Climate change is accelerating. On 4 November the North Pole ice cap fell below the record lows for early November set in 2007. Updated daily, the National Snow and Ice Data centre’s website showed that the amount of winter ice was growing more slowly than any other year on record.
If this trend continues, next summer could well set another record decline. The arctic ice seems to be declining more rapidly in the last three years than in the decades before.
Global warming has led to a vicious circle. Loss of ice leads to a warmer arctic sea, which further melts the ice. While capitalist governments look at the eroding polar ice cap as an opportunity to drill for more oil, the warming seas will accelerate the decline of the three kilometre thick Greenland ice sheet.
A number of sources and studies show the same trends. Last week, Science journal published a report showing that the Greenland ice sheet is losing its mass faster than in previous years and is making an increasing contribution to sea level rise. Although not an immediate prospect, the loss of this ice sheet would raise sea levels seven metres and completely re-model the world, submerging most of its population centres. Even a one metre rise over the next few decades would inundate many cities, including London, Paris and New York.
Despite the evidence of the North Pole ice cap melting at record rates, a posse of climate change deniers continue to hang around TV and radio stations, the latest appearing on the BBC Radio Four Today programme on Thursday 12 November. Ian Plimer, who began his Today interview with a string of misleading, scientifically inaccurate and false statements, is a professor of mining geology and a director of three Australian mining companies.
Conflict of interest
Plimer fears that the Australian government’s efforts to curb global warming would "probably destroy" the Australian mining industry but denies a conflict of interest in his opposition to the science of climate change. On the Today programme he claimed that most carbon emissions come from volcanoes but in fact carbon dioxide emissions from transport and industry worldwide are more than one hundred times greater.
On a left-leaning popular US chat show, the Daily Show, on 3 November - just as the polar ice cap set its new record - John Stewart’s guest was Al Gore, former US vice president and now an environmental campaigner.
Gore admitted that the means to stop global warming have existed for decades, but the problem is "political". Stewart hinted at the culpability of Exxon-Mobil, and Gore conceded that such companies, making their profit from burning coal and oil, fought against the science and government moves to pass legislation to stop global warming. Gore only concluded that governments just have to "make the right choices". What was implicit was that you can’t control what you don’t own and the top multinationals are out of public control.
Neither Gore nor Stewart would advocate that these multinationals should be brought under public ownership. The energy and transport industry should be nationalised and placed under democratic control, so that its polluting activities can be halted and a national (and indeed international) plan of production be drawn up based on renewable energy.
But a genuine socialist government will be necessary to bring these companies into public ownership. There is an urgent need to build support for socialism.