The Climate Change Market

The global warming issue has become a bonanza for marketing political products dubbed green , meaning nature, but more realistically, meaning money. While actual dollars are rarely exchanged in electronic financial trading , the markets are thriving on green speak and fear mongering. The problem grows, but the buzz words and commercials offered as solutions make no mention of the economics that must be confronted.

Politicians all repeat mantras about future green horizons, but without any change in the system mainly responsible for the problem. Madly creating products for sale in markets, with little concern for either their actual need or the long range damage that process may cause, is the commercial religion which has ruled the planet for centuries. Its name is rarely spoken in serious criticism, for fear that it bring charges of economic hate speech.

Capitalist denial may be the major curse of the 21st century, differing from past denial only in that its impact has grown more deadly . An ecology under assault since the industrial revolution is threatened with even more damage as the spread of global capital brings more of the world into its malls, parking lots, garbage dumps and killing fields.

Growing affluence for a minority, a critical part of this social system, depends on the impoverishment and indebtedness of a majority, and the slow but steady deterioration of the natural foundation on which humanity survives and builds its social structures.

This environmental degradation has been criticized for generations, but now not only specialists and visionaries but ordinary citizens can sense and consciously experience the impact of fossil fuels and imperial wars on a poisoned planet. Though the suffering billions who live in poverty are well aware of the down side of this system, it has taken longer for it to be revealed to the developed world. And it isn’t only climate that is sending the foulness we put into the atmosphere right back at us. If we don’t change our ways it may not be long before what we flush down our toilet commodes instantly flows out of our kitchen faucets.

Most green-speakers represent the forces that brought us to a point at which natural systems are overwhelmed by the economics of waste and war. Some environmental groups are demanding more conscious treatment of nature , but it is difficult for average citizens to break through the plastic curtain of propaganda in the USA . Much of the world lives under the western gun and can’t be held responsible for the long term, given that its future is often tragically measured in days or hours. The major source of the problem is where the real debate is needed, not only over how serious it has become, but how to confront its source and begin working to assure future survival.

While new age entrepreneurs suggest green product lines which may slow the pace of deterioration , others are demanding more substantial changes. Local groups calling for efficiency in industry and housing may not yet face the source of the systemic problem, but their proposals will ultimately involve bigger productive shifts than any establishment politician has suggested. That is, once they dig beneath the political surface, and get to the economic substance.

Renewable energy generation, a popular and sensible idea, may make for a revolutionary change, but only if connected to its much more positive use. It makes little sense to switch to windmill or geothermal powered factories that produce weapons, or solar powered sweat shops in the third world, or to use nuclear power to manufacture biodegradable products. Not only the creation, but the use of energy needs to become part of the debate.

There is conflict over whether the climate problem is exaggerated, or even exists at all except in a natural sense. But whether we believe it is man made or ultimately correctable by universe, dualistically speaking, we suffer either way. Until we confront the ever more
dangerous system of production and distribution of the earth’s resources, arguing about the origins of a process destroying our future makes as little sense as debating whether death results from mass murders called wars, or mass murders called terrorism. The end result is the same.

Purifying carbon producing industries like coal and aluminum, to name only two, will mean vast social changes that may not be apparent now, but will reveal themselves as we encounter institutional forces that prevent a truly clean mode of production for all life support systems.
And there is no way that so called free market capitalism works other than by turning a profit for private investors in the production and sale of incredible amounts of stuff which becomes un-recyclable garbage, and destroying even more incredible amounts of human and natural
resources in the process.

Environmental degradation, whether seen as climate change, desertification, pollution or slaughtering innocent people in commercial race wars, is a foremost and primary example of the normal functioning of that process.

We can’t change the future unless we deal with the political economics of the present, and so far the climate change debate has avoided capitalism completely. While democratic power has been futile, especially regarding the horrible slaughter of Iraq, it must assert itself soon if there is to be any long term future for humanity. When we stop the war on the environment, we will end other wars as well, and probably see an improvement in all aspects of nature.

In order to affect positive change in the climate, both naturally and politically, a majority democratic force needs to counter the minority antidemocratic force of capitalism. No matter what the weather forecast may be, we will face an extremely stormy future if we don’t face that fact.

Frank Scott writes political commentary which appears online at the blog Legalienate. Read other articles by Frank.

5 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. atheo said on June 16th, 2007 at 7:44am #

    News flash:

    The global warming meme is not about switching to renewable energy:


    Two global reports show nuclear energy’s rise

    LONDON, June 14 Nuclear energy continues to grow as a source of baseload electricity generation around the world, including the United States, according to two new reports.

