Thursday, November 29, 2007

A layman's view of global warming and climate change

by Eric Trevett

IT IS CLEAR that something fundamental is happening to the climate of our planet: glacial fields are melting at both the Arctic and Antarctic; there are unprecedented periods of drought in Australia, tornados of great intensity and huge floods in Louisiana and Mexico on a scale never witnessed before and the permafrost of Siberia is thawing out.
Not long ago people like George Bush and the former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, denied there was any climate change at all. They have since had to abandon that point of view. A more sophisticated argument being put forward by some is that the climate change is a natural development. Climate changes like these have occurred before, like the one that caused the demise of the dinosaurs.
It follows there is nothing to be done to counter this natural process. Fortunately that defeatist view that justifies passivity and inaction fails to take into account the ability of human beings to influence and to some extent change their environment, while at the same time embracing and harmonising with the forces of nature.
Scientific analysis is that the prime reason or the climatic changes has been and still is the continuing build up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Much of it comes from industry: power generation, motor cars, lorries and aircraft, which use fossil fuels. There was a comparatively small amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere before the industrial revolution but over the past 200 years there has been a massive build up of it and it has induced a process of global warming, which in turn promotes climate change.
If allowed to continue unabated the future will indeed be bleak and it is not an exaggeration to say that the survival of the human species itself could be problematic.
Having identified the problem and achieved broad acceptance, a top priority should be given to cutting the emissions of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
There is still much to do to actively achieve this. Britain’s record is not very good in that struggle to date. According to the Independent emissions have increased by three per cent over the past 10 years.
Former Prime Minister Blair spoke a lot about facing up to the dangers of global warming but it will take more than good speeches and changing a few electric light bulbs to resolve the problem.
In a way the shortage pf oil and the escalating price of fuel, together with the tax, insurance and maintenance are forcing increasing numbers to make their journey to work by train, even though train fares are exorbitant, for many it is still cheaper than going by car. We should be actively demanding the renationalisation of the railways to reduce fares as a basic part of creating an integrated transport system.
In regard to the harmful emissions from aircraft, it would not be too much of an inconvenience if all internal flights were stopped and with the development of rail links to major cities in Europe a number of international flights could be cancelled or replaced.
We should also add our voice to oppose the building of additional runways at Heathrow, Gatwick and so on. Of course to have a fully integrated transport system it would be necessary to nationalise the air travel industry, and while we are at it the road haulage concerns as well.
Of course under capitalism there is no chance of achieving an integrated transport system; yet this is basic for the effective tackling of climate change.
As a result of the climate changes it is clear that crises from flooding in some areas and drought in others and the encroachment of the sea over areas of land, it would be difficult to produce sufficient food to ensure an adequate supply. Therefore the temptation to divert land currently producing food crops in favour of crops for fuel production should be opposed.
It goes with out saying that the efforts to build up our defences against rising tides should combine with fresh efforts being made to desalinate water at an economic price for irrigation purposes and, if possible, for drinking water as well. On the nuclear issue, there should be more effort to explore the possibilities of using nuclear fusion, which eliminates the problem of radioactive waste.
The human species is facing a crisis different from and greater than it has ever faced before. Unfortunately big business will combine to put its thirst for profit above its concern for people’s wellbeing. People like George Bush fight for the vested interests of the likes of the oil industry. They stand in the way and in opposition to what is literally a struggle for survival. It is instructive to remember the rearguard action the tobacco companies put up in denying there was any link between smoking and bad health.
The fight for a healthy environment makes the struggle for socialism more important than ever before. Like the systems of slavery and feudalism that preceded it, capitalism is now standing in the way of the economic and cultural development of humanity.
This crisis cannot be resolved by market forces – nor by government at a local level. It must be addressed at central government and international levels.
I would welcome a debate from readers in the letters page of the New Worker.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Climate change: urgent action needed

by Renee Sams

MOST of the energy we use today is provided by fossil fuels, coal, oil and natural gas, which have provided cheap and abundant power needed for the development of today’s industrial society. The choices that will be made in the very near future will have enormous consequences for the future.
At the time of the industrial revolution it was thought that those fuels were so plentiful they would last forever. It was not realised until the last century with its ever increasing need for power, that one day those resources would come to an end.
The first warning came in 1949 when M King Hubbert, a widely acclaimed geophysicist, startled the world with his assessment that the fossil fuel era would be very short-lived and that fossil fuels would not be able to meet world demand in the relatively near future.
In 1956 he predicted that US oil production would peak in 1970 and then decline. This prediction became known as Hubbert’s Peak.
But the world did not heed the warning, and since then world energy use has risen by almost 71 per cent. And while the developing nations now need their share of the dwindling resources, it is predicted that oil use will continue to grow exponentially as they become more industrialised.
With such an easily available cheap and profitable fuel there has been no incentive to research and develop alternative cleaner, renewable sources of mass energy and it is only now that some progress is being made in the use of alternative forms of renewable energy sources.
Currently, hydroelectric energy is the largest resource of renewable energy but progress is being made in tapping energy from solar, wind and water, to nuclear, biomass, geothermal and even new forms of fossil fuel.
As realisation sinks in that the end of the era of plentiful oil is approaching, the Bush administration has recently adopted a policy to produce a major amount of ethanol from corn as a substitute for fossil fuel to reduce the US reliance on imported oil.
An increasing use of biofuels seems like a good option for both governments and industry but far from reducing global emissions, increasing use of land to produce suitable crops is likely to accelerate climate change.


