To: Detroit/Seattle Workers' Voice mailing list
June 5, 2017
RE: Trump makes America first in climate denialism (part two)
Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord is a symbol of his diehard opposition to any measures to save the environment. But the Accord itself is far too weak to stop global warming; it showed that the world bourgeoisie is still unwilling to give up market fundamentalism, even to save the world from climate disaster. While denouncing Trump's withdrawal from the Paris agreement, we should aim at much more effective measures.
At the time of the Paris Accord, there were demonstrations against its half-heartedness. Today a number of environmentalists who were critical of the Accord in the past may think it is necessary to laud it in order to fight Trump. But if the environmental movement is to achieve its goals, and if it is to maintain the ability to confront the carbon addicts controlling major corporations and governments, it needs to be realistic about the Paris Accord.
That's why it's important that the environmental movement put forward goals that go well beyond the Accord and even contradict its coddling of the moneyed rulers of the world. The UN did valuable work documenting the dangers of global warming, as seen in the climate summaries from the UN's IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). But its proposals on how to deal with global warming (such as those from the very same IPCC) are not based on science nor do they take account of the growing crisis of market fundamentalism. Instead they simply promote market measures as part of neoliberal dogma. We need a militant movement of struggle, and not the complacent soapy rhetoric that comes in such abundance from the UN and the supposedly green politicians.
The following two articles about the Paris Accord are from the Feb.
1, 2016 issue of the Communist Voice,
which can be found in PDF at http://www.communistvoice.org/CV50.pdf.
By Joseph Green
The "red lines" demonstration in Paris was the best thing that happened at the Paris climate change summit. The 2015 UN climate conference was COP21, the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties to the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and simultaneously the 11th meeting of the parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. There were a lot of fancy words, as typical of UN conferences, but the conference basically was business as usual in the march toward climate catastrophe.
The red lines demonstrations, however, showed that activists aren't going to leave things to the governments, and they demonstrated in the face of the "state of emergency" of the government of "socialist" president Francois Hollande. "We are the red lines" demonstrations also took place elsewhere, such as in Seattle and New York City. The demonstrators were concerned that the negotiators in Paris would cross various "red lines" [that would render any agreement futile in stopping climate disaster].
The media is making a big fuss over the outcome of the Paris summit on global warming. The Paris agreement has been hailed as encouraging progress, more than what various environmentalists expected, or even a landmark agreement. Even many demonstrators and critics of COP21 generally said that it was positive in many ways. Yet the reality is that the Paris summit was an environmental flop. Compared to the infamous Copenhagen climate summit of 2009, Paris was a smashing success in giving positive spin to the actions of the bourgeoisie and the governments, but it remained an abject failure in dealing with the danger of global warming.
It declared grand goals while ignoring the question of how to achieve them. Its standpoint was to let everyone do what they want -- "clean coal", nuclear, so-called transitional fuels, biofuels, or just plain hocus-pocus -- so long as they declare it part of a plan. The summit closed its eyes to the failure of the market measures of the past, such as cap and trade, and these measures will continue. It met while thousands of fires raged through Indonesia, burning up rain forest and disgorging tremendous amount of carbon dioxide, and it had no answer to it. It talked about "transparency", and there will be no real transparency.
The environmental writer George Monbiot wrote about the Paris summit as follows:
"A combination of acidifying seas, coral death and Arctic melting means that entire marine food chains could collapse. On land, rainforests may retreat, rivers fail and deserts spread. Mass extinction is likely to be the hallmark of our era. This is what success, as defined by the cheering delegates, will look like." ("Grand promises of Paris climate deal undermined by squalid retrenchments", Dec. 12, Guardian)
His article added:
"In Paris the delegates have solemnly agreed to cut demand, but at home they seek to maximise supply. The UK government has even imposed a legal obligation upon itself, under the Infrastructure Act 2015, to 'maximise economic recovery' of the UK s oil and gas. Extracting fossil fuels is a hard fact. But the Paris agreement is full of soft facts: promises that can slip or unravel. Until governments undertake to keep fossil fuels in the ground, they will continue to undermine the agreement they have just made."
