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Reading the Looming Ecological Crisis Politically

by Sukla Sen, 14 March 2009

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Paper presented at at the multidisciplinary national symposium on "Planet Earth: Peoples, Society And Science" (January 23 - 25, 2009) organised by the Indian Academy of Social Sciences, in association with Peoples Council of Education at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, on the opening day.

A Prefatory Note

To put things in perspective, it is necessary to recall that the scientific community now holds that the Earth is slightly over four and a half billion years old [1]. First appearance of life on this till then dead planet, it is speculated, took about another half a billion years [2]. The process of “evolution” saw the emergence of structurally erect humans with two free hands to grab, hold and manœuvre external objects and a much larger brain to contemplate and guide responses to external stimuli and consequent actions – the acknowledged ancestors of “modern” humans, Homo sapiens, maybe around 250,000 years ago [3]. Understandably, for the first time in the continent of Africa – later dubbed, rather paradoxically, as the Dark Continent. Human civilisation, with settled communities engaging in agricultural activities followed by cattle breeding, is known to be some ten to twelve thousand years old [4], [5], [6]. And the industrial civilisation marked by the advent of commercial use of steam engines is hardly three hundred years [7]. And the Second Industrial Revolution which provided the real push to the pace of industrialisation is typically dated between 1870 and 1914 [8].

The planet Earth itself evolved over the last four and a half billion years – both the large solid and roughly spherical mass and the gaseous envelope surrounding it [9]. The trajectory of this evolution was far from linear. In certain respects, it followed a sinusoidal pattern. Since its inception, the Earth had been visited upon by at least four major Ice Ages [10]. The last Glacial Period ended between 10,000 and 15,000 years back [11]. And human civilisation sprouted and flourished with the end of the last Ice Age. Humans had obviously nothing to do with such climatic fluctuations/cycles. It is postulated that “several factors are important: atmospheric composition (the concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane); changes in the Earth’s orbit around the Sun known as Milankovitch cycles (and possibly the Sun’s orbit around the galaxy); the motion of tectonic plates resulting in changes in the relative location and amount of continental and oceanic crust on the Earth’s surface, which could affect wind and ocean currents; variations in solar output; the orbital dynamics of the Earth-Moon system; and the impact of relatively large meteorites, and volcanism including eruptions of supervolcanoes.” [12]. Without any human interventions the onset of the next Ice Age may be a couple of thousand to around 50,000 years away [13]. And as per some other informed estimates, the Earth’s ecology supporting life is likely to last for another half a billion years [14].

When one talks of the looming ecological crisis, it essentially voices the concern that instead of thousands, let alone a billion, of years the human specie may become extinct in course of another century or two, along with other life forms, that too on account of reasons of its own making [15].

Humans vis-à-vis Nature

Human specie, like no other ones, in course of its survival and evolution started from its very inception, on an exponential scale, consciously working on the Nature to make “life” longer and more liveable. And that’s arguably the defining marker that sets humans apart from all other species. But its engagement with Nature assumed a very different dimension with the onset of the industrial civilisation [16]. The journey, which had started as endeavours to better adjust to nature and developing some sort of symbiotic relationship by deepening the knowledge of its working principles through purposeful and more and more informed interactions, gradually evolved into a huge project for outright “mastering” it [17].

Industrial civilisation, for all practical purpose, turned out to be shorthand for capitalism with its insatiable and compulsive appetite for expansion of “economic” activities. Even the enclaves of “actually existing socialism” in the midst of an evolving global capitalist order could not but follow essentially the same model of “expansion” with even greater single-minded determination. [18]

Whereas the precapitalist societies were broadly defined by simple, or near-simple, reproduction of the system and slow evolution to higher phases, capitalism thrives on constant extended reproduction of itself. And that’s its essential condition for survival. [19]

So with the onset of industrial civilisation, started off humanity’s grand victory march over Nature, never mind the brutalisation and all. At least that it was thought to be.

Human Footprints

Industrial production, far more than the earlier forms, calls for exploration, extraction and exploitation of natural resources virtually without any replenishment. It also involves release of toxic wastes produced as inevitable byproducts. And past a point, the use of natural resources – with the concentration of the naturally occurring vital element declining - becomes less and less inefficient i.e. in order to produce a single unit of product more and more natural resources are consumed and more and more toxic byproducts are released. [20]

If we assume that the global economy grows at the (compound) rate of 3% per annum, based on the current trend [21], then the global economy doubles in 25 years and grows 16 times over a century and 256 times over 200 years.

Admittedly the earth’s ecology has a self-regenerating mechanism and capacity, particularly in handling the toxic releases. But this sort of growth/development just goes way beyond. [22]

Ecological Crisis

The ecological crisis has, essentially, three strongly interconnected dimensions: global warming [23], global pollution and global depletion of natural resources including bio-pool and minerals [24].

