Yet, the political leaders of the major capitalist economies failed to agree on any meaningful action on this question at the recent G8 meeting in Japan.
Instead they issued a vague commitment to 50% cuts in global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2050. Well that's something, you might say, but even this pledge is flawed. Firstly, there is no stated base year for the 50% cut.
Secondly, only the G8 countries have agreed to this latest proposal and they haven't said how it is to be shared between developing and developed nations. Mexico, Brazil, China, India and South Africa have demanded that the G8 cut their own greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80%, accusing them of not taking account of the needs of growing economies.
The US is to convene a meeting including these countries and other major CO2 emitters but a draft statement doesn't mention quantified targets, only that "deep cuts in global emissions will be necessary".
However, the major capitalist countries can't even agree modest reductions amongst themselves - they want to protect their own national interests and not concede any economic advantage to their rivals. The EU countries already accuse Canada and Japan of fudging the targets as their emissions have risen considerably since the 1990s.
What is more, no interim targets have been announced. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2007 report, global emissions are supposed to peak and start reducing by 2015 to avoid runaway global warming, but this wasn't even mentioned.
The House of Commons environmental audit committee has backed scientific advice that there have to be 80-95% cuts in CO2 emissions by 2050. Friends of the Earth said: "Setting a vague target for 42 years' time is utterly ineffectual in the face of the global catastrophe we all face".
In reality big business and the multi-national corporations are calling the shots. For them profit is the bottom line - Shell have already abandoned the majority of their alternative technology development projects because they are raking in record profits from the high price of oil.
The president of the European Commission calls the G8 announcement "a strong signal to citizens around the world" and "a new shared vision". But their vision is shared with big business - it's about how to maintain their profits and the future is for someone else to worry about.
However, for most people on the planet, for the billions of ordinary workers, poor farmers and unemployed - many of whom already suffer the effects of global warming - this isn't enough. To solve these problems, we need to begin building a socialist alternative to the big business policies associated with the G8. We need to change the system, not the climate.
KEN DOUGLAS, SOCIALIST PARTY , CWI BRITAIN16 JULY 2008