by Bill Onasch
We’ll Always Have Paris
George Monbiot aptly summed up the agreement adopted by the COP21 climate summit in Paris–“By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.”
It will take a while to sort through all the implications in the 31-page deal adopted without dissent in an overtime session. Nearly all the delegates were like Minnie Pearl at the Grand Ole Opry—mighty proud to be here. Their self-congratulation at the end was prolonged.
Their enthusiasm was not shared by thousands of protesters in the streets of Paris. The French government that hosted COP had previously banned street demonstrations and violently dispersed one on the eve of the climate conclave. Last Monday, at a big Paris indoor event featuring a panel of trade unionists, Naomi Klein, and British Labor Party Shadow Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn, called for a mass march on Saturday with or without government blessing. The Hollande government avoided gassing a fellow socialist who might govern Britain some day by relaxing the ban just that once.
The Guardian reported another naysayer,
“Mere mention of the Paris climate talks is enough to make James Hansen grumpy. The former NASA scientist, considered the father of global awareness of climate change, is a soft-spoken, almost diffident Iowan. But when he talks about the gathering of nearly 200 nations, his demeanor changes. ‘It’s a fraud really, a fake,’ he says, rubbing his head….’It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.’”
The New York Times reported on other scientists who, perhaps less grumpy than Hansen were just as harsh critics,
“Scientists who are closely monitoring the climate negotiations said on Friday that the emerging agreement, and the national pledges incorporated into it, are still far too weak to ensure that humanity will avoid dangerous levels of climate change. The pledges, even if put in place in full, would result in emissions reductions perhaps half as large as those needed to meet a global goal of limiting planetary warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).”
2C is missed by more than a bit—estimates range from between 2.7-3C.
The fact that the 2C benchmark adopted at the Copenhagen summit six years ago is beyond reach did not stop the delegates from adopting a new goal of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. This was solely a political gesture to demands from low-lying nations literally sinking below rising sea levels. It assured consensus—but no additional dry land.
There were undoubtedly more lawyers than scientists involved in the backroom negotiations. The overall text has been declared legally binding—but not the individual country emission goals. One claim that remains to be tested is text language that makes President Obama’s pledges bullet-proof against attack by the global warming deniers controlling Congress.
There were some retreats in commitments left over from the 2009 Copenhagen summit. For example, air travel and maritime shipping—two huge greenhouse emitters that have been expanding–are exempt from goals in the Paris deal. And, of course, no restrictions were imposed on the military as nearly constant bombing of Syria, for example, was conducted all through the conference by the U.S., Russian, British, and host France’s air forces.
Progress made on commitments by rich countries to assist poor ones with money and technology was nil. They pledge to raise 100 billion dollars a year for the next four years. That may sound like a lot but it’s the same figure promised in 2009 and less than the annual profits of the rich world’s energy companies. There was a report earlier in the week that government subsidies of fossil fuels are forty times greater than climate aid to poor countries. Reversing those numbers would be an easy way to make a bigger impact.
Al Gore, who to his credit did much to popularize climate change in the USA, was in attendance and reportedly visibly moved when the agreement was declared ratified. Now associated with green investments he had this to say,
“This universal and ambitious agreement sends a clear signal to governments, businesses, and investors everywhere: the transformation of our global economy from one fuelled by dirty energy to one fuelled by sustainable economic growth is now firmly and inevitably underway.”
Unlike most politicians, Gore understands climate science. But like virtually all the politicians of boss parties who ran the show in Paris, he remains convinced that the crisis can only be resolved by market incentives. Only if capitalists can make acceptable profits from sustainability will they do the right thing in their view.
While there are goals—not quotas—for reducing greenhouse emissions there is nothing in the agreement about a target for leaving fossil fuels in the ground. That is the central, nonnegotiable demand of the climate action movement for good reason.
I could find no mention of impact on workers jobs. As I argued in a recent article in Socialist Action, the demands for Just Transition, and Just Conversion, need to come to center stage. That was the main topic of the Paris public labor panel referred to earlier. Representatives from Britain, Colombia, Philippines, and USA talked about Just Transition movements developing in their countries.
Most climate activists didn’t expect adequate measures to come out of COP21. They projected a Road Through Paris. The WIR will be on that Road with them.
Still Not Ready For Prime Time?
