Global warming underlies India’s “giant agrarian crisis”

November 29, 2018

Farmers on the march as drought pummels productivity

A guest post by NAGRAJ ADVE, first published in The Wire (India)

A few years ago, a group of us from Delhi, along with members of the Gujarat Agricultural Labour Union and the International Union of Foodworkers, went to eastern Gujarat to speak to farmers about how a changing climate could be affecting their livelihoods. We found that warmer winters, particularly higher night-time temperatures, had resulted in a reduced or complete absence of dew. This was adversely affecting the rabi crop.

“Winters have been getting less cold for about 7-8 years,” a group of farmers told us in Jer Umaria, Panchmahal district. “Our wheat production has halved. The dew does not fall anymore.”

Village after village in Panchmahal, being unable to afford wells and with poorly developed water markets in this predominantly Adivasi belt, most marginal farmers faced sharply reduced yields thanks to lesser dew. Many were forced to leave their land fallow.

Rising temperatures have also been impacting agriculture in faraway Sikkim, but differently. Across the Hindu Kush Himalaya, the average temperature has risen by 1.24º C in 1951‒2014, about twice as much as India’s average rise over the same period.

A demonstration by farmers on 2 October on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border. Photo: PTI/ Arun Sharma

Together with a steep rainfall decline in the Northeast – 15% below normal over the last 20 years – and prolonged dry spells, this has left many mountain springs with lower discharge, if they haven’t dried up entirely.

As a result, “the productivity of crops has drastically declined,” Ghanashyam Sharma, Head, The Mountain Institute India, Gangtok, said. “In Pendam, East Sikkim district, many farmers now cannot cultivate wet rice due to water scarcity. Its impacts are unequal [–] Read the rest of this entry »

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The climate fire raging under the international political system

October 8, 2018

Review of Climate Leviathan: a political theory of our planetary future, by Geoff Mann and Joel Wainwright (London: Verso, 2018)

What are the real political prospects, as the world hurtles towards global warming? Not our hopes or desires, but really possible changes – good, bad and horrible – starting from where we are now?

Geoff Mann and Joel Wainwright, researchers of political theory who have been actively

Photo: Mikael Miettinen, creative commons

engaged in the “climate justice” movement for many years, address these questions in this thought-provoking book.

There are two fundamental ways to divide the options, they argue (pp. 28-29). First, whether the future economic order will be capitalist or not. Second, “whether a coherent planetary sovereign will emerge, that is, whether sovereignty will be reconstituted for the purposes of planetary management.” By “planetary sovereign” they Read the rest of this entry »


Heathrow: “jobs vs climate action” is a false choice. Reject it

June 28, 2018

Parliament’s vote for a third runway at Heathrow airport shows how far the Labour party is from putting together economic policies combining social justice and action to curb global warming.

More than 115 Labour MPs – well over half the parliamentary party – voted for Heathrow expansion on Monday, ignoring a warning in the debate by the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, that it posed “a threat to the planet”.

McDonnell, a long-standing opponent of Heathrow expansion, said that, if a legal challenge by local councils and Greenpeace failed, an “iconic, totemic” battle would be unleashed to stop the project. The Vote No Heathrow group is already gearing up for such a battle.

Before the vote, Len McCluskey, leader of the Unite union – a big financial donor to Labour and supporter of Jeremy Corbyn in internal political battles – wrote to MPs urging them to support Heathrow expansion.

It is the false choice that McCluskey hinted at in his letter – that if the workers’ movement participates Read the rest of this entry »


Social justice and ecological disaster: Red Green Study Group comments

June 28, 2018

Integrated strategies to face the crisis in relations between society and nature – “essentially, the dynamics of capitalist economic relations” – have been proposed to Labour by the Red Green Study Group in the UK.

In a response to the Labour Party’s National Policy Forum consultation, Environment, Energy and Culture: A Greener Britain, the group says a “combined approach” to tackling poverty, inequality and environmental degradation is vital.

The whole response is attached as a PDF here. Or you can read it on line on the Red Green Labour blog here. Or download it from the Labour party site here.

The group’s summary says:

This response is the result of prolonged discussion among members of the RED-GREEN STUDY GROUP, which has been working since 1992 on bringing together green, socialist and feminist thinking.

