To: Detroit/Seattle Workers' Voice mailing list
June 2 and 5, 2017
RE: Trump makes America first in climate denialism
* Denounce Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Accord
* About the Paris Climate Accord of December 2015
* The Paris climate change summit: the governments pat themselves on the
back while the planet burns, by Joseph Green
* Paris climate terror could endure for generations, by Patrick Bond
Trump withdraws the US from the struggle against global warming -- part one
by Joseph Green
On Thursday June 1, Trump announced that he will withdraw the United
States from the Paris Accord on climate change. This is the accord
stemming from the UN Climate Summit of December 2015 in Paris. From day
one of his presidency, Trump has been doing his best to roll back any
environmental protections, and the withdrawal from the Paris Accord is
his overall declaration of climate change denialism.
Of course, Trump did say that he was open to renegotiating the Paris
Accord or taking part in a new one. But based on his complaints about
the Paris Accord, the new treaty would have to have the following
1) it would not interfere with fossil fuel production;
2) it would not cost anything to implement;
3) it would not provide any help to poorer countries; and
4) it would put America first.
It's no wonder that no one took this proposal seriously.
Trump's withdrawal has already met with widespread condemnation, and a
number of modest-sized mass protests. It may become a new focal point of
mass resistance. It is another chapter in a movement that already saw in
April the March for Science on Earth Day and the People's Climate March.
These broad protests against Trump bring together a number of different
trends, from bourgeois trends to militant activists. The defense of the
Paris Accord by establishment figures generally glorifies the weak
measures taken by various government and the green declarations of
polluting corporations. But if large protests develop, this serves the
interest of the overall environmental movement. It may help spread
consciousness of the urgency of the problem to yet wider masses.
But while taking part in the overall movement, it's also important to
help build up a militant pole inside it. It's important to talk about
the need for mass struggle. Matters can't be left in the hands of the
pro-business politicians and the polluting corporations, who may say
they support the Paris Accord while they lobby for the right to drill
more oil and gas wells. Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Accord shows,
if anything, the need for the masses to take matters into their own hands.
There is already a discussion beginning among activists of how to react
to this new phase of the struggle. These discussion tend to focus among
tactics, but they should also look more deeply into the question of what
measures are needed. This is important to develop a strong working-class
trend in the environmental movement.
The nature of the Paris Accord
The importance of denouncing Trump's withdrawal form the Paris Accord
isn't that this Accord is very good. It's actually a flop: pretty words
masking an inability to agree on serious measures. The governments and
bourgeoisie have lauded it to the sky, but back when the Paris Accord
was first hammered out, many environmentalists, such as James Hansen,
were horrified by its provisions.
For that matter, today a number of commentators say that Trump didn't
have to withdraw from the Paris Accord: the Accord doesn't require any
country to do anything but present it's own plan with whatever goals it
sees fit to adopt. But doesn't this show how weak the Paris Accords are?
If Trump could have stayed in the Accord while seeking to increase
carbon emissions, doesn't this show that something is missing in this
Against bourgeois complacency
Some media commentators are saying that it really won't matter so much
that Trump is withdrawing from the Accord. Why, market measures are
supposedly already bringing down greenhouse emissions. But if you listen
carefully, they are generally promoting natural gas. And yet the
extraction of natural gas (mainly done through "fracking") is destroying
the land and poisoning our water, and leakage of methane from natural
gas wells and pipelines makes a mockery of the supposed decrease in
greenhouse gas emissions.
Other commentators are saying that large numbers of cities and states as
already quite green. It's surprising, though, that lead poisoning, a
problem known to the cities and states for decades, is still so
prevalent, if states and cities are already allegedly so vigilant. What
we often see is things like the Detroit City Council saying that, oh
yes, it opposes the increased bringing of toxic and radioactive wastes
into the city for processing, but its hands are tied. It can't really
stop this, it can just negotiate with the companies for more blood money.
