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The Time is A.S.A.P.

5 December 2010

Too often, too may people think of the devastating effects of climate change as a problem that will affect us in the future. To others, it’s something we have to deal with now. This is the situation facing the Polynesian islanders of Tuvalu, which will soon be underwater owing to rising sea levels, stripping them of their homes and livelihoods.

In Bangladesh, a one-metre rise in sea levels would wipe out forty per cent of its rice production, leading to starvation and migration.

Flooding in China last summer destroyed 2.2 million hectares of farmland and left 1.5 million people homeless.

Though New Orleans may have recovered physically from the effects of Hurricane Katrina, nevertheless, stress levels, spousal abuse, and child psychological disorders have increased drastically since then, according to the United Nations’ Commission on Refugees. There are now twenty-five million environmental refugees in the world, made homeless by rising sea levels, floods, and desertification. If present trends continue, that number will double by 2013. The enormity of the problem is overwhelming when one considers that 2013 is just a little over two years away.

One would hardly consider the Pentagon a bastion of love and humanity; yet, as their consultant, Peter Schwartz, commented, “More weather extremes, more often, in more places lead to massive food and water shortages, forced human migrations, and desperate border crossings, a fulsome recipe for armed conflict.” (Toronto Star, Nov. 8/2010)

One needn’t be a genius to realize it is those last six words in Schwartz’s analysis that concern the Pentagon the most.

Gwynne Dyer, in his book, “Climate Wars”, claims the Pentagon is considering means of dealing with the problem, ranking it second, behind a possible conflict with China, on their list of priorities. One can clearly see that the movement of millions of environmental refugees, from one country to another, would certainly cause problems for governments. The Pentagon is obviously preparing to deal with the effects of global warming and in the worst way possible.

However, one might ask if there are any efforts to work on means of preventing global warming. And yes, the good people of the National Round Table on the Environment, and the Economy in partnership with The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, have, in their infinite wisdom, concluded in their report that Canada is well prepared to both adapt and prosper as a result of climate change. That’s right, you heard climate change and prosperity! You may wonder where such fantasizing is coming from. A likely explanation being that Suncor Oil is among the report’s sponsors.

The report speaks about the need to move away from a fossil-based fuel economy to a less dangerous one and then take no action in that respect. One person who has taken action, however negative, is Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who appointed thirty-five senators to the Senate in order to vote against the Climate Change Bill C-311, which had been passed by a majority of elected M.P.s in the House of Commons. Thanks to Harper’s undemocratic behaviour, the Liberals in the Senate were taken by surprise by the snap vote. On November 17, the Bill was voted down 43-32. Reaction was immediate and vociferous. A typical one being that of NDP leader, Jack Layton, “What he (Harper) has done is morally wrong. This is one of the most undemocratic acts we have seen. This Senate should be abolished, it should be ashamed of itself.”

Though some critics reminded Harper of his outspoken and contemptuous previous comments regarding the Senate, they forgot that he made those comments when the Liberals had the majority in it. The defeat of Bill C-311means that Canadian delegates will have no plan when they attend an International Climate Conference in Cancun, Mexico, in December, where two hundred countries will attempt to come up with some agreement, which should be interesting. Bill C-311, which has been supported in the Commons by the Liberals, NDP, and the Bloc Quebecois, called for greenhouse gases to be cut to 25% below 1990 levels by 2020, which was more demanding than Harper’s plan of a 17% cut from 2005 levels by 2020. According to Harper, it was, “ A completely irresponsible bill. It sets irresponsible targets and does not lay out any measure of achieving them, other than by shutting down sections of the Canadian economy and throwing hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of people out of work.

Bill Cheney made a similar remark to environmentalists who attacked his government for not signing the Kyoto agreement, which was, “ If we do what you want, there will be a depression.” If one puts credence on the above comments, and one should, it proves conclusively that climate change is another problem that cannot be solved within capitalism. All one has to do is think of its enormity – destruction of the environment, or a depression worse than the one we are in. It’s like asking a condemned man if he wants death by hanging or by the electric chair. That there is no answer within the competitive capitalist system where every country looks after its own welfare, or rather that of their capitalist class, doesn’t mean that there is no answer. In a socialist society of common ownership, where production is for the satisfaction of human needs, it naturally follows that there will be no need for money, the profit system, or the profit motive. Decisions, including ones concerning the environment, will be made by the majority of the world’s citizens in the interests of the majority. Due regard will be given to satisfying need without environmental murder.

The problem is that time is running out. If there is any time left to establish a socialist system to solve this world problem, before environmental destruction is irreversible, then the time is now.

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