At the G8 meeting last June, President Bush stood out as the major obstacle to progress on climate. He forced the final communiqué to abandon any firm commitment to emission reduction.
In the US Bush’s new policy has already had some dire effects. It has driven the price of corn up sharply, more than doubling in the past 12 months and this has meant that the problem of hunger in the least developed countries of the world like sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia has increased.
Already it is clear that the sustainability of biofuel is very doubtful, with the continually increasing energy demands that will undoubtedly lead eventually to prime agricultural land being used to feed vehicles instead of people. Even in countries like Mexico and South Africa that have some level of economic development but where corn is a still a staple, a catastrophic rise of 400 per cent in the price of corn brought the people out on the streets their thousands in protest.
Brazil is one of the major producers of biofuel, using the waste from sugar production to make ethanol. About 30 per cent of the automotive fuel in Brazil now uses ethanol and the industry has recently announced that it intends to invest $9 billion to increase production.
It has been pointed out by environmental activists that this will require the clearing of a major area of the Amazon rain forest, which has already been massively reduced in size by the logging companies over the years.
The ethanol boom is raising commodity prices and large landowners have been burning more forest to clear land for ethanol production and obtain a higher profit than they can on cattle ranching.
And there is growing evidence that the rainforests play an important role in regulating the climate in the northern hemisphere.
In Africa a number of countries including Benin, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal, led by Ghana have been testing the production of biofuel from jatropha, a weed that animals won’t eat and farmers use as hedges for their fields.
It is a perennial weed that grows well in poor soil and arid conditions without fertilizer or irrigation, and its roots lying close to the surface stabilise the soil and this has made it useful for planting on earthen dams and dikes. Mali is an extremely poor, landlocked country and the government hopes to be able to power all the country’s 12,000 villages with affordable, renewable energy derived from jatropha. They have said that they will not be producing jatropha for export until the needs of their own people for energy have been met. It is an experiment that will need to be strictly controlled if they are to carry out this ambitious project.


In China they have made a breakthrough in the use of sustainable and renewable energy with revolutionary wind power technology. Last year they unveiled the world’s first magnetic levitation (maglev) generator which is expected to boost wind energy generating capacity by as much as 20 per cent over traditional wind turbines.
This would effectively cut the operational costs of wind farms by up to half, keeping the overall cost of wind power under 0.4 yuan ($ 5 cents). These new frictionless turbines are able to utilise winds with starting speeds as low as 1.5 metres per second, which is arousing interest in a dozen Chinese cities and more than 50 countries around the world.
A spokesman for the Guangzhou based Zhonke Hengyuan Energy Company said that the generator could be used on islands, in observatories, and television stations, and even provide roadside lighting by using the airflow from passing vehicles.
Beijing is going all out to achieve “Green Olympics”, Beijing Vice Mayor Liu Jingmin told a press conference “by not only improving the city’s ecology and environment, but also by adopting a ‘green’ environment-friendly approach to managing city affairs”. China is all set to spend US$200 billion over the next 15 years on environmental improvements.
President Bush, backed by the Exxon Mobil (trading as Esso in this country) is already prepared to continue the policy of preventing any meaningful action to bring down global emissions of greenhouse gases at the Bali Kyoto meeting.
Exxon is the largest oil company in the world with the biggest annual profits of any company last year of $36 billion.
This giant funds a variety of mainly extreme right-wing think tanks, which have lobbied against Kyoto from its inception.At a gathering of the 40 biggest corporations they all agreed that the only way forward for them is a market-based system of the buying and selling of carbon “credits” that will not reduce carbon emissions by one iota.
Join people all around the world to demand that world leaders take the urgent action we need to prevent the catastrophic destabilisation of global climate. The national demonstration in London will be one of many demonstrations on climate taking place around the world on 8th December.