If the three dimensions of the crisis mentioned above are just parts of the “routine process”, then there is also another possible “accidental” dimension produced by the industrial civilization in the form of threats of use of the WMDs - nuclear weapons in particular. Even a limited nuclear war would cause grave damage to the Earth’s ecology. In fact, any war, by its very nature, causes ecological destruction. And a large-scale nuclear war would be followed by a “nuclear winter” - an ecological havoc. [25]

Ecological Inequity

A related dimension is ecological injustice and inequity, again, having three major forms. Inequity between the global North and South, i.e. the “developed” and “under-developed” nations [26]. Inequity between the rich and poor within a country [27]. And perhaps the grossest inequity obtains between the current generations and the future ones, the current generations plundering the ecology at the obvious cost of the future ones [28]. One section is indulging in grossly disproportionate high consumption and the other section is bearing the grossly disproportionate burden of the price of such over-consumption.

The Recognition of the Crisis and Response

There was for far too long motivated attempts to refuse to acknowledge the crisis, its grave implications and its anthropogenic character [29]. But now both these aspects have gained official recognition in the form of the recent reports by the IPCC. [30]

Back in “1979 the first “World Climate Conference” organized by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) (had) expressed concern that “continued expansion of man’s activities on earth may cause significant extended regional and even global changes of climate”. It called for “global cooperation to explore the possible future course of global climate and to take this new understanding into account in planning for the future development of human society.” The Conference appealed to nations of the world “to foresee and to prevent potential man-made changes in climate that might be adverse to the well-being of humanity”. And in “1985 a joint UNEP/WMO/ICSU Conference was convened in Villach (Austria) on the “Assessment of the Role of Carbon Dioxide and of Other Greenhouse Gases in Climate Variations and Associated Impacts”. The conference concluded, that “as a result of the increasing greenhouse gases it is now believed that in the first half of the next century (21st century) a rise of global mean temperature could occur which is greater than in any man’s history. [And, eventually, at “its 40th Session in 1988 the WMO Executive Council decided on the establishment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The UNEP Governing Council authorized UNEP’s support for IPCC.” [31] Thus, the IPCC came to be set up in 1988. Starting with the first assessment report in 1990, it has by now published five, including one supplementary to the first, reports, the last, the fourth assessment, report in 2007. On the implications of the IPCC Reports, a very perceptive commentator thus observes: “The report the IPCC issued that year (i.e. 1995) was able to assert that”the balance of evidence suggests" that human activity was increasing the planet’s temperature and that it would be a serious problem. This was perhaps the most significant warning our species, as a whole, has yet been given. The report declared (in the pinched language of international science) that humans had grown so large in numbers and especially in appetite for energy that they were now damaging the most basic of the earth’s systems—the balance between incoming and outgoing solar energy. Although huge amounts of impressive scientific research have continued over the twelve years since then, their findings have essentially been complementary to the 1995 report—a constant strengthening of the simple basic truth that humans were burning too much fossil fuel.” [32] The last, 2007, report has further underscored both the facts of global warming / climatic change and its essential anthropogenic character, beyond the scope of any reasonable doubt. [33]

Yet there is still no unanimity among the global ruling elite.

On the one hand, the US under Bush, by reversing earlier US position under Clinton, took a hard line stand against any substantive remedial measures to ensure any meaningful and deep cut in carbon emission [34]. In fact, the US Vice President Al Gore had been “a main participant in putting the Kyoto Protocol (an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) together in 1997. President Bill Clinton signed the agreement in 1997, but the US Senate refused to ratify it, citing potential damage to the US economy required by compliance. The Senate also balked at the agreement because it excluded certain developing countries, including India and China, from having to comply with new emissions standards.”. Then “George Bush made campaign promises in 2000 to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. However, in 2001, George Bush pulled the US out of the Kyoto accords as one of the first acts of his presidency. Bush dismissed Kyoto Protocol as too costly, describing it as “an unrealistic and ever-tightening straitjacket.” Lately, the White House has even questioned the validity of the science behind global warming, and claims that millions of jobs will be lost if the US joins in this world pact.” [35]

On the other, the more developed amongst the developing countries – China and India in particular – are highly reluctant to go in for any significant cut in their respective carbon emissions on the ground of equity [36]. This, in turn, has been used by the Bush administration to further justify their own obstinate refusal [37].

Even otherwise, Kyoto or Bali (or Poznan) [38] only talks of global warming and consequent climate change without addressing the related issues of global pollution and global depletion of natural resources including bio-pool and minerals.

