Mon Dec 04, 2023
December 04, 2023

Global warming: extreme heat and capitalism

Major heat waves and record temperatures are being recorded in various parts of the world. In the U.S. state of Texas, the temperature reached 50 °C (122 °F). But the heat has also extended its reach to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

By: Jeferson Choma

Extreme heat puts especially elderly people, construction workers, mail carriers, couriers, and homeless people at risk.

“This is deadly heat, especially for poor and working-class people. Farmworkers and day laborers need to work outdoors just to survive, but risk heat stroke under the oppressive condition,” explains an article in Worker’s Voices/La Voz de los Trabajadores, a North American organization sympathetic to the International Workers League (LIT-CI).

In light of the increasing instances of extreme heat, trade union and social movement organizations are demanding measures to guarantee the protection of workers, such as the suspension of work on days of extreme heat and the installation of air conditioning.

High temperatures around the world

The northern United States has also been affected by smoke from forest fires in Canada, where more than 80,000 km2 (30,888 square miles) of forest has burned, an area 50 times larger than the city of São Paulo.

Scientists warn that temperatures could rise further after July 18. An alert has been activated for Greece, Italy, Spain, Morocco, and other Mediterranean countries that have been facing sweltering heat. On July 16, Iran’s Persian Gulf International Airport in Iran recorded a temperature of 66.7 °C  (152° F).

For several weeks, regions of China, including the capital Beijing, have also been suffering from intense heat combined with heavy rainfall. On the 16th, the country reached 52 °C. In Japan, the meteorological agency recommended precautionary measures for the population when temperatures were to climb to 40 °C  (104 ° F).

Brazil: rains and cyclone

In Brazil last week, an extratropical cyclone left more than one million people in the southern region without electricity. With winds of approximately 140 km/h (87 mph), the cyclone registered as an F1 hurricane, the lowest on the scale. Since the beginning of 2023, three cyclones have hit the South, leaving 19 people dead. In addition to the cyclone, torrential rains last week displaced 27,000 inhabitants of Alagoas and Pernambuco.

The hottest week in history

All this is happening at a time when planet Earth has recorded its hottest week on record. With a global average temperature of 17.23°C (63° F), July 6 was the hottest day ever documented, according to data from the U.S. National Centers for Environmental Prediction, linked to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), extreme heat is one of the deadliest weather phenomena. Last summer, in Europe alone, high temperatures caused more than 60,000 deaths, according to a survey published in the medical journal Nature Medicine.

Even in the middle of winter in the Southern Hemisphere, intense heat caused Antarctica’s sea ice to reach its smallest extent in the month of June, at 17% below average. The heat on the frozen continent may accelerate the melting of the “Thwaites Glacier,” which is the size of Parana, and could raise the level of the oceans by almost one meter, while also triggering a domino effect of melting other huge Antarctic glaciers.

Environmental Collapse: Socialism or Climate Catastrophe

It is very plausible that some of the phenomena described are related to the onset of El Niño (alterations in the surface water temperature of the Pacific Ocean), which causes an increase in global temperature, as well as alterations in rainfall and drought patterns around the world.

Although El Niño is a natural phenomenon that has been occurring for thousands of years, it is very evident that it has become increasingly intense and frequent due to global warming caused by fossil fuel consumption. 

That is why scientists are already saying that the current El Niño (which has not yet shown its full strength) could cause the global average temperature to exceed the limit of 1.5 °C above the pre-industrial period (1860). This will cause immense risks to health, food, and the survival of many species. It should be remembered that the temperature has already risen by 1.1°C since that period.

It is necessary to revolutionize and socialize the productive forces.

In the pursuit of profit, capitalism has caused global warming and the destruction of ecosystems. The failure of the climate agreements shows that the system cannot solve the crisis it provoked, and will not be able to guarantee any green energy transition to prevent the temperature of the planet from exceeding the 1.5°C threshold.

Only a socialist society can democratically plan the energy transition, starting with the nationalization of all sources, including fossil fuels, which must pass to workers’ control.

Only in socialism is it possible to revolutionize the productive forces and make possible the development of new renewable energy sources, replacing the fossil matrix. Without breaking the expansionist cycle of accumulation and using the commons as a means to satisfy the collective needs of society, civilization will continue to walk toward catastrophe.

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