Product of globalized capitalism and subject of debate between the states that organize it
[Translation of a talk in Germany by an editor of GegenStandpunkt, the Marxist journal, 2007]
The majority of science has now come to the conclusion that climate change is a reality, that the earth is really warming and this warming could have catastrophic consequences. There are also some dissenting voices who argue that climate change is essentially a climate hoax, that science and weather reporting already fail to accurately predict tomorrow’s weather and therefore it is impossible to be able to predict what the climate will be like in 2050.
The question whether global warming is possible, likely or virtually certain, whether the probability is 20, 60 or 80 percent, and whether the warming amounts to 2, 3 or 6 degrees – these questions can’t be decided as a layman; the climate research for it is just a little too complicated. But one also does not have to decide this question: The politicians who intend to take measures and responsibility for climate protection have faced up to these scientific findings and assume that climate change is a sure thing, that catastrophic changes are to be expected. So, regardless of any statistical probability, one can simply examine which measures the respective states deem advisable and take in matters of climate change, which interests they omit, which come into play in each case and according to which standards they are handled.
First, however, to the thing itself, climate change and its causes.
1. Climate change and its immediate cause
Science has come to the conclusion that the average temperature of the earth has risen in the last 100 years by 0.74 degrees celsius, the last three decades accounting for each 0.15° C alone. On this basis, there are also projections made with the help of models. They say that the increase in temperature up to the year 2100 will be between 1.5 and 6.4° C. The margin of variation therefore fluctuates inter alia, the expected increase in temperature being dependent on the future development of CO2 emissions. (For comparison: 6 degrees difference roughly corresponds to the difference in temperature between now and the last ice age.)
The possible consequences of this warming are also well known and broadcast almost daily in the media:
– quite a lot of regions are in danger of further desertification, destruction, and increasing droughts;
– due to greater evaporation, however, massive rainfall and flooding will occur in other regions;
– an accelerated melting of glaciers and polar ice caps, but especially the thermal expansion of water bodies can consequently dramatically raise the sea level, threatening to flood whole island chains, particularly in the Pacific, but also the regions surrounding the major river deltas in Asia (Bangladesh, China, etc.);
– and as a consequence of this change in climate, an increasing famines as well as an army of millions of climate refugees are anticipated.
1.1. Natural and anthropogenic greenhouse effects
Science has identified the cause of global warming as the so-called anthropogenic greenhouse effect (anthropos, greek = human), that is, the humanly caused effect whose impact is additional to the natural greenhouse effect. There is a rational and an ideological side to this finding. The term is correct in that it divorces the naturally-occurring greenhouse effect, the existing climate-relevant gases (mainly water vapor and CO2) in the atmosphere which take place even without any human involvement and results in the average temperature of the earth rising from -18 to +15 degrees celsius. Without this natural greenhouse effect, life on earth would not be possible. The anthropogenic greenhouse effect, the extra greenhouse effect added by humans, consists of the CO2 that is released on a large scale in the processing of nature, essentially through the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas, and is additional to what is already in the atmosphere. One can read in the newspapers or on the internet that the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere at various epochs can be measured by taking the temperature of the ice cores, and that this has increased from the original pre-industrial level of about 280 ppm (parts per million) to a current 380 ppm. This is what is rational in the concept of an anthropogenic greenhouse effect: It measures the warming which is not attributable to natural effects independent of humans, but to the human processing of nature, the burning of fossil fuels.
This also begins the no longer rational, but irrational version of the same concept of “anthropogenic causes.” Is it really the human who is responsible? This human has to be a comic figure if he is constantly threatening himself and ruining his bases of existence. If it were true that the human is the culprit and the human is the victim, then one would either refrain from the crime, or if it were true that it is really inherent in the human species, a characteristic of human nature, in contrast to ants and giraffes which certainly also work on nature and have a metabolism with it, to bring forth technologies that cause changes in nature that in their extent exceed what other species cause and inevitably even deprives them of their own bases of existence, then one could sit back and also calmly face doom, because there is no way out. If one takes “anthropogenic causes” literally, thus a type of causation peculiar to humans who exist and act in the world like a part of nature, then one could spare oneself the whole debate over decreasing and preventing CO2. Because if “anthropos” is by its nature the source of the CO2, then a change would just not be possible – nature is nature.
So it does not go without saying. As is so often the case, the concept of humanity is used here as a false total abstraction. The human per se does not have to burn coal in order to produce electricity; one can also do this with wind turbines or solar panels. Then one avoids CO2 emissions. One can also, if one has already dumped fossil fuels as an energy source, capture accrued CO2, store it underground (so-called sequestration) and make it harmless. If such technologies exist for energy production so that (a) CO2 can’t arise in the first place or (b) renders those accrued harmless, then a kind of abstract process called civilization or industrialization can not be the reason that the human race blows so much CO2 into the atmosphere.