Effective Remedial Measures

An effective strategy to counter the doomsday prospects would at the minimum call for a clear recognition of the immediacy [39] of the looming crisis, its anthropogenic nature and, most importantly, unsustainability of the present developmental paradigm [40] and consequent profligate life-style of the privileged minority [41]. It cannot also eschew the issue of dire need for equity and justice to ensure climbing up of the huge communities of global underdogs from the abysmal pits of poverties they are in. This is just not a moral imperative. This is also the necessary condition for mobilizing popular pressures on the global scale to challenge the entrenched order fuelling the race to extinction and make it steer away from the precipice. Similarly, a campaign for peace - and nuclear disarmament in particular - has also got to be a necessary adjunct.

The specific solutions are, of course, to be collectively and democratically worked out by the humanity facing the threat of far premature extinction in the very course of the struggle against this grave threat [42].

But the broad contours have already started emerging even in reluctant admissions made in the official documents.

Carbon emission consequent to energy production for consumption has been identified as the principal culprit.

True, it exclusively focuses on “global warming” and attempts to disconnect this from the other interlinked dimensions of the looming ecological crisis viz. global pollution – of soil, water and air, and global depletion of natural resources – e.g. fossil fuel, rain forests, bio-diversities. And, in the process, comes up with arguably false and dangerous solutions like nuclear power or bio-fuels without taking a holistic view [43]. But even then, the problem of carbon emission itself, if pursued consistently and logically, takes us to a position where challenging the current heavy industry based, apart from being private profit driven, development paradigm becomes well-nigh inescapable.

The Struggle Ahead

“Since a social organization, however inadequate, never disappears by itself, since a ruling class, however parasitic, never yields power unless it is compelled to do so by overwhelming pressure, development and progress can only be attained if all the energies and abilities of a people that was politically, socially and economically disfranchised under the old system are thrown into battle against the fortress of ancien regime.” [44]

Even if this profound maxim had been pronounced in a context obviously somewhat different, it nevertheless graphically brings out the essence of the tasks before the ecological movements so as to make any real impact on the ongoing process. It brings out the fact that no amount of sane and informed reasoning by itself would do the magic of making the current set of rulers see reason and mend their ways unless some meat, so to say, is put on such reasoning in the form of formidable mass mobilisation solidly rallied behind such reasoning. And such mobilisation would of course demand both patient reasoning with the masses, to raise the level of awareness, and organising around partial and transitional demands, to begin with. The legitimacy, even if highly inadequate, conferred by the official commissions, declarations etc. in this regard, are to be positively harnessed. Some of the solutions proposed, if in tune with the general direction, even if falling far short of what is necessary, are to be picked up and fought for while stoutly opposing the patently false prescriptions.

But the basic awareness that social good can be served only by a social/global order which is truly “social” has to permeate all these efforts and campaigns and progressively assert itself, as the masses learn through their own experiences and set aside the cobwebs of old prejudices, to emerge as the masthead of the global movements for an ecologically sustainable order, which has got to be just and equitable as well. An order defined by harmony – among humans of all shades and varieties, on the one hand, and humans and the Nature, on the other.

Notes

[1] "The value for the age of the Earth in wide use today was determined by Tera in 1980, who found a value of 4.54 Ga”. Excerpted from ‘The age of the Earth in the twentieth century: a problem (mostly) solved’ by G. Brent Dalrymple, available at
- http://sp.lyellcollection.org/cgi/content/abstract/190/1/205

[2] “Some facts about the origin of life are well understood, others are still the subject of current research. The first living things on Earth were single cell prokaryotes and they first appeared on Earth about four billion years ago”. Excerpted from ’Abiogenesis’, available at
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origin_of_life

[3] “(T)he oldest fossil evidence for anatomically modern humans is about 130,000 years old in Africa, and there is evidence for modern humans in the Near East sometime before 90,000 years ago.” Excerpted from ’Homo sapiens’, available at . “Archaic Homo sapiens evolved between 400,000 and 250,000 years ago.” Excerpted from ‘Human evolution’, Wikipedia, available at
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_evolution

[4] Identifying an exact origin of agriculture remains problematic because the transition from hunter-gatherer societies began thousands of years before the invention of writing. Nonetheless, archaeobotanists/paleoethnobotanists have traced the selection and cultivation of specific food plant characteristics, such as a semi-tough rachis and larger seeds, to just after the Younger Dryas (about 9,500 BC) in the early Holocene in the Levant region of the Fertile Crescent.” Excerpted from ‘History of agriculture’ in Wikipedia, available at
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Agriculture

