The environment

Video: Climate change and Covid-19

2020 will see — for the first time! — a significant reduction in global CO2 emissions. Opening speeches by two socialist environmentalist activists, in Workers' Liberty, from the "Climate change and coronavirus" meeting. The Coronavirus crisis has also seen workers and governments taking collective action that place social good above private profits. There have even been examples of workers developing plans to use their skills and the machinery at work to produce socially useful products. A return to "normality" means a return to a world where human activity is directed solely for the creation of private profit at the expense of humanity and our future. Prior to the lockdown we were heading blindly and at accelerating speed towards civilisational collapse. What are the prospects now for a workers' led just transition to a world that is run in the interests of people and planet?

Recovery: green or fossil fuel?

Governments "have a unique opportunity today to boost economic growth, create millions of new jobs and put global greenhouse gas emissions into structural decline", so claims the Sustainable Recovery Plan (SRP), released on 18 June by the International Energy Agency and the International Monetary Fund. Recognising that current decisions about investments and recovery will "shape economic and energy infrastructure for decades to come", the plan outlines possible "actions" over the next three years across "electricity, transport, industry, buildings, fuels and emerging low-carbon technologies"...

New coal power in Germany

In the last days of May, 500 environmental protesters descended upon a new coal power plant, Datteln 4, in Germany. The plant opened on 30 May despite the German government’s roadmap, announced this year, to have coal phased out by 2038 at the latest. And despite the average coal power plant globally having a 46 year — not 18 year — lifespan. Electorally, Germany has one of the strongest “Green Parties” in the world. But if anything, they have contributed to coal power use in Germany today. In 2000 a SPD-Green coalition announced a plan to phase out nuclear energy, and it has happened...

No return to "full CO2 spewing"!

The Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare our vulnerability as humans, as societies, in the face of “the forces of nature”; our biological, molecular, physical environment. We face threats of even greater crises in the future driven by climate change, as Covid-19 was in part. Environmental impacts of this crisis have already been dramatic. Nitrogen dioxide levels and air quality have improved the world over. People in areas of Punjab, northern India, have reportedly seen the Himalayas for the first time in decades. It is estimated that improved air quality in China from Covid-19 shutdowns will save...

Looking ahead to November: COP26

Later in this year, assuming the UK has recovered enough from Covid-19, environmental activists will be active around 2020’s UN climate change conference, COP26, in Glasgow (9-20 November). Probably very little radical or adequate policy will be decided at that conference, even though the world faces a pandemic and continuing climate crisis. A lot of trade unions had been organising for a demonstration to put pressure on the conference. Work on that may now be suspended. Nearer the time we need to get it restarted, and gett trade unions in Glasgow and Scotland are involved, including on the...

Dark waters, darker corporate power

In the film Dark Waters, released in the UK on 28 February, Robert Bilottt (played by Mark Ruffalo) is a lawyer who takes us through an exposé of chemical giant Dupont’s cover up of its toxic product PFOA. The film shows us the obstacles thrown up by the legal system and US government agencies to redress for residents of West Virginia who had been exposed to dangerous levels of PFOA. It has parallels with other heroic corporate whistle-blower movies from the USA, such as The Informant (2009) and The Insider (2009). It’s an excellent exposé, explaining enough of the science and the victims’...

What should be done about floods?

As I write on 25 February, yet more “severe flood warnings” are being issued — currently in Shrewsbury and Ironbridge — indicating “danger to life” with suggestions that floods could reach “highest ever” levels for that area. This follows a fortnight of deluges sweeping much of the UK, with exceptional rainfall bought by Storm Dennis and Storm Ciara. What is causing these floods? Climate change? Bad “land management”? Austerity? Or a mix? These storms come only three months after similar — record breaking — floods in the Midlands and Yorkshire; and nine months after the Peak Districts and...

More rail yes, HS2 maybe not

More railway lines? Yes. HS2 in particular? Not really. There are higher priorities: electrification of the railways, many of which are still running diesel trains; increasing capacity on intercity services; improving existing connections; reinvestment in branch lines; newer trains. A well-staffed and free or cheap integrated rail and bus network is the sort of large-scale infrastructure project that should come before HS2. Some of the arguments used against HS2 are weak. But there is also good reason to question the arguments made for HS2 as a way to create good jobs, as a way to help the...

Fighting climate crises - AWL conference document 2019

1. The engine driving climate change §1.1 The first research demonstrating that carbon dioxide released through burning fossil fuels would drive global warming was published well over a century ago, the first government warnings in the 1960s, and the first IPCC report in 1990. Now, the scientific consensus about serious human-driven climatic heating - with far-reaching effects - is over 99%. It is the greatest danger facing both humanity and the success of the socialist project. §1.2 Beyond global warming, there are several major independent environmental threats. Biodiversity loss and species...

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