This is the final part of three-part article on environmental politics.
Mainstream Responses to the Climate Emergency
From what we have seen above, many climatologists believe that calamitous climactic change could happen with temperature increases at or under 2°C. Some go further. For example, radical expert James Hansen and his colleagues at NASA’s Goddard Institute argue that due to positive feedbacks and climatic tipping points global average temperature increases should be kept to less than 1°C below 2000 levels. This means that atmospheric CO2 need to be kept to 450 ppm or below.
However, many mainstream experts are prepared to consider considerably higher rates of growth as necessary because they are locked into the capitalist logic of endless accumulation and growth, of making profit rather than meeting needs. The widely-respected Stern Review, for example, settles for a global average temperature increase of no more than 3°C (a threshold beyond which the environmental effects would undoubtedly be absolutely disastrous), which it estimates can likely be achieved if CO2e in the atmosphere were stabilized at 550 ppm, double pre-industrial levels. Yet, the Stern Review also acknowledges that a 3°C increase would bring the earth’s average global temperature to a height last seen in the middle Pliocene around 3 million years ago.
Some ‘deep ecologists’ would prefer to see the human race extinguished if the rest of the biosphere could survive. For example Prof Michael Boulter of the Natural History Museum in London thinks that “human beings are a failed species – we’re on the way out … Our lives are so artificial they can’t possibly be sustained within the limits of our planet.” Looking ahead, he adds: “The planet would of course be delighted for humans to become extinct and the sooner it happens, the better.”
Many right wing economists argue that the problem belongs to the future and by the time that the worst effects of global warming make themselves known, technology will have been created which will be able to deal with them. As Dimitris Karagiannis of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) notes:
On 18.12.2009 the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen came to an end. Despite the declarations and fanfare, the sharpening of the interimperialist contradictions in the energy field cannot be concealed. An effort for over-accumulated capital to find a profitable way-out through the so-called “green economy”, that is the commercialization of environmental protection and of climate change, is underway.
Others argue that, rather than abandoning the market, the only way to properly deal with nature’s externalities is to put a price on them and let the market work its magic on them. Carbon trading, developed in the wake of the Kyoto summit in 1997, represents a well-known attempt to put a price on pollution. So, greenhouse gas emissions – that is, pollution – are made into an economically scarce resource, which is supposed to maximize the efficiency in which this pollution is reduced on a global basis. But turning polluting gases into a product may open pathways for profit-making which do not have the desired effect. You might, for example, create an incentive to horde and speculate with this commodity, and you hence might encourage more pollution, because with pollution one can now earn money.
Take, for example, HFC-23, one of the most potent GHG [greenhouse gases], which is equivalent to 11,700 tons of CO2. Precisely because of this extraordinarily high CO2 equivalent, and the associated high earning potential associated with it, it is now feared that new HFC-23 production facilities are being set up in places like China only to profit from the sale of CERs (Certified Emissions Reductions). That is, rather than ‘efficiently’ reducing the production of this highly potent GHG, the newly created carbon markets have introduced a perverse incentive to produce and emit even more GHG. 
It’s worth noting that in its report, “Developing the Green Economy in Ireland”, the modestly named High-Level Group on Green Enterprise argues that a new Green International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) could make money by “developing a ‘green IFSC’ brand and capability for Ireland.
Ireland is already an attractive location for international financial services. Potential exists to develop a green IFSC cluster and brand incorporating green investment vehicles (e.g. investment funds of energy companies, banks and VCs), the administration of funds managed under green principles, and carbon trading and associated professional services. The Group welcomes the recent establishment of a sub-group of the IFSC Banking and Treasury Group which is exploring the options for a green IFSC. We would strongly encourage the IFSC Clearing House Group to progress recommendations which emerge. 
This is what being Green means to the IFSC, an opportunity to turn a profit. For socialists, I would argue, our priority has to be reducing global warming directly through the lowering of greenhouse gas emissions. This will necessarily involve economic regime change because the current system is inimical to real sustainable development and because technological fixes are too costly, slow in coming on-stream, or too small-scale to deal with the problems.
Alternatives to Capitalist Barbarism
The radical eco-socialist approach demands that the planet and its people cannot afford the anarchic capitalist profit system and that a largely closed system such as the biosphere (the Earth heated by the Sun) cannot sustain the limitless growth that modern globalised capitalism promises and needs. However, Marxist scholar David W. Schwarzman is optimistic that new ways of harnessing the Sun’s energy might be found, while at the same time opposing the environmental barbarism that capitalism fosters. Among the material and technological components that Shwarzman believes will be essential to an ecosocialist transition are:
- A global high efficiency solar energy infrastructure, replacing fossil fuels and nuclear energy;
- Progressive dematerialization of technology, global availability of state-of-the-art information technology;
- Increase of human population density centred in green cities, elimination of sprawl leaving extensive biospheric reserves, managed to preserve biodiversity.
