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Al Gore’sClimate Reality P roject: 24 hours of climate reality, but market fantasy

September 15, 2011

Carbon Markets | REDD, Uncategorized

By Joseph Green
Wed, 14 Sep 2011

 

Today was the start of Al Gore's 24 hours of internet presentations,
which will last till Sept 15, about the reality of climate warming.
These presentations are putting forward many facts about what's
happening to the climate. They dramatize the effect these changes are
having on countries and people around the world.

    But when it comes to solutions, Al Gore is as stuck in the atmosphere
of denial as the market-fanatic John Boehner and the other
head-in-the-sand politicians referred to in the 24 hours of
presentations. Gore still promotes the market-based measures that have
helped lead to the present threat of global climate catastrophe. He
still says that capitalist corporations will do the right thing for the
environment out of the motivation to make higher profits. Meanwhile
Gore and the other speakers are silent on the movement for environmental
justice and say nothing about the many activists who are fighting
militantly to protect the environment against those business interests
that Al Gore praises. And Gore is silent on the urgent need for
extensive environmental and economic planning and regulation.

     The article below, which will appear in the coming issue of
"Communist Voice", discusses Gore's stands in the weeks leading up to
the 24 hours of reality. It brings out those truths about global
warming, and about what needs to be done, which Gore closes his eyes to.
It is not Adam Smith and the drive for higher profits that will save the
environment, but the development of a working-class environmentalism
that breaks with pro-business environmentalism and instead takes part in
the class struggle.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

        Gore created a flurry of interest when he chided President Obama in
"Rolling Stone" (June 2, 2011). This, it turns out, was a warmup for his
new Climate Reality Project, which was announced on July 12. Gore speaks
with passion about those who deny the ongoing environmental crisis, and
he titled his article "Climate of denial: Can science and truth
withstand the merchants of poison?". He says that climate change is not
a matter of the future: no, it is here today. He even gently reproaches
Obama for inaction.

    But when it comes to what to do, Gore still clings to market methods,
rather than regulation and planning. He makes a point of praising the
supposed environmental concern of the vicious wage-cutting profiteer
Walmart, but says nothing about the important role of militant activists
for environmental justice. He demands action, but the action he demands
is supporting big business, "reward(ing) those companies that are
providing leadership", and providing more support to the very reprobate,
Obama, who is sitting on his hands and letting the environment deteriorate.

    Worse yet, Gore chides Obama only for inaction, not for advocating
harmful policies like "cap and trade", which is a proven failure at
cutting carbon emissions.. Gore hides the many ways the Obama
administration has actively worked with big business in ravaging the
environment, whether it is backing the fraud of "clean coal",
encouraging the land-destroying practice of hydraulic "fracking" for
natural gas, pooh-poohing the significance of the Fukushima nuclear
disaster while letting American reactors evade safety standards, or
helping BP minimize its liability for the Gulf oil spill.

    Al Gore's Climate Reality Project is calling for 24 hours of reality on
September 14-15. Its website declares: "What can change in a day?
Everything. On September 14, the world will focus its attention on the
truth about the climate crisis. For 24 hours, we will all live in
reality." This change is to be accomplished by "a new multimedia
presentation created by Al Gore and delivered once per hour for 24
hours, in every time zone around the globe."
(http://climaterealityproject.org/the-event/) But how much reality can
he put forward when he is still in a state of denial over the failed
market measures which he advocates?

The environmental crisis is here
---------------------------------------

    As usual, Gore is at his best in pointing out the dangers of climate
change. He points to the disasters of the past 12 months: last year is
tied with 2005 as the hottest year since scientific heat measurement was
begun; huge floods displaced 20 million people in Pakistan, and
submerged an area of Australia larger than Germany and France combined;
a level of flood that is only supposed to come once every thousand years
struck Gore's home town of Nashville, Tennessee; heat and drought was so
hot in Russia that fires spread; ice continues to melt at an accelerated
pace, threatening faster sea-level raises than previously predicted; etc.

    Gore also denounces the way that a "climate of denial" has been created
in the mass media to drown out the evidence of climate change and hide
the scientific consensus on global warming being a reality. He admits
that "the concerns of the wealthiest individuals and corporations
routinely trump the concerns of average Americans and small business."

    So his article has some useful material. It may be of use in waking up
some people to the ongoing climate crisis. That's what the 24 hours of
reality in September are supposed to do, and his presentation is likely
to point to the real dangers that face us. But Gore's agitation that
people should wake up and smell the coffee is accompanied by sweet
lullabies to put people back to sleep. For Gore may travel around the
world far from his native Tennessee, but he has never left the state of
denial, and he works hand in hand with the very business elite which
include the "merchants of poison". So, when it comes to solutions,
Gore's article is an example of the type of blindness that is widespread
in the establishment environmentalist organizations. And we can expect
that his presentation on September 14 will be in the same vein,

Hand-in-hand with the merchants of poison
-----------------------------------------------------