No, we need a struggle against greenhouse gas emissions that goes well
beyond what the Paris Accord called for, or the measures being taken in
some localities. Mass protest is particularly important. But the more
that serious measures are popularized at these events and among the
masses generally, the more effective the environmental movement will be.
Among the issues that should be raised are the following:
* The militant movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground and to
prevent the building of more and more pipelines should be supported. As
part of this, let's stop the drilling for oil and gas via hydraulic
fracking. It's incredible that, in the name of providing "transition
fuels", the bourgeoisie is promoting the environmental catastrophe of
* The struggle against global warming should be connected to the overall
struggle against environmental degradation. The fights against lead
poisoning, the poisoning and/or exhaustion of water supplies, harmful
farming practices, and other environmental problems are connected to the
fight against global warming. These fights often face the same corporate
enemies as does the fight against global warming, and they face the same
blockage from market fundamentalism.
* There should be constant exposure of the role played by the large
companies and exploiters in polluting the environment. The establishment
press repeats over and over that various large companies, even fossil
fuel companies like Shell and ExxonMobil, are for the Paris Accord. But
in fact, the energy companies and large corporations in general are
continuing to belch greenhouse gases and block serious environmental
* There should be demands for real measures to protect people's
livelihood as the change is made to green energy. It's not sufficient to
rely on the job shift from dirty to green jobs, nor to rely on
infrastructure jobs. There must be economic planning with the direct aim
of preserving workers' livelihood. Market measures have brought
increasing inequality and poverty as well as one environmental fiasco
after another. Market fundamentalism has to be ended in the interest of
both the environment and the working population.
* There needs to be overall environmental regulation and planning that
forces rapid cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. This will require
reexamination of all industrial processes, and it is incompatible with
the continuation of neoliberalism.
About the Paris Climate Accord of December 2015 (part two)
Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord is a symbol of his diehard
opposition to any measures to save the environment. But the Accord
itself is far too weak to stop global warming; it showed that the world
bourgeoisie is still unwilling to give up market fundamentalism, even to
save the world from climate disaster. While denouncing Trump's
withdrawal from the Paris agreement, we should aim at much more
At the time of the Paris Accord, there were demonstrations against its
half-heartedness. Today a number of environmentalists who were critical
of the Accord in the past may think it is necessary to laud it in order
to fight Trump. But if the environmental movement is to achieve its
goals, and if it is to maintain the ability to confront the carbon
addicts controlling major corporations and governments, it needs to be
realistic about the Paris Accord.
That's why it's important that the environmental movement put forward
goals that go well beyond the Accord and even contradict its coddling of
the moneyed rulers of the world. The UN did valuable work documenting
the dangers of global warming, as seen in the climate summaries from the
UN's IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). But its proposals
on how to deal with global warming (such as those from the very same
IPCC) are not based on science nor do they take account of the growing
crisis of market fundamentalism. Instead they simply promote market
measures as part of neoliberal dogma. We need a militant movement of
struggle, and not the complacent soapy rhetoric that comes in such
abundance from the UN and the supposedly green politicians.
The following two articles about the Paris Accord are from the Feb. 1,
2016 issue of the "Communist Voice", which can be found in PDF at
_The UN climate change summit conference in Paris_
_(November 30 - December 12, 2015)_
The governments pat themselves on the back while the planet burns
By Joseph Green
The "red lines" demonstration in Paris was the best thing that happened
at the Paris climate change summit. The 2015 UN climate conference was
COP21, the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties to the
1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and simultaneously the
11th meeting of the parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. There were a lot
of fancy words, as typical of UN conferences, but the conference
basically was business as usual in the march toward climate catastrophe.
