[Marxism] The 4th Climate Report in light of the "yellow vest" protests vs Macron's carbon tax

jgreen at communistvoice.org jgreen at communistvoice.org
Thu Dec 6 10:37:00 MST 2018

The Fourth National Climate Assessment and
the "yellow vest" protests against gas price increases
-part one-
(from the Detroit/Seattle Workers' Voice list for Dec. 5, 2018)

The Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) was released Nov. 26 by a 
department of the federal government. (1) It comes a month after a Special 
Report from the UN´s climate agency on how time is running out to prevent utter 
disaster. (2) These reports paint a devastating picture of the dangers facing us. 
They provide abundant and documented evidence of the reality of human-caused 
climate change, and utterly refute the climate denialism of Donald Trump and the 
rightist know-nothings. While Trump´s minions encourage corporations to pollute 
at will, the NCA4 was put out by scientists who have a backbone. The NCA4 can´t 
criticize the government directly, but every word shows how Trump and the 
pro-corporate conservatives are lying sleazebags that, for their present 
enrichment, are threatening the basic conditions of human life.

But what does the report suggest we should do about the problem? It praises 
various measures currently being taken in the US to lower carbon emissions, 
talks about the "risks of inaction", and suggests we need to do more. But other 
than a fully justified skepticism about geoengineering, it has little to say about the 
failure of many of the current methods, and those proposed by capitalist 
politicians and corporate environmentalists, to live up to their promise. (3) For 
decades now, the pro-corporate environmentalists have advocated that market 
methods and pricing mechanisms should replace direct regulation of green house 
gas emissions. Has that worked or not? The NCA4 is, after all, a government 
report, and so it won´t say.

At the same time that the NCA4 was released, massive demonstrations were 
taking place in France against fuel tax increases. They have convulsed the 
country for over three weeks. These "yellow vest" protests (drivers in France are 
required to carry highly-visible vests in their cars for use in case of emergency) 
have the sympathy of millions of people in France, who see Macron´s version of 
the carbon tax as another round of intolerable austerity being inflicted upon them. 
The establishment environmentalists tell us that the carbon tax is what is needed 
to fight global warming, and the NCA4 says that "emissions pricing (that is, GHG 
emission fees or emissions caps with permit trading)" is one of the tools to be 
used to oppose global warming. The French government is using fuel price 
measures to enforce austerity, but it hides under the environmental pretext. So 
now the question of what should be done to deal with global warming - market 
measures or serious regulatory measures - is coming sharply to the fore. Do we 
need major economic planning and mass pressure on the capitalists to have 
serious measures to save the environment, or should environmentalists woo the 
big corporations with market measures, at the price of earning the hatred of 
millions of working people?

Carbon taxes, such as fuel price increases, are market measures. That´s why the 
market-worshiping and environment-destroying IMF and World Bank have been 
pushing the carbon tax for several years, and why ExxonMobil and various other 
major polluters have now come out in favor of it. The carbon tax is not a tax on 
energy company profits, but a sales tax passed on to the consumer; and it´s put 
forward as an alternative to economic regulation. It´s not especially effective, and 
it doesn´t provide for the development of mass transit or other ways to cut down 
on carbon emissions. It´s up to the market to develop the alternatives. This is not 
to say that some market measures don´t (or can´t) reduce carbon emissions a 
little, only that they have been (and will be) miserable failures in achieving 
sufficient reductions. Hence, at most, they can only be subordinate parts of 
something bigger, such as environmental regulations and economic planning, 
leading to a compulsory change of the energy infrastructure and of how industry 
and agriculture are conducted. However, to achieve such measures, one needs 
the enthusiastic cooperation of the workforce in forcing the corporations to obey 
the necessary regulations, and checking on whether they really do. (4)

The French demonstrations aren´t dominated by any political party, and have an 
amorphous character. They reflect the distress and anger of millions of people 
who are being squeezed, and they are not only about fuel price increases but 
other austerity measures. Environmentalism has to make a choice. Either side 
with the struggle of the masses for a decent life, or side with the corporations and 
the measures that they prefer. The fate of the earth may hinge on the answer.


(1) The Climate Report is from the US Global Change Research Program. It´s 
available at https://www.globalchange.gov/nca4.
(2) The UN report is from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
(3) See, for instance, "Al Gore´s Nobel Peace Prize and the fiascos of corporate 
environmentalism", http://www.communistvoice.org/41cAlGore.html.
(4) See "The coming of the environmental crisis" at 

By Joseph Green, Detroit Workers´ Voice <>

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