Socialist Worker

New Labour puts us on the road to disaster

Issue No. 1884

THE CATASTROPHE threatened by global warming was thrown into sharp relief last week. Scientists warned that a quarter of all land animals and plants face extinction within 50 years.

Instead of acting to tackle the problem, the world's biggest polluters are making matters worse.

A small, but symbolic, example was the ending of Royal Mail's rail-based delivery system last week. The move will put another 500 heavy lorries onto Britain's roads each week. These will pump out an extra 15,000 tonnes of pollutants each year, including gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide.

Such gases drive the greenhouse effect which lies behind global warming-the gases act like a blanket trapping more of the sun's heat on earth.

The overwhelming majority of the world's scientists agree that climate change is already happening. Most governments also accept the scale of the threat. But the European Union is now proposing a scheme which means businesses trading in the right to pollute, not taking action to halt climate change.

Under the EU's directive businesses will be able to buy and sell the right to emit greenhouse gases.

No one should doubt the disaster global warming is leading us towards. A global panel of scientists last week reported in the science journal Nature on how global warming will hit plant and animal species.

Professor Chris Thomas from Leeds was the lead author. "When scientists set about research they hope to come up with definite results, but what we found we wish we had not," he said. "It was far, far worse than we thought."

The scientists estimate one million species face extinction in the next 50 years. The reason is the way global warming affects rainfall and other weather patterns.

Most scientists think we are already seeing the effects of climate change, with ten of the world's hottest years on record occurring since 1991.

The pattern of storms, floods and heatwaves of recent years in many parts of the world gives a small foretaste of what could be in store. By far the biggest cause of global warming is the burning of fossil fuels-oil, gas and coal.

And by far the biggest culprits are the global fossil fuel corporations, headed by the oil and gas companies, and the car and tyre multinationals.

Behind the corporations stand the world's most powerful governments-above all George W Bush's regime in the US. The US is the key to climate change, pumping out almost a quarter of all the world's greenhouse gases. Yet Bush steadfastly refuses to take any action.

The threat of global catastrophe from climate change can be tackled-but only by a huge shift away from fossil fuels.

It means decisive action to move away from oil, gas and coal generated power towards renewable energy like wind, wave and solar.

And it means a massive shift away from the expansion of car, truck and air transport towards much less polluting alternatives like rail.

That can only be done by challenging the influence and power of the global corporations driving climate change, and assaulting their vast profits to finance investment in change.

There are immediate measures which could at least begin to make a real difference here in Britain. New Labour refuses to implement any of them. They include:

Reversing the decision to axe Royal Mail trains as part of a wider policy to shift freight from road to rail.

A major expansion of wind and wave generated power paid for by taxing the profits of the big businesses responsible for greenhouse gases.

At a European level Britain could back a major investment in and expansion of rail travel, instead of pushing for ever more airports. Air transport is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases.

Fighting for such policies and for action to halt and reverse climate change should be a key element of the left wing electoral challenge to New Labour set to be launched at the convention meeting on 25 January in London.

The report on species extinction and global warming "Extinction Risk from Climate Change" can be read in full on the internet here


Carbon dioxide emissions as percentage of global total

US 22 percent

JAPAN 14.1 percent

EUROPEAN UNION 13 percent

CHINA 11.9 percent

RUSSIA 9.4 percent


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Features
Sat 17 Jan 2004, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1884
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