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Great Lakes Article:

U.S. biggest culprit of global warming
By LeiLani Dowell
New York
Published January 15, 2007

The spring-like condition of the weather in the first week of January in New York had everyone talking. Flowers were blooming months early. It was the first snowless winter since 1877 (Los Angeles Times, Jan. 6), and many people were worrying about one thing: global warming.

While weathercasters reported that the recent oddities were due not to global warming but to El Niño—temperature fluctuations in surface waters of the tropical Eastern Pacific Ocean—it’s not just New York that has been showing the symptoms. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology reported that 2006 saw the warmest spring there on record. Neil Plummer, senior climatologist of the bureau, said, “Most scientists agree this is part of an enhanced greenhouse gas effect. Of Australia’s 20 hottest years [on record], 15 have occurred since 1980.” (Financial Times, Jan. 3)

Ted Scambos, a glaciologist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., reports, “From Europe, the East Coast, north to the Artic and across to Siberia, there’s a very large swath of the Northern Hemisphere for the months of September, October and November that [were] exceedingly warm.” (Washington Post, Jan. 7)

After petitions and a lawsuit from environmental groups, the Bush administration has recently proposed to put the polar bear on the threatened species list under the Endangered Species Act. In 2005, scientists found evidence that polar bears were drowning because they had to swim longer distances to find food, due to the melting of the Arctic ice shelf. (Sunday Times of Britain, Dec. 18, 2005)

On Dec. 29, the Guardian UK reported that a huge ice island had suddenly broken off from an ice shelf in the Canadian Artic, alarming scientists who had assumed that global warming changes would occur much more gradually.

United States corporations guilty

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the United States is the largest single emitter of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels, a leading cause in global warming. (www.eia.doe.gov) Some state, city and local governments have passed legislation to cut emissions, as in California, New York, Washington, D.C., and Arlington, Va.

Yet the federal government has washed its hands of the issue—consistently refusing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which was originally negotiated in 1997. Signatory countries of the non-binding protocol commit to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases, or provide economic incentives for reduction.

Placing the blame directly on the United States, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights stating the United States’ refusal to limit its emissions has violated the rights of the Artic Inuit people to use their traditional lands, their rights to health and life, and to their livelihood. While the commission rejected the petition in December, Inuit leaders vow to continue the struggle to expose these violations. (Nunatsiaq News, Dec. 17)

Not only are capitalist corporations—the government’s real bosses—unwilling to do anything to stop what is already becoming a global crisis; some of them are still actively trying to mislead the public to think that global warming doesn’t exist.

A Jan. 3 press release from the Union of Concerned Scientists announced their new report on “how ExxonMobil has adopted the tobacco industry’s disinformation tactics, as well as some of the same organizations and personnel, to cloud the scientific understanding of climate change and delay action on the issue. According to the report, Exxon Mobil has funneled nearly $16 million between 1998 and 2005 to a network of 43 advocacy organizations that seek to confuse the public on global warming science.” The report is available at www.ucsusa.org.

The release explains that ExxonMobil has:

• raised doubts about even the most indisputable scientific evidence;

• funded an array of front organizations to create the appearance of a broad platform for a tight-knit group of vocal climate change contrarians who misrepresent peer-reviewed scientific findings;

• attempted to portray its opposition to action as a positive quest for “sound science” rather than business self-interest;

• used its access to the Bush administration to block federal policies and shape government communications on global warming.

If ExxonMobil were a country, it would be the sixth-largest expender of global warming emissions. (AlterNet, Jan. 8)

Other corporations attempt to cover up their horrible track records on the environment by making only the paltriest efforts to help. For example, a New York Times editorial lauds Wal-Mart for pushing to sell 100 million compact fluorescent light bulbs—which use less energy than regular light bulbs—a year. More than half the electricity in the U.S. comes from coal-burning plants, the editorial reports.

Yet from Connecticut to Washington to Pennsylvania, complaints have been filed against Wal-Mart stores for violations of water quality standards, as well as pesticide and fertilizer pollution. In Dallas, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was willing to waive some water quality standards just for Wal-Mart stores.

While products like compact fluorescent light bulbs can provide some reprieve to the problem of global warming emissions, the largest contributors to the problem are not individuals, but these corporations. Under capitalism, they are allowed to run rampant, trampling over any rights of workers, including environmental protection, unless a struggle forces them back.

In addition, when disasters occur as a result of these policies—like Hurricanes Katrina and Rita—the U.S. government is not only ill-equipped but unwilling to deal with the consequences to the people. Recently, National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield stepped down from his 34-year position, saying that the United States lacked the political will to commit to the kind of hurricane preparedness that will be needed in the current highly active hurricane cycle. (Los Angeles Times, Jan. 3)

The struggle to save the planet from global warming is therefore yet another reason why capitalism must be replaced with a system that places people—and the environment that sustains them—over profits.

 

 

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