21 May 2008

Corporate climate change complicity

In news that should come as no surprise to even casual readers of planet doom?, a recent study in Nature indicates that even with the relatively modest(!) ~0.5 degree or so of anthropogenic warming we've experienced [solar cycle magnitude is about 0.1 degrees], we are witnessing large changes to the planet's physical and biological systems. The damage is quite evident already:

Observed impacts included changes to physical systems, such as glaciers shrinking, permafrost melting, and lakes and rivers warming. Biological systems also were impacted in a variety of ways, such as leaves unfolding and flowers blooming earlier in the spring, birds arriving earlier during migration periods, and plant and animal species moving toward Earth's poles and higher in elevation. In aquatic environments such as oceans, lakes, and rivers, plankton and fish are shifting from cold-adapted to warm-adapted communities.

And the evidence of humankind's destructive path grows. Seemingly oblivious to the consequences, it seems likely that we are going to do next-to-nothing to prevent this calamity. Adaptation is to be our selected path. That has made clear. Our corporate leaders have dispatched their minions to 'manufacture uncertainty' about the climate (and other environmental issues, too...).

These act not just by creating doubt, but also by impugning the motives of scientists and researchers: They're out to protect their jobs,doing it for the $$$ (yeah, right), reveling in their 15 minutes of fame and the like...Other, more sinister theories as to the motives of climate scientists also exist. There are also attempts to formulate government policy, as well..

Why are the corporations complicit in the continuation climate change? What are their motives? First, some background.

A corporation is a soulless, non-human entity designed to make money. A collection of individuals equipped with all the human rights, but none of the responsibilities. It pursues financial rewards amorally, with a complete disregard for anything other than the bottom line. Corporations dominate the Global North; they exert enormous influence over the political process and define a significant fraction of mass culture through advertising and media control. They are legally bound to maximize profits. Their interests are not the same as the general populaces.

The harsh tactics arise for several reasons. On one level, near-term profits may decline if climate change mitigation efforts enacted. Some costs will be incurred. If the costs are too large or the changes demanded are too great, their position of power in society is threatened and the plan of extending corporate governance globally becomes harder to fulfill.

The rush for profits has already contributed to the ongoing global food crisis. Through the use of IMF and World Bank, corporations (and the bankers who run the numbers...) have warped global food production. Nations that were once self-sustaining for basic food production now require imports, provided by multinational conglomerate coroporations. And climate change offers the opportunity to extend this control(my emphasis):

BASF, Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, Dupont and biotech partners have filed 532 patent documents around the world for crops genetically altered to adapt to rising temperatures, the ETC Group's report says.

The companies are banking on climate change being the "silver lining" that shifts public perception of genetically altered crops, the report says. The companies see "an opportunity to assert that agriculture cannot win the war against climate change without genetic engineering," the report says. "In other words, industry claims that biotech crops will offer essential adaptation measures."

This kind of monopoly -- the top 10 seed companies control 57 percent of the global seed market, according to the report -- is damaging to the world food market because it limits what kind of research will occur and who will have access to the results, said Hope Shand, ETC's research director.

Revealing not only the profit motive behind maintaining the status quo, but also the long-term strategy. Controlling the world's food supply means control over who lives and dies.

Ultimately it's a fool's game, though. Doing nothing to mitigate climate change insures drastic changes to our world. Money will only protect from the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation for so long. Nature always bats last, and it doesn't like to lose. We must resist the 'easy' path of inaction and at least try to do something. It may be too late, but the path we are seemingly heading down guarantees failure.

1 comment:

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