Contributors include trade unionists, members of the Labour Party, members of the Green Party and unaffiliated socialists. Our commitment to producing this response arose from the renewal of hope given by the election of Jeremy Corbyn and the new leadership of the Party.

Our response covers a wide range of topics, across transport, industrial production, farming and food, fishing, biodiversity, planning, energy production and conservation, climate change, health, education Read the rest of this entry »


Memo to Labour. Let’s have energy systems integration for the many

May 17, 2018

The UK electricity system needs “radically different forms of grid planning and operation” if it is to stop using fossil fuels, researchers at the Energy Futures Lab at Imperial College argue in a briefing paper published last month.

“A whole systems approach is required, in which one single party has responsibility for optimising technical performance across the system”, Richard Hanna and his colleagues say in the paper, entitled Unlocking the Potential of Energy Systems Integration (see p. 24).

The briefing paper outlines the technological potential for moving away from fossil fuels by integrating and decentralising energy systems, using, mainly, smart computers and cutting-edge

An integrated system will make it practical and possible for solar panels to go on many roofs

methods of switching between forms of energy. It summarises, in language comprehensible by a general readership, the findings of a big pile of technical reports and research articles by engineers.

I hope the Energy Futures Lab’s findings will be read by everyone interested in putting together socialist approaches to the transition away from fossil fuels: trade union militants in the energy sector, climate campaigners, eco-socialists, and so on. In particular, I hope they will be taken into account by those discussing energy and environment policies for the Labour Party in the UK.

Only by putting the technological transformation of energy production and consumption at the centre of our discussions will be able to work out how we can best change the ownership of, and control over, the system. We need to challenge the corporate control of the technologies, and make Read the rest of this entry »


Will Labour’s climate policy rely on monstrous techno-fixes like BECCS?

March 12, 2018

Will a future Labour government perpetuate myths about monstrous techno-fixes for climate change? Or advocate radical policies to deal with global warming that don’t heap the pain on the global south, and industrial strategies to hasten the transition away from a fossil-fuel-centred economy?

This question was raised – by implication, anyway – at the Campaign Against Climate Change conference in London on Saturday. The 200 people present heard essentially opposing answers from

Photo by Garry Knight under a Creative Commons Licence

Barry Gardiner, Labour’s front-bench spokesman on climate change, and Asad Rehman, chief executive of War on Want.

The contrasting approaches were starkly evident when a question was asked from the floor about Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) – an untried technology on which the world’s most powerful governments are relying heavily to claim they are on course to meet their climate targets.

Basically, BECCS would involve growing plants, burning them in power stations, and then capturing the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted and storing it somewhere. (See also “Quick technological catch-up” below).

Despite the fact that BECCS has never been used anywhere yet, the latest (fifth) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report has included huge amounts of it in its scenarios that plot how the world economy could move away from dangerous global warming. To make the numbers add up, Read the rest of this entry »


The Earth and us: ways of seeing

February 13, 2018

Review of: Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, The Shock of the Anthropocene: the Earth, history and us (London: Verso, 2017)

Think again, and differently, about the relationship between human society and the natural world. That is the challenge offered by Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz.

They question accepted ideas about “environmental crisis” and “sustainable development”, and urge

A visual representation of geological time. From the Smithsonian Institution.

us to subvert the “unifying grand narrative of the errant human species and its redemption by science alone”.

But this is not an iconoclastic rant. It is a scholarly discussion of the science behind the Anthropocene concept, and its implications for history, for the study of society, and for our ideas about the world in the broadest sense.

A central theme is the reflection of the terrifying accumulation of damage to the natural world by human activity over the past two centuries in the history of ideas. The dominant trends, to divide natural history from human history and to push the natural world out of economics, have been resisted.

The fact of the Anthropocene, Bonneuil and Fressoz argue, requires a new synthesis of forms of knowledge. They avoid offering any simplistic, pat “solution” to the disastrous rift between human society and the natural world. Instead, they point to new ways of looking at it that, collectively, may help us to change it.

This review summarises the authors’ explanation of the Anthropocene concept; considers their points Read the rest of this entry »