The truth of the matter is really not a big secret. In almost all areas of life, people are not at all so identical as the species name wants to suggest. Rather, there is a sorting of the different members of the species into, for example, those who actually decide whether or not a filter is put on a factory or power plant smokestack to absorb CO2. This is the owner’s decision. The members of the species who eke out their existence as “dependent employees” have, on the contrary, the role of burning coal as laborers in the power plant or of inhaling exhaust fumes and particulate matter as residents of it... In the public debate, the consumer is happily pointed to who may allegedly bring about big changes by making conscious purchasing decisions. But it also must be said of this sphere: The human who appears as, for example, the buyer of a car, is in his purchase and use of this product the dependent variable of a business calculation made by a company which decides the content of the product and also its emission qualities. Whether the car features a four or six cylinder engine, whether or not there’s a catalytic converter, whether there’s a diesel-soot filter that stops particles or not – these are all the calculations of a company whose survival is based on whether or not it can profitably clear the market with or without the installation of such assembly units.
So when “humans” are spoken of, everybody knows that “the economy” is meant. It needs tremendous amounts of energy in order to manufacture its products and turn out commodities which, for their part, e.g. in the form of cars, have a high proportion of global CO2 emissions. But it’s not just “the economy,” it’s a very specific type of economic activity. It’s the type of accounting system in force in the market economy which has historically led to the fact that until recently fossil fuels, notably oil in particular, have almost exclusively been used as an energy source: coal and oil started their great triumphal march across the globe because for decades they were an unbeatably cheap source of energy. Relative to all other systems of energy, they represent the energy source that costs next to nothing to generate. Measured by the monetary calculation in force in capitalism, the use of coal and oil is very rational because the lowest possible energy prices are conducive to the company’s rate of return. The all-important monetary calculation in capitalism ensures that questions like whether electricity is produced by wind turbines and solar cells or by coal-burning power plants, whether an expensive investment for the sequestration of CO2 is added to the coal-burning power plant or maybe not – these are answered in a very unequivocal way. It’s simply not true that – at a certain technical level – there are no alternative methods of generating energy. They have been around for half an eternity, but were long counted as unprofitable (correspondingly scant was support for developing the alternative energy sector or for CO2 sequestration systems.)
Preliminary conclusion: The CO2 accruing in the landscape that is the product of energy development and the selling of automobiles and other devices that produce CO2 is not the result of a technology and certainly not the necessary character of a species, but completely the consequence of the capitalistic monetary calculation.
1.2. Environmental protection = protection of capitals
The capitalist economy has, by the way, always taken the position that it is more economically useful to simply emit all kinds of residues from production into the environment, preferably free of cost. Carbon dioxide is only the most recent example of this, not to mention: rivers were used free of charge for sewage disposal, which was inclusive of regular fish die-offs; sulphuric acid was dumped in the North Sea; toxic fumes (sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide) were blasted unfiltered from power plants into the atmosphere, etc., etc. The poisoning of the environment by the capitalist economic mode sometimes assumed proportions that threatened to seriously endanger its own conditions of existence. The politicians did not fail to notice that permanent economic growth is accompanied by increasing environmental pollution. They therefore reacted to it, and have done a lot in some fields since then. The state has taken measures and enacted rules that brake emissions of rubbish – now CO2 as well – or dose them in such a way that the bases, the natural as well as human resources, are preserved for further consumption by business activity. Environmental protection is the concept not for protecting the environment, but protecting the capitals, and protection of the environment is only the means calculated for it.
There is countless evidence for this. An illustrative example from the past is the “high chimney policy” in the 1950s and 60s in Germany and England. The power and steel plants in North Rhine-Westphalia emmited such huge amounts of flue gas that they ruined forests and regions, as well as the human lungs in their immediate vicinity. The politicians took the position that this was taking place to such an extent that both nature as a free garbage dump as well as the people in the form of their labor power would not be available much longer for further use if this continued to go on. Willy Brandt in 1961 made the environment an election issue and demanded “the sky above the Ruhr must be blue again.” The politicians decided first on “protection measures” – but these could not harm business or only burden it very moderately. Engineering offices were commissioned, weathervanes and exhaust gas plumes meticulously measured, and finally chimneys were designed as high as 300 meters. The cheapness was simply that the bricks needed for the construction of these chimneys didn’t cost much. And the principle of the measure is not at all to reduce or even avoid pollution, but to dilute it with the aid of the climate. Just as the main slogan of the Social Democratic Party election campaign in the Ruhr area was “the sky over the Ruhr is blue again,” the first newspapers in Sweden headlined: “acid rain is ruining Sweden’s forests.” One thing comes from the other: That was the aimed-at effect of diluting or transfering pollution abroad. One just dumps his own shit on the neighbor’s territory. But it doesn’t look like that because it is done with the help of the regional climate and the weather.
A more recent example is the introduction of catalytic converters in Europe. Lengthy debates were waged over whether it should be made mandatory or not. Although it was technically already in existence, it was not made universally mandatory for a long time because it was not possible for the German car industry to integrate this technology into cars on a scale and at a price that was competitive and profitable on the European market. When the German car industry had finally managed to give itself a competitive advantage in the European market from the reduction of exhaust gas, it made efforts to make it a universal standard, in the speculation that, for example, neither Peugeot in France or any other car company yet possessed the same know-how in sufficient form.