[5] “Early Neolithic farming was limited to a narrow range of plants, both wild and domesticated, which included einkorn wheat, millet and spelt and the keeping of dogs, sheep and goats. By about 8000 BC it included domesticated cattle and pigs, the establishment of permanently or seasonally inhabited settlements, and the use of pottery.” Excerpted from ‘Neolithic’ in Wikipedia, available at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neolithic

[6] See also ‘A Brief History of the Universe’ by John Baez, available at
- http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/timeline.html

[7] “The first commercially successful engine did not appear until 1712. Incorporating technologies discovered by Savery and Denis Papin, the atmospheric engine, invented by Thomas Newcomen, paved the way for the Industrial Revolution.” Excerpted from ‘Steam engine’ in Wikipedia, available at
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steam_engine#History

[8] See
- http://www.europe-solidaire.org/faculty.wcas.northwestern.edu/ jmokyr/castronovo.pdf

[9] See ‘Earth’ in Wikipedia, available at
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth

[10] See ‘Ice age’ in Wikipedia, available at
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_age

[11] See ‘Last glacial period’ in Wikipedia, available at
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiscon...

[12] See ‘Causes of ice ages’ in Wikipedia, available at
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_age

[13] “The Earth has been in an interglacial period known as the Holocene for more than 11,000 years. It was conventional wisdom that “the typical interglacial period lasts about 12,000 years,” but this has been called into question recently. For example, an article in Nature argues that the current interglacial might be most analogous to a previous interglacial that lasted 28,000 years. Predicted changes in orbital forcing suggest that the next glacial period would begin at least 50,000 years from now, even in absence of human-made global warming”. Excerpted from ibid.

[14] “”The sun, like all main sequence stars, is getting brighter with time and that affects the Earth’s climate,“says Dr. James F. Kasting, professor of meteorology and geosciences.”Eventually temperatures will become high enough so that the oceans evaporate." Excerpted from ’Earth’s Oceans Destined to Leave in Billion Years’, Feb. 20 2000, available at
http://www.xs4all.nl/ carlkop/toast.html

- Also provided here: the “Earth’s oceans will disappear in about one billion years due to increased temperatures from a maturing sun, but Earth’s problems may begin in half that time because of falling levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, according to a Penn State researcher.”

[15] “The mean life span of marine invertebrate species lies between 5 and 10 million years; terrestrial vertebrate species turn over more rapidly, but still average in the millions. By contrast, Homo sapiens may be only 250,000 years old or so and may enjoy a considerable future if we don’t self-destruct.” Excerpted from ’The Golden Rule: A Proper Scale for Our Environmental Crisis’ by Stephan Jay Gould available at
- http://www.umanitoba.ca/faculties/arts/philosophy/Gould.htm
- See also ‘Human extinction within 100 years warns scientist’ by Alfred Lambremont Webre, 14 Jan 2005, available at
- http://dc.indymedia.org/newswire/display/114245/index.php
- And also NASA

[16] Arguably the most significant measure of human footprint on Nature is the quantum of carbon emission. Here is a relevant excerpt from a very recent report: “Carbon dioxide is the most abundant anthropogenic (human-caused) greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have been rising at a rate of about 0.6 percent annually in recent years, and that growth rate is likely to increase. As a result, by the middle of the 21st century, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere could be double their pre-industrialization level”. (See ‘Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions’ in International Energy Outlook 2008, p. 89 at
- http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/ieo/pdf/emissions.pdf
- Also, “Homo sapiens has been contending with its effects on nature since Paleolithic days and the first great extinctions wrought by hunting bands. But it was not until the 1970s that these became experienced as a great ecological crisis threatening the future of the species.” (See. ’Why Ecosocialism Today?’ by Joel Kovel, available at
- http://www.newsocialist.org/index.php?id=1321
- And also, “(t)he industrial revolution linked to the rise of 19th century capitalism greatly increased the rate at which waste was released into the atmosphere, severely damaging the health of workers and city dwellers. Overall, ecological shock waves of human origin have come fast and furious. And yet, the ecological crisis as we know it is not the linear outcome of industrial development since the 19th century. It is the outcome of a qualitative leap, the massive generalization of petroleum use and the phenomenal development of the car, the chemical industry and its use in all economic sectors, in particular in agriculture via fertilizers and pesticides.” Extracted from ‘Marxist Analysis of Ecological Crisis’, available at
- http://www.geocities.com/youth4sa/f....
- And also: “Human activity since the industrial revolution has increased the atmospheric concentration of various greenhouse gases, leading to increased radiative forcing from CO2, methane, tropospheric ozone, CFCs and nitrous oxide. The atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and methane have increased by 36% and 148% respectively since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the mid-1700s. These levels are considerably higher than at any time during the last 650,000 years, the period for which reliable data has been extracted from ice cores. From less direct geological evidence it is believed that CO2 values this high were last seen approximately 20 million years ago. Fossil fuel burning has produced approximately three-quarters of the increase in CO2 from human activity over the past 20 years. Most of the rest is due to land-use change, in particular deforestation.” Excerpted from ‘Global warming’ at
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming

[17] This is how Marx had so perceptively described it: “Thus capital creates the bourgeois society and the universal appropriation of nature as well as of the social bond itself by the members of society. Hence the great civilizing influence of capital; its production of a stage of society in comparison to which all earlier ones appear as mere local developments of humanity and as nature-idolatry. For the first time, nature becomes purely and object for humankind, purely a matter of utility; ceases to be recognized as a power for itself; and the theoretical discovery of its autonomous laws appears merely as a ruse so as to subjugate it under human needs, whether as an object of consumption or as a means of production (emphasis added)”. Marx has further observed elsewhere: Capitalist production, therefore, develops technology, and the combining together of various processes into a social whole, only by sapping the original sources of all wealth - the soil and the laborer.” Both citations in ‘Marxist Analysis of Ecological Crisis’, ibid.

[18] See ‘Marxist Analysis of Ecological Crisis’, ibid.

[19] “Despite its reputation as the very acme of rational economic exchange, capitalism follows its own imperatives, quite apart from the needs of humans and ecosystems. In its compulsion to grow and multiply, capital “constantly tries to violate” whatever limit is set before it. Success means only one thing: surpassing yesterday’s mark. No matter how big the beast gets, to cease growing further is to die (emphasis added).” Excerpted from ’Nature’s Coming Revolution: A Review of Joel Kovel’s The Enemy of Nature’ by Ted Dace, June 14, 2003, available at . Also significant is this observation: “While there are many complexities corresponding to capital’s responsibility for the ecological crisis, there is but one overriding tendency: capitalism requires continual growth of the economic product and since this growth is for the sake of capital and not real human need, the result is the continual destabilization of an integral relationship to nature. The essential reason for this lies in capitalism’s distinctive difference from all other modes of production, that is, that it is organized around the production of capital itself—a purely abstract, numerical entity with no internal limit. Hence it drags the material natural world, which very definitely has limits, along with it on its mad quest for value and surplus value, and can do nothing else.” Excerpted from ’Why Ecosocialism Today?’, op cit. And also: “Capitalism, as many of the world’s greatest economists—both mainstream and radical—have long acknowledged, is a system that can never stand still. If the investment frontier does not expand, and if profits do not increase, the circulation of capital will be interrupted and a crisis will ensue. A “stationary” capitalism is thus an impossibility. As Schumpeter expressed it, “capitalism is a process, stationary capitalism would be a contradictio in adjecto.” But at the dawn of the twenty-first century there is every reason to believe that the kind of rapid economic growth that the system demands in order to sustain its very existence—growth that now occurs within an orbit that encompasses the entire planet—is no longer ecologically sustainable, since it is biased toward high throughputs of materials and energy, which put strains on both the planetary taps (resources) and sinks (the ecosystems that must absorb the resulting waste).” Excerpted from ’The Scale of Our Ecological Crisis’ by John Bellamy Foster in the Monthly Review, April 1998, available at
- http://www.monthlyreview.org/498jbf.htm

[20] “As countries undergo industrial development, they move through a period of intensive, and often inefficient, use of fossil fuel. Efficiencies improve along this development trajectory, but eventually tend to level off. Industrialised countries such as Australia and the US are at the levelling-off stage, while developing countries such as China are at the intensive-development stage. Both factors are decreasing the global efficiency of fossil fuel use.” This is to be read together with a preceding observation: ““A major driver of the accelerating growth rate in emissions is that, globally, we’re burning more carbon per dollar of wealth created (emphasis added),” CSIRO scientist Mike Raupach said in a statement.” Excerpted from ’World Growth Spurs Faster Climate Change, Report Says’ by Michael Perry, May 22 2007, available at
- http://www.enn.com/top_stories/article/6606

[21] The World GDP growth rate for 1980-1990 and 1990-2004 are reported as 2.9 and 3.4% respectively. As cited in ‘World Population & GDP Growth’, available at
- http://www.hart-isee.com/index.php?page=world-population-gdp-growth#GDPFacts

