Recently there has been an outpouring of books, magazine articles,
and films about global warming. Many of these are serious works which
give a good picture of the dangers facing the world.
Some are written by scientists who, until recently, were skeptical of
the greenhouse issue, but who have been convinced by the accumulating
mass of scientific evidence and the already evident changes in world
climate. A sense of urgency is apparent in this
literature, the most dramatic example being that Jim Hansen, the chief
climate scientist at NASA, has written that something serious has to be
accomplished in reducing greenhouse emissions in the next ten years or
else it will be too late to stop major consequences.
In this regard, it is notable that the respected naturalist Tim
Flannery, in his recent book The Weather Makers:
How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth,
worries that if steps aren't taken soon enough, humanity will face
centuries of harsh natural conditions, and will have to submit to a
"carbon dictatorship" in order to radically reduce emissions of carbon
dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
There is a notable contrast, however, between the urgency of the
warnings, and the timidity of the solutions that are being proposed.
The works from mainstream scientists and political figures leave
something out. There is something they don't tell us.
And this is the extent to which the environmental crisis represents the
abject failure of neo-liberalism and free-market fundamentalism.
They close their eyes to the extent to which direct regulation of
production will be required to deal with the global warming and other
environmental issues; instead they mainly hope that
carbon taxes, the development of a market in carbon-emission
certificates, and subsidies to corporations to behave better will solve
the problem. They may blame special interests, oil
companies, or even the Bush administration, for blocking efforts to
deal with global warming. But they don't take their
own words seriously, because they have faith in the free market, and in
the political system that sustains it; and they don't
see that dealing with the environment will require serious inroads on
the profits and privileges of the corporations.
The environmental crisis calls urgently for the direct regulation of
production. What source of energy is used for
manufacturing and transportation, whether a forest is cut down or
preserved, whether the oceans are overfished, and whether raw materials
are economized or wasted, can no longer be left to the whims of the
capitalists and the bottom lines of their corporations.
This, however, goes against the "invisible hand" of the free market,
which cares nothing about long-run costs and benefits to humanity, but
focuses only on short-run profits and the immediate expansion of
capitalist wealth. Even if a few CEOs and pro-business
politicians should care about the environment and write books and fund
foundations to care for the environment, the "invisible hand" will
ensure that this has little or no effect on the overall workings of a
market economy. Economic decisions with a major affect
on the environment must be made on the basis of the overall interests
of the world's population. So preserving a livable
environment will require greater and greater violations of the free
market, and it can only be carried out truly effectively in a socialist
economy which eliminates the private ownership of the means of
production. Thus no matter what environmentalists may
imagine now, the struggle over the environment will eventually provide
a powerful impetus for the socialist organization of the working masses.
But the environmental crisis is upon us now, while capitalism still
exists. Major steps will have to be taken soon, while
the present capitalist ruling classes are still in power.
As the failure of carbon emission markets to solve the problem becomes
evident, they may take steps to implement carbon taxes;
and as the failure of carbon taxes becomes evident, they will have to
move to some type of regulation of production. True,
the capitalists will likely wait until their hands are forced by a
series of spectacular environmental disasters, and by then the
situation will be quite desperate. But the time is
coming closer when the capitalists will have to abandon neo-liberal
orthodoxy, and move towards a regulated capitalism.
But this will not mean that the capitalist governments will have
become socialist. Neo-liberal market fundamentalism is
not the only form of capitalism: capitalism has always
oscillated back and forth between periods of greater and lesser
regulation, and even now different capitalist countries have varying
amounts of regulation and social programs. The
planning that the capitalist governments introduce will be done by
capitalist agencies, and indeed the world economy will be subject to
imperialist agencies and the strongest imperialist powers. Capitalist
planning will seek to have the masses pay for the continued profits of
the corporations in the name of planning, just as now it makes the
masses pay in the name of the free market. It will be up to the masses
to fight to ensure that not only does the planning truly address the
environmental problems, but that the well-being of the masses is
So workers and environmental activists must not only press for government action to deal with the environmental crisis, but for recognition that this crisis has been brought about by the free market, and that the solution requires the direct regulation of production. They must expose the inadequacy of all solutions that shrink from transgressing against the private property rights of the corporations and the rich. They should not be satisfied simply with the emergency government planning that the capitalists will eventually be forced to introduce, and must instead bring to the fore that there are different types of planning -- planning that puts the overall interests of humanity and of its working class majority to the fore, and planning that preserves the privileged positions of the corporations and the rich as its first principle. This is important not only in the interest of the welfare of the masses, but also if the environmental crisis is to be properly dealt with. It is impossible to have a planet that is half starved, and half environmentally clean, a planet filled with urban slums on its surface but with pure, pristine forests, oceans, and atmosphere. Only when their efforts to save the environment also ensure their own welfare can the masses be fully mobilized behind environmental planning. And only with the participation of the working masses can the huge tasks required to save the environment be successfully accomplished, and only their participation will provide the oversight over the economy that will ensure that environmental planning is really carried out.
The environment crisis is no longer a future prospect:
every day brings news of new problems and dangers.
Some irreversible damage has already been done, from the vastly
accelerated rate at which various species are going extinct to the
already evident warming of the globe.
No doubt the world has always seen many natural disasters, tidal
waves, hurricanes, and strange climatic developments.
They are an organic part of normal weather. But global
warming has reached the point where it is modifying normal weather.
One may not be able to say that precisely this or that flood or drought
or year of record-breaking heat is due to global warming, any more than
one can say precisely which lung cancer cases are due to smoking, but
there is no longer any doubt that global warming is causing havoc, as
there is no doubt that the majority of lung cancers are due to tobacco.
It threatens to raise sea levels, melt the glaciers upon which many
countries depend for their water supply, make ocean waters more acidic,
and otherwise threaten human existence.
For some time, an increasing weight of scientific opinion has held
that global warming was occurring, and that man-made emissions into the
atmosphere of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases were the main
force behind it. Advances in climate science as well
as the evidence of what's been happening in recent years has eliminated
most doubt about this. Pro-business politicians,
apologists for the energy capitalists, and some eccentric academics may
still cast doubt on global warming, but there is little scientific
basis left for their stand. As was stated a few months
ago in Scientific American:
"The debate on global warming is over. Present levels of carbon dioxide--nearly 400 parts per million (ppm) in the earth's atmosphere--are higher than they have been at any time in the past 650,000 years and could easily surpass 500 ppm by the year 2050 without radical intervention.
"The earth requires greenhouse gases . . . .
But too much of a good thing . . .
is causing a steady uptick in the thermometer. Almost
all of the 20 hottest years on record have occurred since the 1980s."(1)
It's not that climate scientists can predict everything that will
happen as greenhouse gases continue to flood the atmosphere.
Some unexpected developments are bound to occur. It's
conceivable, as some people have suggested, that some of them may turn
out to be helpful. But so far, what has actually
happened is that unexpected developments have generally turned out to
be worse than expected. For example, the polar regions
are heating up faster than elsewhere on the globe;
Arctic and Antarctic ice is melting faster than expected;
the large Larsen B ice shelf on the fringe of Antarctica broke up
unexpectedly in 2002; and the glaciers on Greenland
are showing signs of weakening. But a break up either
of the ice sheet over Antarctica itself, or of that over Greenland,
would cause a catastrophic rise in ocean levels.
Moreover, the global warming of today reflects the greenhouse gas
emissions of past decades: the emissions of today will
not have their full effect on increasing global carbon dioxide levels
and heating the climate for decades or more. This is
called "environmental inertia". Even if greenhouse gas
emissions were brought under control immediately, we would still be
facing serious climate changes. But so far, these
emissions are still rising.
A number of the recent books and articles give a good picture of the danger confronting us. Even the politician Al Gore succeeded in giving a reasonable presentation of the overall danger in his book An Inconvenient Truth. For example, he brings out graphically that a rise in sea levels will force a redrawing of the maps of the world and force the mass migration of tens of millions of people. And Tim Flannery goes into more scientific detail in his book The Weather Makers. These and other works contain a good deal of useful information. I shall not try to duplicate the information in these works, important as it is, but will instead concentrate on the issues they do not deal with, the class issues associated with the environmental crisis, and especially the need for direct economic planning.
Despite the flood of information about global warming, the
American bourgeoisie largely shrugs off the danger.
Although the US is the largest producer of greenhouse gases in the
world, producing about 40% of the world total, the bourgeoisie feels no
sense of responsibility to anything but the pursuit of profit.
Even the devastation last year of a major American city, New Orleans,
left it largely unmoved.
At first the federal government sat on its hands as New Orleans
was hit by hurricane Katrina. The main concern of the
Bush administration seemed to be to stop other people from giving aid:
FEMA put obstacles in the way of people and other government units
bringing aid to New Orleans, and it delayed the aid offered by the
Canadian government. There was no concern for the
masses of poor, mainly black, people who were trapped inside New Orleans.
They were slandered on the TV as looters and criminals.
They were forbidden access to supplies existing in New Orleans:
the various levels of government were more concerned to protect private
property rights over ruined supplies and equipment than to relieve mass
distress. Military rule was exercised over the masses
in New Orleans, while little attention was paid to their needs.
When the federal government finally took the devastation of New
Orleans seriously, it gave huge subsidies to corporations, and it tried
to suspend wage guarantees for workers. This was
bourgeois emergency planing at its most blatant:
ignore the problem, and then use it as an excuse to give extra-large
profits to the bourgeoisie. It was particularly
blatant in New Orleans, as lack of concern for the plight of the poor
combined with racist prejudice against the black masses.
Nor have the federal and local governments taken sufficiently
seriously the problem of the future viability of New Orleans.
The repairs being made aren't sufficient to protect New Orleans against
another Katrina-strength storm, especially given that a good deal of
the wetlands that protected New Orleans were destroyed by Katrina.
