Sep 14, 2017
Hurricane Harvey and the flooding that followed left a trail of devastation in Houston and the surrounding area. People who survived it face new dangers from what that storm destroyed: water systems, sewage systems, electrical systems, etc.
But Harvey wasn’t an isolated event. It was the third massive storm and flooding to hit the Houston area in three years. And behind Harvey came Hurricane Irma; and behind Irma, Jose; and behind Jose, tropical storm Katia.
Irma itself is a storm that, in terms of its intensity and size combined, was the worst hurricane on record to hit the Atlantic. Roaring through the Caribbean, it left some islands submerged; others with almost all structures destroyed; much of Puerto Rico, Haiti and Cuba without electricity for days, and perhaps weeks.
Irma became so large that all of Florida, from the Pacific to the Atlantic coast was put under a mandatory evacuation order, as was most of coastal Georgia and the Carolinas. And Irma continues to threaten massive weather events far inland as it goes north.
The size, destructiveness and rapidity of these massive storms raises a question: why are we being hit by them, one after the other?
Some people say it’s just the hurricane season. Well, yes, hurricanes hit every year around this time. And there have certainly been horrible hurricane seasons before.
But it would be foolish to ignore reality; foolish not to consider what has been done to the earth’s climate.
The average temperature of Earth has been gradually increasing for well over 100 years – in a trend that goes in the opposite direction of what the earth in its usual climate cycle would be doing. Instead of getting cooler – as it should be – Earth is getting warmer as pollution increases. Warmer temperatures have melted polar ice, raised water levels in coastal areas, raised the temperatures of oceans, created tinder like conditions in dry areas, and put more moisture into the atmosphere in others. All of this carries the possibility of massive fires in desert country and greater precipitation and more massive storms in wet landscapes.
Of course, any of the recent hurricanes, no matter how enormous, might have happened without climate warming. Just like any individual person might get lung cancer without smoking. But the accumulation of evidence absolutely establishes the link between smoking and cancer. And the accumulation of evidence from around the world establishes a link between pollution and higher temperatures; a link between increased heat and the increased frequency of massive storms.
A reasonable society would put its resources into reducing the human causes of climate change. A reasonable society would research and put in place alternative ways of organizing agricultural production, generating energy, and of producing and transporting goods and people.
Of course, there still would be storms. But why would any rational society act in ways to increase their likelihood and their destructiveness?
Yes, there would be storms, but a reasonable society would refuse to let developers harm the very environment that can prevent coastal flooding. And it would require that construction go on in ways that reinforce the natural protection, rather than destroy it. It would pour money into climate research, and into research of how to produce while minimizing or eliminating pollution.
But we do not live in a reasonable society. In this one we live in – capitalist society – profit comes first. Let the climate be damned.
Humanity could deal with climate in a rational way. The scientific knowledge has been accumulated to let us do that. But we could deal with climate scientifically and rationally only if this wilful, blind, outdated and murderous capitalist system is replaced by a collective one, organized to meet the needs of the population.
That means only if the working class – of this country and others – uses its forces and role in production to carry out its own revolution.