The red lines demonstrations, however, showed that activists aren't
going to leave things to the governments, and they demonstrated in the
face of the "state of emergency" of the government of "socialist"
president Francois Hollande. "We are the red lines" demonstrations also
took place elsewhere, such as in Seattle and New York City. The
demonstrators were concerned that the negotiators in Paris would cross
various "red lines" [that would render any agreement futile in stopping
The media is making a big fuss over the outcome of the Paris summit on
global warming. The Paris agreement has been hailed as encouraging
progress, more than what various environmentalists expected, or even a
landmark agreement. Even many demonstrators and critics of COP21
generally said that it was positive in many ways. Yet the reality is
that the Paris summit was an environmental flop. Compared to the
infamous Copenhagen climate summit of 2009, Paris was a smashing success
in giving positive spin to the actions of the bourgeoisie and the
governments, but it remained an abject failure in dealing with the
danger of global warming.
It declared grand goals while ignoring the question of how to achieve
them. Its standpoint was to let everyone do what they want -- "clean
coal", nuclear, so-called transitional fuels, biofuels, or just plain
hocus-pocus -- so long as they declare it part of a plan. The summit
closed its eyes to the failure of the market measures of the past, such
as cap and trade, and these measures will continue. It met while
thousands of fires raged through Indonesia, burning up rain forest and
disgorging tremendous amount of carbon dioxide, and it had no answer to
it. It talked about "transparency", and there will be no real transparency.
The environmental writer George Monbiot wrote about the Paris summit as
"A combination of acidifying seas, coral death and Arctic melting means
that entire marine food chains could collapse. On land, rainforests may
retreat, rivers fail and deserts spread. Mass extinction is likely to be
the hallmark of our era. This is what success, as defined by the
cheering delegates, will look like." ("Grand promises of Paris climate
deal undermined by squalid retrenchments", Dec. 12, _Guardian_)
His article added:
"In Paris the delegates have solemnly agreed to cut demand, but at home
they seek to maximise supply. The UK government has even imposed a legal
obligation upon itself, under the Infrastructure Act 2015, to 'maximise
economic recovery' of the UK s oil and gas. Extracting fossil fuels is a
hard fact. But the Paris agreement is full of soft facts: promises that
can slip or unravel. Until governments undertake to keep fossil fuels in
the ground, they will continue to undermine the agreement they have just
Yet, surprisingly, while saying that the Paris agreement is a disaster
compared to what's needed, Monbiot also writes in his article that "By
comparison to what it could have been, it's a miracle." No, not at all.
There's nothing positive in the destroyers of the environment pretending
that they are protecting it. In that respect, the environmental
scientist and climate change activist James Hansen hit the nail on the
head when he said of the Paris summit that
"It's a fraud really, a fake. It's just bullshit for them to say: 'We'll
have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five
years.' It's just worthless words. There is no action." ("James Hansen,
father of climate change awareness, calls Paris talks 'a fraud'," Dec.
Unfortunately, Hansen advocates that the carbon tax is the solution (as
well as mistakenly backing an increase in the use of nuclear power). He
doesn't understand that the carbon tax is simply a variant of the market
methods that have gotten us into this mess in the first place. We need
direct planning and regulation of energy production, not reliance on
market incentives. We also need economic planning to back up the
planning and regulation of energy, to deal with other environmental
problems, and to protect people's livelihood in the massive economic
dislocations that are coming.
None of this will happen unless there is a militant movement insisting
that the planning be done in public with the broadest mass
participation, and unless there is a strong working class trend within
the environmental movement. Neo-liberal fake planning and regulation,
which means companies "self-regulate" and governments subcontract out
their functions to company stooges, is worse than useless.
Left to themselves, the governments and the ruling bourgeoisie may place
their hope in supposed technical fixes to the problem of carbon
emissions. They are considering considering very dangerous
geo-engineering plans, such as building a giant space parasol to shield
the earth from the sun or dumping vast amounts of iron in the ocean. And
part of the environmental movement, discouraged by the lack of progress
at the climate summits, is hoping that new market measures, such as the
carbon tax, will somehow do better than cap and trade and the old market
measures. Some environmentalists have also given in to the idea of a
technical fix and look to covering the world with nuclear power
stations, closing their eyes to the lessons of Fukushima and Chernobyl.