This practice is the practice of each capitalistic location; it is the practice of all states. Gas emitted nationally has an effect internationally, across borders, without any local restriction. And if these little games – either reducing pollution only in appearance by diluting it through its global distribution or by only diminishing it to the extent that it doesn’t pose any disadvantage to the national economy – go on for three, four, five decades, then one finally reaches the point we are facing today in the case of CO2. The climate is literally globally affected, changed, probably with disastrous consequences. There are even states and regions affected by this global change which didn’t have the opportunity to contribute their packet of pollution because they lacked sufficient capital and factory chimneys. Climate change is noticeable even in Bangladesh or Somalia, although they have no smoking chimneys which deliver a share. But they very much feel the effects of all the others’ shares.
Noteworthy in this context is the appeal of the parliamentary leader of the Green Party, Renate Künast, in February of 2007. Künast was outraged about the German car industry because Toyota produced cars which, in comparison with German cars, must be called CO2 killers. She said, “As long as German industry does not switch over, it can only advise people, ‘buy hybrid cars from Toyota!’” (Financial Times Deutschland, Feb. 12, 2007). The vehement reactions that Künast reaped for this statement are interesting at this point: If the community attending this appeal took the view that CO2 reduction is the order of the day, then they would have had to say: true, these cars produce less than ours, so buy these Toyotas! Instead, they said: one does not buy non-German cars; that is an attack on the German car industry! This suddenly clarifies the hierarchy of objectives. Those who shout “prioritize the environment!” immediately switch the order when they realize that this maxim could be taken seriously for a moment when cars are purchased and nothing but “foreign products” could be bought. That would then suddenly be a buying behavior that is harmful in relation to German industry! So they are not of the view that the environment has priority, but of course that the German car industry has priority.
A brief summing up: There is a manner of speaking in the climate debate that says something like this: The commitment to climate protection shows how modern and ecological, how reasonable and future-oriented politics is today. The truth is quite different. Climate protection having become an urgent goal of politics proves – I’ll get to this shortly – how right old Marx was with his statement that “capitalist production undermines the original sources of all wealth, people and nature.” Why was he right? Take a look, for example, at what most of us are supposed to learn in school about the process of civilization, that it was and is something like the progression of good things. Earlier, people still lived in cool, damp caves, then in the Middle Ages there were houses, but people were still urinating in the streets. Then came capitalism and it brought sewers and heated living rooms ... etc. That’s all true indeed, but what is the present endpoint of this civilizing process?! For example, that millions of people around the world have no access to adequate supplies of potable drinking water. And now, even more, that people witness a change of climate that washes away a lot of huts, a lots of fields, and costs a lot of lives; that the earth is extensively unfit for consumption and is perhaps in the end even uninhabitable. This is the fruit of the capitalist exploitation of the earth. And those who now wear climate protection buttons as their great ecological insight are answering a situation that they themselves have caused over the decades with their capitalist site policies.
2. The States – balancing national concerns and international disputes
The politicians are impressed by conclusions that scientists no longer report completely unfazed. The states are challenged by the fact that they could lose the basic requirements of any business activity – a usable and inhabitable nature. The following is therefore about how they seperately take stock of climate change, in which way they actually settle their concerns, and how they internationally debate climate protection and the measures it requires.
2.1. The Stern Review
The predictions about global warming and its consequences are basically old hat. The first climate protection reports of similar dissection date back more than 10 years ago. But only now is the world of states impressed. Why is that? A major reason for this is the report of the former chief economist and vice president of the World Bank, Sir Nicholas Stern, who was commissioned in 2005 by the British government to lead an up to date comprehensive study of the costs of climate change. The press, which has come to believe that the issue of climate change has now made an impact and galvanized politics, enthusiastically receives the report (“Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change”) and gushes:
“Not an eco-romantic and not a Luddite, but Sir Nicholas Stern, the former vice president of the World Bank, the economic advisor to the British government, the author of a study based on the findings of the best climate scientists that have ever been trained in the universities” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 11.25.06) “has converted complex physical processes into one unit which people deal with every day: money. Stern has stuck a price tag on the horrors of climate change... It could cost 5.5 trillion euros if humanity continues pumping such enormous amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.” (Spiegel, 45/2006)
Now we finally know all there is to know about climate change and its consequences! The reason climate change must be taken seriously is not statements by ecological romantics who here and there and time and again have referred to the occurring or anticipated damage to nature and humans, but a flawless monetary calculation! Suffering people, ruined nature – all that counts little or nothing if a good chunk of money isn’t also destroyed.
Now someone could argue whether this isn’t a somewhat petty or biased interpretation: Isn’t the amount of money just a handy yardstick to vividly sum up and put a number on all the damage to humans as well as nature? No, because everything is false in this bill! If Africans die of starvation because of drought and in Bangladesh people become homeless due to a flood, then those are two completely different types of damage, which for some individuals turn into a (ultimate) castrophe and by themselves are not comparable so that they could be added! What is that supposed to be for an invoice: x dead Africans + y swept away houses = z $ or €? These damages have no expression in money, and neither can they be added up in money. So it’s not true that money is, so to speak, the peg for all human and natural damage, one that provides a yardstick for it. In reality, money measures a different object of damage, namely that to a nation’s business that will be affected by climate change.