[22] “Our global footprint now exceeds the world’s capacity to regenerate [its ecology] by about 30 per cent. If our demands on the planet continue at the same rate, by the mid-2030s we will need the equivalent of two planets to maintain our lifestyles.” Excerpted from the Living Planet Report 2008, available at
- http://assets.panda.org/downloads/living_planet_report_2008.pdf
- Estimates may vary on the precise quantum of human footprint on Earth’s ecology. But the essential point is, pretty evidently, loud and clear. Here is another significant observation: “The world is suffering from a fever due to climate change, and the disease is the capitalist development model. Whilst over 10,000 years the variation in carbon dioxide (CO2) levels on the planet was approximately 10%, during the last 200 years of industrial development, carbon emissions have increased by 30%. Since 1860, Europe and North America have contributed 70% of the emissions of CO2. 2005 was the hottest year in the last one thousand years on this planet.” Excerpted from ’Let’s Respect Our Mother Earth’ by Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, September 26 2007, available at
- http://www.countercurrents.org/morales260907.htm

[23] “The causes of the recent warming are an active field of research. The scientific consensus is that the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases due to human activity caused most of the warming observed since the start of the industrial era, and the observed warming cannot be satisfactorily explained by natural causes alone. This attribution is clearest for the most recent 50 years, which is the period when most of the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations took place and for which the most complete measurements exist.” Excerpted from ‘Global warming’, Wikipedia, available at . Also: “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted an average global rise in temperature of 1.4°C (2.5°F) to 5.8°C (10.4°F) between 1990 and 2100.” See ‘Kyoto Protocol’, Wikipedia, available at

[24] This is what the ‘The World Factbook’ maintained by the Central Intelligence Agency has got to say, “the rapid depletion of nonrenewable mineral resources, the depletion of forest areas and wetlands, the extinction of animal and plant species, and the deterioration in air and water quality (especially in Eastern Europe, the former USSR, and China) pose serious long-term problems that governments and peoples are only beginning to address”. Available at
- https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/xx.html
- Also relevant is: “Whether we live on the edge of the forest or in the heart of the city, our livelihoods and indeed our lives depend on the services provided by the Earth’s natural systems. The Living Planet Report 2008 tells us that we are consuming the resources that underpin those services much too fast – faster than they can be replenished.” Excerpted from the Living Planet Report 2008, op cit.

[25] “In sum, it should be said that all-out nuclear war would mean the destruction of contemporary civilization, hurl man back centuries, cause the deaths of hundreds of millions or billions of people, and, with a certain degree of probability, would cause man to be destroyed as a biological species and could even cause the annihilation of life on earth.” That’s what Andrei Sakharov, eminent Soviet nuclear physicist, dissident and human rights activist and winner of the 1975 Nobel Peace Prize, wrote in the Foreign Affairs, vol. 61, no. 5 (Summer 1983). Available at
- http://www.physics.harvard.edu/ wilson/sakharovconference/Suggested_Reading/The%20Danger%20of%20Thermonuclear%20War.pdf
- For a detailed analysis, see ’The Nuclear Winter’ by Carl Sagan, available at
http://www.colorado.edu/AmStudies/l....
And, also, ’The Effects of a Global Thermonuclear War’ by Wm. Robert Johnston (last updated 18 August 2003), available at
- http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/nuclear/nuclearwar1.html
- [26] “The Living Planet Report 2008 tells us that more than three quarters of the world’s people live in nations that are ecological debtors – their national consumption has outstripped their country’s biocapacity. Thus, most of us are propping up our current lifestyles, and our economic growth, by drawing (and increasingly overdrawing) upon the ecological capital of other parts of the world.” Excerpted from the Living Planet Report 2008, op cit. Also see ’Climate Justice and Equity’, available at
- http://www.globalissues.org/article/231/climate-justice-and-equity
- [27] Here is a graphic illustration. “Greenpeace today released a survey based report named “hiding behind the poor” which reveals that the highest income group in India, constituting merely 1% of the population emits four and a half times as much CO2 as the lowest income group consisting 38% of the population.” Excerpted from ‘Greenpeace report demands that the Indian Government implement climate justice in the country while calling for it internationally’, Nov. 13 2007, available at
- http://www.greenpeace.org/india/press/releases/hiding-behind-the-poor-english

[28] This aspect is rarely discussed as perhaps it is too obvious.

[29] Here is an illustration. “President Bush dismissed on Tuesday a report put out by his administration warning that human activities are behind climate change that is having significant effects on the environment.” This is, the news story argues because the “report released by the Environmental Protection Agency was a surprising endorsement of what many scientists and weather experts have long argued — that human activities such as oil refining, power plants and automobile emissions are important causes of global warming.” Excerpted from ‘Bush Disses Global Warming Report’, June 4 2002, available at
- http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002.... For a penetrating analysis of the structural causes underlying the obstinate refusals to acknowledge ecological degradation and its anthropocentric character, see ’Ecology Against Capitalism’ by John Bellamy Foster in the Monthly Review, October 2001, available at
- http://www.monthlyreview.org/1001jbf.htm

[30] See ’Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’, Wikipedia, available at
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interg....