Yet, surprisingly, while saying that the Paris agreement is a disaster compared to what's needed, Monbiot also writes in his article that "By comparison to what it could have been, it's a miracle." No, not at all. There's nothing positive in the destroyers of the environment pretending that they are protecting it. In that respect, the environmental scientist and climate change activist James Hansen hit the nail on the head when he said of the Paris summit that
"It's a fraud really, a fake. It's just bullshit for them to say: 'We'll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.' It's just worthless words. There is no action." ("James Hansen, father of climate change awareness, calls Paris talks 'a fraud'," Dec. 12, Guardian)
Unfortunately, Hansen advocates that the carbon tax is the solution (as well as mistakenly backing an increase in the use of nuclear power). He doesn't understand that the carbon tax is simply a variant of the market methods that have gotten us into this mess in the first place. We need direct planning and regulation of energy production, not reliance on market incentives. We also need economic planning to back up the planning and regulation of energy, to deal with other environmental problems, and to protect people's livelihood in the massive economic dislocations that are coming.
None of this will happen unless there is a militant movement insisting that the planning be done in public with the broadest mass participation, and unless there is a strong working class trend within the environmental movement. Neo-liberal fake planning and regulation, which means companies "self-regulate" and governments subcontract out their functions to company stooges, is worse than useless.
Left to themselves, the governments and the ruling bourgeoisie may place their hope in supposed technical fixes to the problem of carbon emissions. They are considering considering very dangerous geo-engineering plans, such as building a giant space parasol to shield the earth from the sun or dumping vast amounts of iron in the ocean. And part of the environmental movement, discouraged by the lack of progress at the climate summits, is hoping that new market measures, such as the carbon tax, will somehow do better than cap and trade and the old market measures. Some environmentalists have also given in to the idea of a technical fix and look to covering the world with nuclear power stations, closing their eyes to the lessons of Fukushima and Chernobyl.
The Paris summit shows that the environment can't be left to the bourgeoisie and the present-day governments. What we need is mass struggle for fundamental change, mass struggle that doesn't conciliate the market fanatics but puts the interests of the environment and mass welfare to the fore. <>
By Patrick Bond, South Africa
(Patrick Bond is a South African social and environmental activist and author of many works of interest such as the book Politics of Climate Justice: Paralysis Above, Movement Below.)
Paris witnessed both explicit terrorism by religious extremists on November 13 and a month later, implicit terrorism by carbon addicts negotiating a world treaty that guarantees catastrophic climate change. The first incident left more than 130 people dead in just one evening's mayhem; the second lasted a fortnight but over the next century can be expected to kill hundreds of millions, especially in Africa.
But because the latest version of the annual United Nations climate talks has three kinds of spin-doctors, the extent of damage may not be well understood. The 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) generated reactions ranging from smug denialism to righteous fury. The first reaction is 'from above' (the Establishment) and is self-satisfied; the second is from the middle ('Climate Action') and is semi-satisfied; the third, from below ('Climate Justice'), is justifiably outraged.
Guzzling French champagne last Saturday, the Establishment quickly proclaimed, in essence, "The Paris climate glass is nearly full -- so why not get drunk on planet-saving rhetoric?" //The New York Times// reported with a straight face, "President Obama said the historic agreement is a tribute to American climate change leadership" (and in a criminally-negligent way, this is not untrue).
Since 2009, US State Department chief negotiator Todd Stern successfully drove the negotiations away from four essential principles: ensuring emissions-cut commitments would be sufficient to halt runaway climate change; making the cuts legally binding with accountability mechanisms; distributing the burden of cuts fairly based on responsibility for causing the crisis; and making financial transfers to repair weather-related loss and damage following directly from that historic liability. Washington elites always prefer market mechanisms' like carbon trading instead of paying their climate debt even though the US national carbon market fatally crashed in 2010.
In part because the Durban COP17 in 2011 provided lubrication and -- with South Africa's blessing --empowered Stern to wreck the idea of Common But Differentiated Responsibility while giving "a Viagra shot to flailing carbon markets" (as a male Bank of America official cheerfully celebrated), Paris witnessed the demise of these essential principles. And again, "South Africa played a key role negotiating on behalf of the developing countries of the world," according to Pretoria's environment minister Edna Molewa, who proclaimed from Paris "an ambitious, fair and effective legally-binding outcome."
Arrogant fibbery. The collective Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) -- i.e. voluntary cuts -- will put the temperature rise at above 3 degrees [Celsius, so 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit]. From coal-based South Africa, the word ambitious loses meaning given Molewa's weak INDCs ranked by ClimateActionTracker as amongst the world's most "inadequate" -- and given that South Africa hosts the world's two largest coal-fired power stations now under construction, with no objection by Molewa. She regularly approves increased (highly-subsidized) coal burning and exports, vast fracking, offshore-oil drilling, exemptions from pollution regulation, emissions-intensive corporate farming and fast-worsening suburban sprawl.
