Friday, September 7, 2007

Guest Blog: The Market and Climate Change

By Marc Brodine

The second day (see first post here) of the UN NGO Conference on Climate Change continued the style of good information, good discussion, and avoiding the hardest and most fundamental economic questions. The majority of panel presenters understand, and most even say, that the market is part of the problem, that the best ways to handle basic necessities like soil, food, water, are by some form of cooperative venture combined with social decision-making.

They understand that the market, and capitalist corporations, left to themselves, cannot solve the problems posed for humanity by climate change including global warming. But they don't take the next step of seeing that a fundamental reorganization of the economy through socialism is what is ultimately required.

And there are a minority of presenters who are almost enthusiastic about private enterprise tackling global warming, about how many CEOs now see some kind of action on global warming as part of their leadership and mission. And we have to find ways to work with such people and with corporations, because we can't just wait for socialism to take action--the longer we wait, the costlier and more difficult it will be to solve these serious environmental problems. Scientific reality requires an immediate start before things get any worse.

The presenters do understand that climate change is not a separate subject form other environmental challenges--degraded soil, water scarcity, other forms of pollution besides greenhouse gases, to mention some. These challenges require linked solutions, not oversimplified linear ones focused only on carbon dioxide emissions.

This conference shows the value, necessity of, and also the limitations of the UN and its agencies. The UN set up the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) which has brought together world scientists and over the last decade has finally convinced all but the most rigid skeptics that global warming is real and that action must be taken. However, such forms will not reach the most fundamental conclusions about the social and economic change required.

As noted in one workshop, water issues are not simple ones, and the ways of solving them cannot be single solutions, and cannot be left to the market. There are the basic water needs of every human, the water which is a human right. There is also water that contributes to improving the quality of human life--used for sanitation, agriculture, cleanliness. And lastly there is water used for industry and business. We can't successfully treat all these kinds of water needs the same, and especially the first two kinds cannot be handled by the market in ways that are best for humanity.

Democratic participation, local control, priorities by human need rather than profit, are all needed for human solutions, and markets only use money and profit as measures, resulting in profoundly anti-human consequences.

More later on the last day.

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