Yet New Orleans has already been declared open for business.
And since the 2006 storm season passed without a single hurricane
hitting land in the US, no doubt it is thought that everything is back
The bourgeoisie has shrugged off the warning of hurricane Katrina.
Now, it may be argued that the flooding of New Orleans might not have
been a result of global warming. Even aside from
global warming, previous neglect of the levees, neo-liberal complacency
about infrastructure, and the destruction of wetlands through
unrestrained development made New Orleans vulnerable to storms.
But the fact that environmental factors other than global warming might
have been the main cause for the devastation of New Orleans is,
however, hardly cause for complacency. Far from being
a reason to rejoice it shows that, even aside from further climate
change, serious environmental issues are threatening the country in
general, and coastal areas in particular. This makes
the environmental crisis more serious, rather than less.
But in fact it is likely that global warming has contributed to
the strength of hurricanes, and will increasingly do so in the future.
Whether the flooding of New Orleans was due to global warming, the
flooding of future cities will be. Global warming is
contributing to the rise of sea levels, and may cause catastrophic
rises in sea level in the future. This will put many
cities around the world and in the US in danger.
The government response to Katrina is a warning about how the bourgeoisie will treat future environmental catastrophes. The different levels of government were complacent, and then acted oppressively to the working masses. They held back efforts of people, whether outside New Orleans or in non-flooded areas of the city, to help out. This shows that even in an emergency, the capitalist governments act in the interests of, and according to the prejudices of, the bourgeoisie. It isn't sufficient that capitalist governments start to act on a problem: it is necessary for the masses to press for attention to their needs and those of the environment.
The environmental crisis represents the most gigantic failure of
the free market. In capitalist mythology, the free
market is supposed to ensure that, while everyone strives for their own
benefit, the overall interest is served. Instead, the
rapid development of capitalism since World War II, both under
regulated capitalism and then world neo-liberal market fundamentalism,
has resulted in an increasingly rapid devastation of the environment.
The apologists of the free market explain away every problem by
saying that the people are only getting what they want.
But not only do the companies destroy the environment, but they devote
millions upon millions of dollars to public relations and to hiding the
truth about the environment. The free market has not
only raped the environment, but the corporations have systematically
lied about it, punished employees who admit the truth, filed legal
harassment suits against activists, and so on. The
large oil and energy companies have financed groups to either deny
global warming or even to boast about it as a wonderful new era of the
"greening" of the world.
In a rational world, one might expect those workplaces and
enterprises directly involved in energy and other activities affecting
the environment would monitor the effects on the environment.
They make billions of dollars in profit, year after year, and in
free-market mythology they are supposed to reinvest this in some useful
manner. They are the ones with the money to develop
new technologies and reinvest. But under capitalism,
they are the ones who care the least.
Al Gore admits there is a problem, and writes that
"The truth about global warming is especially
inconvenient and unwelcome to some powerful people and companies making
enormous sums of money from activities they know full well will have to
change dramatically in order to ensure the planet's livability."
And he goes on to say that "The truth about the climate crisis is an
inconvenient one that means we are going to have to change the way we
live our lives."(2)
But Gore himself is not willing to consider changing the economic system that has given rise to this problem, or even challenging the dogmas of the present neo-liberalism; he averts his eyes from the general failure of the market system. Instead he insists, against the evidence of the mounting crisis, that we should be "using market capitalism as an ally". (3) That means the government acts, but it does so in a way to subsidize the corporations, or even to create new markets in pollution-certificates. This plan hasn't worked--that's why there's still an environmental crisis.
The one success story of international agreement to save the
environment that Al Gore, Jim Hansen, Tim Flannery, and other
establishment environmentalists can promote is the restriction of
chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). But was this really an
example of "using market forces as an ally"? Let's take a closer look.
CFCs were originally promoted as miracle chemicals that make
refrigeration much safer; they also are useful as fire
suppressers and aerosol propellants. But it turned out
that, as they get released into the atmosphere from aerosols, from
leaky cooling systems, or as old equipment is junked, they rise up in
the atmosphere and destroy the ozone layer. Ozone in
excess quantities near the ground is a real nuisance, as people who
have lived in Los Angeles or other smoggy cities can testify.
But ozone in its proper place in the atmosphere is essential to shield
living things from ultraviolet rays and generally keep things in balance.
Thus the rapid spread of CFCs into the atmosphere was a real danger. The US and other capitalist governments (there are only capitalist governments in the world today) got together in an international agreement to curb and eventually stop the production of CFCs. This was the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer, and Al Gore has a chart in his book of how much CFC production has been cut back. Meanwhile Jim Hansen writes that:
". . . The first human-made atmospheric crisis emerged in 1974, when the chemists Sherry Rowland and Mario Molina reported the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) might destroy the stratospheric ozone layer that protects animal and plant life from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. How narrowly we escaped disaster was not realized until years later. . . . When the use of CFCs for refrigeration began to increase, and a voluntary phaseout of CFCs for that purpose proved ineffective, the US and European governments took the lead in negotiating the Montreal Protocol to control the production of CFCs. Developing countries were allowed to increase the use of CFCs for a decade and they were given financial assistance to construct alternative chemical plants. The result is that the use of CFCs is now decreasing, the ozone layer was damaged but not destroyed, and it will soon be recovering. "(4)
However, there are a few things they leave out of the
story. The main thing is that the Montreal Protocol is not an example
of successful market methods, but of government regulation.
The heart of the Protocol consists of agreement concerning how fast to
phase out CFCs and other ozone-destroying chemicals.
Individual governments covered by these phase-outs have to enact their
own regulations to ensure that this takes place. As
well, the Protocol created a Multilateral Fund to help poorer
governments replace CFCs and other dangerous chemicals.
As the Fund apparently directly subsidizes projects that cut back on
these chemicals, it involves planning rather then leaving it to the
market to decide what steps should be taken.
True, a number of loopholes in the Protocol's regulations allow
room for market forces. And the planning was
capitalist planning, in which the US government and others championed
the interest of their own chemical industries. But
these things were not the source of strength of the Protocol, but
weakened it. This appeared, for example, in the
question of what to replace CFCs with. This was
decided in accordance with what the chemical companies that produced
CFCs claimed was possible. So the Protocol allowed the
replacement of CFCs with HCFCs (hydrochloroflourocarbons), which,
however, also harm the ozone layer, although apparently far less than
do CFCs. HCFCs are supposed to be used as a transition
to the eventual use of HFCs (hydroflourocarbons). Thus
a two-step process was put into effect, with the use of CFCs to
replaced first by HCFCs, and then HFCs.
But it turns out that both HCFCs and HFCs are potent greenhouse
gases. True, the amount of HCFCs and HFCs put into the
atmosphere is very small relative to carbon dioxide emissions.
But, unfortunately, a single molecule of an HCFC or an HFC may do as
much damage as thousands of molecules of carbon dioxide.
So they do pose some danger. Indeed, HFCs are among
the greenhouse gases condemned by the Kyoto agreement.
Yet alternatives existed quite early for many uses of HCFCs and
HFCs. For example, a major use of CFCs had been in
refrigerators. But, thanks mainly to the efforts of
the environmental activists of Greenpeace, "Greenfreeze" refrigerators
were introduced in 1993 that don't use CFCs, HCFCs, or HFCs and don't
have the drawbacks of earlier non-CFC refrigerators.
Although they are still not used in the US, their use has gradually
spread in a number of countries. By now, despite the
foot-dragging of the chemical companies, HCFCs and HFCs can, for most
uses, be replaced by chemicals that do little harm to the atmosphere.
But as it is, HCFCs aren't to be completely banned until 2030.
This slow pace of elimination has more to do with allowing the chemical
companies to profit off their investments in HCFC plants -- the
companies say they need to operate these plants for so many years in
order to get a proper return on investment -- than with the lack of
ability to find replacements. This will slow down the
recovery of the ozone layer. Meanwhile the Montreal
Protocol in effect bequeathed the problem of HFCs to the Kyoto Protocol.
Such problems with the Montreal Protocol have to do with the way
it was administered and implemented. Except insofar as
environmental activist groups protested against HCFCs and other
problems, the masses of people were kept out of the planning process.
Meanwhile the World Bank, a major enemy of environmental reform, was
brought in as one of the major agencies for distributing the
Multilateral Fund. Through it all, the UN issued
saccharine reports about how wonderful things were going, while
concealing the concessions to the chemical companies.
If, despite all this, the Montreal Protocol seems to have averted the immediate danger to the ozone layer, it is because this could be done with relatively small changes. Only the substitution of certain chemicals was needed; only a handful of big corporations were affected; and the overall economy could proceed without change. In this situation, the bourgeois governments agreed to directly regulate the production and consumption of the main ozone-destroying substances despite the obstruction of certain bourgeois interests, who were essentially bought off. But, it can be asked, will it be so easy to get the bourgeoisie to agree to regulation of production when it covers, not just a few chemicals, but the entire range of energy generation and even additional matters?
So far, the answer is no. Spearheaded by the US
bourgeoisie, the world bourgeoisie is seeking to use neo-liberal market
methods to deal with the environment. The free market
and unrestrained property rights are more important to the bourgeoisie
than preventing the devastation of the environment and all the
disasters that Al Gore portrays. Indeed, "using market
forces as an ally" is more precious to Al Gore himself than the
protecting the environment.
The result is the fiasco of the Kyoto Protocol.
The problem isn't just that the US, the main greenhouse gas emitter,
failed to sign on to the Protocol. Bad as this is,
there is worse. That's the failure of the Kyoto
Protocol to ensure reductions in greenhouse gases in most of the
countries that have signed on to it.
The Kyoto Protocol of 1997 was supposed to make a start on doing
for global warming what the Montreal Protocol did for the ozone layer.
It only calls for small cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990
levels to be achieved by 2008-12, but this would mark a break in the
escalating emissions that have been occurring year by year.