[31] Excerpted from the IPCC brochure, ’16 Years of Scientific Assessment: in Support of the Climate Convention: December 2004’, available at
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intergovernmental_Panel_on_Climate_Change

[32] Excerpted from ’Warning on Warming’ by Bill McKibben, The New York Review of Books, March 15 2001, available at
- http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19981

[33] See ’Humans blamed for climate change’ by Richard Black, February 2 2007, available at
- http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6321351.stm

[34] Here is a neat summing up of the position adopted by Bush. “In rejecting the Kyoto Protocol [which laid down norms for reduction in carbon emission], which 178 other nations had accepted, President Bush claimed that the treaty requirements would harm the U.S. economy, leading to economic losses of $400 billion and costing 4.9 million jobs. Bush also objected to the exemption for developing nations. The president’s decision brought heavy criticism from U.S. allies and environmental groups in the U.S. and around the world.” Excerpted from ’Should the United States Ratify the Kyoto Protocol?’ by Larry West, available at
- http://environment.about.com/od/kyo....
- Here is another observation that further underlines and illustrates the same point. “President Bush has consistently opposed any plan that includes specific targets or binding commitments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which could have economic impacts, or that assigns more responsibility for solving the problem of global warming to developed nations such as the United States than to developing economies such as China, India and Brazil.” Excerpted from ’Global Warming - Bush Announces U.S. Plan to Tackle Global Warming’ by Larry West, Jun 6, 2007, available at
- http://environment.about.com/od/governmentscorporations/a/bush_plan.htm

[35] Excerpted from ’US Refuses to Sign Pact to Stem Global Warming’ by Deborah White, available at
http://usliberals.about.com/od/environmentalconcerns/p/KyotoProtocol.htm
- Also relevant: “After 11 days of negotiations, governments have come up with a compromise deal that could even lead to emission increases. The highly compromised political deal is largely attributable to the position of the United States, which was heavily influenced by fossil fuel and automobile industry interests. The failure to reach agreement led to the talks spilling over into an all-night session”. Excerpted from ’We’ve been suckered again by the US. So far the Bali deal is worse than Kyoto: America will keep on wrecking climate talks as long as those with vested interests in oil and gas fund its political system’ by George Monbiot, Dec. 17 2007, available at
- http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/dec/17/comment.world

[36] See, for example, illustrating Indian objections, ’World’s Third Largest Emitter, India, Wants Europe To Cut Emissions’ by Mridul Chadha, October 26 2008, available at
- http://fortheplanet.wordpress.com/2....
And, for the Chinese case, see ’China rejects caps, aims to cut ‘carbon intensity’’, April 17 2007, available at
- http://www.chinapost.com.tw/news/archives/international/2007417/107326.htm
- Also: “China, now the world’s biggest greenhouse-gas emitter, will eventually agree (emphasis added) to cut its soaring carbon dioxide emissions, one of the country’s leading environmentalists forecast yesterday – but only on the basis of a deal with the United States and the rest of the developed world.” Excerpted from ’China ’will agree to cut its carbon emissions’’ by Michael McCarthy, November 13 2007, available at
- http://www.independent.co.uk/news/w....

[37] Here is an instructive illustration of a crafty ploy lately adopted by the US under the Bush regime. “Under the Bush proposal, the United States would host and lead a series of talks over the next 18 months [through the end of 2008], which would include the 15 nations that emit the most greenhouse gases—including large developing nations such as China and India. The aim of those negotiations would be craft an agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012 by setting “a long-term global goal” to cut greenhouse gas emissions.” This refers to a so-called alternate plan announced by Bush in mid 2007 making its own commitment to cut emission of greenhouse gases contingent upon compliance by China and India. Excerpted from ’Bush Announces U.S. Plan to Tackle Global Warming’ by Larry West, June 4 2007, available at
- http://environment.about.com/od/kyo....
- Here is an even more recent reaffirmation of that ploy. “US President George W. Bush says he would discuss with India and China how to make major economies part of a common strategy to deal with the issue of climate change at next week’s Group of Eight (G8) summit.” “Look, we can’t have an effective agreement unless China and India are a part of it. It’s as simple as that,” he said Wednesday at a White House briefing on his trip to Japan for the eighth and final G8 summit of his presidency." Excerpted from ‘India, China must for effective climate change accord: Bush’, July 3 2008, available at
- http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal....
Days after, Bush, however, made at least some tentative commitment for the distant future. See ‘Bush signs G8 deal to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050’, by Patrick Wintour and Larry Elliott, July 8 2008, available at
- http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/200....

