Marc Brodine, a member of the national board of the CPUSA and the chair of the Communist Party in Washington State, delivered a report on the impact of global warming, its causes and consequences.
"Global warming," he said, "is not just an inconvenient truth." Global warming has to be examined within a larger context of capitalism and other environmental problems.
"We can't have a healthy humanity without a healthy natural world," he said.
He tied environmental degradation to capitalism. Increased capitalist exploitation of nature will result in serious crisis, he said. "We can either work with nature or nature will work against us," he argued. "Capitalism is playing with the survival of humanity for short-term profit," he noted.
Climate crisis is not the only severe environmental problem facing us. Depletion of fishing, soil, and fresh water supplies, animal extinctions, the spread of disease-causing pollutants, desertification, and growing air and water pollution are among the most severe.
"Even in the best case scenario, global warming requires immediate and dramatic action," Brodine said.
Brodine insisted that political changes are required, including democratization of the political process, public policy, and economic decision-making. These changes need to happen in order to move in the right direction and to mitigate the destructive policies of the Bush administration and the worst actions off the big transnational polluters.
Immediate action is needed because global warming threatens to transform the earth's climate systems in a very short period of time and create environments that are hostile to human survival never before experienced by developed humanity.
The earth is getting hotter, but global climate change has other features: in some places more rain and more flooding; in others less rain and more drought; in some places more snowfall next to glacier melt; flooding; and so on.
It is caused by the accumulation of greenhouses gases in the atmosphere trapping the sun's heat, warming the air and the land.
This is primarily caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
"It is caused by human activity and can be slowed by human activity," Brodine said.
Social consequences include food and fresh water shortages leading to political competition for these dwindling resources.
"We can't profit our way to a solution," Brodine said. "But neither can we wait for socialism. Economic development that doesn't destroy the environment is required."
Some basic solutions are readily available but need political struggle to implement: green construction, production of hybrid vehicles, mass transit, alternative energy products like solar and wind, reduce mechanized industrial food production and increase labor-intense small agriculture, and major conservation efforts.
Brodine addressed current environmental action. "The biggest problem is not caused by individuals but by a system that privileges profit over people and nature," he said.
Capitalists are to blame for the crisis, but tend to try to shift the blame to ordinary folk, workers and the poor. They seek solutions that put the burden on us rather than on the policies and actions they take that cause the problem.
Some solutions that are being put forward by big industry are either partial solutions or untested or are very problematic steps. Biofuels, for example, drive up the cost of food or cause food shortages. "It means solving an energy problem by creating a food problem," Brodine stated.
Cap and trade schemes aren't enough.
Promotion of nuclear and "clean coal" are untested and present their own significant problems.
Brodine urged the formation of multi-issue broad-based coalitions that link environmental issues to public policy and other political struggles.
The working class, nationally and internationally, is the only force that can win and implement the changes needed.
Globally, people who contribute least global warming are paying the highest price as a result of climate change.
International reforms should include transforming international financial institutions and ending exploitative debt policies imposed on developing countries; transfer of green technology to developing countries; and implementing binding global agreements that enforce reduction of greenhouse emissions and fossil fuel usage.
Brodine pointed out that the Communist Party has a special role in winning the international communist movement to this agenda.
He urged that the environmental question be injected into all of the struggles people are involved in. The labor, youth, peace and equality movements have a significant contribution to make on the issue.
Individual actions are necessary but not sufficient to bring the change needed, he said.
Brodine proposed the expansion of the party's education on the question and the reconstitution of the party's environmental commission.