However, its fatal flaw was that it abandoned the direct regulation
used by the Montreal Protocol and instead sought to apply market methods.
The Kyoto Protocol did set targets for the amount of greenhouse
emissions that various countries would be allowed. But
the main method for achieving this reduction was to be carbon trading.
This was a neo-liberal approach to the greenhouse crisis.
With regulation, the government would act by regulating electrical
generation and other major sources of greenhouse gases, and forcing the
use of cleaner technologies, alternative sources of power, and
conservation. The government could also seek to
accelerate research and development of new technologies.
But under carbon trading, the government instead seeks to create a
market in pollution permits. Companies are allowed to
decide whether to actually stop putting out greenhouse gases, or buy a
certificate to allow them to continue polluting.
The neo-liberal economists claim that direct regulation of
production to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is inefficient, because
it would be hard for the regulators to know how difficult it is to
achieve reductions in each particular case. Thus some
companies might be forced to make difficult cutbacks, while others
might be able to reach regulatory goals with little effort or expense.
Wouldn't it be better, they say, to first do all the easy reductions,
no matter which company they are located at, and then the more
difficult ones? This, they claim, would result in eliminating the
maximum amount of greenhouse gas emissions at the least cost.
They believe this could be achieved by using market forces.
But unfortunately, it's market forces that have resulted in
massive pollution even from easily-eliminated sources of pollution.
So something has to be changed if market forces are suddenly going to
start eliminating pollution. So the neo-liberal
economists propose that the government artificially create new market
forces by issuing pollution permits that grant the right to create a
certain mount of pollution. The neo-liberals have a
complicated scheme to create a market in pollution by allowing
companies to buy and sell these pollution permits.
This market will supposedly redirect market forces into a force for
Now, how does this artificial market work? Companies aren't going
to be forced to pay for all the greenhouse gases that they create.
That would be a tax on pollution, which is something else.
Instead, under carbon trading, all the polluters are given rights to a
certain amount of carbon dioxide emissions based on how much they have
been polluting in the past. (Other greenhouse gases
would be measured in terms of carbon dioxide equivalents -- hence the
permits are called carbon permits. ) The companies
would receive their allocation of carbon permits from the government
free. But if a company wanted or needed to emit more
greenhouse gas than allowed by its permits, it would have to buy
additional carbon permits -- not from the government, but from other
firms. If a firm didn't need all its carbon permits,
whether because it had replaced polluting equipment with new,
environmentally-friendly processes, or because it simply wasn't
producing as much because of a business slowdown, it didn't have to
give its permits back to the government; instead, it
was expected to sell its excess permits to other firms.
Hence there would be a market in carbon permits.
Market forces would then determine the price of the permits.
The idea is that if a firm could reduce its greenhouse emissions for
less than the price of a permit, it would do so in order to make money
selling carbon permits that it no longer would have to use itself.
If it couldn't replace its greenhouse gas except by spending more money
than permits would cost, it would buy carbon permits.
The plan is that carbon permits aren't supposed to cover all the
greenhouse gas emissions of an industry, since if all the emissions
were permitted, there would be no pressure at all to cut back on them.
Instead, the intention is that a certain fraction of the emissions are
left uncovered by the permits. And, as mentioned
above, those companies who find that they don't have enough permits to
cover their emissions are then given the choice to either eliminate the
uncovered emissions, or to buy excess permits from other companies to
cover these emissions. Thus the total amount of
greenhouse gas emissions from industry isn't supposed to exceed the
amount allowed by the permits granted by the government, but the
companies are allowed to trade the permits among themselves and thus
rearrange which companies are allowed to continue high emissions and
which companies will cut back on emissions.
Then the amount of carbon permits is supposed to be cut back
gradually year after year. Thus, greenhouse gas
emissions are supposed to go down. And, in
establishment economic theory, the market itself would determine how
this is to be accomplished, on which companies decide to cut back on
greenhouse gases, and on how they choose to do so.
Regulators wouldn't have to do this. The government
would supposedly be taken out of the picture. And, so
the theory goes, instead of dread inflexible regulation, one would
supposedly have a dynamic system where the market ensured the maximum
amount of reduction of greenhouse gas for the least cost.
The first problem that arises is that carbon trading actually
requires more government calculation than a system of direct regulation
of production. The government must do all the
calculations that regulation would require, such as figuring out the
degree to which replacement of polluting sources was possible.
It needs to know this in order to know how many carbon permits to issue.
Then it must do still more calculation. For example,
it must know the exact amount of greenhouse gas emission that takes
place at each source of pollution, because this determines whether a
particular company has excess pollution that must be covered by
permits, or has spare carbon permits that it can sell to others.
Naturally a company can't simply be allowed to declare how much
greenhouse gas it emitted -- there must be a way of measuring this, and
of keeping the companies honest. And it isn't
sufficient that a company replaced old equipment with efficient new
equipment; there has to be an exact measure of how
good the new equipment is.
The neo-liberal economists, the same ones who say that government
regulation is blundering and inefficient and inflexible, suddenly don't
see any problem in the government carrying out all these calculations
if it is necessary to create artificial carbon markets.
Government calculations are righteously denounced if they are used to
directly force reductions in greenhouse gas emission, but are tacitly
approved if they are for the purpose of creating markets in pollution.
Nor do the neo-liberal economists note that, in practice, corporate
influence on the process of giving out the carbon permits creates
abundant opportunities for corruption, especially as this process is
done behind closed doors.
Nevertheless, the Kyoto Protocol was to work through these carbon
markets. Indeed, it wasn't just that firms could buy
and sell greenhouse permits from other firms. As well,
instead of buying pollution permits, a firm could use carbon "offsets"
-- that is, it could invest in projects that eliminate greenhouse gas
emissions that would otherwise take place, such as a project to replace
old technology with newer, cleaner technology, or projects that are
supposed to absorb carbon, such as the replanting of a forest.
In particular, countries that had carbon reduction quotas under Kyoto
could offset some of their greenhouse gas emissions against UN-approved
projects which they financed in those developing countries which were
exempted from carbon reduction quotas under Kyoto. Of
course, under this system, there had to be an exact calculation of how
much greenhouse gas emission would be saved by the offsetting projects,
and this had to be known in advance. Otherwise the
polluters would be offsetting their greenhouse emissions against
phantom savings to the environment. Indeed, it's not
just a matter of calculating how much carbon dioxide is emitted by a
project, or absorbed by a forest, but how much would have been if there
hadn't been a project. In practice, such speculative
calculations are carried out by people who are nameless and faceless
with respect to the general public; they are private
consultants to the very companies who are using the offsets as well as
various officials from the UN and the national governments.
This complicated system does indeed turn pollution into a commodity.
And buying and selling of carbon permits is flourishing under the Kyoto
Protocol. But in practice it doesn't work to minimize
pollution; instead it creates many ways for companies
to avoid reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It slows
down the process of environmental reform. Yes, it
unleashes market forces, but these forces don't aim at a reduction of
pollution, but at making profits. It turns out that it
isn't so easy to cure the failures of the free market and force the
"invisible hand" to change its nature.
For one thing, the system may well encourage some firms to hold
back on any major elimination of greenhouse emissions in order to
preserve their carbon permits for future speculation.
Remember that a firm which emits a large amount of greenhouse gas will
receive a carbon permit covering most of these emissions.
But it will continue to receive these permits only so long as these
polluting processes continue. True, the firm may also
have to buy a small amount of additional carbon permits to cover all
the pollution caused by its operations, but this might not cost much in
years where the price of carbon permits is low or when economic
slowdowns cut down the amount of greenhouse gas emission anyway.
It will then be profitable to maintain the polluting process until the
price of carbon permits goes up sharply, because then, in the year
where the company closes down the process altogether, it can make a
gigantic profit by selling all its spare carbon permits.
This type of speculation may be especially profitable in the case
where the firm can pass on the cost of its carbon permits to its
customers, as power companies are sometimes able to do.
Thus such companies lose nothing when they have to buy carbon permits,
because their customers may be the ones who pay, but they may make a
tremendous profit when they sell carbon permits, and -- government
regulation permitting -- they will retain this profit for themselves
rather than passing it on to their customers.
Similarly, carbon trading may give an incentive to slow down on
research. It will not generally be advantageous for an
industry to admit rapid progress in devising ways to replace polluting
processes. The more progress it admits to, the more
likely it will lose its pollution permits. The more an
industry neglects to do work to replace polluting processes, the more
it will be able to petition the government for special exemptions on
the plea that it has no alternative to continuing pollution.
And it is not just carbon permits, but carbon offsets that are
subject to abuse. They encourage companies to devise
cheap activities that appear to help the environment and to make
optimistic estimates about the value of these activities.
Thus carbon offsets can end up encouraging the worst forms of
monoculture forestry, as firms can get credits by financing the
planting of trees in poorer countries. The firms don't
really care about the forest, only about the carbon offsets, and this
isn't conductive to paying any attention to what the local environment
really needs. Thus the flood of money seeking carbon
offsets can distort the development of poorer countries, and result in
some dubious projects.
Moreover carbon offsets can give rise to some very smug hypocrisy.
Al Gore, for example, claims that his book An Inconvenient Truth
is "the first book produced to offset 100% of the CO2
emissions generated from productive activities with renewable energy.
By supporting a Native American wind farm and a new family farm methane
project through NativeEnergy, this publication is carbon neutral.
"(5) Actually, An
Inconvenient Truth is produced with the glossiest paper, the most
beautiful inks, and the maximum of graphics. It
probably has a much higher ratio of carbon emission per word than, say,
many plainer paperbacks. This isn't blameworthy in
itself, since global warming isn't going to be stopped by banning
books, and producing a book on the environment in an eye-catching way
is a laudable activity. But it is hypocrisy to pretend
that the book is carbon neutral in any real sense. It
distracts attention from the need to find ways to minimize the
environmental impact of the production, distribution, and storage of
books, magazines, and newspapers. It may be very fine
that Gore is contributing to a wind farm and a methane project, but
that is a separate activity from producing or distributing his book.