[38] “The Poznan talks were the latest in an annual series of UN meetings, which were spawned by the Rio Earth summit in 1992 and produced the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. In Bali last year, nations agreed to negotiate a successor to Kyoto, to be signed at the meeting in Copenhagen. At the half-way point of that process, and with a new US president waiting in the wings, Poznan was always going to be something of a dead rubber.” Excerpted from ’Global climate change decisions on hold for Obama administration: New targets would not be discussed until the summer, to give the US president-elect time to signal his intentions’ by David Adam, December 12 2008, available at
- http://www.guardian.co.uk/environme....
- This report gives a very brief and useful sum up on global efforts and roadblocks on the issue of climate change.

[39] See ’Let’s get real on the environment: After the failure in Poznan, it’s time to be honest: the world is not going to be cutting greenhouse gases anytime soon’ by David Appell, Dec. 12 2008, available at
- http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentis...
- for a fairly pessimistic but rather compelling analysis on the current state of lack of readiness to acknowledge the obtaining level of urgency.

[40] Here is an emphatic and reasoned assertion: “Capitalism’s need for growth exists on every level, from the individual enterprise to the system as a whole. The insatiable hunger of corporations is facilitated by imperialist expansion in search of ever greater access to natural resources, cheap labor and new markets. Capitalism has always been ecologically destructive, but in our lifetimes these assaults on the earth have accelerated. Quantitative change is giving way to qualitative transformation, bringing the world to a tipping point, to the edge of disaster. A growing body of scientific research has identified many ways in which small temperature increases could trigger irreversible, runaway effects – such as rapid melting of the Greenland ice sheet or the release of methane buried in permafrost and beneath the ocean – that would make catastrophic climate change inevitable.” Excerpted from the ’Belem Ecosocialist Declaration’, December 16 2008, available on ESSF: The Belem Ecosocialist Declaration.

[41] For a detailed analysis of the hugely asymmetric draw on ecological pool by different nations, see the Living Planet Report 2008, op cit. Also relevant is the observation: “The impact of the ecological crisis is felt most severely by those whose lives have already been ravaged by imperialism in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and indigenous peoples everywhere are especially vulnerable. Environmental destruction and climate change constitute an act of aggression by the rich against the poor.” Excerpted from the ’Belem Ecosocialist Declaration’, op cit.

[42] Here is a view, worth taking note of: “It is plain that production will have to shift from being dominated by exchange—the path of the commodity—to that which is for use, that is for the direct meeting of human needs. But this in turn requires definition, and in the context of ecological crisis, “use” can only mean those set of needs essential for the overcoming of the ecological crisis—for this is the greatest need for civilization as a whole, and therefore for each woman and man within it.” See ’Why Ecosocialism Today?’, op cit. But while it is somewhat easier to proclaim what a society should not be in order to ensure compatibility with our environ, it is decidedly more difficult to lay down the specifics of the desirable order. Another observation from the foregoing article cited here is highly instructive: “Capitalist production, in its endless search for profit, seeks to turn everything into a commodity. Only in this way can accumulation continuously expand. By releasing us from the tyranny of private ownership of the means of production, socialism, whether of the first-epoch variety or as ecosocialism, makes it possible to interrupt the deadly tendency of cancerous growth, which is effectively driven by the competition between capitals for ever greater market share. But this leaves open the question of just what will be produced, and how, within an ecosocialist society (emphasis added).”

[43] For a typical exposition of arguments against nuclear power, see ‘Nuclear Power ’Can’t Stop Climate Change’’ by Geoffrey Lean, June 26 2004, available at
- http://www.commondreams.org/headlin....
- On biofuels, see ’Biofuels Cause Global Warming’ by James Joyner, February 8, 2008, available at
- http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/ar....
For a comprehensive “technical” analysis of various alternate options, see ’Review of solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security’ by Mark Z. Jacobson in Energy & Environmental Science, December 1 2008, available at
- http://www.rsc.org/delivery/_Articl....
- This “comparison” concludes: “In summary, the use of wind, CSP (i.e. concentrated solar power), geothermal, tidal, solar, wave, and hydroelectric to provide electricity for BEVs (i.e. battery-electric vehicles) and HFCVs (i.e. hydrogen fuel cell vehicles) result in the most benefit and least impact among the options considered. Coal-CCS (i.e. coal with carbon capture and storage) and nuclear provide less benefit with greater negative impacts. The biofuel options provide no certain benefit and result in significant negative impacts. Because sufficient clean natural resources (e.g., wind, sunlight, hot water, ocean energy, gravitational energy) exists (sic) to power all energy for the world, the results here suggest that the diversion of attention to the less efficient or non-efficient options represents an opportunity cost that delays solutions to climate and air pollution health problems (emphasis added).”

[44] Excerpted from ‘The Political Economy of Growth’ by Paul A. Baran, Penguin Books, 1973.

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