A second narrative comes from large NGOs that mobilized over the past six months to provide mild-mannered pressure points on negotiators. Their line is, essentially, "The Paris glass is //partly// full -- so sip up and enjoy!"
This line derives not merely from the predictable back-slapping associated with petit-bourgeois vanity, gazing upwards to power for validation, such as one finds at the Worldwide Fund for Nature and Climate Action Network, what with their corporate sponsorships. All of us reading this are often tempted in this direction, aren't we, because such unnatural twisting of the neck is a permanent occupational hazard in this line of work.
And such opportunism was to be expected from Paris, especially after Avaaz and Greenpeace endorsed G7 leadership posturing in June, when at their meeting in Germany the Establishment made a meaningless commitment to a decarbonized economy -- in the year 2100, at least fifty years too late.
Perhaps worse than their upward gaze, though, the lead NGOs suffered a hyper-reaction to the 2009 Copenhagen Syndrome. Having hyped the COP15 Establishment negotiators as "Seal the Deal!" planet-saviours, NGOs mourned the devastating Copenhagen Accord signed in secret by leaders from Washington, Brasilia, Beijing, New Delhi and Pretoria. This was soon followed by a collapse of climate consciousness and mobilization. Such alienation is often attributed to activist heart-break: a roller-coaster of raised NGO expectations and plummeting Establishment performance.
Possessing only an incremental theory of social change, NGOs toasting the Paris deal now feel the need to confirm that they did as best they could, and that they have grounds to continue along the same lines in future. To be sure, insider-oriented persuasion tactics pursued by the 42-million member clicktivist group Avaaz are certainly impressive in their breadth and scope. Yet for Avaaz, "most importantly, [the Paris deal] sends a clear message to investors everywhere: sinking money into fossil fuels is a dead bet. Renewables are the profit centre. Technology to bring us to 100% clean energy is the money-maker of the future."
Once again, Avaaz validates the COP process, the Establishment's negotiators and the overall incentive structure of capitalism that are the proximate causes of the crisis.
The third narrative is actually the most realistic: "The Paris glass is full of toxic fairy dust - don't dare even sniff!" The traditional Climate Justice (CJ) stance is to delegitimize the Establishment and return the focus of activism to grassroots sites of struggle, in future radically changing the balance of forces locally, nationally and then globally. But until that change in power is achieved, the UNFCCC COPs are just Conferences of Polluters.
The landless movement Via Campesina was clearest: "There is nothing binding for states, national contributions lead us towards a global warming of over 3 degrees C [5.4 degrees F] and multinationals are the main beneficiaries. It was essentially a media circus."
Asad Rehman coordinates climate advocacy at the world's leading North-South CJ organization, Friends of the Earth International: "The reviews [of whether INDCs are adhered to and then need strengthening] are too weak and too late. The political number mentioned for finance has no bearing on the scale of need. It's empty. The iceberg has struck, the ship is going down and the band is still playing to warm applause."
And not forgetting the voice of climate science, putting it most bluntly, James Hansen called Paris, simply, "bullshit."
Where does that leave us? If the glass-half-full NGOs get serious -- and I hope to be pleasantly surprised in 2016 -- then the only way forward is for them to apply their substantial influence on behalf of solidarity with those CJ activists making a real difference, at the base.
Close to my own home, the weeks before COP21 witnessed potential victories in two major struggles: opposition to corporate coal mining -- led mainly by women peasants, campaigners and lawyers -- in rural Zululand, bordering the historic iMfolozi wilderness reserve (where the world's largest white rhino population is threatened by poachers); and South Durban residents fighting the massive expansion of Africa's largest port-petrochemical complex. In both attacks, the climate-defence weapon was part of the activists' arsenal.
But it is only when these campaigns have conclusively done the work COP negotiators and NGO cheerleaders just shirked - leaving fossil fuels in the ground and pointing the way to a just, post-carbon society -- that we can raise our glasses and toast humanity, with integrity. Until then, pimps for the Paris Conference of Polluters should be told to sober up and halt what will soon be understood as their fatal attack on Mother Earth.
Patrick Bond, December 15, 2015 <>
Based on a report by Pete Brown of the Detroit Workers' Voice
Trump isn't simply withdrawing from the Paris Accord. He has carried out week after week of outrageous attacks on the environment. There were already major protests of Trump's hatred for the natural world in April, such as the March for Science on Earth Day, April 22, and the People's Climate Mobilization on April 29. Clearly it wouldn't be any value if he simply relented and stayed in the Paris Accord -- if he continued these attacks!