We have to wonder if technology could ever be “dematerialised” in the utopian way that Schwarzman supposes. Chinese Marxist scholar Li Minqi has little time for this utopian dematerialised eco-future:
In the post-fossil fuel world, electricity from various renewable sources will have to play a dominant role in overall energy consumption. However, the construction of power plants and other electricity facilities requires not only financial resources, but also workers, technicians and engineers with special skills and expertise, as well as equipment and materials that have to be produced by specialized factories. One cannot simply print billions of dollar bills and expect renewable electricity to be generated. Instead, workers need to be trained in the necessary skills, and new equipment and materials need to be produced. All of these — as well as the construction process itself — will not only consume resources but also take time.
Li Minqi outlines two of the main features that he believes are necessary for an ecologically sustainable (i.e. non-capitalist) society:
“…for an ecologically sustainable society, the use and allocation of society’s surplus product must come under some form of social control through either political procedures or established social norms. Such a society may or may not be economically less efficient than the current capitalist society (with ‘efficiency’ measured by current conventional criteria). However, efficiency would, at most, be of secondary importance in the post-capitalist era. For the sake of the survival of humanity and civilization, it is absolutely essential to ensure that the human economy operates within the ecological system’s natural capacity. With an ‘inefficient’ economic system (conventionally measured) that operates with limited and stable flows of material consumption, humanity can survive. With an economic system that is highly efficient in generating economic growth, humanity will very soon be committing collective suicide.
Second, the future post-capitalist society will not emerge out of a historical vacuum. Rather, it will have to reflect the political and social developments that have taken place in the capitalist era. Most importantly, it will have to accommodate the relatively high levels of political consciousness and organizational capacity of the working classes (in comparison with what prevailed in the pre-capitalist societies) as well as manage to meet the population’s ‘basic needs’ as they have been historically defined. These two historical constraints imply that when the future post-capitalist society does emerge, it is likely to be based on some form of social control over the surplus product (i.e. the appropriation and the use of the surplus product take place through political and social processes, preferably through democratic planning, rather than through the market) and some forms of social and community ownership of the means of production.”
More practically, we could examine the folowing from the The Belém Ecosocialist Declaration, which was distributed at the World Social Forum in Belém, Brazil, in January2009.
Ecosocialism proposes radical transformations in:
- the energy system, by replacing carbon-based fuels and biofuels with clean sources of power under community control: wind, geothermal, wave, and above all, solar power.
- the transportation system, by drastically reducing the use of private trucks and cars, replacing them with free and efficient public transportation;
- present patterns of production, consumption, and building, which are based on waste, inbuilt obsolescence, competition and pollution, by producing only sustainable and recyclable goods and developing green architecture;
- food production and distribution, by defending local food sovereignty as far as this is possible, eliminating polluting industrial agribusinesses, creating sustainable agro-ecosystems and working actively to renew soil fertility.
To theorise and to work toward realizing the goal of green socialism does not mean that we should not also fight for concrete and urgent reforms right now. Without any illusions about “clean capitalism,” we must work to impose on the powers that be — governments, corporations, international institutions — some elementary but essential immediate changes:
- drastic and enforceable reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases,
- development of clean energy sources,
- provision of an extensive free public transportation system,
- progressive replacement of trucks by trains,
- creation of pollution clean-up programs,
- elimination of nuclear energy war spending.
In conclusion, eco-socialism should not merely involve add-ons to current policies. The kinds of eco-socialist approach to the present and future that are outlined here would demand that the communists and socialists develop all policies and practice with the global environmental emergency in mind.
 Quoted in “The decline and fall of the Human Empire” by John Gibbons, Village Magazine, June 2011
 Communist Party of Greece, 2010, Collection of Articles and Contributions on Current Issues of the Communist Movement, p.174
 “Upsetting the Offset: An Introduction” by Steffen Böhm and Siddhartha Dabhi in Upsetting the Offset The Political Economy of Carbon Markets, Steffen Böhm & Siddhartha Dabhi (eds), mayflybooks.org, 2009
 Forfás, 2009, “Developing the Green Economy in Ireland”, pp.9-10
 “Ecosocialism or Ecocatastrophe?”, Capitalism Nature Socialism Journal ~ Volume 20 Issue 1 2009 pp6-33
 Li Minqi, “Capitalism, Climate Change and the Transition to Sustainability: Alternative Scenarios for the US, China and the World” Development and Change 40(6): 1039–1061 (2009).