China’s CO2 emissions are soaring. But in Monthly Review’s world, they are ‘flattening’

April 13, 2021

Lord help us. While China’s coal use keeps rising, and its government plans for that to continue, there are still “Marxists” out there trying to convince us that China is leading the world to a clean, green “ecological civilisation”.

It’s the editors of Monthly Review in the United States that I’m talking about. They have just published (on line here) an exchange between Richard Smith, me and themselves about this.

My involvement in this started when I had a go at one of Monthly Review’s editors, John Bellamy Foster, on this blog. I wrote that:

□ Foster’s optimism about the Chinese Communist Party leading a “world ecological revolution” was misplaced;

□ His claim that China has made “significant steps toward a more sustainable development” was empty, given the way that the Chinese government has in the last 20-odd years – with full knowledge of the global warming danger – overseen the greatest coal-fired economic boom in history;

□ “Talk of [China’s] massive promotion of wind and solar technology’, without discussing it in this context [of the gigantic coal mountain], is a monstrous delusion”.

The underlying problem is that we live in different worlds. In the MR editors’ world, the Chinese government is part of the solution. In the world I live in, it’s part of the problem.

The exchange in Monthly Review on line has not shifted my view. And here are a few more thoughts in response.

■ The MR editors refer to “evidence provided in our March Notes from the Editors that China is flattening out its carbon emissions”. There is no such evidence. There is a link to Climate Action Tracker, which wrote:

In the last few years, there had been hopeful signs that China’s CO2 emissions were flattening. However, CO2 emissions rose in 2018 and 2019, and we estimate 2020 GHG emissions will increase by 0.8% in our upper bound and decrease by 7.7% in our lower bound compared to 2019 levels, with most of the drop due to the pandemic.

Unfortunately, Climate Action Tracker’s guarded optimism has not been borne out. Chinese statistics, released since that summary was written, show that CO2 emissions rose by 1.5% in 2020, despite the coronavirus pandemic.

So China may be “flattening out its carbon emissions” in MR’s world. But in the real world, they are still going up. The main driver is China’s “dirty recovery” from the pandemic, according to China energy researcher Lauri Myllyvirta of Carbon Brief.

China’s president Xi Jinping has repeatedly stated that CO2 emissions will peak by 2030. Many, but far from all, analysts think this target could be reached. But the problem is the target itself, and the Paris agreement of which it forms part. It allows for a frightful amount of climate damage.

This graph, from an earlier post, shows China’s coal consumption (red line), compared to its renewables consumption (green line)

■ The MR editors once again portray China’s coal dependence as a primarily external factor. They couldn’t bring themselves to mention e.g. that China generated 53% of the world’s coal-fired electricity in 2020, or that it approved 46 GW of new coal-fired plants last year. (That is, China just last year approved construction of half as much coal-fired power generation again as Poland’s total). Instead, they underlined:

[China] now has the world’s largest high-efficiency (“clean”) coal power system, with “ultra-low emissions technology” incorporated into 80 per cent of its coal-fired plants, which are more efficient in reducing emissions than coal plants in the US.

Even the sharpest-eyed MR readers might have thought that those “emissions” were the same “emissions” the article had talked about all along – CO2 emissions. They are not. They are sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions.

In the short term, it’s brilliant news that these will be blocked by ultra-low emissions (ULE) technology. That helps to reduce the number of lives cut short by air pollution. And of course it is true that new, more efficient plants use slightly less coal to produce the same amount of electricity.

Read the rest of this entry »

Strategies for the new climate war

April 6, 2021

Review of The New Climate War: the fight to take back our planet, by Michael E. Mann (London: Scribe Publications, 2021). By Simon Pirani

Fossil fuel companies, right-wing plutocrats and oil-funded governments “can no longer insist, with a straight face, that nothing is happening”, Michael Mann writes. Outright denial of the physical evidence of climate change is no longer credible.

So they have shifted to a softer form of denialism while keeping the oil flowing and fossil fuels burning, engaging in a multipronged offensive based on deception, distraction and delay. This is the new climate war, and the planet is losing (page 3).

The enemy’s weapons in this new war, Mann argues, include greenwash, illusory technofixes such as capturing carbon from the air, and deflecting attention on to individual behaviour instead of what companies do.

The Climate Action Tracker thermometer

Mann, a climatologist at the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute at Penn State University in the US, was in the old climate war, too. He was lead author of a 1999 article featuring the now-famous “hockey stick” graph, showing that temperatures ramped sharply upwards in the late 20th century, out of the range of the previous 1000 years.

In 2001, after the graph appeared in the Third Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate science deniers orchestrated a public hate campaign against its authors, and others who worked with them.

Read the rest of this entry »

There’s still time to stop the climate-trashing Silvertown Tunnel

March 24, 2021

As the UK prepares to host international climate negotiations in November, London’s local authority is pressing ahead with a £2 billion-plus climate-trashing tunnel project that is incompatible with decarbonisation.

The Greater London Authority’s Silvertown Tunnel, together with the government’s £27 billion motorway upgrade scheme, makes a mockery of the UK’s claim to be “leading the way” on tackling climate change.