While the Stern Review takes stock of the feared economic damage to the entire globe, there are also corresponding calculations that are limited only to Germany: The German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) calculated that climate change will cost annually about 0.5% of economic growth, a total of € 330 billion by 2050, of which a third is accounted by insurance losses. This calculation is remarkable and revealing in two respects:
a) A house that sinks in the flooding of the Oder – this is a substantial loss for its inhabitants; however, this is only a financial loss for the insurance company, and only if it was insured. It is noticable that money is a different object of damage. The damage to the people isn’t weighed and/or only weighed insofar as it affects the second damage, the money calculation.
b) The damage to money and its increase is balanced within the national borders. It will establish the extent to which German and European money, the German location, the German business and the German budget are affected. In other words: others are left out. The starving people in Africa, the Asians drowning in their large delta areas do not count in this calculation, even though they are severely harmed, perhaps more severely than the economy here, They do not count, at least as long as they are not recognized as some sort of contribution to national growth, perhaps as a sales market in Asia, buying our wheat or whatever.
2.2. Climate refugees and failed states – an order problem!
This has its callous side. One can take to heart the reports of a South Sea state called Tuvalu. Tuvalu will in all likelihood be uninhabitable in 25 years and completely disappear in 50 years. As a precaution, the government of Tuvalu last year sought asylum for all of its 11,000 people in Australia and New Zealand. Australia rejected this as a precautionary measure, New Zealand has now agreed to take 75 emigrants per year (!), according to articles in Wikipedia. This – let’s call it – hard heartedness seems to stand in a certain contrast to the fact that climate protection policy makes a big fuss about the expected catastrophic hunger and millions of climate refugees, as they are called. Does the “community of nations,” in consideration of the huge number of threatened or already occurring victims and damages, now discover its heart for the needy?
If you look at it soberly, this view must be given a clear refusal. For decades, millions of people in Africa have been starving. Why do they? There’s food here, even if its unmarketable. The reason is simple: they do not have the money to pay for this food, so the food companies can’t make a profit on the sale, so they don’t send it there. It’s exactly the same with AIDS: In Africa, millions of people die from AIDS, although there are quite effective AIDS drugs available now from Pfizer, Bayer and other pharmaceutical giants that might not be able to completely stop the fatal course of the disease, but can slow it considerably. Why don’t they give them these AIDS drugs? Because they can’t pay for them and therefore the companies can’t make a business from it. All this is well known. There are even quite a few UN personnel costs accrued for counting exactly how many die in Africa of hunger or AIDS, posting the relevant statistics – only they are not helped. Helped instead are states such as Morocco and Spain whose border police are not ready for the onslaught of North African refugees to the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilia. The EU pays millions for security fences and weapons to prevent the masses who want to escape their desperate plight from reaching the Schengen area.
If now, in view of climate change, climate refugees are called a major problem, then it is not because the poverty of these people would be the problem, but because the politicians see a problem in the lack of control over this poverty. If these people simply can’t live in these regions any more and make tracks en masse, overrunning states and their borders, then what were once halfway functioning states and sources of raw materials will become “failed states” which no longer even have a remnant of order to manage the useless human material over there and prevent the rush to the metropoles.
It is not the poverty that is disturbing when climate refugees are designated a problem, but the feared collapse over the control of this poverty. This is supervised and viewed as a significant business condition by politicians worldwide. In the USA, the challenges they see facing their national security in view of such anticipated developments is discussed very unselfconsciously. The relevant government report bears the title “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change,” and it lists countries that are still functioning as oil wells, but most likely in 10, 20 or 30 years could become ruined states which become lairs of “terrorism.”
If one follows how the politicians look at climate change and want to affect it, they deal with two problems: they want to avert the damage to capitalist growth and the threat to global order.
2.3. Lucrative pollution of the environment and emissions trading
As far as growth is concerned, one immediately sees: Because growth is the object of concern that is threatened by climate change and not the humans – climate change is therefore a relative thing. There is an advertising slogan for climate protection: “Climate protection now is cheaper than climate damage in the future.” This type of sentence could quickly be skipped over, but it reveals a lot about the types of thinking, economizing and acting in this world. If it is said that climate change is cheaper than climate damage, then it is announced that it is not the objective damage which occurs through climate change that decides whether protective measures should be taken, but the relationship between two amounts of money! It only takes place at all if climate change is cheaper than the damage. The reverse certainly follows: If climate protection is more expensive than the damage, then it remains undone, because it does not pay off, it would represent a business damage. The damage to others, the human resources living in the affected regions, is not weighed in, at least not in the business calculation. There is from the perspective of climate protectors something like lucrative polluting of the environment. And to give an example of how this conclusion is something like a guiding maxim of politics, it is worth taking a glance at the emissions trade.
The idea which has been set in the world with these emissions certificates is roughly as follows: The states that have joined this trading system distribute certificates for exhaust emissions from factories. These certificates define how many millions of tons of CO2 and other emissions each company may release. And these titles should be tradable, company A can sell such a thing to company B so that the companies should be pushed into a monetary calculation: If one invests in the reduction of exhaust emissions, by filtering or by other measures, then one can sell the no longer needed title and/or pollution rights and make money on it. The philosophy of this trade should therefore be: Everything that comes into the world as pollution through monetary calculations should be corrected by the exact same monetary calculation and by respecting it.