Friday, November 16, 2007

International communist celebration in Minsk and Moscow

COMMUNISTS from all over the world celebrated the 90th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution last week in a series of events that started in Minsk and ended in a massive march through the streets of Moscow.
Eighty communist and workers’ parties including the New Communist Party of Britain, from over 60 countries attended the 9th international communist conference in Minsk, the capital of former Soviet republic of Belarus, to discuss the relevance of the Russian revolution in the 21st century. NCP leader Andy Brooks and Richard Bos from the Central Committee took part in the three-day event, which was supported by the ruling parties of China, Cuba, Democratic Korea and Vietnam.
Leaders of the Communist Party of Belarus said the conference was of great significance because Belarus was where the first congress of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party took place in March 1898. The congress established the Marxist party of the Russian proletariat, which played a decisive part in the success of the October Revolution. Now Minsk is the capital of Belarus, the only former Soviet republic which still has a progressive government committed to the welfare of the masses and the only former Soviet republic where the anniversary of the 1917 revolution is still a public holiday.
In the years that that followed the counter-revolution and break-up of the Soviet Union pro-imperialist revisionist and nationalist “reform” politicians formed a government committed to capitalist restoration that plunged the country into corruption, hyper-inflation and chaos. That was halted by the mass movement that defeated the reactionaries in the 1994 presidential elections and took Alexander Lukashenko, a Belarusian leader from Soviet days, to power.
Supported by the communists, the Lukashenko government has renovated the agricultural and manufacturing base which remains in public ownership. Belarus is now a “socially orientated market-economy” with free education and healthcare, virtually full employment, vibrant industries and collective farming that has made the country a major food exporter in Europe.
The conference began on 3rd November with the laying of flowers at Lenin’s monument and the monument to Victory in the Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany followed by an official welcome from President Lukashenko. The communist forum reviewed the significance of the historic event in Russia in 1917, as well as current trends in social development, and exchanged points of view on the pressing issues internally and externally affecting one another’s countries. And on the last day the delegations visited four state-owned factories and farms to see the progress being made in Belarus with their own eyes.
On 5th November the international delegations departed by night-train to Moscow to take part in the celebrations organised by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF). Life for working people in the Russian capital is far different to that of workers in Belarus. Though the Putin government has curbed the worst excesses of the worthless Yeltsin regime and it is safe to walk the streets of Moscow, at least in daylight, there are still plenty of beggars along streets full of shops packed with goods only the chosen few can afford.
Delegates visited the Lenin Mausoleum in Red Square and joined CPRF supporters for an October celebration in the columned hall of Moscow’s historic House of Unions. There it was clear that achievements of Lenin and Stalin had not been forgotten by the applause whenever their names were mentioned by speakers, including CPRF First Secretary Gennady Zyuganov and Soviet cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya, the second woman in space and now a CPRF MP in the Russian parliament, the State Duma.
Finally on 7th November they joined tens of thousands of Russian communists for a march through Moscow in sub-zero temperatures that ended in a rally addressed by Gennady Zyuganov and other leaders. Russia is in the throes of a national election that Vladimir Putin’s “United Russia” bloc is predicted to win. The CPRF, which has 45 members in the State Duma, is fighting to retain and expand its share of the seats.
This was the biggest communist demonstration in Moscow since 1993 and indeed the biggest of any kind in the Russian capital in recent years. The police put the numbers at over 40,000 but many participants thought it was much, much bigger.
As the rally ended with the Internationale, comrades from all over the world could see that the communist movement is alive and well in eastern Europe – defending the gains of the working people of Belarus and marching on the streets demanding change in the heart of Putin’s Russia.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Communists march through Moscow on Revolution Day

On 7th November 2007 the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) held a march and rally to mark the 90th anniversary of the Great October Russian Revolution. Over 40,000 people took part in the demonstration, the biggest communist rally seen in Moscow since 1993. Delegations from 80 communist parties including the NCP took part in the demonstration

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Review: Information Bulletin -- the Lisbon conference

Information Bulletin 2/2006/15,
£5.00 plus 50p P&P, NCP Lit PO Box 73, London SW11 2PQ.

The second part of the report of the conference of communist and workers parties held in Lisbon in 2006. Part one is still available from the NCP at the same price.

by Ray Jones

YOU CAN ALWAYS finds things of interest in the Information Bulletin, there’s always something to learn.
Michael Perth from the Communist Party of Australia gives an insight in to Australia’s imperialist role. Not only its support of the United States’ imperialist adventures around the world but also Australia’s own role in the South Pacific.You might not know but the police commissioners in both the Soloman Islands and Fiji and many government administrators in these places are Australians. The Australian military and police are occupying Timor Leste, the world’s newest state, and Australia refuses to put them under UN control.
Badouin Deckers of the Workers’ Party of Belgium makes some good points about the relationship between China and the US. He claims that the Western powers and Japan hoped to gain control over China’s economy and to impose bourgeois parliamentarism — the 2002 report of the US Congress commission on economic relations says so explicitly.
But the 2005 report admitted the failure of the policy and says that in the long run the relationship will be negative for the US economy and security.
Deckers also quotes the independent research group Global Security saying that much of the US’s massive spending against “terrorism” is really aimed at China.
On Iraq Deckers also uses US sources against them. While the US has been busy blaming the resistance for the civilian deaths he points out that the Intelligence Agency of the US Defence Department has admitted in August 2006 that 70 per cent of the bomb attacks in July were against US-led forces and 20 per cent Iraqi puppet forces. The remaining 10 per cent against civilians have been denied by the Iraqi resistance.
There is much more good material in this Bulletin but there also does seem to be a worrying trend in a minority of contributions. The use of “Marxist” instead of “Marxist-Leninist” sometimes strikes a sour note for those of us who have come through the battle against revisionism in the old Communist Party of Great Britain.
We have learnt that the fight against revisionism does not end but must be a continuous process.