At the beginning of June, the General Secretary of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon, published the report ‘Reducing the risks of catastrophe; world balance sheet 2009'. This document highlights the growing risk to the environment posed by global warming and by anarchic urbanisation in certain regions of the world.
Between 1975 and 2008, 8,866 natural catastrophes killed 2,284,000 people around the world. The number of victims of floods or storms has in the past 30 years gone from 740 million to 2.5. billion people. In 2008, more than 300 natural catastrophes led to 236,000 deaths and directly affected more than 200 million people. All this according to the figures published by the UN, which in a big display of international solidarity is calling on all governments to struggle more effectively against the "underlying" risks of these events. "We all know that the poor and the developing countries are the ones who suffer the most from catastrophes and three quarters of those who die as a result of floods lived in three Asian countries: Bangladesh, China and India" writes Ban Ki-moon.
Moreover, while the Arab countries are presently suffering less from the effects of these disasters, the rise in sea levels poses a direct and short-term threat to Bahrain, Egypt and Djibouti. And the other Arab countries which aren't threatened by the sea are threatened by drought.
The ecological and economic impact of climate change is already killing people in large numbers. A report made public by the ‘World Humanitarian Forum', a foundation whose president is the former UN General Secretary Kofi Annan, re-evaluates the effects of climate change. Because it's not only a very serious threat for the future, with 250 million ‘climate refugees' predicted by 2050, but also a major contemporary crisis which is already killing 300,000 people a year around the world.
More than half of the 300,000 deaths are the result of malnutrition. Then come the health problems, because global warming serves to propagate numerous diseases. Thus, 10 million new cases of malaria, resulting in 55,000 deaths, have been identified. These victims join the 3 million people who die each year from this disease. Here again the populations of the poorer countries are the most affected because they are the last to have access to the necessary medicines.
The rise in temperatures attested by all serious scientists has a direct impact on agricultural yields and access to water, and this again hits the poor first and foremost. The severe degradation of the environment and the resulting turmoil for the climate (floods, storms, cyclones, etc) directly affect at least 325 million people, or a 20th of the world's population.
The experts who consider that these figures are going to double over the next 20 years are anticipating the most grave humanitarian crisis in human history.
In the face of this expected catastrophe, what is the bourgeoisie really doing? The OECD (Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development), an organism which is habituated to facile optimism and a ‘things will be better tomorrow' approach, has had to admit that at least a third of development aid programmes are not working, while the World Humanitarian Forum estimates that to cancel out the most sombre predictions, you would have to spend 100 times more than the money actually allotted to dealing with the problems.
Result: the new projections contained in the Journal of Climate of the American Meteorological Society now predict a 5.25% rise in temperature by the year 2100, with a probability rating of 90%. This would raise sea levels by nearly a metre!
In 2003, the same study, but based on less developed techniques, only predicted an average rise of 2.4%. The difference between the two calculations shows the extent to which the ruling class, while trying to draw up models for the future voyages of its ship, is actually sailing blind. However much it calls on states to put plans of action into place, the irrational logic of its system can only push it towards destruction.
Thus, although new post-Kyoto negotiations have been opened up by the UN, a report by Christian Aid estimates that 182 million human beings in Africa will die between now and 2100 as a direct result of climate change.
Faced with this perspective, and faced with its inability to deal with the problem, the bourgeoisie is resorting to making the population and the workers in particular feel guilty about it. We are told over and over again that global warming is the result of our life-styles in the developed countries. Calculations made by scientists appointed by capitalism show us that a Westerner consumes 11 times more energy than an inhabitant of the South, and that half of the world's emissions of CO2 derive from the countries of the North (24% of the world total by the US, 10% for the eurozone). Thus, the workers of the developed countries should stay poor or become poor in order to conserve the planet; and instead of thinking about fighting against their exploiters, should brush their teeth in the same water they use for washing up or use the same bathwater ten times over. We know that the situation many of us live in is a luxurious one compared to what billions of people have to put up with around the world. But this is precisely what is so disgusting about the propaganda of the bourgeoisie: they want the misery and horror faced by the majority of the world's population to be inflicted on everyone.
The exploited class has no choice but to fight for its interests, because it is this struggle alone which can save the planet by putting an end to a system which has become a veritable social disaster for the human race!