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GOING DOWN WITH THE FISHES
by Harry Karry (from SCHNews 143, 14 November 1997)
"The environmentalists are going to have to be like the mob in the square in Romania before they prevail." - Frank Mankiewicz, senior executive at multinational Public Relations firm Hill and Knowlton.
Greenpeace said it was a "tragic wasted opportunity", while the "death-row" industries who had done so much behind the scenes to wreck it, said it spelled the end to the American way of life. But, as the Kyoto summit on climate change finally ended, it was clear that if real change is ever going to happen the power of the multinational corporations that shape and control our world, will need to be seriously challenged.
"The carbon club members maintain that they are defending business and nation. But according to the UN's best estimates, the angry tide of climate changes will in time wash over economies, grabbing territory and laying waste with the ferocity of the most effecient invading army." - Dr. Jeremy Leggett, chair of governmental Solar Task Force.
The world's climate is in turmoil: floods in one region, droughts in another; record hurricanes and cyclones in the Caribbean and the Pacific; forest fires in Indonesia; disappearing glaciers in the Alps; diseases like Malaria and Dengue on the increase world-wide; endangered species losing their habitat; lower wheat and rice harvests; entire island nations like the Maldives or the Marshall Islands threatened. The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change coming to the conclusion that man-made greenhouse gases were contributing to global warming it is clear that action needs to be taken - and fast.
Yet 11 days of talks and the UK have agreed to legally binding targets to reduce CO2 emissions by 8%, Japan 7%, US 7% by 2008-12. Australia however is being allowed to increase emissions! But even these hopeless figures have been challanged by American senators, who promise to block its passage through the Senate.
Even more controversial are all the loop holes such as emissions trading, where countries can buy up other countries' quota of CO2 emissions. In effect the right to buy and sell permission to pollute if they are not using it themselves!
"Corporations use their economic power and resources to shape public opinion through think-tanks, public relations and propaganda. But this shaping is designed to go unnoticed, to alter perception, reshape reality and manufacture consent without their targets being even aware that it is happening." Says one Public Relations executive. "You never know when a PR agency is being effective; you're just find your views slowly shifting." Sharon Beder, lecturer and author.
With just 4% of the world's population, the US generates more than 20 per cent of the world's emissions of carbon dioxide, yet in the lead up to the summit a propaganda war, described as "one of the most successful and vicious of all time" has been waged to mislead and distort the truth about climate change.
A US consortium of 20 organisations launched a #10 million campaign of TV ads warning of job losses, tax rises and the end of the the American consumerist way of life if a meaningful treaty went ahead. With money no object, they could run rings around their opponents, fund right-wing think tanks that talked of global warming creating "a milder, greener, more prosperous world" and fund `greenhouse sceptic' scientists, who describe themselves as "independent" despite toeing the fossil-fuel line.
One of these consortiums is the Global Climate Coalition (GCC). It is made up of 50 trade associations and private companies representing almost every major US and European oil, motor, chemical, airline, electricity and plastic company, including BP, Shell, Chevron, Exxon, Ford Motor Company, and Mobil. In the run up to the summit it's activities included distributing to hundeds of journalists a video which claims that increased levels of carbon dioxide will increase crop production and help to feed the hungry people of the world!
But the fact is all these corporations care about is profit. John Gummer, former Conservative Environment Secretary commented "We are not talking about piddling trade negotiations over the price of beans here, we are talking about something serious - for example, whether Bangladesh and 36 small island states disappear below the sea. We are talking about the richest nation in the world playing games with the lives of the poorest." But what we are really talking about is multinational corporations with the politicians in the pockets, making sure profit as usual becomes before people and the planet.
* Climate Change Secretariat: http://www.unfccc.de/ (includes Protocol document)
"Global warming is being talked about as a problem in itself, not a symptom of the bigger problems. For nearly everyone here,this is just another foreign trip to a pretty Japanese city, not a place where the future of the Earth is being decided." Sean, York Earth First!
According to the UN $300 billion of taxpayers money has been used world wide in the last 20 years to prop up the fossil fuel and nuclear industries. In contrast, environmental solutions like solar electricity and wind power received only $15 billion. Likewise in the past few months BP and Shell in particularly have launched solar power programmes, but their commitments are less than a penny in every #100 that there are spending on looking for yet more oil.
* Centre for Alternative Technology, Llynwer Quarry, Pantperthog, Machynlleth, Powys, SY20 9AZ 01654 702400
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