NASA's chief climate scientist, Dr James Hansen, wrote an open letter to Kevin Rudd on March 27 urging him to halt the construction of new coal-fired power stations. He also demanded that Rudd implement the Garnaut report's recommendations.
"The science is unambiguous: if we burn most of the fossil fuels, releasing the CO2 to the air, we will assuredly destroy much of the fabric of life on the planet", Hansen wrote.
Nonetheless, Labor has already said it will not implement Garnaut's recommendations. As climate change minister Penny Wong said, it will "ensure that the reduction of greenhouse gases occurs at lowest cost possible to the economy".
Meanwhile, the federal ALP is supporting the expansion of the uranium industry, and state Labor governments are supporting unsustainable projects such as the HRL coal power station in Victoria and Gunns' pulp mill in Tasmania.
While it was important to throw Howard out at the last election, we can see that Labor in government is just as tied to big business as was the Howard regime. Like the other party for big capital, Labor also puts corporate profits above the needs of ordinary people and the planet.
The $9 billion federal government subsidies (more than 28 times the amount currently set aside for renewable energies) to the fossil fuel industry underscores this. Australia is the world's largest exporter of coal, with 30% of the global trade, and the federal government doesn't want this to change. This also explains its obsession with the yet untested "clean" coal experiment as a solution for climate change.
Ineffective government regulation will not force the market to respond positively to the crises. As even the Stern Review pointed out: climate change is the "greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen".
This is because the needs of capitalism are incompatible with the needs of people and the planet.
To avert the climate crisis, coal-fired power stations have to be phased out alongside a rapid conversion to renewable sources. Energy efficiency, a push to reduce waste and develop sustainable agricultural techniques as well as assisting the regrowth of forests and other natural ecosystems to allow nature to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere need to be in place in the next 10 years.
This sort of societal change requires ordinary working people to get involved in forcing the necessary changes. Historically, changes on such a scale have required majorities to be involved: ending the Vietnam war; winning equal rights for African Americans; shattering the sexist idea of a woman's place being in the home; and securing workers' rights.
Resistance doesn't think that the CEOs of big corporations will, after reading the Garnaut report, decide to shut down polluting operations and invest in renewable technologies and sustainable practices. The only way they will change is if they are forced to by people power pressuring governments to regulate against polluting industry.
Federal and state governments have to be pressured to force the polluters to pay. Government subsidies to polluting industries must also end.
These measures, if we're successful, will make a difference to the planet. But the corporations' profits-first approach means that, ultimately, if we're really to save the planet and its peoples, we have to get rid of the whole profits-first system — capitalism.
Resistance believes that freedom, equality and environmental sustainability can only ever be achieved if we get rid of this rotten capitalist system. This won't be easy: it will involve a struggle for political power against entrenched corporate interests and their mates in government. Highlighting the systemic cause of the climate crisis now, and mobilising people in independent campaigns for immediate action on climate change, is an important step in convincing a lot more people that, ultimately, averting climate disaster requires fundamental changes to the system.
If you want to find out more, get in touch with Resistance and help us build a movement that fights against all forms of oppression and injustice, and for real action on climate change.