Set up as a platform for over 190 heads of state — and thousands of corporate CEOs, nongovernment organizations and other hangers on — the United Nations climate change summit was no more successful than any of its 25 earlier gatherings in its stated purpose of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It ground down to an end in Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 13, issuing a high-sounding but largely toothless declaration.
Capitalist powers represented there offered no road to reduce poisoning of the land, sea and air, nor to resolve the crisis facing millions around the world who go without electrical power for heating, lighting, cooking, education and culture.
The conference declaration contains no proposals to harness the available scientific capacity available today to meet the needs of working people worldwide. Taking on this challenge has to be shouldered by the working class, the only force interested in and capable of defending land and labor and at the same time advancing humanity’s control over nature. That requires a movement of the toiling majority that fights for workers control of production as we organize to take political power into our hands.
As at previous summits, delegates continued the charade of making progress by adopting rules for the profitable trade in carbon credits. These are schemes for corporate bosses and governments to pay for the right to carry on polluting, while claiming they’re contributing to environmental progress.
The two-week meeting heard repeated demands that “we” have to do something, along with predictions of imminent catastrophe, from delegates and protesters outside the confab alike. But there is no “we.” The capitalist rulers and their governments main preoccupation is in extending their interests and economic sphere of exploitation against their rivals.
The scramble for cobalt, profit
Washington and the rulers in Beijing are competing for control of scarce deposits of cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a resource crucial for the development of the electric batteries to power vehicles of the future.
Modern society is divided between sharply contending social classes — capitalist bloodsuckers on one side and working people worldwide on the other. Everything bourgeois politicians presented in Glasgow, wrapped up in hysteria about the need for drastic action, was done in a way to prevent working people from recognizing it’s the ruling class that controls production and is responsible for the degradation of the land, air and waters.
Left out of the gathering’s deliberations was discussion on how to utilize scientific advances in nuclear power to vastly expand global electrical output while cutting carbon emissions. Without grasping this, there is no alternative road to cutting the use of fossil fuels and providing electrical power.
Because of past disasters, like the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl in 1986 and its deadly consequences, some governments and many middle-class left radicals dismiss nuclear power. “Including nuclear power would lack integrity and credibility with a great majority of the population,” Svenja Schulze, Germany’s environment minister, told the gathering Nov. 11. The World Nuclear Association was barred from holding exhibits at the summit.
The German government plans to close its six remaining nuclear reactors next year, abandoning its nuclear power program for dependence on natural gas imported from Moscow, giving the Russian rulers greater opportunity to intervene in European affairs. Governments in Belgium, Italy and Spain say they will close their nuclear power plants.
There is no serious alternative to nuclear power today. As of 2018, fully 63% of generation of electrical power in the U.S. came from coal and natural gas. A mere 1.5% came from solar and 6.5% from wind.
For the working class what’s key is to harness this nuclear technology in order to meet needs for energy worldwide. Some 759 million people, overwhelmingly in semicolonial countries, toil and live without electrical power.
Many political figures and radical environmental activists say humanity is on the verge of a catastrophe. They insist the peoples of the semicolonial world should be prevented from acquiring electrical power unless it comes from “renewable” energy sources, which cannot provide for the power needed.
But nuclear power is a cleaner energy source than burning fossil fuels. The construction, mining, transportation, decommissioning and disposal of waste in nuclear power plants involves emitting far less pollution that mining coal, oil or producing solar power.
The Chernobyl disaster was a result of the contempt of the ruling bureaucrats in Moscow toward working people. At every step, from the construction of a reactor without a secure containment structure to the delay in evacuating people, they acted with utter disregard for human life.
Even including the disaster at Chernobyl, decades of injuries and deaths from mining coal far outpace those in the operation of nuclear power plants.
The key question is: Who controls energy production? Like every other industry under capitalist rule, it’s run to produce profits, not meet human needs. The capitalist bosses and bankers, and their governments, toss all consideration of life and nature aside in their fight for the wealth working people produce.
The working class is the only social force capable of taking advantage of labor’s scientific and technological improvements for the benefit of all. From coal mines to auto plants, it is workers fight to control all aspects of production and decisions about what is made that is decisive to preventing injuries and death.
Our unions must be mobilized to break from the bosses’ parties — the Democrats and Republicans — to lead a fight to take political power into our own hands and open the road to protecting the earth’s resources for future generations.