The tunnel project also shows that climate hypocrisy is bipartisan: it’s the biggest spending decision this decade by Labour’s most powerful elected official, London mayor Sadiq Khan. Labour,

Anti-tunnel demonstrators in Greenwich, September 2019

like the Tories, talks “green” – while piling up the most frightful problems for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The tunnel is deeply unpopular locally. The long list of opponents includes four local Labour MPs, four Labour-controlled local councils, eight Constituency Labour parties and 20 Labour branches, the Greens and Liberal Democrats in London, dozens of community, trade union and environmental organisations, groups of doctors and teachers, and a long list of researchers of climate science, air pollution and transport policy.

The tunnel, a terrible idea long before Covid-19, looks even worse now: long-term transport projections are being rewritten and Transport for London desperately needs financial and Read the rest of this entry »


Global heating, droughts and storms fuel violence against women

March 1, 2021

By ORTHALIA KUNENE, a South African writer and grass roots activist in her community

The fight against climate change is not only a struggle to keep our planet liveable. For many women, rising temperatures can be a direct cause of violence.

Understanding connections between heat and violence is increasingly important as we witness the warming of our planet, and anticipate more intense and longer-lasting heatwaves.

In most parts of South Africa, temperatures already often exceed 40°C.

While violence in South Africa has often been attributed to its unique historical, social and

Photo by Extinction Rebellion, Nelson Mandela Bay

economic characteristics, the potential contribution of physical environmental factors, such as heat, has largely been ignored.

But a study using data from all 1158 police wards in South Africa documented higher levels of violence, including homicides, during periods of high temperature.

In Tshwane, Gauteng Province, a study assessed five years of temperature and crime data – and found that the number of violent crime incidents was about 50% higher on high-temperature days, compared with low-temperature days and with random days selected from the dataset after the warmest and coldest days had been extracted.

Another study in the same area noted seasonal patterns in crime, with violence most frequent in the summer months.

Francina Nkosi, national coordinator for Women Affected by Mining United in Action (WAMUA), says: “Around the world, climate change-induced crises have been shown to worsen violence Read the rest of this entry »


1921-2021. The Kronshtadt revolt and the workers’ movement

February 26, 2021

One hundred years ago, on 1 March 1921, sailors at the Kronshtadt naval base took up arms against the Russian Soviet government. In 1917, those sailors were on the front lines of Russia’s two revolutions, which overthrew tsarist autocracy and the capitalist government that succeeded it. Those struggles brought to power the Soviet government, the first in the world claiming to rule on behalf of working people. (The soviets were workers’ councils.) After defeating the counter-revolutionary “Whites” in the civil war of 1919-20, that government’s Bolshevik leaders faced an explosion of protest by the very workers they claimed to speak for, that culminated in the Kronshtadt revolt. The movement demanded not only action against economic inequality, but also the restoration of the soviet democracy and free speech won in 1917. Today People & Nature publishes an article by Simon Pirani, describing the 1921 workers’ movement, its political aspirations, and how the Bolsheviks, by suppressing it, took a decisive step towards authoritarianism. The article builds on research for Pirani’s book, The Russian Revolution in Retreat: Soviet workers and the new communist elite (2008). CONTINUE HERE

Rebel sailors on the battleship Petropavlovsk, at Kronshtadt, during the March 1921 uprising. Photo: Granger Historical Picture Archive


Electric cars are no panacea. The government’s focus on them is a sham

February 23, 2021

By SIMON PIRANI

The UK government has put electric cars at the centre of its disastrous climate strategy, which doesn’t even aim for half the needed greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

The focus on electric cars – which goes together with a gigantic £27 billion road-building programme – is opposed by researchers of climate science, transport policy, engineering and urban planning. Their advice has in practice been ignored.

The Labour leadership is happy with the electric cars narrative, leaving researchers and campaigners outside parliament to point out that electrification, without an immediate, giant

The numbers need to go down

shift towards public transport, cycling and walking – and away from individually-owned cars – will never come close to decarbonising transport at any meaningful pace.

In the run-up to the international climate talks in Glasgow in November, it is vital that the government’s cynical PR strategy is unmasked.

Support for electric cars was a highlight of the government’s ten-point plan for a “green industrial revolution”, announced in November. Sales of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned from 2030 – that is, after the most vital decade for action on climate has already passed.

The plan includes a promise of about £2.8 billion to subsidise manufacture of, and infrastructure for, electric cars – just over one-tenth of the cost of the £27 billion national road-building Read the rest of this entry »


South Africa: communities remember anti-mining activist Mama Ntshangase, and organise

January 26, 2021

In South Africa, the state remains willing to sacrifice rural communities for its coal-fired development agenda, one that persists despite visible social and environmental devastation  and the growing threat of climate disaster. HALI HEALY writes in this guest post about the communities’ response

Vigils were held across South Africa last month for murdered anti-coal activist Mama Fikile Ntshangase, who was brutally gunned down in front of her teenage grandson on 22 October

The vigil outside the Minerals Council building in Johannesburg

2020. She had dared to oppose plans by coal mining company Petmin to expand operations in the Somkhele region of KwaZulu-Natal province.