    There is more than one type of climate denial. Gore admits the
environmental crisis, but clings to the failed policies that have helped
bring it on. It was Clinton and Gore, as president and vice-president,
who insisted that the Kyoto Protocol be based on market measures.
Instead of using the regulatory methods that had been used to fight a
number of other environmental problems, Clinton and Gore championed
market-fundamentalism, or neo-liberalism. They sought to develop
artificial markets in pollution, and then hoped that Adam Smith's
"invisible hand" would result in pollution being phased out. Today Gore
may denounce the "merchants of poison", but Clinton and Gore insisted on
the "cap and trade" schemes which created the poison markets in which
these merchants operate. The idea was that the more societal regulation
was replaced by the self-serving decisions of the "merchants of poison"
the better: poison markets would supposedly result in environmental
improvement, as a result of individual companies making decisions based
on what was most profitable, and regulations on them would continue to
be loosened or dropped.

    This was the so-called "cap and trade" scheme. It hasn't worked. But
Gore simply closes his eyes to this. Instead, he continues to advocate
policies that would worsen the situation.

    Gore's idea is that we all should walk hand-in-hand with big business,
which he imagines would act responsibly and help reduce carbon
emissions. He goes out of his way to praise business whenever he can.
But what's happened? Most capitalists are pooh-poohing the problem, and
Gore just hasn't noticed it. Oh yes, he says, *some* companies do engage
in "green-washing". But for him, the fault lies just in ideologues and
some of the richest companies (except for Walmart, of course, which he
adores). All it takes, in his view, is for "individuals" to "demand
change in the marketplace", and the business community will respond.

    Gore's most radical step in his books and articles is to advocate that
there should be *both* a "cap and trade" system *and* a carbon tax. (See
his latest book, "Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis", Ch
15, "The True Cost of Carbon".) The carbon tax is another market measure
designed to replace environmental regulation. It is supposed to create
financial incentives for businesses to reduce carbon emissions, just as
cap and trade was supposed to have done. Actually, the weight of the
carbon tax would fall on the people, while most of the business world,
especially big business, would pass the tax on to consumers. Workers,
independent truckers, small fishermen and others couldn't pass the tax
on, but the big energy companies certainly could. So it would have the
harshest effects on those with the least power to determine whether
goods are produced in an environmentally-proper way, and the least
effect on the big businesses with the most power. For example, workers
might find that driving to work had become fabulously expensive, but the
carbon tax would do nothing to provide them with any alternative to
driving. Moreover, this tax would turn the slogan "make the polluters
pay" into a denunciation of the mass of consumers, rather than of the
corporate polluters. For this and other reasons, it's likely to be the
biggest fiasco ever -- making environmentalism hated among substantial
sections of the masses, while failing to accomplish environmental goals.
(See www.communistvoice.org/42cCarbonTax.html for a more thorough
discussion of the carbon tax.)

    True, in this article Gore doesn't say anything directly about the
carbon "tax"; instead he talks about setting a price on carbon. But it's
just different words to describe the same thing.

Gore at his worst
---------------------

    So as usual, Gore is at his worst when it comes to solutions. His basic
idea is to keep doing the things that haven't worked -- cap and trade;
working hand-in-hand with the corporations and giving them subsidies;
keeping government small and privatized; and hiding the extent of
corporate crimes.

    Gore is utterly committed to  introducing market principles into
everything. Indeed, Gore helped "reinvent government" under the Clinton
administration: this meant privatizing government functions, removing
regulations, providing incentives and subsides for business, and letting
the affected industries call the shots in the regulatory agencies. This
plan, carried out by both Democrats and Republicans, has led to
disaster. To be more precise, it has been disaster for the environment
and the working class, but profitable to many businesspeople. It has
meant marking time as far as global warming; ravaging the public schools
through Bush's No Child Left Behind and Obama's Race to the Top; relying
on private insurance in Obama's health plan, and so on. But energy
companies, educational companies, insurance companies, and upper-level
administrative personnel have made out like bandits.

    Gore sums up his approach near the end of his article. It comes down to
this: "above all, don't give up on the political system." By this, he
means, don't give up on the Democrats and the Obama administration. So
the alpha and omega of his proposals are to accept the pro-market
politicians and search for big businesses to work with. If he chides
Obama for inaction, he takes it back by suggesting that if we all get
behind him and push, Obama will do the right thing.

From the Alliance for Climate Protection
 to the Climate Reality Project
---------------------------------------------------

    So in his article Gore recommended that people join an organization,
namely, the Alliance for Climate Protection (www.climateprotect.org),
which he founded in 2006 and  chairs, and whose name is now being
changed to the Climate Reality Project. The ACP praises the European
Union's version of cap and trade, the so-called Emission Trading Scheme,
which is the heart of the Kyoto Protocol, which has failed badly. But
why should Gore care that's he's advocating a policy that has failed?
Indeed, it's notable that the ACP's website even praises some things,
like the Copenhagen Climate Summit, that Gore himself calls a failure in
his article in "Rolling Stone". The extent of these failures can be seen
in that, according to both the International Energy Agency and the top
UN climate official, last year, 2010, saw, not a decrease, but *a record
increase* in greenhouse gas emissions. (See
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/may/31/emissions-rise-un-climate-
chief, and also http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/may/29/carbon-emissions-
nuclearpower.)