This leads to the strange thing called emissions trading. If one takes seriously the avoidance of pollution or CO2 as a measure for just a second, this represents an absurdity from its inception. In 2000, the emission states agreed on how they want to distribute the certificates. They were immediately certain who gets which share. Those who make the most pollution, the biggest economic powers, get the most certificates! Actually, one could think, just as a suggestion, that those who make the most pollution need the thickest lid and not the greatest right to produce it. Then, secondly, that was not enough for them; the rights now assigned to each national capital site were not to measure simply the capacity of emissions according to the year 2000, but agreement was reached on 1990 as the base year, because the emissions were so immense that an upwards cushion had to be set. The purpose is clear: not only doesn’t one want to limit business by the certificates in production and emission, but one also doesn’t want to set any limit for the anticipated future growth to chafe against. This has the result that an emissions trading market has not at all gotten off the ground, because the companies are drowning in certificates that they could not fill. Now one reads in the newspapers that on the upper floors of the corporations they are moaning because for the first time money should be paid for such certificates, which have been tossing around for years. If it thus comes to the point, which constitutes the whole philosophy of emissions trading, that company A sells a certificate to company B, which really needs it, then for the first time the absurdity of the whole construction steps fully into the light. Company A, which sells such a certificate, takes the point of view: it can make money by investing in the reduction of emissions – there is simply no business investment which would be taken solely for reasons of climate protection in and of itself, such an investment must always be profitable – and transform the sale of the certificate into additional money. But that assumes a company B which has the exact opposite point of view: it is more advantageous for it to not invest in the prevention of exhaust gas production, but to buy a certificate; and only then does it buy one. Hence both are included in this monetary calculation: the avoiding of exhaust gas can be remunerative just like the increase of exhaust gas. It is an open question in regards to the latest company-specific calculation, so that what the construction of the emission certificate suggests does not work out, namely that the money calculation, from which the pollution of the environment first arises, at the same time reliably prevents it. And it is a pure zero-sum game from the standpoint of a CO2 balance-sheet. That which A avoids in CO2 and resells to B, is emitted by B.
2.4. “Climate protection can only be international” – climate protection as capitalist site policy
Barely have the politicians begun to consider climate protection an important thing, and one must learn that the climate is a very relative thing: it must be compatible with economic growth, otherwise it will not take place. Hardly has this first relativization been pronounced when it is immediately followed by a second: either climate protection is international or it doesn’t happen. And the persuasive power of this idea is the people abroad in countries which are normally evoked with a good neighborly comparison: What good is it then if we put clean windmills on the coast when 1.2 billion Chinese ride mopeds and burn coal? This argument contains a truth and a lie. As for the true part, this argument notes a fact that is undeniable: The national sources of exhaust emissions in the various capitalist location sites have their effects, and that is indeed across borders and international. But the lie consists in, first, acting as if the national sources of exhaust emissions having effects across the respective borders are incurred unfortunately, as an unintentional effect. That was completely vice versa, for example, in the above-mentioned policy of tall chimneys; it was the intended effect for which even technical measures were taken! Second, a distribution of roles is maintained with respect to our country and China that does not exist: here the preventer of exhaust gases, the protector of the climate, and over there, in China, the litter bugs ruining the climate. But even if one were to assume that our country has good will and China, America, and the Japanese are of bad will, then a Mrs Merkel must at least have to admit that even a one-sided reduction is a reduction. And Mrs Merkel and her cabinet colleagues otherwise always want to be trail-blazers in all respects. Why don’t they blaze a trail? This can’t possibly be because they believe this would not help protect the climate. They see a completely different threat, namely one to the competitive position of their national business location in relation to the business world. Because climate protection even in its simple form of putting a filter on every power plant and every chimney to mitigate and/or eliminate CO2 is a component of costs on a company’s balance sheet. And if other capitalist sites save on the amount of their operating expenses, then that in fact creates a disadvantage in the global comparison of commodity prices for the one who pursues this protection. Because this is so, the EU states and the Germans in the lead are fixated on a strategy of transforming the disadvantage into an advantage. The effort is to commit as many other nations as possible to the climate protection goals – reduction of CO2 emissions, warming reduction – and/or the associated measures, so that costs are incurred in all nations and a “distortion of competition,” as they care to express it, does not take place, but Germany and/or its leading exporters in matters of climate protection technology can make a source of business out of the costs that the others have been obligated to in the name of the climate. In this spirit, the Europeans have taken their decisions to their EU summit, they have agreed that global warming should be limited to 2 degrees celsius (instead of the predicted 4 degrees), CO2 should be reduced by 20% over the next decades, and the means for it should essentially come from 3 divisions: 1. renewable energy sources are further developed (solar panels, wind turbines, biofuels, etc.), 2. it should be energy saving (improved building insulation, etc.) and 3. CO2 sequestration and storage is expedited underground.