Otherwise one would be left with a world where the rich lecture the
poor, as Gore does, that they have to change every aspect of their
lives in order to save the environment, while the rich and the
corporations merely have to donate some money to carbon offsets.
A lengthy report that goes into much more detail and documents the way carbon trading and carbon offsets work in practice appeared several months ago. This is Carbon Trading: a critical conversation on climate change, privatisation and power. (6) It provides a picture of how market forces act, not in the imagination of free-market economists, but in the real world. It shows that pollution-trading schemes aren't more efficient than regulation, but tend to weaken and slow down efforts to protect the environment. And the results with respect to carbon trading have been especially tragic.
The abuses with carbon trading aren't simply blemishes on an
otherwise successful system. On the contrary, the
experience of the Kyoto Protocol is that carbon trading hasn't worked.
A recent BBC report points out that there is "a 2.4%
total increase in emissions across 41 industrialized countries between
2000 and 2004". This would be a period in which carbon
trading has been in full swing. (7)
This is a disaster. There was supposed to be, by
2012, a modest overall 5% decline in greenhouse gas emissions from
their level of 1990. (Different countries were
assigned different targets -- some are even allowed increases, but less
than what they were otherwise expected to achieve. )
As of now, it looks like the goals of the Kyoto Protocol aren't going
to be met.
True, the BBC report also says that, so far, there has been a 3.
3% decline since 1990. This statistic may look good,
but only provided one doesn't examine it too closely.
First of all, as mentioned above, the downward trend of the 1990s
hasn't lasted, as the statistics for 2000-2004 show.
But moreover, the decline of the 1990s seems to have occurred due
to special circumstances having little to do with carbon trading.
A large part was due to the devastation of industry in Russia and the
countries of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet system;
and now, as the economies recover from the crisis of the 1990s,
emissions have begun to increase in these countries.
The same factor seems to have accounted for a large part of the decline
in Germany, with many coal-fired plants in the East being shut down
after German reunification. And British reductions in
greenhouse emissions are due in large part to a shift of electric
generation from coal to natural gas. (8) But for other countries, there's a different story:
Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ireland, Finland, and Austria showed
spectacular increases in greenhouse gas emissions. And
Japan, with a target of a 6% decrease, presently has a 6% increase
since 1990. (9)
So carbon markets haven't worked to reduce greenhouse gas. And, as we have seen, they have also failed to take the government out of the picture. On the contrary, the government is involved intimately with each step of carbon trading. It issues the carbon permits and creates the carbon market; it issues various exemptions for branches of industry that might otherwise fail, or that have sufficient influence to bribe their way out of the scheme; and it certifies the carbon offsets and their size. So the elimination of direct regulation doesn't remove the government from the picture; instead it guarantees the worst type of government planning, where the masses have no role and government officials serve mainly as servants of this or that private interest.
Today both the Green Party and establishment figures such as Dr.
Hansen advocate a carbon tax, that is, a tax on greenhouse gas
emissions, including a tax on gasoline and other fossil fuels.
This has the advantage of being a somewhat simpler and more
straightforward proposal than carbon trading, and some limited form of
carbon tax might play a subsidiary role in dealing with the
environmental crisis. Indeed, taxes are often part of
broader programs of direct government regulation of the economy, both
to raise money for various programs and to discourage certain
well-defined activities. But the carbon tax is being
put forward as the main tool for solving the greenhouse problem;
it is to be the alternative to direct regulation of production.
It is supposedly a way in which the government can leave it to the
market to determine how to reduce greenhouse emissions.
The government will define the carbon-content of various products and
processes and tax this content, and otherwise take a hands-off stand to
what products and processes are used. It is thus a
market method of approach. As such, it will be no more
able than carbon trading to civilize the invisible hand of market forces.
The idea of the carbon tax is that it itself will suffice to spur
people and companies to cut down on activities that involve greenhouse
gas emissions, and lead them to find cheaper substitutes.
But consider what happened a few months ago when gas prices rose
precipitously. The price was high enough that it
caused real misery to those workers who had to engage in long commutes
to work. But did they then switch from cars to mass
transit? No, because mass transit wasn't available.
Well, did it then result in people quitting their jobs and finding ones
closer to home? No, because this wasn't feasible either.
High prices can't improve the situation when the people have no
affordable environmentally-friendly alternatives to change to.
A major reduction of greenhouse emissions will require major
projects, from changes in the infrastructure such as building public
transit systems, to developing new technologies. This
can't be done by individuals for themselves, no matter how much pain
the carbon tax inflicts on them. In the past, major
changes in the infrastructure have been done by government projects or
with government investment. For example, the building
of the transcontinental railroad, the national highway system, and the
electrical power grid all involved government investment and/or
regulation. Yet it is pretended that today market
forces can accomplish the major changes in energy generation required
to deal with greenhouse emissions.
Moreover, the pain inflicted by a carbon tax would hit primarily
at poorer consumers. For example, some businesses may
be able to pass on the full cost of the carbon tax to their consumers,
just as they pass on energy costs today. These
businesses will not have any special incentive to worry about the
carbon content of their activities. True, even when
the businesses aren't concerned about the carbon tax, their consumers
will be motivated to buy more energy-efficient products, but this will
result in market pressures only when such alternative products exist.
Thus, whatever the intention, the carbon tax will tend to fall on the
masses. Indeed, if the history of carbon trading is
any indication, businesses will seek exemptions or other ways to shield
themselves from carbon taxes or even turn such taxes to their benefit.
Of course, companies also seek to corrupt government bodies that
directly regulate production. They do it all the time.
But it is much harder to bring oversight and transparency into carbon
trading and complicated tax codes than into the direct regulation of
All in all, companies will react to the carbon tax, but not
necessarily in the way best for the environment. They
will seek the solution most profitable for them. The
result will be that the carbon tax isn't likely to do too much better
than carbon trading.
And how severe would the pain of a carbon tax be? Would a carbon
tax be as heavy as the recent gas price increases? Well, actually, it
would probably have to be far heavier. There was a
recent exchange about the size of the carbon tax between Jim Hansen and
an environmentalist, Richard Rosen of the Tellus Institute.
Rosen pointed out that "if gasoline is currently about $3 per gallon,
the price including Hansen's proposed carbon tax would have to be
several times this level, at least, to have any significant impact on
total energy consumption within a decade." To show
this, he pointed out that "gasoline in Europe already costs almost $6
per gallon, and Europe also uses far too much gasoline."
He estimated that a carbon tax would have to be "vastly higher than the
$10-20 per ton of CO2 that economists often discuss as appropriate today;
perhaps $100 per ton of CO2 or more". Such a price
would, he believed, "throw most national economies, particularly that
of the US, into disarray." He didn't say this in order
to advocate inaction, quite the contrary, but to show the need for
direct government action "in the way of planning new energy efficiency
programs and a vast new renewable energy infrastructure".
(10) The Tellus Institute
opposes the view that "market forces" can provide a solution to the
world's environmental problems.
In reply, Jim Hansen claimed that all that is needed is "a gradual
but steadily increasing carbon tax" and "the certainty that the tax
will continue to increase". In his view, it will be
high eventually but there should be no sharp jumps.
But he doesn't provide any estimate of how large such a tax would have
to be, or how fast it would act. He simply reasons
that, to avoid economic disruption, it should be gradual.
Thus he tailors his scheme to what he regards as economically and
politically feasible, and doesn't look closely at whether it will
really suffice to solve the greenhouse problem. His
support for the carbon tax is based on the view that "the government
should leave the picking of winners to the marketplace", and thus there
should be a tax, rather than direct regulation of production.
This is the same blind faith in market forces that have resulted in the
fiasco of carbon trading, and indeed Hansen also wants to have a "cap
and trade" arrangement for carbon emissions trading between power plants.
Meanwhile Hansen and many advocates of a carbon tax disavow one
possible use of a carbon tax (or, presumably, any new tax), which would
be to finance government programs to improve the environment and to
help the working masses hurt by environmental problems.
This would go against their free-market principles.
Thus Hansen insisted that fuel taxes should have "rebates to taxpayers
so that the government revenue from the tax does not increase."
So "the taxpayer can use his rebate to fill his gas-guzzler if he
likes, but most people will eventually reduce their use of fuel in
order to save money, and will spend the rebate on something else."(12) So the tax is collected and
then refunded, make sense of that those who can.
In this regard, the Green Party of Michigan believes itself to be
fighting the corporations and wants programs to help the masses, but
also accepts the big business propaganda line on big government and
points out it is "not proposing a bigger overall role for government".
In order to keep the government from growing, it calls for "revenue
neutrality" with respect to the various carbon taxes on fossil fuels
and other tax changes it proposes ("neutrality" means that tax
increases should be balanced by tax cuts and refunds so that the net
amount of revenue available to the government remains the same).
It admits that the carbon taxes will have a "regressive nature", that
is, that they will hit disproportionately at the masses, but unlike Jim
Hansen it wants to "offset" this by "funding public transportation,
weatherization, housing and education". But the extent
of these programs would presumably be limited by the need for "revenue
There is no reason to assume that the carbon tax would do much better than carbon trading. The present advocates of a carbon tax don't seem to have taken into account the experience of carbon trading, and many of them even want to combine carbon trading with the carbon tax.
Another example of market methods, energy deregulation, has also
been a fiasco. It used to be normal for a state in the
US to enforce its own energy plan. It would estimate
how much electricity and other energy supplies would be needed in the
future, and ensure that sufficient generating and transmission capacity
would be available to meet this demand. Such planning
would not go outside the bounds of capitalism, and the regulatory
commissions would give the energy utilities high rates of return.