Vigils serve multiple important social functions. Usually held at night, they are occasions for mourning that allow the bereaved to remember the significance of their loss. Vigils also can serve as protests, drawing public attention to travesties of justice. Or they can be understood as a collective response to tragedy, one that hopefully eases the visceral pain of grief, replacing it with a sense of peace, and in the process, offering some sort of societal lesson.

Despite being held in broad daylight, the vigil for Ntshangase in Johannesburg was all of these things.

Gathered under the searing mid-day sun, a small group of some 15-20 activists, most of them women, convened in front of the offices of the Minerals Council, a powerful industry association, in central Johannesburg.

Coordinated with the assistance of the Extinction Rebellion network, they came from Read the rest of this entry »


“Now and then the flame dies down, but solidarity is a stream of sparks”

January 18, 2021

ILYA SHAKURSKY, an antifascist political prisoner in Russia, appeals to you in this interview to write to him, and to others imprisoned in the infamous “Network” case. Please see a note at the end about where to send messages.

Tomorrow, Tuesday 19 January, is the anniversary of the assassination of antifascists Anastasia Baburova and Stanislav Markelov, who were shot dead in broad daylight in central Moscow in 2009. People will gather – in Moscow, to lay flowers at the place where they were killed, elsewhere on line – and we publish this article on several web sites simultaneously, to express solidarity.

The “Network” case began in Penza and St Petersburg in October 2017, when the Federal Security Service (FSB) started detaining young anarchists and antifascists, who

Ilya Shakursky

had supposedly participated in a terrorist group. The security services claimed that the young detainees were preparing terrorist acts, aimed at the presidential elections and the football World Cup in 2018 [which was staged in Russia].

It soon became clear that this “Network” organisation had been dreamed up by the FSB, and the confessions extracted from the alleged participants with the use of the most barbaric tortures. Details of the methods used, including electric shock batons, were published widely before the defendants were tried.

Nevertheless, the defendants were found guilty and sentenced – in January 2019 in St Petersburg, Igor Shishkin to three-and-a-half years’ detention; in February 2020, seven defendants in Penza, including Ilya Shakursky, to between six and 18 years; and in June 2020 in St Petersburg, Viktor Filinkov to seven years and Yulii Boyarshinov to five-and-a-half years.

In October 2020 an appeal by the Penza defendants was heard and rejected. An appeal by Viktor Filinkov is in progress.

All ten defendants are included in a list of 61 political prisoners compiled by Memorial, Russia’s largest human rights defence group.  

This interview with Ilya Shakursky, who is serving a 16 year sentence, is by Dmitry Semenov. It was published by Free Russia House, an “alternative embassy for Russian civil society” based in Kyiv, Ukraine, and by the Rupression collective that supports the “Network” case prisoners. (The questions were sent via Yelena Shakurskaya, Ilya’s mother, and answers received, via Yelena, in written form.)

 

Question: Do you feel the support from outside the prison system, and how important is it? Could you say something briefly to our readers and to people who support you?

Ilya Shakursky: It feels good to realise, every morning when they call out my surname and hand over letters I have received, that people remember me and continue to support me. At those moments, the grey monotony of imprisonment is broken up by different colours. It doesn’t matter whether the letter is a couple of lines or goes on like a whole essay. Just getting some news gives me strength and happiness. When I Read the rest of this entry »


A statement by the Rupression collective

January 18, 2021

Statement by the Rupression collective about ceasing financial support for two of the “network” case prisoners, 1 November 2020 [Original here.]

Dear readers of Rupression, and all those, who support political prisoners and express solidarity with the defendants in the “Network” case,

We have been compelled to take very difficult and complex decisions, and to formulate our position on supporting the defendants [in the case], due to their conduct with respect to the criminal case or separately from it.

First of all, the Rupression group is not a fund or an organisation, but a collective that came together spontaneously. People join, and leave, get burned out and then find new strength, and, sometimes, operate at the limits of what they are capable of. This Read the rest of this entry »


To remember is to fight!

January 18, 2021

Antifascists in Moscow will tomorrow (19 January) lay flowers at the place where on that day in 2009 the antifascists Anastasia Baburova and Stanislav Markelov were assassinated. A facebook post by the organisers said:

19 January 2021 is a day of memory and of struggle. On that day at 7.0pm we will lay flowers at the place where Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova died.

The Moscow mayor refuses to permit the traditional rally on the anniversary of Stas and Nastya’s death, due to coronavirus restrictions. A gathering to remember the

"Stop political murders. To remember is to fight!"

“Stop political murders. To remember is to fight!”

journalist [Baburova] and lawyer [Markelov] who died at the Nazis’ hands has been held every year for 12 years and has brought together people of many different views. The 19 January Committee declares:

Political repression and murder not only continue in our country but have gone into overdrive. Today their source, more and more often, is not the Nazis but the state.

Repression is unleashed on organisations who defend citizens’ rights from police terror and domestic violence, environmental groups and those opposed to property Read the rest of this entry »


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