    Indeed, the Alliance for Climate Protection hasn't even made the mild
criticisms of unnamed corporations and special interests that Gore makes
in his article. Why, right and left, government and industry, everyone
should just go hand-in-hand. The ACP promotes such fantasy as having the
"WE Campaign" unite pro-business liberals and hard-right conservatives,
minorities and racists, together in defense of the environment. The ACP
website says: "Some of the most popular WE Campaign advertisements
include the  Unlikely Alliances' campaign, which paired together such
seemingly polar opposites as Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrich and Revs.
Pat Robertson and Al Sharpton." (http://www.climateprotect.org/our-work/)

    Gore has now decided to rechristen the ACP as the Climate Reality
Project. But the website for the CRP has even less information than that
of the Alliance for Climate Protection. Gore does denounce "fossil fuel
interests", and that's about it.

    In his article, Gore writes that "To make our elected leaders take
action to solve the climate crisis, we must forcefully communicate the
following message:  I care a lot about global warming; I am paying very
careful attention to the way you vote and what you say about it; if you
are on the wrong side, I am not only going to vote against you, I will
work hard to defeat you -- regardless of party. If you are on the right
side, I will work hard to elect you." But the ACP and the CRP haven't
uttered a word about Obama's record, nor that of any other politician.
They fawn on the rich and powerful, and search out ways to praise them.
How this is going to create pressure to do anything in favor of the
environment, is Gore's little secret.

Bring the class struggle
into the environmental movement
-----------------------------------------

    Gore to the contrary, the establishment leaders, the corrupt
politicians, and the profiteering corporations, are not "our leaders".
Workers should abandon Gore's pro-business politics as usual, and so
should anyone with a real concern for the environment. Of course,
workers should abandon, not politics, but pro-capitalist politics. They
should seek to rebuild a better politics, based on struggle against the
big corporations, a politics of class struggle. They should get
organized   at the workplace, in the community, and in solidarity with
workers around the world   to fight the capitalist rulers of this world.
They should fight against the current world austerity drive of the
bourgeoisie, and they should fight about the environment too. With
regard to the environmental crisis, they should push for the things Gore
is silent about:

    * comprehensive environmental regulation, which should enforce
compulsory standards on big energy and, for that matter, big business as
a whole;

    * that environmental planning should include concern for the mass
livelihood: it's a conservative trickle-down fraud to believe that
"green jobs" will automatically provide prosperity; instead there must
be programs directly  guaranteeing people's basic needs;

    * the need to bring the class struggle into the environmental movement,
rather than searching for big corporations to praise;

    * comprehensive economic planning and regulation, which is needed both
for the sake of the environment and to be able to surmount the economic
crisis;

    * the need for planning be done in a new way; that the privatization of
government functions should be reversed; that the industries being
regulated should be pushed out of the government bodies regulating them;
that regulations should be made transparent; and that workers should be
brought, as far as possible, into the process of planning, and of
enforcing the planning;

    * the need to look towards the working class, not the business world,
as the bastion of environmental concern.

    Gore is silent about these things, because he's still a
market-fundamentalist politician, albeit one that claims to be against
market-fundamentalism. His recommendations show the narrow limits in
which establishment environmentalism is caught, and the narrow limits of
the left-right, community-big business cooperation on the environmental
front which is so fashionably advocated in mainstream environmentalist
circles today. Gore may preach against climate denial. And yes indeed,
as far as climate change, the Republicans would have us go to our doom
with our eyes shut, but Gore would have us go to our doom with our eyes
half-open. To survive, one should instead open one's eyes all the way,
and see not just the looming disasters, but the policies needed to avoid
them.  

--Joseph Green
   jgr...@communistvoice.org

 

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One Comment on “Al Gore’sClimate Reality P roject: 24 hours of climate reality, but market fantasy”

  1. Connie Tuttle Says:

    This is a stunningly naive piece of rhetoric more suited to the 1930s than the 21st century. Putting aside the question of Al Gore’s effectiveness or lack thereof: to posit that the “class struggle” needs to be brought into the “environmental movement” betrays a woeful ignorance of America’s so-called “working class.” Consider the following: 1. workers in today’s America are more interested in either hanging on to the jobs they have or finding one if they are among the legions of unemployed; 2. “working class” folks do not necessarily see themselves in a “struggle” against corporations, but they do hunger for all the perks wealth can provide (in other words the days of union solidarity and voting for a Eugene Debs are long gone); 3. it’s been noted and written about extensively: the working class in this nation has the distinction of likely being the only one on the planet to consistently vote against its own self-interest; and finally 4. many of these people see environmentalists as radical tree huggers hell bent on taking away their internal combustion engines: the very engines they are certain they have a “right” to as God-fearing, patriotic Americans. I assume “Joseph Green’s” intent in this piece was to be provocative; it really serves no other purpose.

    Reply

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