There would be high charges to consumers while special deals would be
given to large corporate consumers of electricity. But
the regulation ensured that power would be available.
Then came the age of deregulation. Energy markets
were deregulated in one state after another. The
capitalist economists promised that market forces would provide cheap
and abundant power. This would supposedly eliminate
inefficiencies and high prices as power companies would be forced to
compete against each other. But in reality, the result
was the California energy crisis, whereby energy was in short supply
and prices skyrocketed. (14) Deregulation created new markets in buying and selling
electrical power; it brought exceptional profits to
some energy capitalists; but it resulted in
deterioration of the energy infrastructure.
But instead of reconsidering deregulation, most politicians and capitalist economists have been claiming that deregulation wasn't sufficiently thorough: it supposedly didn't allow the market forces sufficient freedom. And so, while the immediate crisis in California passed, the situation is still festering. In the last few years, as transitional caps on energy prices have ended, huge price increases for energy have been threatened in one region after another.
Many advocates of market solutions cite the collapse of the Soviet
Union and the difficulties that afflicted Soviet planning as evidence
that direct regulation of production is inefficient, doesn't work, and
is bad for the environment. But the view that Soviet
planning had nothing to do with individual profit-seeking and market
forces reflects a Cold War stereotype of the Soviet Union.
A study of the actual Soviet economy tells another story.
It is of course well-known that the Soviet economy was ruled by
five-year plans. But under Stalin, the official policy
was that market forces, if restricted and redirected by the directives
of the Soviet ministries, and the prices set by these ministries, would
orient factories to produce according to the demands of the five-year
plans. Enterprises ran on the basis of khozraschet,
which refers to business accounting and self-financing;
the enterprises had their own financial balances and each was supposed
to make a profit. Moreover, the managers -- and to
some extent, the workers -- received rewards if their enterprise
fulfilled the state plan. Each enterprise was supposed
to be motivated to be efficient by the discipline of not only
fulfilling the production plan given it by the ministries, but of
earning a profit. Although in theory the enterprise
managers had little power, in practice they had wide discretion in
meeting various goals in the way they felt proper;
it's notable that even during the bloody purges of the mid-1930s some
of them boasted in Soviet journals about how they flouted some of the
directives that had been issued to them or even violated Soviet laws in
order to meet their production quotas. They also
developed ways of trading among themselves outside the plan.
Thus in practice, although the Soviet ministries directed resources to
major projects as they chose, the economy didn't run as a single
well-oiled machine. Instead, enterprises competed with
each other, and so did ministries. A description of
this can be found in the article "The anarchy of production under the
veneer of Soviet revisionist planning" in the March 1997 issue of Communist
This system continued under Khrushchov and his successors.
Indeed, one generation after another of Soviet economic reformers
attempted to solve the ills of the Soviet economy with new schemes to
unleash market forces; they insisted that the previous
generation had run into problems because it hadn't sufficiently
unleashed the profit incentive. More incentives, and
more leeway in the search for profits, would be given to the
enterprises, that is, to the enterprise management, and new ways of
determining whether the enterprise had fulfilled the plan, and thus
earned bonuses, would be devised. But each time
private interest and market forces acted according to their nature, and
the enterprises found ways to be profitable while violating the goals
of the ministries. And again and again, when
enterprises supposedly fulfilled their assigned output of goods, thus
earning their bonuses, but produced the wrong goods or inferior goods,
instead of looking into why this happened and changing the way the
enterprises were run, the ministries readjusted the profit incentives.
Thus the ministries found that the enterprises, rather than
becoming more and more efficient in fulfilling the state plan in order
to make profits, would find ways that were profitable for them, but
that harmed the Soviet economy. It wasn't as easy to
tame market forces as Stalin, Khrushchov, and the new Soviet
bourgeoisie thought. The Soviet economy grew rapidly
for a time, but this growth went hand-in-hand with the development of
internal problems and contradictions. Something
similar happens in Western market economies, where recessions, crises,
and the impoverishment of large sections of the population can
accompany overall growth.
In the Soviet Union, rapid growth eventually gave way to
increasing stagnation, and even to deterioration of parts of the economy.
There is a large body of literature about how every time the ministries
issued new indices to measure compliance with the plan, the enterprises
found unexpected ways to thwart the ministry's intention.
A typical story would run something like this: If a
factory was judged on producing, say, a sufficient supply of nails, it
used too many resources. If the ministry changed the
indices to take account of supplies, the factory produced a lot of
small nails. If the indices were changed to demand
both a variety of nails and economy of resources, the factory would
produce weak nails. But this wasn't because the
factory director didn't know what type of nails was needed;
it was because the factory director didn't care: all
that was important to him was earning his bonus by fulfilling the
ministry's indices. Meanwhile the ministry involved
wouldn't directly intervene in the factory to change the system whereby
it intentionally produced inferior products. The
ministry and the factory management were both composed of the same
class of officials. Any solution was supposed to
preserve the interests of this class, so it could only involve changing
and rechanging the indices.
The economy worked this way because the Bolshevik revolution had
died out and been replaced by a system of state-capitalism that had
consolidated in the 1930s. The economy was under the
control of a new bourgeoisie, and the workers were left in a passive
position where their only role was to produce, not to supervise the
enterprises individually or the economy as a whole.
Thus workers weren't in a position to exercise mass control over how
the factories operated; this would go against the
whole logic, the class structure, of the system.
Supervision was the job of the new bourgeoisie, such as the enterprise
managers, and market forces were used to discipline the managers.
But even those readers who don't agree with this assessment of the
class structure of the Soviet economy will, if they examine any
reasonably good history of the Soviet economy, find a description of
the competition among Soviet enterprises, the motivation of managers by
the desire for greater profit, and the constant attempts to redefine
the production norms so that enterprises would be motivated by the spur
of profit to do what the ministries wanted. The
economists of different political trends who have studied the Soviet
economy differ sharply among themselves as to why these things occurred
and what their significance is, but the basic facts about the anarchy
of production in the Soviet economy aren't too hard to find.
The difficulties that the Soviet ministries had in directing the enterprises resembles the attempt in Western capitalist countries to solve environmental problems through market forces. Market forces result in corporations producing and selling environmentally-harmful goods. Instead of directly regulating production and interfering with market forces, the neo-liberal economists insist that indirect methods should be used, such as creating a market in pollution-certificates or relying simply on taxes, so that properly-directed market forces will themselves lead to cleaning up the environment. For example, a market in pollution-certificates may be created. This may accomplish something, just as Soviet enterprises did carry out the instructions of the ministries to some extent. But it will also be found that corporations will evade the intent of the pollution-certificates just as Soviet enterprises evaded the intent of the ministries. The Soviet nail factory might produce only small nails, while an EU enterprise may invest in a dubious carbon offset in order to avoid making real reductions in greenhouse emissions. The Soviet enterprise sought to get its own representatives in the ministries in order to get the plan changed in its interests, and the Western enterprises lobby the bourgeois politicians and bribe or suborn officials in order to get exemptions from requirements, more carbon permits, or favorable estimates of how much greenhouse gas they are emitting.
The Western economists claim that trying to get market forces to solve environmental questions is the alternative to Soviet methods. But Stalinist state-capitalist economists also claimed that profit-seeking could be used to ensure compliance with their aims. In fact, neither the market capitalists nor the state-capitalists ever found the way to civilize market forces.
What the environmental crisis calls for is the conscious direction of the economy. This requires direct government regulation, but of a type different than the usual government action we are familiar with under capitalism. This regulation is going to have to be far more extensive than usual. It's going to have to take account of mass interests, although for decades now neo-liberalism has sought to squeeze social programs to the hilt. If it's to succeed, it's going to have to involve mass participation and supervision. All of this is going to bring it into repeated conflict with privileged interests and capitalist ownership of the means of production, so it will be a constant struggle to achieve as much of this type of regulation of production as is possible. A certain amount must be achieved if the environmental crisis is to be dealt with. But the conflict between planning and private profit will continue until socialist revolution establishes a fundamentally new economic system.
The Montreal Protocol to save the ozone layer only asked for
relatively minor changes in the economy: the
elimination of certain chemicals. This affects certain
chemical companies and also requires technical changes in
refrigeration, fire-extinguishers, and other equipment.
But the overall environmental crisis will call for broad changes
throughout the economy.
Thus stopping or mitigating the greenhouse effect will take a major change in how energy is generated. Jim Hansen says that business-as-usual will lead to a disastrous five degrees Fahrenheit increase in overall global temperature in this century, while restricting this increase to an "alternative scenario" of under two degrees will require that carbon dioxide "emissions level off this decade, slowly decline for a few decades, and by mid-century decrease rapidly, aided by new technologies."(16) What does this mean for the US? Richard Rosen points out that "Al Gore's own chart, which he [Dr. Hansen] reproduces in his article, shows that the US uses about 5. 5 times the world average of carbon per capita. Thus, if by 2050 or so, the world average carbon-emissions rate had to fall by 50 percent from current levels, which seems consistent with Dr. Hansen's alternative scenario, then if equity were to be imposed on the US on a per capita basis, the US would have to cut back carbon emissions by a factor of 11 (1/2 times 1/5. 5). This is a 91 percent reduction! This level of reduction would truly revolutionize the US energy system, and the overall economy as well."(17)
This would involve changes in electrical generation, transportation of goods and people, and probably even in agriculture. Moreover, while other countries may not be faced with a 91% reduction under this scenario, they will still be faced with similar economic changes. Indeed, as China, India, and other countries have developed economically, they have taken up the mass use of automobiles and other methods similar to the US.
But even with this "alternative scenario", with its dramatic
slashes in the production of greenhouse gases, global warming will
cause substantial changes in climate. Dealing with
this altered climate will itself require economic changes.
There will likely be changes in agriculture, rebuilding of
infrastructure to deal with differing weather patterns, protection of
coastal areas from flooding, and so forth.
