroecology movement: sustainable peasant agriculture and food sovereignty

The following article was recommended by Raj Patel. Patel writes:

Want to know what a sustainable climate-change-proof agricultural system might look like? Here’s an example from Cuba, in an academic paper written by my friend, comrade and former boss, Peter Rosset, together with folk from Cuba’s peasant agriculture movement. The article’s free to download (for now), but the key parts from the abstract are:

Our key findings are (i) the spread of agroecology was rapid and successful largely due to the social process methodology and social movement dynamics, (ii) farming practices evolved over time and contributed to significantly increased relative and absolute production by the peasant sector, and (iii) those practices resulted in additional benefits including resilience to climate change.

The futility of green capitalism: Interview with Daniel Tanuro

Interview with Daniel Tanuro, translated by Richard Fidler

January 17, 2011 -- Climate & Capitalism -- Daniel Tanuro’s new book, L’impossible capitalisme vert,or “The Futility of Green Capitalism”, is a major contribution to our analytical understanding of ecosocialism. Tanuro, a Belgian Marxist and certified agriculturist, is a prolific author on environmental history and policies.

Addressed primarily to the Green milieu, as the title indicates, this book is a powerful refutation of the major proposals advanced to resolve the climate crisis that fail to challenge the profit drive and accumulation dynamic of capital. Much of the book appears to be a substantially expanded update of a report by Tanuro adopted in 2009 by the leadership of the Fourth International as a basis for international discussion. That report was translated by Ian Angus and included in his anthology The Global Fight for Climate Justice.

Capitalism and degrowth: An impossibility theorem

By John Bellamy Foster

January 2011 -- Monthly Review -- In the opening paragraph to his 2009 book, Storms of My Grandchildren, James Hansen, the world’s foremost scientific authority on global warming, declared: “Planet Earth, creation, the world in which civilization developed, the world with climate patterns that we know and stable shorelines, is in imminent peril…The startling conclusion is that continued exploitation of all fossil fuels on Earth threatens not only the other millions of species on the planet but also the survival of humanity itself—and the timetable is shorter than we thought.”1

Fred Magdoff: Creating an ecological civilisation

By Fred Magdoff

``It is inconceivable that capitalism itself will lead directly to an ecological civilization that provides the basic needs for all people. However, building an ecological civilization that is socially just will not automatically happen in post-capitalist societies. It will occur only through the concerted action and constant vigilance of an engaged population.''

January 2011 -- Monthly Review -- Given the overwhelming harm being done to the world’s environment and to its people, it is essential today to consider how we might organize a truly ecological civilization—one that exists in harmony with natural systems—instead of trying to overwhelm and dominate nature. This is not just an ethical issue; it is essential for our survival as a species and the survival of many other species that we reverse the degradation of the earth’s life support systems that once provided dependable climate, clean air, clean water (fresh and ocean), bountiful oceans, and healthy and productive soils.

Cancun climate agreement stripped bare by Bolivia's dissent; Pablo Solon on why Bolivia opposed the Cancún deal

Activists from Via Campesina, an international movement of peasants, demonstrate during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico, December 7, 2010. Photo AP/Eduardo Verdugo.

[For more analysis of the Cancun climate talks, click HERE.]

By Nick Buxton

December 16, 2010 -- Transnational Institute -- In the famous Hans Christian Anderson fable, "The Emperor's New Clothes", a weaver famously plays on an emperor's arrogance and persuades him to wear a non-existent suit with the argument that it is only invisible to the "hopelessly stupid".

Cuba on Cancun climate talks: `Another year has been lost since the deception of Copenhagen'

Two speeches by Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Cuba's minister of foreign affairs, at the COP16 of the UNFCCC, Cancun, Mexico

December 8, 2010 -- Translation by Granma International -- Powerful forces are assuring us without hesitation that climate change does not exist, that there is nothing to be concerned about and that the serious problem bringing us here today is a total fabrication.

They are those in the United States Congress who are currently opposing the ratification of the weak agreements which control the proliferation of nuclear weapons, in a senseless crusade whose sole purpose is to retrieve a small part of the power that they lost barely two years ago.

El capitalismo climático gana en Cancún -- todos los demás pierden

Por Patrick Bond, Cancún

12 de diciembre -- Bolpress/Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- La clausura el 11 de diciembre de la 16 Conferencia de las Partes –la cumbre global del clima– en Cancún fue mostrada por la mayoría de los participantes y periodistas de los medios dominantes como una victoria, un ‘paso adelante’. El jefe negociador del Departamento de Estado de EE.UU., Todd Stern, alardeó: “El año pasado las ideas fueron esquemáticas y no se aprobaron, ahora se han elaborado y se han aprobado”.

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