    BP’s World Energy Review, an annual look at the global energy sectors, found nuclear energy was the only source without a slowed growth rate in 2006. The report, released this month, found nuclear energy output gained by 1.4 percent.

    There are 436 nuclear reactors powering 16 percent of global electricity, 104 of which are in the United States, powering around 20 percent of the nation’s electricity.

    That number is expected to increase as dozens of plants are in some stage of planning or construction, a nuclear boom responding to the increased demand for power, rising prices of oil and gas, and a potential charge levied on coal and other polluting fossil fuels.

    “Without a price for carbon, there is no mechanism that can guide the energy system towards a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions,” BP Group Chief Executive Tony Hayward wrote in the World Energy Review introduction. The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development’s Nuclear Energy Agency said its new report shows nuclear reactors provided 23.1 percent of electricity for its 30 member states in 2006.

    According to Nuclear Energy Data, published Thursday, this is a 1.8 percent increase over 2005.


    Australia pushed on nuclear plants

    CANBERRA, Australia, June 14 A top Australian nuclear proponent urged the country to include nuclear energy to fight climate change, while the country’s uranium industry is set to expand.

    Ziggy Switkowski, chairman of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization, said during a University of Melbourne lecture that nuclear power is the leading emissions-free baseload generator of electricity.

    “We are living through a significant warming period largely driven by the accumulation of (greenhouse gases) in the atmosphere arising from our use of fossil fuels such as coal, gas and petrol,” Switkowski said, AsiaPulse reports. “And all available platforms for generation must be on the table.” Australia has no nuclear power plants, but is the world’s largest supplier of uranium and has the largest deposits. Earlier this year, the country relaxed its restrictions on mining uranium, which is enriched and fabricated to fuel nuclear plants.

    Nuclear Fuel Australia Limited said it will present a feasibility study for a facility to enrich uranium in Australia, World Nuclear News reports. That would increase the value of the uranium it exports.

    “Planning for, and investment in, electricity generation need to happen now,” Switkowski said, urging the government revamp its anti-nuclear attitude. He headed the 2006 government report titled “Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy Review.”

    Copyright 2007 by UPI

  2. Max Shields said on June 18th, 2007 at 6:36am #

    Frank Scott,

    Yes, you’ve identified the crux. Capitalist economist have long pursued the idea – and leaked into the ether of common knowledge – that capitalism and free markets are “self-organizing and self-correcting”. They come up with grandiose notions like “creative destruction” to account for the “bumps” of technology in changing from one product (horse and buggy) to another (automobile).

    As of late they’ve come up with “compassionate capitalism” and torn a page (almost literally) from E. F. Schumacher and tried to re-invent capitalism for a “green” economy in transforming businesses to a “natual capitalism” paradigm (I really don’t think Schumacher had this in mind).

    First, the problem is not simply “global warming”. Yes, it is clearly a symptom of the problem. But if it is seen as the whole problem you get the assinine “nuclear energy” solution because it does not produce greenhouse gases (just 25,000 years of toxic waste!). This is a classic case of miss-understanding the problem by looking at a symptom. The problem as Schumacher identified it over 30 years ago is one of scalability. His seminal work doesn’t define an “economic system” to replace capitalism – certainly THE cause of our exploitation of non-renewable resources. Instead he places economics as a minor player in determining the health and well-being of the natural world inclusive of a re-uniting of human-kind with the rest of nature.

    Today, what we get as answers are the “can do tweaqs” to the capitalistic system. How can we make the “system” environmenmentally “friendly”; when in fact it had its chance and blew it. We saw what happened 30 plus years ago. Capitalism could not sustain real changes. Instead it did what it always does, resorted to its precepts: self-serving profits. That is what capitalism IS. The transformation to deal with war and peace as well as environmental sustainability (which is really the problem) requires a much more expansive solution, one that accounts for deep cultural, political and economic changes.

    This is not going to happen if we keep deluding ourselves that a techological fix here, a regulation there, a change int he tax code here, or a hog wild push for green everything is going to change the real problem. Integral to the problem is the mind-set that continues to think in terms of mechanization. The corporation that is but a machine with inputs and outputs of production and profits; and the people who work that machine as simply cogs or commodities soon to be automated, no matter the rhetoric.

    That is the fundamental change that must occur. As you state, simply using “green, renewables” to do what we’ve been doing is missing the whole f@@king point.