Moreover, global warming is only one of the environmental issues
that will be coming to the fore in the coming century.
Even if some relatively easy way should be discovered to forestall
global warming, these other issues would remain. The
destruction of wetlands and natural coastal areas by rampant
development is reaching crisis proportions, and is one of the reasons
for the extensive devastation caused by tsunamis and hurricanes;
the exhaustion and/or pollution of aquifers is part of a developing
problem of ensuring a sufficient amount of usable fresh water;
world fish stocks have to be protected from total collapse;
the disposal of garbage and industrial and agricultural waste is a
growing problem; the destruction of forests threatens
not just the greenhouse gas balance, but biodiversity;
and a number of resources may become scarce.
Dealing with these problems will require major changes in one field after another of the economy. The prospect of such major transformations of the economy is not utopian. Such changes have occurred repeatedly in the past, as one can see by comparing the economy today to what it is was a hundred years ago, in the early 20th century, and also by comparing the early 20th century economy to the early 19th century economy. Such changes as electrification have involved the rapid replacement and modernization of large parts of the economy. So, in an earlier time, did the development of steam power. What will be different from the past is, among other things, that these changes must be done as consciously as possible, with concern to their overall consequences, in order to preserve the good of the environment. Such changes will also have to be more comprehensive than in the past, when such changes might take place in some parts of the economy, but not others, and certainly not in all countries of the world. Moreover the timing and pace of change will be forced by environmental necessity.
Carrying out such changes will require comprehensive economic
planning. And this requires having a picture of the
entire economy. Not only will there have to be
constant attention to the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions and
other pollutants, but to the total production of each branch of the
economy, and the overall needs of the population.
This will require going beyond financial planning.
Instead there must be consideration of the material amounts of each
product, resource, and pollutant of concern. The
climate is affected by such and such physical amount of pollutants, not
by dollar values. Moreover, it isn't even sufficient
to keep track of the total physical amount of goods, there must also be
consideration of their geographical distribution.
There must also be regional planning of the land in order to ensure the
proper amount of wetlands, the preservation of habitats for animals,
the proper quality and not just size of forests, and so forth.
The Green Party calls for "true cost pricing", and so do many
establishment environmentalists. It is an appealing
phrase as it seems to say that one should look into everything involved
in producing something, using it, and disposing of it.
But taken literally, it simply means giving all this a price.
It implies that market forces would take care of matters if only things
had their proper prices, and it goes along with belief in carbon
trading, carbon taxes, etc. Since, in practice, the
market will not give things their "true cost price", the idea is that
government will somehow calculate the true price and force the market
to adhere to it; with this correction, market forces
will now supposedly work to protect the environment;
and this will substitute for direct government regulation.
But in fact, it isn't possible to give things a price that
accurately reflects their environmental impact. What,
for example, is the true price of a wetland? The significance of a
particular patch of wetland is connected to what part it plays in the
overall system of wetlands in that region. The way
that patch of land is used in a region -- as farmland, residential
neighborhood, wetland, forest, industrial park, or otherwise -- needs
to be part of an integrated plan. To judge whether
land should be a wetland or a farm based simply on a financial
comparison of its true financial value as a wetland versus its true
financial value as a farm, means tearing up the environmental plan,
because it means deciding on the use of that particular wetland
independently of what happens elsewhere in the region.
Nor can the environmental impact of a particular chemical simply
be reduced to a price. Carbon trading, for example,
reduces each chemical to its carbon equivalent. But
ozone trading isn't concerned with that; it would
reduce chemicals instead to CFC equivalents. Meanwhile
city and regional planners have to consider the role of chemicals as
possible smog pollutants. And so forth.
In sum, a chemical has a number of different properties important for
its environmental impact, and also a number of different properties
important with respect to its benefits. These can't be
reduced simply to one number, the "true cost", or one will repeatedly
reproduce the same type of fiasco as replacing ozone-destroying
chemicals with potent greenhouse gases.
Perhaps it might be thought that one could get a single number to
function as the "true cost" and take account of all the various
environmental issues the greenhouse problem, the ozone problem, the
smog problem, etc. by simply adding together the
figure for each particular problem that might be caused by a chemical.
But then one wouldn't know whether a high "true cost" meant that
something was a greenhouse gas or an ozone destroyer or simply was
difficult to produce and hence was expensive for that reason.
This would make it impossible to use the "true cost" to help with the
solution of any specific environmental problem.
Effective environmental planning has to consider an overall
picture of the economy; it has to directly plan the
overall features of land use; and it has to directly
regulate production. It needs material balances of
what is being produced, both the products and the pollutants, and it
needs to develop a general picture of what it is striving for.
All this cannot be reduced simply to setting prices.
Such a reduction actually distracts the masses of people and the
planning bodies from the overall things they have to do.
Indeed, even the experience of economic planning in the 20th
century showed that one had to go beyond planning with true values and
can't restrict oneself simply to financial indicators.
Whether governments planned for economic growth, or their war supplies,
the true economic prerequisites for producing something had to be
regarded not simply as a financial figure, but as a list of the
resources, labor, and other products that went into its production.
One needed to consider the total physical quantities of resources,
products, and available labor in a country; how much
of these things went into a product; and how far the
product, in its turn, went into the production of still more goods, or
was consumed by people.
This was called the method of material balances in Soviet planning, and input-output economics in Western planning. It was used both for Soviet five-year plans and, in the immediate post-World War II period, to help plan the recovery of certain Western capitalist countries from the war. (18) These systems are not the final word in planning, but they do show that it is possible and necessary to go beyond money in economic planning. Moreover, it is possible, with these systems of planning, to keep track of pollutants, although neither the state-capitalist Soviet Union of the 1930s-80s or western capitalism was much inclined to do so.
Technological progress and large-scale production have brought
massive devastation of the environment. They have
brought the massive use of fossil fuels, the poisoning of the land and
atmosphere with noxious chemicals, and the development of new poisons
and environmental threats. Moreover, the dirtier sort
of factories, waste dumps, incinerators, truck transportation routes,
and so forth, are often set up in poor neighborhoods, and poor
countries are often used as giant waste disposal sites.
Seeing the seamy side of large-scale production, some people hope
that a return to small-scale production and community-based economics
will solve the environmental crisis. But it is not
technological progress and large-scale production in themselves that
have threatened the planet, but their use for private profit.
Meanwhile, small-scale production, when carried out outside an
environmental plan, has its own problems. Thousands
upon thousands of small capitalist enterprises can pollute as much as a
major factory, while millions upon millions of impoverished people in a
number of poor countries have little choice but to burn wood for fuel,
and this too creates environmental problems.
The fact is that Pandora's box has been opened, and can't be closed.
There will be need of ever-greater scientific knowledge and better
technology in order to ensure that production, whether done in large
industrial complexes or scattered in many individual workplaces, is
done in an environmentally-friendly fashion. There
will have to be extensive research on new, cleaner technologies as well
as on the consequences of the chemicals already poured into the land,
sea, and air.
As well, the very need to deal with the consequences of climate
change will strain all the resources of large-scale production.
Rising ocean levels, for example, will give rise to massive projects to
defend coastal cities and island nations, as well as the need to
provide for millions upon millions of people who will have to relocate
from where they presently live. Changes in weather
patterns will require the rebuilding or replacing of infrastructure.
It is somewhat fashionable in establishment economics to deride
the importance of material production; there is talk
of the "new economy" or "information economy" which is based mainly on
services and the generation and sale of information.
Large-scale material production is supposed to be something of a
remnant of the past, with less and less importance.
But such theorizing will come up against the need to guarantee sources
of water, find new sources of necessary raw materials, engage in
extensive construction and reconstruction, protect and improve farming
in the face of changes in weather patterns, etc.
Information is important because it is information about the world in
which we live, the world which serves as the basis for our thoughts,
theories, and plans.
Moreover, environmental planning cannot be simply local:
there is no alternative to regional, national and even global planning
to deal with the climate and other environmental problems.
Thus, for example, land use, such as the preservation of wetlands, is
no longer simply of local concern; chemicals used in
one location spread around the world; and greenhouse
emissions have to be calculated on a global basis.
The importance of large-scale production does not mean that all workplaces will be gigantic, nor that local initiative should be trampled. But what is needed is overall planning which connects together the different sectors of the economy and workplaces, without excluding local projects and small-scale initiatives. It must be a democratic [form of] large-scale planning, in which the masses are not simply passive factors carrying out what a few planners say, but are involved in the preparation, management and implementation of the plans. Large and small projects and workplaces are both necessary, and provide the basis for each other. For example, large-scale production will eventually produce on a mass scale modern solar cells, based on the most advanced science and technology, thus providing for widespread small-scale generation of moderate amounts of power.
Al Gore, Jim Hansen, and others look to the present establishment
organizations for the carrying out of environmental planning.
Such planning combines technocrats with representatives of corporate
interests. It is this type of planning that threatened
the Montreal Protocol and resulted in replacing ozone-destroying gases
with greenhouse gases. It is this type of planning
that drags its feet and gives rise to thousands of loopholes.
It is this type of planning that, with respect to New Orleans, decided
on subsidies for the rich and military rule for the poor.
This type of planning can be expected to fall down even worse with
respect to comprehensive environmental planning. But
what can be done about it? It would be best, of course, if society
changed so that the economy was run in the interests of all,
enterprises were no longer run in disregard of the common interest, and
mass participation in all spheres of decision-making was taken for
granted as a matter of course. But we have to deal
with the environmental crisis now, while capitalist society still exists.
And in this society, the only way for the working masses to ensure that
the planning bodies take environmental matters seriously is to wage a
continuous struggle to ensure as much mass participation as possible in
the development and implementation of plans.
Today the planning of international environmental protocols is an
occasion for haggling between different capitalist interests.