The Paris summit shows that the environment can't be left to the
bourgeoisie and the present-day governments. What we need is mass
struggle for fundamental change, mass struggle that doesn't conciliate
the market fanatics but puts the interests of the environment and mass
welfare to the fore. <>
Paris climate terror could endure for generations
By Patrick Bond, South Africa
(Patrick Bond is a South African social and environmental activist and
author of many works of interest such as the book _Politics of Climate
Justice: Paralysis Above, Movement Below_.)
Paris witnessed both explicit terrorism by religious extremists on
November 13 and a month later, implicit terrorism by carbon addicts
negotiating a world treaty that guarantees catastrophic climate change.
The first incident left more than 130 people dead in just one evening's
mayhem; the second lasted a fortnight but over the next century can be
expected to kill hundreds of millions, especially in Africa.
But because the latest version of the annual United Nations climate
talks has three kinds of spin-doctors, the extent of damage may not be
well understood. The 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the UN
Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) generated reactions
ranging from smug denialism to righteous fury. The first reaction is
'from above' (the Establishment) and is self-satisfied; the second is
from the middle ('Climate Action') and is semi-satisfied; the third,
from below ('Climate Justice'), is justifiably outraged.
Guzzling French champagne last Saturday, the Establishment quickly
proclaimed, in essence, "The Paris climate glass is nearly full -- so
why not get drunk on planet-saving rhetoric?" The _New York Times_
reported with a straight face, "President Obama said the historic
agreement is a tribute to American climate change leadership" (and in a
criminally-negligent way, this is not untrue).
Since 2009, US State Department chief negotiator Todd Stern successfully
drove the negotiations away from four essential principles: ensuring
emissions-cut commitments would be sufficient to halt runaway climate
change; making the cuts legally binding with accountability mechanisms;
distributing the burden of cuts fairly based on responsibility for
causing the crisis; and making financial transfers to repair
weather-related loss and damage following directly from that historic
liability. Washington elites always prefer market mechanisms' like
carbon trading instead of paying their climate debt even though the US
national carbon market fatally crashed in 2010.
In part because the Durban COP17 in 2011 provided lubrication and --
with South Africa's blessing --empowered Stern to wreck the idea of
Common But Differentiated Responsibility while giving "a Viagra shot to
flailing carbon markets" (as a male Bank of America official cheerfully
celebrated), Paris witnessed the demise of these essential principles.
And again, "South Africa played a key role negotiating on behalf of the
developing countries of the world," according to Pretoria's environment
minister Edna Molewa, who proclaimed from Paris "an ambitious, fair and
effective legally-binding outcome."
Arrogant fibbery. The collective Intended Nationally Determined
Contributions (INDCs) -- i.e. _voluntary_ cuts -- will put the
temperature rise at above 3 degrees [Celsius, so 5.4 degrees
Fahrenheit]. From coal-based South Africa, the word ambitious loses
meaning given Molewa's weak INDCs *ranked* by ClimateActionTracker as
amongst the world's most "inadequate" -- and given that South Africa
hosts the world's two largest coal-fired power stations now under
construction, with no objection by Molewa. She regularly approves
increased (highly-subsidized) coal burning and exports, vast fracking,
offshore-oil drilling, exemptions from pollution regulation,
emissions-intensive corporate farming and fast-worsening suburban sprawl.
A second narrative comes from large NGOs that mobilized over the past
six months to provide mild-mannered pressure points on negotiators.
Their line is, essentially, "The Paris glass is _partly_ full -- so sip
up and enjoy!"