As soon as they have reached agreement on these goals, a debate kicks off among the nations, and this is logical. Why? Merkel, for example, battled to set a reduction of CO2 of up to 20% as an EU objective – “the climate has right of way,” she said. At the same time, she rejected at this summit a uniform, auto-type-specific limitation of CO2 emissions that would at most be concerned with a “fleet average.” The reason is clear, and also loudly trumpeted in the press: If one were to adopt a car-type-specific upper limit for CO2 emissions now, then the cars from the premium segment of BMW and Daimler-Benz would no longer be marketable in comparison to the competition from Peugeot.
The next issue of contention at the summit is about the French nuclear power plants. While Germany is working on alternative, renewable energy and wants to see policy measures taken that help sell German technology to the whole world, especially its booming wind power industry, France is obstructive, saying: We are rather fond of our nuclear power plants! The French get 80% of their electricity from nuclear power and thus reject the means of climate protection and claim that they have already done more for CO2 prevention than all the other nations, and indeed with equipment which comes from an era when no one had ever even heard of CO2 emissions. But the nuclear power plants are sanctified under the hypocritical reference to the current title ...
Interim conclusion: here a remarkable transition is made: the climate, which in the starting point was the object of concern in politics, has rapidly developed into a means for the competition between the national capitalist sites, which is wrecking any climate. The climate goals and/or mitigation measures are the material and the lever to emerge victorious in an international competition for national revenue. Each nation that signs on to the climate goals and wants to implement the relevant measures is keen to commit the others to costs that it tries to keep as low as possible for itself. At the same time, the costs imposed on others should become a source of money, by exporting one’s own technology as massively as possible; one would like to make others pledge to being one’s customers. The game seems the other way around from the point of view of each nation. Everyone wants to impose the costs of climate protection on the others and to assure itself the profit that can be made from climate protection. This necessarily leads to a dispute between the states which, on the other hand, are so in agreement about the need for climate protection ...
2.5. How the debate is carried out and its results
It is worth remarking on how they argue: that is, they do not face each other honestly and say: I do not want your climate protection goals, I prefer others. They also do not say: I don’t want to buy your wind turbines, buy rather our solar cells so the money goes into our till, not yours. They do not argue openly, by setting their interests against each other, but argue by referring to the supreme title, namely: How is humanity affected by climate change and who acts in the most responsible way for this humanity. Why is that? What is service that this title performs in a dispute between states that in substance is about the distribution of the money revenue that is to be dished out for climate protection measures?
First of all, on the fiction of this whole title: “humanity.” This is already a fictitious thing within one country. The humans who live there go around as buyers and sellers, as landlords and tenants, as employers and employees, have heartfelt differences of all kinds towards each other, and do not even know each other. So they are not a uniform humanity, acting as a single subject. Certainly such a thing as humanity does not exist across borders, because humans are recognizably sorted into national collectives: there the Germans, there the Americans, there the French, there the Nicaraguans, etc. Humanity is really not an existing subject, and the peoples who are divided into national collectives not only have no common goal, they do not even know each other, disregarding a little tourism. All this does not attest to hearty agreement and common objectives which are put into action as a collective subject. Humanity is a fiction, but a fiction which renders a service for the states which make use of it and invoke it. What service? The service is that the interest is turned into something universal which insists on recognition by others. Because a right is no longer just a particular interest, but something standing above the national interest, that is in this respect universal and deserves recognition from others. The transformation of the interest into the right that one presents to others and which one claims to adhere to is thus an instrument to commit others to one’s own interests, but not in the name of an interest, but in the name of this higher universal which the other also accepts and (should) respect. This fictive title humanity stands for this higher universal in the climate protection debate – the Kyoto Protocol is indeed not signed by all. “You’re dedicated to it too!” And no one says: Keep away from me with your humanity. No, each state is dedicated to humanity, so they say. And the battle that in reality turns on the interests, on the costs incurred or to be avoided, on the profits that one wants to reap in the country if one commits others to measures, is waged not with interests and/or in the name of interests, but with reference to who promotes or tramples underfoot humanity’s concern for an intact climate. The Americans, for example, who do not want this whole Climate Change Convention and the European rules, do not just say, “Don’t bother us with your crap, we do not want your rules,” but on an international climate panel simply say: “the predictions are not true, in North America absolutely no droughts are to be expected.” Even in the preparations for the last G8 summit, there was heated debate about binding goals on climate protection, the U.S. government protesting in their draft for the summit communique in “an unusually pointed manner against the German position” (Zeit online 22/2007). The Europeans had tried writing into the report that climate change is a sure thing, leads to catastrophe, and the states should dedicate themselves in the name of humanity to the measures – “climate change is an international obligation, not a choice” – that they wanted the report to settle. The Americans drew a line and said: We are aware of the climate protection report ...
2.6. The world climate and the character of predictions
This type of dispute haggles over the assertion of interests in the name of the higher thing, humanity, and this struggle, that has its institutionalized form in the World Climate Council, makes headlines on the occasion of the report by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).
