United States: Biden’s ‘bullshit’ climate promises

We must reduce global emissions to zero by 2030, to avoid catastrophic climate change. Greta Thunberg (right) and Joe Biden.

United States President Joe Biden held a meeting of world leaders in late April to discuss climate change and call for new commitments on carbon emissions.

Climate activist and leader Greta Thunberg released a video the day before the summit began, denouncing it as “bullshit”.

When you compare the overall current best available science to their insufficient, hypothetical "climate targets" you clearly see that there’s a gap, there are decades missing.
Until we adress this gap, no real solutions will be found.
Let's call out the bullsh*t.#MindTheGap pic.twitter.com/USlPII68Zs

— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) April 22, 2021

“At the Leaders Climate Summit, countries will present their new climate commitments, like net-zero emissions by 2050. They will call these hypothetical targets ‘ambitious’. But when you compare their insufficient targets with the overall current best available science, you clearly see that there’s a gap. There are decades missing.”

What are the missing decades? The science Thunberg is referring to is the conclusion that we must reduce global emissions to zero by 2030, to avoid catastrophic consequences.

To reach that target, we should have already begun to cut back carbon emissions, but instead the world continues to move in the opposite direction.

‘Too late for gradualism’

Howie Hawkins, the Green Party’s 2020 candidate for president wrote in Counterpunch on April 28: “It’s too late for gradualism. We must at least aim for the ‘initial target’ of 350ppm (parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere) that was proposed 13 years ago by climate scientists James Hansen and colleagues in a 2008 study.”

That target was the inspiration for the international climate organisation “350.Org".

“The Earth sailed past that 350ppm at the end of 1988,” Hawkins wrote. “At the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, carbon dioxide averaged 414ppm in 2020, averaged 418 in March of this year, and set a record of 421ppm on April 3.

“The last time atmospheric carbon was this high was in the Mid-Pliocene Warm Period 3.6 million years ago when the temperature was 4℃ hotter and sea levels were 27 meters higher than today.

“At last year’s annual rate of carbon dioxide rise, the planet will hit 500ppm around 2050.

“These climate changes are locked into the climate system by the contemporary carbon emissions unless the world not only zeroes out emissions, but soon gets to negative emissions by drawing carbon out of the atmosphere and into the biosphere by reforestation and by rebuilding carbon-rich living soils with regenerative agriculture.

“Today’s rapid climate change entails more than the heat waves, extreme weather, and flooded cities in the headlines. Between now and 2050, we face mass extinctions, collapsing land and ocean ecosystems, agricultural crisis and food shortages, economic contraction and increasing poverty, hundreds of millions of climate refugees and escalating social conflicts and resource wars.”

At the “summit”, Biden announced that the US would cut its emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels, and reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

The European Union has pledged to cut carbon emissions by 55% of 1990 levels by 2030. China says it will continue to increase emissions until 2030, and then cap them and be carbon neutral by 2060.

China is the world’s chief greenhouse gas emitter at present, and the US has the dubious honour of being second. On a per capita basis, the US is number one.

Leaving aside Thunberg’s observation that this is too little too late by decades, these goals are “fluff” according to In These Times.

If we look at the US’s “goals” and what’s proposed to meet them, we see Biden has no proposals for the fossil fuel industries to cut their carbon emissions. He knows any such proposals would be met with stiff resistance from the fossil fuel industry as well as most Republican and Democratic politicians.

Instead of such a “stick” he proposes the “carrot” of support to clean energy, to make it more profitable than fossil fuels. He gives no timetable for when this could occur, even if he could get sufficient funds passed through Congress to do this.

He is also vague or misleading on the scale of funds needed, or how to deal with the huge investments the fossil fuel industry has already made into everything from drilling and fracking, pipelines, refineries and so on.

Power production accounts for only 27% of carbon emissions, transportation 28%; heating buildings 12% and agriculture 10%. All productive sectors would have to be transformed.

“That huge emergency transformation can only be met by an ecosocialist approach using public enterprise and planning,” said Hawkins.

Net zero is hot air

Biden’s proposals also include the concept of “net-zero” emissions. “Net zero” looks something like “zero” to most people, which is why this term is used.

It means balancing continued emissions with removal from the atmosphere of carbon dioxide.

Biden mentioned carbon sequestration as a possible way to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, using technology to capture carbon-rich air -- from chimney stacks, for example -- and pump it through pipes underground, to where it could be combined with certain rocks and stored.

This works in laboratories, but has only been actually proven to work on a small scale because of its high cost. Right now, there is zero prospect of using this on a large scale.

Moreover, it wouldn’t work on emissions from heating buildings or transportation. Converting all trucks, cars and other vehicles to electricity is not possible in the near future, but we must act now. Electrifying aircraft is a far-off possibility.

How would this capture and store carbon dioxide from the global atmosphere — not just from sites close to chimneys? It’s impossible, and a quack idea.

We have to take greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, to lower CO2 concentrations to 350ppm, even if we are no longer burning fossil fuels.

There is only one way to do this, according to Hawkins. That is to restore the balance with nature that capitalism has disrupted, by reforestation and rebuilding carbon-rich living soils with regenerative agriculture.

Rebuilding the world’s forests that capitalism has already destroyed and continues to destroy is necessary, because they absorb CO2 from the atmosphere in the process of photosynthesis and put oxygen back into the atmosphere.

Ecosocialism

Karl Marx saw long ago that capitalism had created a “metabolic rift” between the cities and the countryside. Plants and animals grown for food and fibre in the countryside are sent to the cities to be consumed. The waste from this consumption is no longer returned to the soil, where it replenishes and reinvigorates it.

The result is the need for chemical fertilisers and pesticides on farms, which create pollution in the biosphere, and results in crops that are not as efficient as they are when part of a natural balance.

Furthermore, the chemical waste goes into the rivers, sewage systems, and eventually the oceans, polluting them. Along with acid rain from burning fossil fuels, the plant material in the oceans is being diminished, harming the ability of the oceans to absorb CO2.

We have to re-green the Earth.

Today’s Marxist ecosocialists have built upon what Marx and Freidrich Engels noted about the harmful disruption of nature caused by capitalism to tackle the harm capitalism has done and is doing to the ecosystem.

In truth, Biden and the other world capitalist politicians at the “summit” have no plan at all to avert climate catastrophe. With nice-sounding vague promises they continue on the road to hell.

It will take mass movements and mass action centered on the world’s working people to effect meaningful change. The road ahead is difficult, but socialists must embark upon it.

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