This line derives not merely from the predictable back-slapping
associated with petit-bourgeois vanity, gazing upwards to power for
validation, such as one finds at the Worldwide Fund for Nature and
Climate Action Network, what with their corporate sponsorships. All of
us reading this are often tempted in this direction, aren't we, because
such unnatural twisting of the neck is a permanent occupational hazard
in this line of work.
And such opportunism was to be expected from Paris, especially after
Avaaz and Greenpeace *endorsed* G7 leadership posturing in June, when at
their meeting in Germany the Establishment made a meaningless commitment
to a decarbonized economy -- in the year 2100, _at least fifty years too
Perhaps worse than their upward gaze, though, the lead NGOs suffered a
hyper-reaction to the 2009 Copenhagen Syndrome. Having hyped the COP15
Establishment negotiators as "Seal the Deal!" planet-saviours, NGOs
mourned the devastating Copenhagen Accord signed in secret by leaders
from Washington, Brasilia, Beijing, New Delhi and Pretoria. This was
soon followed by a collapse of climate consciousness and mobilization.
Such alienation is often attributed to activist heart-break: a
roller-coaster of raised NGO expectations and plummeting Establishment
Possessing only an incremental theory of social change, NGOs toasting
the Paris deal now feel the need to confirm that they did as best they
could, and that they have grounds to continue along the same lines in
future. To be sure, insider-oriented persuasion tactics pursued by the
42-million member clicktivist group Avaaz are certainly impressive in
their breadth and scope. Yet for Avaaz, "most importantly, [the Paris
deal] sends a clear message to investors everywhere: sinking money into
fossil fuels is a dead bet. Renewables are the profit centre. Technology
to bring us to 100% clean energy is the money-maker of the future."
Once again, Avaaz validates the COP process, the Establishment's
negotiators and the overall incentive structure of capitalism that _are
the proximate causes of the crisis_.
The third narrative is actually the most realistic: "The Paris glass is
full of toxic fairy dust -- don't dare even sniff!" The traditional
Climate Justice (CJ) stance is to delegitimize the Establishment and
return the focus of activism to grassroots sites of struggle, in future
radically changing the balance of forces locally, nationally and then
globally. But until that change in power is achieved, the UNFCCC COPs
are just Conferences of Polluters.
The landless movement Via Campesina was clearest: "There is nothing
binding for states, national contributions lead us towards a global
warming of over 3 degrees C [5.4 degrees F] and multinationals are the
main beneficiaries. It was essentially a media circus."
Asad Rehman coordinates climate advocacy at the world's leading
North-South CJ organization, Friends of the Earth International: "The
reviews [of whether INDCs are adhered to and then need strengthening]
are too weak and too late. The political number mentioned for finance
has no bearing on the scale of need. It's empty. The iceberg has struck,
the ship is going down and the band is still playing to warm applause."
And not forgetting the voice of climate science, putting it most
bluntly, James Hansen called Paris, simply, "bullshit."
Where does that leave us? If the glass-half-full NGOs get serious -- and
I hope to be pleasantly surprised in 2016 -- then the only way forward
is for them to apply their substantial influence on behalf of solidarity
with those CJ activists making a real difference, at the base.
Close to my own home, the weeks before COP21 witnessed potential
victories in two major struggles: opposition to corporate coal mining --
led mainly by women peasants, campaigners and lawyers -- in rural
Zululand, bordering the historic iMfolozi wilderness reserve (where the
world's largest white rhino population is threatened by poachers); and
South Durban residents fighting the massive expansion of Africa's
largest port-petrochemical complex. In both attacks, the climate-defence
weapon was part of the activists' arsenal.
But it is only when these campaigns have conclusively done the work COP
negotiators and NGO cheerleaders just shirked -- leaving fossil fuels in
the ground and pointing the way to a just, post-carbon society -- that
we can raise our glasses and toast humanity, with integrity. Until then,
pimps for the Paris Conference of Polluters should be told to sober up
and halt what will soon be understood as their fatal attack on Mother Earth.
Patrick Bond, December 15, 2015 <>
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