Predicting extreme weather events in recent years has become more and more like a game of Russian roulette. We move our fingers from one point of the map to another, jumping indiscriminately between geographic areas.
By: Giacomo Biancofiore
Undoubtedly, disasters caused by climate crises have a decidedly greater impact on semi-colonial and colonial countries. Yet, the issue is even accelerating in less vulnerable countries that, although theoretically better prepared to face them thanks to more money and structures at their disposal, are exposing the limits of the capitalist system to be able to avoid suffering in their territories and populations.
Whether in Africa, America, or Europe, the price is very high and measured primarily in the loss of human lives. Millions. Men, women, children, and the elderly of the global proletariat.
Europe amid scorching heatwaves and floods
Last summer, Western Germany, particularly the federal states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, were devastated by the Bernd storm system that left hundreds dead. The extreme weather caused flooding that engulfed entire towns and left them without power for days. Over the same period, Belgium and northern France were also impacted by floods.
Additionally, according to statistical analysis of CNR-ISAC, July 2021 was the third hottest month in southern Italy since the twentieth century, at 1.65 °C above average. On several occasions, especially when the local mountain winds warmed the already hot air present in the atmosphere, the temperatures reached from +40 °C to +42 °C, with lows of +44 °C and +45 °C in inland areas of Sicily.
This past summer, a record high temperature was reached in the first weeks of June–a true heatwave that swept through Europe. During the summer, the African anticyclone caused temperatures completely out of average for the period. In Italy, in the Padan plain (also called the Po Valley), the Po river reached a historic low level. Additionally, 40% of agricultural land was in extreme drought.
Also, according to climate data from the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate from the National Research Council (CNR) of Bologna, temperatures above the seasonal average of +1.83 °C were recorded on May 2022. There had never been such a record heat in the past thirty years, except in 2003 (+1.87 °C).
From Marmolada to Marche, the Italy of “extreme events”
On July 3rd in the Italian Alps, precisely on the Marmolada glacier, there was an avalanche that caused the detachment, collapse, and subsequent sliding of a large amount of ice down the valley, almost a third of an ice sheet with a surface of 26,000 m².
Never before had a large part of the glacier collapsed as it did on that hot Sunday in July when eleven people lost their lives.
With the rise of “extreme weather events” tied to climate change, some glaciers in the Alps are constantly monitored because their pieces could break off and collapse, although the Marmolada was not one of them.
In the two months prior to the disaster, the average temperature was two degrees higher than the average recorded from 2008 and 2021. In regards to winter snowfall, the quarter from last December to February of this year was one of the ten driest and hottest since 1921. According to Fabrizio De Blasi, a researcher with ISP and one of the authors of the reconstruction of the collapse: “The rise of these two negative events–the particularly high temperatures at the beginning of summer, along with a high amount of ‘discovered’ ice, the same that you tend to see in August–added extreme stress to the glacier and, because of that, the melting rhythm of the ice was very elevated.” The conclusions that the researcher came to are that, at these heights, disasters of this magnitude “cannot be prevented”.
Little more than two months later, eleven more lives were claimed by another disaster, this time in the Marche region between Ancona and Pesaro-Urbino provinces. On the afternoon of September 15th, the flooding of the Misa river and the Nevola tributary, swollen after hours of rain, swept away everything–spreading death, damage, and terror. There was an hour of apocalypse and a night of apprehension for Senigallia, as the city was overcome by the rising of the Misa river that overflowed, flooding much of the city center and displacing the 9,650 residents. At the time of writing this article, we are still searching for a 56-year-old woman and an eight-year-old boy, Mattia.
The correlation between disasters and climate change
For years, meteorologists and scientists have considered global warming a natural phenomenon caused by solar activity, variations in the tilt of the Earth’s axis, and somewhat unknown factors. Heatwaves, torrential rains or hail were considered extreme weather conditions, but also phenomena that had always occurred.
Today, science–supported by more and more meticulous instrumentation and research–can no longer deny the link between climate change and extreme weather events. However, above all, what is undeniable is the decisive weight of man’s influence in the loss of climatic balance on the planet. Certainly, not all habitants of the earth are equally guilty, but the age-old exploitation of multinationals is, according to the data, the principal cause of the environmental tragedy we are living through.
The total amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from human activity equals 27,000 million tons per year or 50,000 tons per minute. In March 2013, the average concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide was around 399 ppm. It is assumed that the atmospheric concentration of carbon before the industrial revolution was 280 ppm, and therefore, it has increased by 35% since the industrial revolution and 20% since 1958. The leading cause of this increase, at 64%, would be the burning of fossil fuels (carbon, petroleum), and deforestation the second, at 34%.
Capitalism is responsible
Once it has been established that the quantitative and qualitative growth of “extreme events” is nothing exceptional, but is closely related to the climate crisis, many still wonder why those who manage the destiny of this planet do not do anything to avoid or limit the damage–in short, to resolve the very crisis they created.
The capitalist system of production, by its nature and its very survival, needs to produce more and more goods at the lowest possible cost, the highest possible profit, and in the shortest possible time. To meet these needs, it cannot be too subtle to exploit people and the environment. What may seem like irresponsible and foolish behavior is not only an obligatory path but even becomes indispensable to win the competition between capitalists and therefore counteract the tendential fall of the rate profit. Like the animals that kill their own children to survive–capitalism can’t avoid introducing CO² into the atmosphere at ever-increasing rates, escalating the greenhouse effect. With the same purpose and the same consequences, it accomplishes the subsequent criminal act: the deforestation of the planet’s green lungs sacrificed on the altar of capitalist production.
Prevention/precaution is incompatible with capitalism
On top of glacial disasters like the Marmolada glacier, floods like in Marche in recent days, or last year in Sicily or Liguria and in Piedmont two years ago, there is also a severe water crisis that is putting the most important agricultural areas in the country to the test. In Italy as well as any African country.
For example, the Po river, the most important waterway in northern Italy, is the driest it has been in seventy years. The waters have receded to a level never before seen. Water from the Adriatic sea has intruded 30 kilometers inland from the delta, destroying crops and putting a number of species in danger. This has inevitably affected the habitat’s biodiversity.
But, as stated before, although the risk of these disasters is growing rapidly in Italy and Europe, there could be conditions to prevent and deal with these natural disasters in the best way possible, in comparison to semi-colonial and colonial countries. However, the greed of the capitalist system, with its multinationals and governments, not only causes disasters in countries that suffer more dramatic impacts because of their greater vulnerability, but it is not even concerned about limiting harm where there are resources to do so.
According to a recent Istat report regarding water, the structural problems of the national water service increase each year, causing waste due to the systems’ inefficiencies, which is the least alarming problem. Even worse, flood risks are not taken into account–there is no map, and the infrastructure is not at all equipped for that level of rain.
In the Marche region, in the valley below the Misà river right where the latest dramatic flood happened, the need for safety improvements was clearly stated in a 2016 report. This work has still not been completed nor even begun.
We cannot leave the planet in the hands of a few irresponsible multimillionaires who are looting the future of humanity. If capitalists, by the very nature of their economic model, will take no other path but indiscriminate exploitation, the working class also only has one option: to stop capitalism!
The only way to end capitalism is to overthrow it, so that measures can finally be implemented that will center environmental sustainability and the social instead of privatized profits, through a planned economy and a socialist society.
Article published at www.partitodialternativacomunista.org, 20/9/2022.