The implementation of these plans is through officials closely
connected with corporate interests, and many decisions and exceptions
and subsidies are decided on behind closed doors. The
neo-liberal market methods of dealing with issues, such as carbon
trading, involve tremendous complexity which further removes these
issues from public oversight. Indeed the entire weight
of neo-liberal practice is to remove economic decisions from the masses;
even secret tribunals may be used to establish binding rules.
Thus NAFTA allows corporations, if they wish, to sue in secret hearings
against regulations imposed on them. Such secret
tribunals have been used to knock down some environmental and health
regulations as infringements on unrestricted free trade and
Thus it will be crucial to fight for the transparency of the
planning process, and not just that, but mass input into the
environmental planning process. While the capitalist
governments will restrict this to a minimum, there must be at least
some progress in doing this.
Moreover, mass participation is crucial in ensuring that environmental decisions are obeyed. The working masses must be involved not just with the goals and overall decisions of environmental planning, but with their detailed implementation as well. Environmental action is going to involve changes in how things are made, in what chemicals and processes are used in every factory and farm and enterprise, in assuring a proper disposal of waste products, and so forth. There is no way that this can be reliably carried out, and systematic fraud and loopholes prevented, without mass oversight from the workers who see what is going on. If implementation of the overall protocols is left simply to officials, who inevitably will be closely connected to the corporations and special interests they are supposed to be checking up on, then the same type of corruption will take place as in carbon trading.
The rapid capitalist development and neo-liberal restructuring of
the last few decades has intensified economic inequalities.
And now environmental problems from global warming to the collapse of
world fishing stocks will intensify the economic privations of working
people around the world. Indeed, millions upon
millions of people will probably be forced to relocate.
It is important that environmental planning not only consider the
conditions of the environment in and of itself, but the conditions
facing the working people. This is crucial for both
the welfare of the majority of the world's people, and successfully
preserving the environment. This is because the only
way to ensure mass participation in environmental planning is to have
this planning go hand-in-hand with planning for people's welfare.
This will give a tremendous moral authority to environmental goals,
spur the enthusiasm of the masses, and unleash their active initiative
in carrying out and improving environmental plans. But
if environmental planning is used as another occasion to force the
burden of all problems on the working people, while the profits of the
corporations and the income of the rich are regarded as sacrosanct,
then the environmental agencies will justly be regarded with contempt
This is another reason why market methods can't solve the
environmental crisis. Market fundamentalism is
connected with the growing gap between rich and poor, and the
devastation of social services. Market methods will
also lead to writing off the majority of the victims of environmental
devastation, because even a catastrophe that involves millions of
people may hardly cause a small dent in the market.
That's what happened when New Orleans was devastated by hurricane
Katrina; the stock market shrugged, but didn't take it
The drastic cutting of greenhouse emissions and other changes needed to meet environmental goals will cause major dislocations in the economy. This may well push millions of people out of their old jobs and cause increased insecurity. If the planning agencies leave the poor and the unemployed to fend for themselves, it means letting the bourgeoisie use the environmental issue to drive down wages and further exploit the population. But at the same time, there will be a tremendous amount of work needed to transform the economy. This can help provide the basis for giving work and training and a respected place in the environmental project to the people whose old jobs have disappeared and to the millions who were unemployed even before environmental problems intensified. If everyone is to take part in the environmental cause, then everyone's welfare must be part of the environmental cause. This can only happen if environmental planning is linked with planning for the mass welfare.
The delay in eliminating HCFCs and HFCs, the fiasco of the Kyoto Protocol, the repeated attempts to replace environmental regulation by market methods, and the history of foot-dragging on even the most obvious environmental reforms show that the struggle to preserve the environment repeatedly comes up against the obstacle of capitalist ownership. The question arises: are the profits of the companies to be regarded as inviolable, so that nothing is done to protect the environment unless the CEOs and shareholders of firms like DuPont, ExxonMobil, and GM are guaranteed against the slightest expense?
Tim Flannery writes that "big coal, big oil, and their allied
interests continue to prevent the world from taking action to combat
climate change". (19) And indeed, the executives of these firms look to
obtain immediate and maximum profits, and close their eyes to the
prospect of even the greatest damage to humanity as a whole.
They fund junk science in order to discredit serious scientific
analysis of the climate. This, however, is not because
these companies are led by particularly evil people as compared to
other firms; it is because this is how capitalism works.
The capitalists are used to this method of proceeding;
it's how they have worked to bust unions, eliminate social programs,
and even fight against rival capitalists. It's not
just big coal and big oil, but the bulk of the American bourgeoisie
which backs neo-liberalism; they're making billions
out of market fundamentalism. They insist on market
solutions, because this means guaranteeing their profits first, and
solving the environmental crisis second.
Moreover, the establishment environmentalists may mouth off
against big coal and big oil, but they don't take the struggle against
them that seriously. They don't look to what class
force would serve as a bulwark against big oil and big coal.
Instead they promote carbon trading and other market methods that seek
to gain the acquiescence of the main polluters through bribing them.
But, for one thing, there simply isn't enough money to pay off the big
capitalist interests and bribe them into compliance:
the demands of the capitalist interests are too great.
For example, under carbon trading, the traditional polluters get carbon
permits, the level of which is supposed to gradually decrease year by
year. But in order to be traded, the carbon permits
have to be private property. And if they are private
property, the companies involved may claim that lowering the level of
these permits amounts to the government taking their private property
for public purposes, for which they should be compensated.
In fact, there already is a complex legal and regulatory dance going on
over the ownership status of such permits. (20) One can imagine how much
money it would take to buy the carbon permits back from the polluters.
True, sometimes the corporate polluters take up the verbiage of
environmentalism. But when they do so, it's best to
watch out. Consider the agricultural giant ADM, which
is now promoting corn ethanol in its ads.
Unfortunately, while there are ethanols that are environmentally better
than gasoline, it's debatable whether American corn ethanol is
presently one of them. Given the process needed to
convert corn into ethanol, as well as the usual way corn is grown in
the US, the production of corn ethanol may use more fossil fuel -- in
order to run tractors, produce fertilizers, provide power for the
refineries, etc., -- than the gasoline that the
ethanol will replace.
It's the working masses who represent a serious force against the corporate interests and their drive for profit at everyone's expense. The fate of the struggle over bureaucratic or democratic planning will depend on whether workers and activists develop the environmental movement into a class movement. To do this, the issue of the private ownership interests that lie behind the resistance of the corporate polluters to regulation must be repeatedly exposed. The connection between the ownership of the economy by a rich handful and the environmental crisis must be brought to the fore. The struggle for democratic planning is a struggle against those same capitalist interests who first drag their feet on environmental reform, and then seek to turn regulatory bodies into dens of corruption.
The bourgeoisie is presently shouting "socialism" and "tyranny" to
oppose every step toward comprehensive planning, and this is echoed by
some of the establishment environmentalists. But
progress requires doing whatever is necessary to save the environment,
and to compensate for the changes that are already inevitable.
This requires economic planning, and direct regulation of production.
Such planning, still partial and subordinated to capitalist ownership
of the economy, is not socialism; comprehensive
economic planning under capitalism is state-capitalism.
It can be a more reformist or a more dictatorial and oppressive
state-capitalism, but it is still capitalism.
It is not, therefore, a move towards socialism.
But it will show that economic planning is not only becoming possible,
but necessary. Thus it will encourage workers to
wonder if capitalists are needed at all, as the economy could be
planned, and planned better, without them. It will
raise the issue of how workers can liberate planning from the
capitalist interests that dominate it, and thus it will raise the issue
of the possibility of socialism.
It has been clear for some time that major environmental problems
exist. Yet at every step, capitalist interests have
opposed making changes. They have shouted about how
bad it would be to remove lead from paint and from gasoline, even
though lead was poisoning millions of children and inner-city residents.
They have moaned about the sad necessity of cleaning up the air and
rivers. They have shouted about how intolerable it
would be to merely be required to formulate cleaner versions of
gasoline to sell in areas choking from smog. They
dragged their feet on CFCs and almost killed the Montreal Protocol,
insisting on the right to use HCFCs and HFCs, which have turned out to
be potent greenhouse gases.
Every step in defense of the environment impinges on some
capitalist interest, on the private ownership of this or that branch of
the economy by rich exploiters. This leads to the
question of whether the time for private ownership is done and gone.
These exploiters not only make life hell for their own workers, not
only keep social programs at a minimum, but also destroy the environment.
Mass participation is needed to solve environmental problems.
But such participation goes against the ownership of the means of
production by a privileged minority. The minority of
owners naturally regard mass participation in directing the economy as
tyranny. This raises the question whether it is not,
actually, the ownership of the economy by the rich that is the real
Comprehensive planning and mass participation can never be fully achieved under capitalism, and what is achieved will always be under threat. But the struggle for comprehensive planning, mass participation, environmental cleanup, and mass welfare, will help organize the working masses. It will be a spur to the class struggle. The class struggle can't wait until the environment is saved, or else the environment will never be saved. The environment can't be entrusted to the mercies of market forces and profit-seeking. Instead the protection of the environment must become another front of the class struggle.
Today the American bourgeoisie, in its neo-liberal blindness and
self-satisfaction with record incomes for the rich, has let itself
forget about what happened to New Orleans; indeed, the
supposed recovery of New Orleans is probably another source of
complacency, another reason to pooh-pooh the need for any special
concern with environmental problems. The European
bourgeoisie is more edgy about global warming than the US bourgeoisie;
unlike its American counterpart, it did sign the Kyoto treaty.
But it is not going to live up to the Kyoto-mandated reductions:
it is still dragging its feet, and is happily submerged in financial
speculation on the carbon trading carbon markets. Some
small island countries are worried about disappearing into the ocean in
the coming decades, but overall the world bourgeoisie still isn't that
The capitalist governments are waiting so long that it looks like
it may take a series of disasters, such as the flooding of some island
countries and coastal cities, major fresh water shortages, and/or
repeated crop failures, for them to take serious action.
