Market system is killing our planet

By Stephen Boyd

A new report from the Global Humanitarian Forum warns that we are in the middle of a “silent crisis” as climate change is killing 300,000 a year. Climate change and its effects are already impacting on the world. The report states that more than 300 million people are already seriously affected by climate change and that this is set to double in the next 20 years.

The report “Human Impact Report: Climate Change – The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis” has been released six months prior to United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen which will discuss the successor to the failed Kyoto climate agreement.

The climate changes that are currently impacting on the planet are as a result of two hundred years of capitalist industrialisation that has put the profits of big business before the needs of the environment.

Of course the people who are suffering from climate change are not the super-rich who benefit from capitalism but the world’s poorest. Of the 300,000 deaths each year 99% are in neo-colonial countries and are 90% caused by climate related malnutrition, diarrhea and malaria, yet the countries they live in have contributed less than 1% of the world’ total carbon emissions. This level of deaths is the equivalent to two 9/11 attacks every week yet there is no war on the causes of climate change!

Since the 1970s so-called “natural disasters” are increasing in frequency and severity. Storms of the force of Hurricane Katrina have doubled. Between 1996 – 2005 these types of disasters caused $667 billion in losses to people and these losses were 20 times higher in the underdeveloped world.

The situation is going to get much worse. The Kyoto agreement with its’ charade of carbon trading was a farce that has failed to impact on curtailing the causes of climate change. Just 23 rich countries (14% world’s population) have produced 60% of the world’s carbon emissions since 1850. Today they produce 40% of emissions and during the time of the Kyoto accord their emissions have risen.

The British economist Nicholas Stern (author of the Stern Report) said, “climate change is the greatest market failure the world has ever seen”. Climate change has occurred precise because of the existence of the capitalist market and it will continue to threaten the existence of life on earth for as long as we allow the anarchic market to continue.

The decade of 1998 – 2007 was the warmest on record. The top 11 warmest years all occurred in the last 13 years. In order to avoid a catastrophic rise of 6oC by the end of this century global emissions need to have peaked by 2015 and reduced by 80% by 2050. These necessary changes will never be agreed by the multinationals or the major capitalist governments who will always put profits first even at the expense of life on earth.

Green parties across Europe and in Ireland have always put the interests of the market and the rich first when they have participated in coalition governments. These governments have delivered minimal and token “green policies”. In Ireland the Green Party justifies their involvement in the current hated government because they are going to get Green policies implemented. No environmental policies of any significance have been implemented by this government. Instead this government is overseeing cuts in our bus services forcing people to use cars! What we need is more investment to develop a modern integrated public transport system that will improve the quality of life and benefit the environment – the Green Party has delivered public transport cuts!

If we don’t end the dictatorship of the market then the consequences for humanity in the next 40 years are nightmarish. At least 250 million people will be forced to migrate – under capitalism this will lead to wars and ethnic and racist conflict. By 2020 up to 250 million Africans and 80 million in Latin America will face water shortages. Fifty million will face starvation in Asia by 2025 due to food shortages and in Africa food crop yields may fall by 50%. One third of all species face extinction by 2050.

The Global Humanitarian Forum predicts an increase in world temperature by 2oC by 2100. During the Pliocene period, when the world was 2oC to 3oC warmer sea levels were 25 metres higher – this would cause one billion people to have to leave their homes and cities!

The only way that climate change can be slowed and its impact on the planet lessened is by removing the control of the capitalist market. In a socialist world, production would be for people’s needs and could be planned to ensure environmental damage is ended.

In one day the sunlight which reaches the earth provides enough energy to meet the world’s needs for eight years. Current wind, wave and solar and geothermal technologies could provide six times more power than the world currently uses. The world’s vast resources, the trillions which are squandered on arms expenditure – the tens of thousands of scientists and engineers who waste their talents developing weapons of mass destruction could instead put their talents and skills to producing and developing these renewable energy sources and ending our dependency on fossil fuels.

Capitalism is destroying our planet and only a democratic socialist planned economy that puts people and the environment first can save it.