In mid-February Trump repealed the Stream Protection Rule that was designed to safeguard waterways from coal-mining waste. This rule asked mining companies to monitor their impact on local waterways and to restore any damages inflicted by their operations. Of course it didn’t insist on this, nor did it set up a regulatory arm to enforce it. But it did declare that coal mining companies were responsible for harm to the environment. Trump’s repeal means that coal-mining companies are free to dump whatever they want into local waterways.
Then in mid-March Trump sent out his new budget proposals. This includes cutting the budget of the EPA by $2.6 Bn and laying off about one-fifth of the EPA staff. This is fine with Trump’s new administrator for the EPA, Scott Pruitt, who has long advocated the shutting down of the EPA. Later in March Trump approved the Keystone XL pipeline to bring heavy tar sands oil across the country from Canada to Houston. Aside from encouraging the release of CO2 from tar sands mining in Alberta, the pipeline runs the risk of rupturing and ruining major aquifers of the North American continent.
On March 28 Trump, surrounded by unemployed coal miners at the EPA headquarters, took further steps to "bring back coal", as he put it. Trump lifted the moratorium on coal leases of federal lands, thus opening up thousands of acres of federal land to coal mining. At the same time Trump ordered a revision of Obama's Clean Power Plan. Trump cannot simply cancel the Plan, but he can require the EPA to begin its study from scratch and to do whatever they can to fudge the science on the ill effects of coal particulates in the air.
Does this mean Trump will "save coal jobs," as he claims? Not a chance. Automation has eliminated over 85% of coal-mining jobs in the last 75 years even while coal production has increased by 50%. And today the use of coal in the U.S. is on a definite decline, even if Trump’s policies manage to forestall the use of renewables. Even in West Virginia, the heart of coal country, the number of coal-mining jobs is very small compared to, say, health care. Technology and the economy would have to regress a century in order to "bring back coal."
Trump also issued an order dispensing with rules on curbing methane emissions from oil and gas sites. Methane is leaking from virtually all oil and gas sites, pipelines as well as wellheads, and about 2.5% of all methane produced in this country is joining the atmosphere from leaks. But Trump says, "Who cares?"
Trump is on a rampage against the environment at a time when global warming is really starting to heat up. We can't afford centuries, or even decades, to recover from a Trump administration that ignores science; we need mass actions to stop him now.
But while Trumpism is a disaster, that doesn't mean we should try to revive the good old days of Obama. Obama’s energy policy was "all of the above," which meant trying to revive coal, approving oil leases in the oceans and the Arctic, pushing ahead with fracking despite all the evidence against it, and even encouraging new nuclear power plants. Obama dilly-dallied with the Keystone XL pipeline for years and finally turned it down late in his administration, when he knew a new administration could easily reverse his belated decision. The Paris Agreement on climate change, touted by Obama, is a completely voluntary set of guidelines that the U.S. never pretended to meet. Even if Obama's Clean Power Plan were fully implemented, the U.S. would not even come close to compliance.
Bourgeois environmentalist groups like NRDC praised Obama’s Clean Power Plan and advise us to return to the good old days of Democratic Party rule. But that means returning to talk, talk, talk and no action on the environment; it means returning to fracking and injection wells all over the continent, giant oil spills and methane gushing into the air. But what’s needed now to forestall disastrous global warming is immediate transition to a non-carbon economy. We cannot wait for decades of a "transition fuel" like natural gas while CO2 continues to build up and sea ice and glaciers melt. We need regulation of the environment and economy now that can guarantee jobs while cleaning up the water, air and land.
Bourgeois environmentalists like Al Gore see the looming problems but don't see any solutions other than market measures. They think putting a carbon tax on the price of fossil fuels will reduce their use and automatically produce the transition to a carbon-free economy, while at the same time producing plenty of "green" jobs to absorb the unemployed. But these measures have never worked and never will. The Kyoto Protocol set up "green" market measures but failed to halt global warming. The rush to frack and to ruin the country's water and air was intensified, not lessened in recent years. What's needed is direct regulation of the environment and economy, regulation with the direct participation of the working people who produce energy and live with the effects of industrial pollution.
Activist trends among environmentalists see the problems and are demanding solutions today, not putting their faith in market measures. Activists from 350.org and other groups initially stopped the Keystone XL pipeline and forced the Obama administration to suspend it. Native American activists and others stood their ground against construction crews and police to stop it. Activists in Flint demanded pure drinking water even while the state and federal administrators tried to assure them brown water was good for them. Activists in Detroit are protesting threats to their water system, while activists around Michigan are protesting Nestles' grabbing up more and more water to sell as bottled water.
