Martin Empson

Upsetting the Offset

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Edited by Steffen Böhm and Siddhartha Dabhi, Mayfly Books, £10

The failure of the Copenhagen climate talks to reach agreement on limiting emissions has angered millions of people. But this masks a far greater systemic problem with strategies to deal with climate change. Following intensive lobbying by a US delegation to the Kyoto conference in 1992, led by Al Gore, market mechanisms, particularly carbon trading, became the favoured method for reducing pollution. These schemes are now worth billions of dollars but have had very little impact.

Climate change: Capitalism's inbuilt obsolescence

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The economic driving force of capitalism is the need to accumulate wealth - to make profits.

This drive to make money means that anything that increases costs, such as reducing pollution, will be resisted by those in charge. Investment in energy reduction or improved processes may have a long term logic, but in the short term they risk reducing a company's ability to compete for profit.

Capitalism and Climate Change: Accumulating Chaos

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As world leaders gather at the Cohenhagen summit to discuss climate change, Martin Empson argues that the market cannot save the planet - we need a mass movement.

Imagine a United Nations conference on the environment. It brings together representatives of every major economy, with NGOs and scientists. In the run up to the conference the participants have been locked in negotiations for over three months. There has been deadlock on almost every key point of the agreement. The president of the world's most powerful economy prevaricates about even attending. Afterwards proclamations from government leaders everywhere are issued claiming that the event marks a new beginning for the planet.

Green cuts

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The irrationality of capitalism was starkly exposed in April when, despite massively increasing its profits for the first three months of the year, the manufacturing company Vestas announced that it was to shed 1,900 jobs.

Of these, 450 were to go at its plant on the Isle of Wight.

Such a news item would perhaps not excite much comment in these difficult economic times - except that Vestas is the world's largest manufacturer of wind turbines. Given the urgent need to deal with climate change the announcement caused disbelief and anger throughout the environmental movement.

Plan B 3.0

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Lester R Brown, WW Norton, £10.99

There is a very real threat to human civilisation if climate change is allowed to get out of control. Our planet is already experiencing significant changes that give an indication of the problems to come. Billions of people face the possibility of premature death from disease, starvation, flooding or the wars that result as nations struggle for access to limited natural resources.

E is for Ecology

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The ecological relationship between human society and the planet's environment has become a major preoccupation for thousands of people around the world.

The extent to which we have already changed the world's climate and how much more we will change it is a matter hotly debated by the media and politicians.

Few would deny that humans have an impact on their environment - it is easy to see the connection between a dead fish and a toxic chemical leak into a river.

The Carbon Neutral Myth - Offset Indulgences for your Climate Sins

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Kevin Smith, Carbon Trade Watch

Every time a politician takes a flight these days, they are hardly off the aircraft steps before they boast that they have "offset" their emissions and made their flight carbon neutral. We can be safe in the knowledge that our leaders haven't made the environment any worse flying to the G8.

Carbon offsetting does seem too good to be true. After all, if you can really pay a third party to offset the consequences of the fossil fuel you have burnt driving your SUV around town, then we might not have to worry about climate change instead we can continue behaving exactly as we like.

The Myths of Nuclear Power

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The renowned anti-nuclear activist Helen Caldicott has written a new book entitled Nuclear Power is Not the Answer. She spoke to Martin Empson about her work.

ME: The British government claims that nuclear power is a "carbon neutral" form of energy generation, and so does not contribute to global warming. Can you explain why, as you argue in your book, this isn't the case?

Watching Them, Watching You

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Governments all over the world are trying to censor internet dissent.

The issue of censorship and the internet has once again reared its ugly head in the last month. Firstly the French authorities came under fire when, as the first days of rioting spread in Paris, they forced Skyblog, a French web hosting company, to close down three blogs that they alleged had posted messages inciting people to join the riots. Three young French men face prison for running these sites.

Interview with Charles Stross - the full text

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This is the full text of the interview referred to in Martin Empson's article Electric Reading in the November 2005 issue - it didn't appear in the printed edition.

Is it not strange for an author to post an entire, newly published book online. Surely your publishers must be up in arms about lost revenue?

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