If my high school Latin teacher was still among us he might well describe Donald J Trump as sui generis—strictly one of a kind. He is a brand—which he sells to anyone with big bucks no matter how shoddy or shady the scam. The real estate and entertainment deals that made him a billionaire sometimes went sideways—but it was always others who got stuck on the thorns while The Donald came out smelling like the proverbial rose. He appears born for television—as long as he controls the script, whether it be firing wannabe apprentices, hosting Saturday Night Live, or being interviewed by uppity women. Journalists of both genders and all media have found him to be a treasure trove of falsehoods in nearly every public statement. A majority of the public consider him a bigot. Some call him a fascist. His followers are convinced he will Make America Great Again as the next President of the United States.
Trump has openly appealed to racism, xenophobia, and bellicose pseudo-patriotism on a level not seen since the “segregation forever,” pro-war George Wallace Independent presidential run in 1968. While winning 13.5 percent of the vote, Wallace sounded very much like a fascist demagogue—I heard his venomous spiel at a crowd of thousands of disaffected whites at Kiel Auditorium in St Louis. But he was a one-hit wonder.
I’m judicious in applying the fascist label. Using the term as an epithet denouncing more conventional reactionaries is not helpful in defeating either. Trump blurts out open bigotry other politicians attempt to convey subliminally. Trump savages all Mexicans; but President Obama deported more of them than any other president. Even the cracked teapots are beginning to say Trump is not an acceptable nominee and have plans for a brokered convention, if necessary, to stop him.
The ruling class prefers a facade of democracy where the 99.9 percent voluntarily accept domination by the rest. Capital also needs a peaceful way to resolve their internal disputes. The boss class are mostly content to stay out of the limelight as they try to recruit the best and brightest to develop policies and select and retain politicians to run their two-party monopoly that ensures government works for them.
Fascism is a fall-back last resort when they feel imminently threatened by the working class taking political power. The German example of victorious fascism has been well described not only by scholars but also in popular language by such writers as William L Shirer, Len Deighton–and especially the commentary on Hitler’s rise as it happened by Leon Trotsky.
The bosses and bankers saw no need for fascism in 1968—and they don’t now. While promoting austerity for workers, they don’t want to weaken government—they want to use it to advance their agenda and they are fed up with mindless Republican obstructionism. In the last two presidential contests most of them backed the first African-American President. Next year they may ultimately line up to put the first woman in the White House.
It would be a mistake to dismiss the billionaire buffoon as a joke—like many Germans at first did with Hitler. Fascism remains a contingency plan for the American ruling class. Trump has shown skill in exploiting victims of a very sick society who find comfort in a brash promise of return to a mythical greatness. Trump has threatened to run as an independent if his party treats him “unfairly.”
But neither should we succumb to frantic “lesser evil” appeals to defeat Trumpism at all costs by uniting behind his Democrat adversaries. A majority of German voters thought they could stop Hitler by electing a nonpartisan venerable war hero, Field Marshal Hindenburg, president. But it was Hindenburg who not only appointed Hitler Chancellor but paved the way for the new super-position of Führer—a post that soon became synonymous with dictator.
The most effective way to nip incipient home grown fascism in the sprout is mobilizing working class solidarity. That means more than signing online petitions. It means putting boots and sandals on the street in defense of people of color, Muslims of all colors, immigrants from every land, women targeted by theocratic terrorists, LGBTs, who are our class sisters and brothers often literally under the gun today. We noted some promising examples in Minneapolis and Chicago in the last WIR—but much more needs to be done everywhere.
The ills of our society will not be cured by either charlatans like Donald J Trump or Wall Street’s friends such as Hillary Clinton. Both are culpable in their own style for palpable decline in our living standards and sense of security. We likely won’t be ready in time for next year’s election–but we can not afford to continue to accept the uncontested rule of our class enemy through their political monopoly. We urgently need a party of our own.
* Maybe the Godfather’s Heirs Next? Back in the day, Meyer Lansky was the head of the Jewish Mob and a childhood pal of Lucky Luciano. This dynamic duo not only retained a lot of American politicians but Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista as well. They ran some lucrative casinos, brothels, hotels and clubs in Cuba—until the revolution. The revolutionary government nationalized Lansky’s properties and cleaned them up a bit. Now Lansky’s heir wants the U.S. government to get him compensation from Havana for more than a a half-century of loss.
* The UE now has a national contract covering Renzenberger drivers in 14 rail yards in six states.
That’s all for this week.
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