This is a committee that does not consist of scientists, but of politicians who merely commission the scientific report and reserve for themselves the final edits. There is an interesting paragraph in the statutes that says the politicians have the right to reject any scientific results in the final version and to demand an “alternative that can achieve consensus”! If one were to apply this idea to the natural sciences and their core, then the absurdity would immediately be obvious. But in the special field of climate research, it is not immediately obvious as such, because in the opinion of politicians as well as the general public climate research seems to offer a gateway for this outrageousness, and this gateway is called prediction. “It just makes predictions, in the weather forecast as in climate research,” it is said, and if both are inexact, then best according to the taste of the house.
This is the starting point that, if one looks at it scientifically, does not really have the character of a forecast. A forecast does not have to be false or unscientific, although of course it can also be done unscientifically: horoscopes, for example. Because if climate research goes to work, then it takes its starting point in recognized scientific laws of nature. Climate researchers know something about thermodynamics, about the connection to the heating of air masses, the temperature and the pressure; it knows something about air currents which are generated by pressure formations, of high and low pressure areas; it knows something about the deflections of these currents through the Coriolis force caused by the Earth’s rotation, etc. However, there are two limitations: a) Not all laws that seem to be at work in the climate are known, and b) the known laws of thermodynamics, etc., work under a variety of conditions which are not detectable and measurable in their entirety. The oceans are full of sensors to measure temperatures and currents at different levels of depth, the air temperatures are measured at a variety of locations on the earth worldwide, at airports, swimming pools, youth hostels and elsewhere, to make projections about air flow behavior and expected temperatures, etc. That predictions are the results of weather reports as well as climate research is because of the fact that scientific natural laws can draw conclusions about future effects which are therefore provided with a degree of uncertainty because either a) not all the laws have been fully grasped and recognized or b) the large number of conditions which one would have to know in order to carry out this conclusion are not available. For this reason, the weather report is provided every now and then with a degree of probability, as when the weatherman says: “the chance of rain tomorrow is 60%.” If all laws and all conditions were known, by the way, there would be no more predictions. Once one knows how it is with the free fall of rocks and the earth’s gravity, then one no longer predicts how fast a rock falls in a vacuum, one figures it out. Thus the degree of uncertainty which the political guys stick to there follows from the object of this special field of knowledge and the level of knowledge about it, and not from some kind expression of interest in a matter, so that one could say: yes, if the matter is uncertain, namely because of the level of knowledge, yes, then I can also make it equally uncertain in terms of my interest. That would be about the same as if the umbrella industry was suddenly responsible for the weather forecast and said: The probability of rain for the next days is not 60%, but let’s say more like 95%, that raises revenue. Such an approach is surely not covered by the scientific character of a forecast ...
3. New energy policies in view of the anti-terrorist world war situation
On the last point, namely the new energy policy which is at the top of the agenda of almost every state: More or less all states want a new energy policy, a renewal of their national energy basis. This is already a first indication of how unobjective the dividing line is in the European newspapers which want to say to readers: The EU is leading by example and protecting the climate, doing something for renewable energy, unlike the U.S. and China and the others who are assaulting the climate by doing nothing. This is simply objective nonsense. Everyone can see from the newspapers that, for example in the U.S., large programs are being designed to accelerate the production of bioethanol, and that there are laws that in the future this must be mixed into the previously ordinary car gas in large quantities. Moreover, major funding exists for further developing solar cells, etc.
All states are betting on renewable energy. Is it surprising that states that have so many reasons to be against climate protection in addition to all the concerns about its consequences (economic growth must not suffer, international competitive position must not be weakened), are on the other hand so determined to protect the climate and renew their energy basis? To be more precise: It is striking that politicians against all the uncertainty that still exists in the probability calculations of climate research very unilaterally posit the certainty of the occurrence of climate change and arm themselves against it with a renewed energy foundation. The reason is that there is a deeper reason for this certainty – the need for a new energy basis – than merely the ecological one of climate protection. Almost all states are adversely affected – more or less – by the type of energy supply now available to their nations. Since energy is an elixir of life to every national capitalistic site and energy costs are a component of every capitalist balance sheet, the state takes the standpoint that it must take care of the supply of energy by making it comprehensively available – for all businesses, but also for the working population. This energy must be a) secure, i.e. always available, and b) as cheap as possible. It was mentioned before that the simple reason all nations have focused on oil and gas as their major energy source is that this fossil fuel was so unbeatably cheap. Only, this source of energy has a catch, which in the last few years has become increasingly apparent. Not only is this source of energy finite, meaning that the largest oil deposits will eventually run out, but long before this point has been reached, the oil price is making it unpleasantly noticeable, because the development of more remote, deeper sources is becoming increasingly expensive.