  3. Max Shields said on June 18th, 2007 at 7:11am #

    By cultural change I mean our core value: consummerism which makes sustainability a non-starter; and all solutions, hold-plugging set of short term remedies.

    atheo, nuclear is cost-prohibitive (real costs when not subsidized by tax-payers), is limited to electricity which is only a fraction of the total energy utilization, thus nuclear would only address a tiny fraction of global warming. Other solutions costing far less could produce real reductions in global warming without any of the high costs of nuclear – and furthermore nuclear is really a step backwards. Nuke plants take years to build with little in return.

    Again, scalability. If we don’t cure our cultural insatiability for cheap flow of goods, we’ll never solve this issue. If we do reduce this consumption addiction treadmill we will quickly see that nuclear energy is without merit. It is only the high demand for the to support the addiction that has us grabbing for unsustainble solutions as if panic stricken.

    You may want to add this to your consideration for nuclear energy (from energy economist Joseph Romm):

    “The upshot is that nuclear power is seven times less cost-effective at displacing carbon than the cheapest, fastest alternative — energy efficiency, according to studies by the Rocky Mountain Institute. For example, a nuclear power plant typically costs at least $2 billion. If that $2 billion were instead spent to insulate drafty buildings, purchase hybrid cars or install super-efficient lightbulbs and clothes dryers, it would make unnecessary seven times more carbon consumption than the nuclear power plant would. In short, energy efficiency offers a much bigger bang for the buck. In a world of limited capital, investing in nuclear power would divert money away from better responses to global warming, thus slowing the world’s withdrawal from carbon fuels at a time when speed is essential.”

  4. tom gorman said on June 19th, 2007 at 1:15pm #

    My question is does the author of this article drive a car and really understand what is going on in ‘politics’ and ‘economics’ or the global political economy. The blame here is on capitalism. Radical ‘environmentalist’ Rudolf Bahro once said the pollution is within us and the outside is a result of what is inside us. Greed? Ignorance?
    Other so-called political systems in nation-states of the past polluted the environment. The ‘socialist’ Soviet Union was a criminal polluter. Labels are not meaningful anymore. Who are the true ‘elite’ or wealthy bloodline families that run all political sides of the ‘global economy’?
    Looking within is a start especially if we drive cars but looking at who is profiting from our current Oil Empire is another line of inquiry.
    If the author blames capitalism, does he understand how ‘global capitalism’ works. No mention of the private banking system, the Federal Reserve. Who is financing and profiting from the financing of ‘our’ Oil Empire? The Empire is pursuing the last remaining oil reserves in the Middle East. Do we understand the war in Iraq? It’s true purpose. On what premise did the war for more oil begin? 911. Do we really understand what happened on 911 and how it is changing the course of the ‘global economy? Do we understand the Patriot Act and the CIA? Do we understand the history of our nation and the ruch to ‘globalism’? Where do the BIG money trails lead? Has BIG MONEY completely co-opted our system and bought the media and nation-states? We need a new analysis because the old stale Left analysis just scratches the surface and finds the symptoms not the disease.
    Do we even understand the nature of our so-called ‘capitalist’ government? Is there a direction towards fascism in maintaining the oil profit economy?
    We need a new paradigm to view the world. Start with this website:

  5. atheo said on June 19th, 2007 at 2:55pm #

    Disinformation on oil reserves does not add to understanding our situation. “Peak oil” alarmists present figures that exclude heavy oil reserves (for purposes of deception). Below I post projected production figures which include the massive new heavy oil developments under wat in the western hemisphere:

    “O-15”: Top Sources of Growth in Net Production Capacity to 2015

    (million barrels per day)

    Saudi Arabia *
    14.3—– 2015
    1.6————change 2005-2015

    11.5—– 2015
    1.9————change 2005-2015

    5.7—– 2015
    1.4——–change 2005-2015

    2.9—– ——–change 2005-2015

    5.3—– 2015
    1.8——–change 2005-2015

    4.5—– 2015
    1.5——-change 2005-2015

    3.9—– 2015
    0.8———–change 2005-2015

    Kuwait *
    3.7—– 2015
    0.8———change 2005-2015

    3.6—– 2015
    0.7———-change 2005-2015

    3.1—– 2015
    1.9———change 2005-2015

    2.9—– 2015
    0.6———–change 2005-2015

    2.8—– 2015
    0.8——–change 2005-2015

    2.6—– 2015
    0.8———change 2005-2015

    2.3—– 2015
    1.1———change 2005-2015

    1.0—– 2015
    0.5———change 2005-2015

    O-15 totals
    72.7—– 2015
    19.1———-change 2005-2015

    Share of World Liquid Capacity

    *Includes 50 percent of the Neutral Zone.

    Source: Cambridge Energy Research Associates.

    March 2007