And the World Keeps Burning

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In early 2001 Exxon sent a memo to the White House. The world's biggest private oil and gas company requested that the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change be 'replaced at the request of the US'.

The Bush administration obediently lobbied other countries in favour of a successor, Dr Rajendra Pachauri. Former US vice-president Al Gore dubbed Pachauri the 'let's drag our feet candidate'.

Last month Dr Pachauri belied these ignoble beginnings. He warned that global warming was nearing a point of no return, and called for immediate 'very deep cuts' in greenhouse gas emissions.

It is scandalous that it has taken world governments seven years to ratify the Kyoto climate change treaty, and even more so that the US and Australia still have not. Yet even if its targets were met - and most signatories are set to exceed their generous emissions quotas - it would deliver just a fraction of the huge reductions necessary to deal with this urgent threat.

We have already lost a quarter of our coral reefs, 40 percent of the thickness of the Arctic icesheet, and ever more species face extinction. Global warming increases the frequency and intensity of 'natural' disasters, threatens vital resources and spreads water-borne diseases. We cannot say exactly when 'runaway' global warming will be triggered - but the spike in atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide observed over the last two years suggests that we do not have long.

An immediate development of the huge potential for renewable energy sources, combined with the democratic planning of trade, transport, housing and services, are the only rational solutions to this pending crisis. Such a programme will not be on the neoliberals' agenda when the G8 meet - so it must be championed by the movement.