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Running a Temperature


Climate chaos is also the failure of political systems

While you enjoy the warm weather, consider this. “Atmospheric Rivers” will become more frequent and intense as global temperatures rise this century in response to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

You might ask what these “rivers” are. They are described as narrow regions of intense moisture flows in the lower troposphere that deliver sustained and heavy rainfall to mid-latitude regions such as the UK. And, according to a new study, they are on the increase while winter flood events will become more frequent and more severe.

This is just one of the variety of consequences arising from the burning of coal, oil and gas which fuelled the industrial revolution of the 19th century and the globalisation of capitalist production and consumption from the last period of the 20th century.

Globalisation and war have seen the extraction, refinement and distribution of fossil fuels concentrated into the hands of a small handful of giant corporations. Their shareholders demand ever greater efforts to extract what remains of the resources buried deep beneath the surface by millions of years of planetary evolution.

They rub their hands with increasing glee as their lobbyists for continued economic growth stir dissent and confusion ensuring that no agreement on action to slow, let alone stop or reverse global warning is reached between the governments of the world. There’s every reason to expect no better outcome from the climate treaty talks scheduled for 2015 than all those that have taken place in the last 25 years.

Even if there were agreement, the International Energy Agency is warning that any action would come too late to give even a 50% chance of keeping the global temperature increase since the start of the industrial revolution below 2 degrees centigrade.

Why? Because competition between the remaining corporate contenders under intense pressure from their customers also competing on costs in the industrial sectors, drives investment in a continuing technological revolution. This provides previously unimagined access to “new” reserves.

Ultra-deepwater drillships, subsea oil and gas infrastructure and multi-well-pad drilling to machine-to-machine networking, floating LNG facilities, new dimensions in seismic imagery and supercomputing for analogue exploration make fracking – hydraulic fracturing –  look positively old-fashioned.

Investment advisers Oil and Energy Insider – one node in a network of private intelligence networks looking like an offshoot of the CIA – big up the prospects, saying these technologies put the idea of peak oil to bed for the foreseeable future.

And the IEA is looking both ways. Originally set up in the wake of the 1972 oil crisis, its mission was to ensure continuity of oil supplies. Now it claims it works to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy – but without compromising growth.

Academic Robert Manne says a rapid, global-wide, consciously engineered transition from a fossil fuel to a clean energy civilization would involve one of the largest transformations in the history of humankind. And he’s right.

But he’s pessimistic. The post-war international “system” of nations is entirely unfitted to the kind of broad-ranging international cooperation now required, he believes.

The domestic political systems of the nation states potentially of greatest importance in the struggle against global warming – that is the advanced Western democracies — tend to paralyse the possibility of necessary emergency action.

To put it another way, the democratic system prevailing in the global capitalist system of nation states has failed. So that means building a new system, more suited to the task of taking human society into a new not-for-profit age, one in which care for the “oikos”, Mother Earth, our home, becomes the overriding priority.

One way would be to rapidly establish a global network of local people’s assemblies, using the worldwide communications networks as the foundation for wide discussion and participation as the precursor to the takeover and redirection of the resources currently in the hands of the 1%.

Gerry Gold
Economics editor
24 July 2013

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