Then, when forced by catastrophes, the capitalist governments may
impose their own sort of emergency planning. The
panicked nature of this response and the need for huge resources may
well make this planning resemble that of wartime. Thus
it is quite possible that we will see a period of what might be called
"war-style environmentalism", where the governments seek to deal with
major disasters, relocate millions of people, and handle shortages
through war-style discipline.
In major wars of the last century, such as World Wars I and II,
the bourgeoisie of all major countries, even the US bourgeoisie,
introduced war-time planning. Key war materials were
rationed and preserved for war production. Workers and
resources were sent to key war industries. The workers
were told to pull in their belts and sacrifice, while the capitalists
who ran the war industries made gigantic profits. This
didn't just take place in countries like World War I Germany, where the
state had a prominent role in economic life prior to the war, but also
in the US. As Lenin pointed out in the midst of World
"Both America and Germany 'regulate economic life' in
such a way as to create conditions of war-time penal servitude
for the workers (and partly for the peasants) and a paradise
for the bankers and capitalists. Their regulation
consists in 'squeezing' the workers to the point of starvation, while
the capitalists are guaranteed (surreptitiously, in a
reactionary-bureaucratic fashion) profits higher than before
This was a move towards direct regulation of production, but it
was a "reactionary-bureaucratic" sort of regulation.
It could provide war production, but it intensified the suffering of
the masses, and was rife with corruption, under-the-table transactions,
and waste. This type of regulation is not only
oppressive, but it cannot provide the overall and sustained regulation
of production needed to deal with the environmental crisis.
Workers and environmental activists will have to fight against this
sort of regulation in favor of steps toward the democratic regulation
of production outlined in the previous section of this article.
But the experience of the 20th century is that war-time
repression, while it may push discontent underground for some time, is
not all-powerful. World War I gave rise to a wave of
revolutions at the end of the war and following it.
The victory over the fascist regimes in World War II helped encourage
working class struggle and also speeded-up the collapse of the colonial
Similarly, war-style environmentalism will not be able to suppress the class struggle for long, but may well revive it. The same emergencies that at first make the capitalist governments strong, by disorganizing and disorienting the masses, will also eventually impel people to question the private property interests that dragged their feet in front of the environmental danger and that scorn serious support for mass welfare. The more the workers and activists are clear today on the difference between different types of regulation, the faster they will able to recognize the features of war-style environmentalism, if it should come, and the faster they will be able to organize a class movement for democratic planning, social welfare, and a more effective preservation of the environment.
One major establishment naturalist has considered the possibility
of something like "war-style environmentalism". Tim
Flannery envisions that the world's governments might only take
half-measures until disastrous damage has been done to the environment.
He fears that, in such a case, a "carbon dictatorship" will have to be
set up. This is one of "three possible outcomes" that
he see to the present environmental crisis:
. In the latter case, he foresees that "humans would have no choice
but to establish an Earth Commission for Thermostatic Control,
something that could easily grow from the Kyoto Protocol."
He outlines how greenhouse gas control will force it to regulate one
field of the world economy after another, including use of the oceans,
forestry, and "agriculture and land use worldwide".
And he fears that eventually "the Earth Commission for Thermostatic
Control will have transformed itself into an Orwellian-style world
government with its own currency, army, and control over every person
and every inch of our planet." He adds that "As
horrific as such an outcome is, if we delay action to combat the
climate crisis, the carbon dictatorship may become essential for our
Flannery's nightmare seems, in part, to reflect his fear of
comprehensive economic planning, which he can only see as Orwellian
tyranny. He is, instead, a believer in the use of
market forces to control pollution greenhouse gases, and overlooks the
fact that the environmental crisis is the product of market forces.
So Flannery wants, instead of the direct regulation of production,
something called "Contraction and Convergence". He
says this is "in some ways . . .
an ultrademocratic variant of the Kyoto Protocol", as it is based on a
carbon trading scheme. Only, rather than giving carbon
permits to corporations, "Contraction and Convergence" grants an equal
carbon permit (in the form of a "carbon currency" called the Ebcus) to
every individual on earth. Flannery thinks this not
only will solve the problem of global warming, but, given an equal
distribution of carbon permits, it "might eventually do away with world
poverty and the north-south divide", so easy does he think it is to
direct market forces in any desired direction. (24) He doesn't even imagine that
reliance on market forces is precisely the type of half-measure that
would make future environmental catastrophes and "war-style
environmentalism" all the more likely.
It is true that comprehensive economic planning is becoming
"essential for our survival". It is needed not just to
deal with the problem of global warming but, as mentioned earlier, to
deal with a variety of other environmental questions.
But direct regulation of production isn't oppressive in itself:
it depends on who runs it, who enforces it, and whether it is being
corrupted by the ownership of the economy by a privileged handful.
The same factors determine whether such planning really will solve the
Flannery neither refers to the forces of private ownership that
would be the basis for an Orwellian dictatorship in the name of
environmentalism, nor does he consider the class forces that would
fight against it. But the crimes of neo-liberalism,
including its failures to preserve the environment, will sooner or
later spur the masses of working people to action.
They will distinguish between Orwellian dictatorship and economic
planning. They will not denounce planning as
dictatorship if the only right trampled upon is the right to exploit
people and resources without consideration of the general welfare, but
they will fight a "carbon dictatorship" which removes their rights and
aims to maintain the profits of the corporations while the masses pay
the full price for environmental catastrophes. They
will insist on democratic planning in the interests of all.
Such a fight would be part of a general revival of the working class
revolutionary movement, and it would point in the direction of a new
Nevertheless, Flannery does a service by raising the question of
the carbon dictatorship. By posing this question, he,
perhaps inadvertently, points out that the environmental crisis is
raising the question of comprehensive economic planning.
And the nature of the planning that is eventually introduced, and how
soon it will be introduced, will undoubtedly be two of the main factors
determining the fate of the environment in the coming period, as well
as among the key points of the future class struggle. <>
(1) Gary Stix, "A Climate Repair Manual", Scientific American, September 2006, Special Issue "Energy's Future: Beyond Carbon", p. 46. (Return to text)
(2) "The Politicization of Global Warming", in An Inconvenient Truth, pp. 284,287. (Text)
(3) Ibid. , p. 270. (Text)
(4) Jim Hansen, "The Threat to the Planet", New York Review of Books, July 13, 2006, p. 14, cols. 3-4. (Text)
(5) See the back flyleaf of the book. (Text)
(6) Issue #48, September 2006, of the journal Development Dialogue of the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation. It is available for free download in PDF form at www.dhf.uu.se/publications.html. (Text)
(7) BBC News, December 6, 2006, available on the internet. (Text)
(8) Shifting to natural gas is only a stopgap, as burning it produces abundant greenhouse gases, but it is better than coal. However, the main motivation of the Conservative Party government of those years for this switch was breaking the power of the National Union of Miners. The Thatcher and Major governments used privatization and switching from coal to gas, as well as strikebreaking. (Text)
(9) BBC News, October 30, 2006, and December 6, 2006; AFX News, November 18, 2005; John Bellamy Foster, Ecology Against Capitalism, p. 17; and Robert J. Samuelson, "Greenhouse hypocrisy", Washington Post, June 29, 2005. All of these reports, except Foster's book, are available on the internet. (Text)
(10) "'The Threat to the Planet': An Exchange", New York Review of Books, September 21, 2006, p. 94. By the way, Tim Flannery cites environmentalists who call for a tax of $200 per ton of carbon dioxide in his book The Weather Makers, p. 169. (Text)
(11) Ibid. (Text)
(12) "The Threat to the Planet", New York Review of Books, July 13, 2006, p. 16, col. 3. In the NYRB of Sept. 21, 2006, he says something else: that the government should not end up collecting money, but that individuals and companies may end up paying more, or paying less, depending on their choices. (Text)
(13) "A Green Vision of Our Country's Future", the 2004 Platform Summary of the Green Party of Michigan, Sec. IVE. "True Cost Pricing and Tax Fairness". (Text)
(14) See "While similar energy crises loom across the country/'Free-market' energy deregulation brings disaster to California" by Mark Williams in the September 2001 issue of Communist Voice, available at www. communistvoice.org/27cEnergyDisaster.html. (Text)
(15) See www.communistvoice.org/12cSovAnarchy.html. (Text)
(16) "The Threat to the Planet", NYRB, July 13, 2006, p. 13, col. 1. (Text)
(17) "The Threat to the Planet: An Exchange", NYRB, Sept. 21, 2006, p. 94, col. 1. (Text)
(18) See the three-part series of articles on "Labor-money and socialist planning" in Communist Voice for an exposition of the view that money is not a rational means of economic planning, not even if prices are set at their true value, and not even if one uses labor money. Similar arguments would apply to "true cost pricing". These articles are available at the Communist Voice website; see the links to them at www.communistvoice.org/00LeninistTransition.html. And in particular, see the end of part one and the body of part two for a description of material balances and input-output economics. The exact method used by Soviet planners and in the West differed--and indeed, these methods themselves evolved over time. But the basic idea, of replacing a single financial indicator with consideration of all the various outputs that were wanted and all the various inputs needed to produce them, was similar. (Text)
(19) The Weather Makers, p. 295. (Text)
(20) See "Carbon Trading: a critical conversation on climate change, privatization and power", Ch. 3 Lessons unlearned. Section "Property rights and privatisation". (Text)
(21) "The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It", Sept. 10-14, 1917, Collected Works, vol. 25, p. 334, emphasis as in the original. (Text)
(22) Chapter 33 "2084: the Carbon Dictatorship?", The Weather Makers, p. 291. (Text)
(23) Ibid. , pp. 292-4. (Text)
, Chapter 34, "Time's Up", p. 299.
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