Global warming causes global heat waves – Workers World
Fiddle while the Northern Hemisphere burns, roasts, melts and drowns. That’s what’s happening in Washington, DC, now. (In a few months, it will be the turn of the southern hemisphere, which is now experiencing winter.)
While global warming/climate change has remained abstract until now, this summer has brought meaning back to billions of people, who have now glimpsed the future. And rest assured, there is worse to come.
Conditions this summer produced record high temperatures that claimed thousands of lives from triple-digit temperatures in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America. Some of the record temperatures include, for example: England, 104 F; Spain, 115 F; Portugal, FRF 117; Seattle, 108 F; Portland, Oregon, 116F; British Columbia, Canada, 121F; India 123 Francs; Iraq 125 F; and China 111 F.
Worse, in many places these record high temperatures continued unabated for days. In Austin, Texas, temperatures exceeded 100 F for 54 days. In Jacobabad, Pakistan, temperatures of 121 F combined with high humidity made daytime work deadly.
Hundreds of millions of people have to endure without air conditioning, some because those temperatures are unheard of where they live, and some even lack electricity to run fans. Many more do not have air conditioners due to poverty, lack of electricity, or because their housing structures are inadequate to support these cooling units. Worse still, millions of workers must continue to work despite the scorching heat, as their livelihoods are at stake.
In some parts of the world, climate migrants have already left their traditional homes in search of more habitable land.
It is not only very high temperatures that cause great suffering. There have been devastating wildfires in France, Greece, Portugal and the western United States. And France, Portugal and the western United States are experiencing long-term, widespread droughts. Flooding raged in Kentucky and South Asia, following larger and more frequent storms.
Intense heat waves melted the road surfaces. Forests are being destroyed by fires and pest infestations. Hundreds of thousands of homes and millions of acres of crops are burned down; water supplies are drying up and wildlife are being driven from their traditional habitats. Soon, hurricanes will blow over the Caribbean and the North Atlantic.
South Asia: record heat
South Asia is home to over 2 billion people. Countries in the region include Pakistan with a population of 220 million, India, home to 1.4 billion people, and Bangladesh, home to 165 million people. Many people living in South Asia earn less than $2 a day; if they don’t work, they starve. Most people in this area experience the very hot weather and can usually handle it.
Beginning in March, earlier than usual, temperatures in South Asia rose so high that birds fell from the sky as the warm air failed to provide enough lift for their wings. The temperature got so hot in the spring – the hottest on record in India – that on April 26, the Bhalswa landfill, which handles around half of Delhi’s waste, caught fire. Thick clouds of noxious black smoke filled the air. Previous fires in Bhalswa were quickly extinguished, but this fire burned for weeks.
Brahmdeep Sindhu, chief medical officer at the civilian hospital outside Delhi, told The New Yorker magazine: “We are heading for a warmer and more dangerous world. We have damaged the environment so much. Now the environment is hurting us. (July 25)
This heat wave ended with torrential rains, earlier than the usual summer monsoons and much more abundant. Over 2,000 villages in India were actually submerged. Mawsynram, a village in the northeast of the country, received nearly 40 inches of rain in one day. Thousands of homes, roads, bridges, schools and other public facilities have been damaged or destroyed. (Inside Climate News, August 2)
What can be done
These are today’s weather conditions. What can be done about them?
The approaches fall broadly into two categories of action: 1) reduce and eventually eliminate the burning of fossil fuels – oil, gas, coal; find ways to increase carbon uptake – plant millions of trees, stop cutting down forests and develop sustainable/regenerative farming practices; and 2) develop effective warning systems and build landscape resilience and critical infrastructure.
Unfortunately, many climate change processes are already impacting the Earth, with melting glaciers and ice caps, changes in major ocean currents and extreme weather events. These will not stop, even if or when greenhouse gas emission levels stop rising.
What is the powerful US government – whose primary mission is to preserve and expand American capitalism – doing in the face of this crisis? Washington’s efforts can best be described as ineffective and belated. Take the Inflation Reduction Act, now ready for the final vote in Congress.
“A Faustian Market”
This package includes billions of dollars in tax credits and subsidies to save the climate and support “green energy” producers. Yet the hypocrisy and cynicism of this bill is staggering. Forbes Magazine, a ruling class organ, calls the bill a Faustian bargain: “The trade-offs in the Cut Inflation Act of 2022 between climate protections and fossil fuel interests could be disastrous for offshore wind projects and for solar and wind farms on federal lands”. (August 3)
This legislation is not the result of the normal process of manipulation and negotiation by competing factions of the ruling class. Instead, the bill is the product of a process that contains provisions ensuring that the huge profits of the fossil fuel industry would continue, while intentionally crippling the green energy sector.
The trick is to tie leases for new wind and solar projects on public lands and offshore sites to the granting of leases for secured fossil fuel projects. In fact, fossil fuel leases must be sold within one year before green projects can be leased. Billions of acres of federal land the size of entire states must first be offered for oil, gas and coal development!
These giant criminal enterprises are not so interested in new, uncertain investments. This new legislation seems to jeopardize the timely launch of green projects, which are essential now!
Workers take action
The climate crisis affects workers everywhere. The Teamsters Union, which represents UPS’s 240,000 drivers and material handlers, is leading a fight for UPS to mitigate the effects of heat on working conditions. A video showing a UPS driver collapsing in the heat in Scottsdale, Arizona has gone viral.
Workers are calling on the company to provide water to every truck and warehouse and give drivers cooling neck towels and uniforms suitable for hot weather. They demand that drivers be allowed to work at a pace that allows them to take breaks.
Teamsters Local 804, which represents New York’s UPS drivers, held protests to build support for this campaign. Progressive forces should support these workers and build a united struggle against corporate greed and the destruction of the planet.