However, it is not only that resources are finite: For several years, this source of energy has become permanently insecure, because of, among other things, the war on terror waged by the USA against anti-American activities anywhere around the world. Recently, the oil resources of Iraq were destroyed; tomorrow it could be those of Iran. But even energy transport routes are becoming insecure, for example the Ukraine as a pass-through country, so that leading states among the world’s economic powers in Europe have pressed to pursue an energy partnership with Russia. Ten or fifteen years ago, one would have expected scenarios in which the security and free access to oil sources everywhere were ensured in conjunction with the USA, the main NATO ally. Nowadays, the Europeans do not go along with it, quite consistently, because their major ally is a significant source of insecurity with its anti-terror war. And they want to reinsure themselves against it by choosing a partner – Russia comes into view – which offers two advantages: it has large deposits and enough greatness of power that it is not simply a state like Nicaragua, Nigeria or other oil supplier states that can be pushed around by the superpower USA. This advantage, however, is also a disadvantage: Germany complains about the new, loyal, strategic partner Russia just when Russia indicates that it wants to make at least as much money as Europe does on its gas business. Russia wants to strengthen itself with this business and not just agree to strengthen Europe to the detriment of Russia. A discontent sets in, which the Americans come to for similar reasons. The United States now considers itself a hostage to its energy dependence on the Middle East states and Venezuela. In the U.S., this is discussed under the slogan “America needs a new declaration of independence,” this time meaning a declaration of independence from oil, because the oil price and free reserves rise and fall in the opposite direction. This can be seen is the case of Iran: not least the high price of oil gives it the power to oppose the U.S. and its offer of freedom. Energy consumption is thus a geostrategic imperative that even the Pentagon has grasped. America only becomes more secure with less dependence on oil. It not only doesn’t want to be dependent on foreign countries, it wants vice versa to be able to dictate the terms abroad. For this reason, then, the energy base of the nation is to be turned inside out in order to establish something like an invulnerable energy policy for the nation and to have a free hand in the global competition of national capitalistic sites.
That’s what’s called a “reversal in direction.” And this change in direction has little to do with reversing the cause. This can be easily determined if one examines the initiated measures. The French example of nuclear power has already been mentioned. France celebrates its nuclear power plants, which have been part of the landscape for 30 years, as a magnificent contribution to energy policy reversal, a technology that makes France just a bit more independent of oil and gas supplies from abroad. Australia, by contrast, because of its huge coal reserves, sets completely on coal powered plants! And even where this is ostensibly more ecological, it’s absolutely not at all rational. Vast forests areas are now cleared for the production of biodiesel (ethanol) from maize or wheat, especially in the third world, and enormous amounts of artificial fertilizer are introduced into the soil to ensure the yield per hectare and the yield to business. We also learn that this type of “reversal” has led to the first food riots in Mexico because tortillas have tripled in price. Many Mexicans can no longer afford their basic food source because corn is now being used for the production of bioethanol. During a Bush visit to Brazil, the two countries recently signed an agreement for Brazil to sell a significant portion of its corn to America as a building block for the renewal of America’s energy base.
If these energy policy measures are recalculated in terms of the CO2 balance, one must come to the conclusion: This is absolutely disastrous, because first a huge forest is cleared, thereby eliminating the photosynthesis that also sequesters CO2, and then the corn is still shipped in giant, smelly, diesel-burning container ships across the oceans. This CO2 balance is guaranteed to be negative. Then, however, one must also come to this conclusion: Yes, then these measures are obviously not intended to make the CO2 balance positive. It is explained solely by the objective of achieving an invulnerability in energy policy. The measure is a very useful contribution to that!
3.1. The consumer – a useful idiot on behalf of imperialist energy policy
This imperialist goal – to establish a global crisis-proof energy basis for one’s own nation – is offered to the general public, but under an entirely different logo, and that is: We protect the climate! The perpetrator who stands there is certain, namely: all of us. And so that we mend our ways, the state and the free press are ready to help us with calculations of all kinds. This bears some amusing fruits. In the automobile sector, something like efficiency classes with refrigerators is introduced, so one learns that the small VW Polo actually produces less CO2 than the large BMW. One might think: a Polo is better to drive. But of course the premium segment of BMW should not be harmed, so one can then read up again on how much a 6-cylinder BMW of the 7-series consumes as opposed to a Chrysler luxury car – and in that sense the 7 is then, of course, optimal under the climate protection point of view. We now know, too, that a Mallorca flight produces 10 tons of CO2 per head, but a train ride from Bremen to Rostock only as much as 35 kg per head – so where do we go? No, not to Rostock, because the airline and tourism industry would then be hurt! One should, of course, continue to fly to Mallorca, and that can even be done with a clear conscience, if one does something like plant a tree – so one restores the CO2 balance! It is difficult to imagine that such a little box-tree can offset the CO2 emissions of a Mallorca-flight, but it also doesn’t have to be imagined, because the reversal of logic jumps forth: an environmental protection act is here intended as a license to pollute! Anyone who wants to fly to Mallorca plants a tree, and because the short-term memory of the consumer is well known to be short, the national site custodians and corporate executives rush to aid this memory: One increases the price of plane tickets with a CO2 charge so that one doesn’t have to plant the tree any more ... The following balance comes out of the bottom line: 1. the major airlines continue to fly to Mallorca and produce 10 tons of CO2 per head; 2. the same result has now become more expensive for consumers; 3. humans are offered a sale of indulgences for the guilty conscience that they are given by the journalists, and indeed for consequences the little guy doesn’t cause, but the state and capital. And thereby a dirty trick is added to the stupidity. But nothing else should be expected of national capitalistic sites that want to reconcile ecology with the economy.