We cannot depend on bourgeois market measures or the capitalist government to protect us from environmental ruin. The regulatory measures of the past – setting up the EPA, for example – did some good and helped clean up some of the cesspools of pollution of the 20th century. But today, with the capture of regulatory agencies by corporate America and the administration of anti-scientific idiots like Trump and Pruitt, we need to demand fundamental change in the regulatory agencies as well as the regulations. We need more transparent agencies, delinking from the corporate lobbies, and the bringing of working people into the oversight and regulation of industry and agriculture. <>
The environmental struggle isn't just to prevent global warming, as essential as that struggle is. It also aims to preserve the land and water from outrageous pollution, mountain-top removal, ruination of agricultural land, and squandering of our water supply. The following report is from an activist from the Committee to Oppose the Expansion of US Ecology ("US Ecology" is the misleading name of a hazardous and radioactive waste disposal company with facilities right in the heart of Detroit).
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
On April 12th, Michigan residents and activists (including activists from Detroit who came via a four-hour bus trip each way) flooded into the City of Big Rapids to protest Nestle's push to suck Michigan dry. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality held a public hearing on Nestle's request to increase its water takings from the White Pine Springs well in Evart from 150 gallons per minute (gpm) to 400 gpm. Nestle already upped their takings to 250 gpm illegally.
Nestle is a multibillion dollar business, headquartered in Switzerland. They own Ice Mountain, the largest bottled water company in the US. A decade ago they made a similar water grab 24 miles up the road. At the time, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC) mobilized residents, waged a legal battle and won a million dollar law suit which determined that Nestle's takings at 400 gpm was causing damage to the environment in Mecosta County. Nestle was forced to reduce their takings to 218 gpm. Now Nestle is repeating their blatant theft of water in another county.
Nestle pays a $200 annual permit fee to take more than 210,000,000 gallons of spring water, or less than a dollar for one million gallons of water. Meanwhile 90,000 Detroit households have had the water in their homes shutoff for failure to pay water and sewerage bills that are between 3% and 21% of the family's income.
The State of Michigan is working at a feverish speed to privatize the common water supply. Michigan residents have been harmed while industry profits with each step the state has taken to seize water from common use and turn it over to private interests.
In Detroit, the state orchestrated bankruptcy under a governor appointed Emergency Manager, and the takeover of the water system by the Great Lakes Water Authority, which led to massive water shutoffs. The shutoffs and high price of water in Detroit has everything to do with reducing the debt, making the water system profitable and selling it off to the highest bidder. If Detroit residents had to pay just $200 a year for water like Nestle does, no one would have their basic need for water denied. No one would have their water shutoff, their kids taken away or their home shuttered.
The Great Lakes Water Authority, which manages the water supply in Southeast Michigan, announced a few days ago that they have notified another 18,000 households in Detroit that they too will have their water shut off, unless they figure out a way to pay their bills.
In Flint the right to clean, safe drinking water was ignored by the state because it didn't fit in with the state's strategy to privatize the water supply. The state was in such a hurry to switch the water over to the private KWA line to Lake Huron, which wasn't even completed, that the Governor appointed another Emergency Manager to switch the water supply over from Detroit's water to the Flint River, despite the higher cost and years of talk that the Flint River was too contaminated by industrial pollution to even consider drinking it. Meanwhile the basic needs of the residents for clean drinking water was neglected, the residential water supply was poisoned by when the corrosive Flint River wore away the lead in the water pipes, and an entire city was poisoned. This was the direct result of the state taking leaps and bounds in its drive to privatize the water for the benefit of the 1% while neglecting the basic steps to protect the water supply in Flint. The state continues to drag its feet replacing the damaged water pipes. Flint residents are forced to pay high bills for water they cannot drink or face shutoffs. There are children in Flint who have never drunk water from a faucet.
Meanwhile Nestle has made a fortune supplying millions of water bottles to Flint residents, creating a massive amount of plastic waste. Water should have been delivered free in large tanker trucks from clean groundwater, like Nestle takes it. Nestle should not have been allowed to profit off the Flint crisis.
Then a few months ago MCWC was informed that Nestle was expanding its operations at the Stanwood plant and taking and taking more and more water from Osceola County because of "an increased demand for bottled water." So now Nestle is using the Flint water crisis as their excuse for why they must take unsustainable amounts of water from the northwest part of the state. They are taking from Michigan's water supply, bottling the water, and selling it back to us for a profit.
Michigan water must be held in common to meet the needs of its residents. Nestles' request for a major increase in their water takings must be denied. We must protect the fresh water supply in the Great Lakes for future generations. <>
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