In Durban, South Africa last week, a task force of the United Nations met to discuss how governments would create a policy to deal with climate-change. This conference did nothing but expose the fact that these governments represent the wealthy elite and international corporations. At every step they made deals and bargains to ensure that the profits of the polluters would not be endangered, even if that means no action will be taken to limit the damage they cause to the environment.
The scientific community has reported over and over again that climate change threatens us all. The global temperature has risen by one degree Celsius since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, when coal and then oil started to be used to power industrial and transportation technology. And at the current rate, the temperature will rise by at least one more degree by 2050.
Such an increase does not just mean a slight rise in temperature. The warming of the atmosphere causes extreme weather patterns, floods, droughts, hurricanes and tsunamis. How many heat waves have we seen in the last years? How many blizzards and storms? These events are not coincidences. They are evidence of the environmental crisis.
These disasters will only increase in the coming years. Some island nations especially in the Pacific will be totally submerged by rising sea levels. Scientists from the U.N. Panel on Climate Change predict that by 2050, extreme weather will cause failures of up to 20 percent of the world’s food supply. And the catastrophe won’t be limited to human beings. If the earth’s temperature increases beyond two degrees by 2050, up to 30 percent of all animal and plant species will die out.
The level of greenhouse gas emissions is not slowing down, it’s accelerating. Last year, the amount of carbon emissions increased by the biggest amount ever recorded. It’s as if humanity is headed for a cliff, and instead of putting on the breaks, we’re speeding up.
Of course it’s not hard to see who is driving this process of environmental destruction. The discussion amongst the governments of the world at the Durban conference was not about how to stop the imminent danger of climate change. Instead they bargained for the right of the corporations they represent to keep polluting.
The U.S. Environmental Envoy, Todd Stern, said that the goal of limiting the rising global temperature was a nice idea but it should not be seen as a binding agreement. No wonder he would say that. The corporations based in the U.S. are some of the worst polluters and the biggest opponents of limiting carbon emissions. The U.S. produces one fifth of greenhouse gases. But the U.S. government has refused even to sign the 2005 Kyoto Protocol which would limit emissions by an almost insignificant amount. Instead the energy industries in the United States have poured millions of dollars into campaigns to promote the lie that global warming is just a theory, not a proven fact.
The wealthy elite of other countries are no better. China and Russia are responsible for another two fifths of global greenhouse gas emissions. At the Durban conference, Chinese and Russian delegates said they were willing to limit pollution, but only slightly. And they fought and bargained over these limitations. Meanwhile poorer countries which are being devastated by environmental catastrophe begged the polluters to stop. They were met with cold silence. Is this any way to deal with a crisis?
The response of the governments and corporations is not a mistake. They know exactly what they want –to maintain their profits at all costs. As long as the corporations and their governments are left in charge, they will keep polluting.
There is no reason we should accept this. The future of life on this planet is at stake. It is in the interests of the vast majority of people on this planet to stop this environmental destruction. Our lives and our planet are worth more than their system of pollution for profit.