From droughts and heat waves to heavy rains and floods, this summer saw extreme weather events across the globe caused by the ever-worsening climate crisis. These five events reveal the stark inequality of climate change: it is a crisis created by the capitalist class in rich countries, but it is the poor and working people around the world who will suffer its consequences.
floods in Pakistan
Beginning in mid-June, Pakistan was hit by torrential monsoon storms over the course of several weeks, causing the deadliest flooding in South Asia in decades. Currently, a third of the country is submerged under water, with 33 million displaced and over 1,000 dead.
According to researchers, flooding has been made worse by up to 50% due to climate change and global warming. Pakistan is a prime example of how capitalist countries are causing climate change and letting underdeveloped countries shoulder its catastrophic consequences: While Pakistan is responsible for less than 1 percent of global carbon emissions (the Global North is now responsible for 92%), it is ranked eighth Country classified as most vulnerable to the climate crisis.
Extreme drought in Mexico
In July, Mexico declared a state of emergency over the worst water crisis in 30 years. At the time, “eight of Mexico’s 32 states were experiencing extreme to moderate drought, resulting in 1,546 of the country’s 2,463 communities facing water shortages, according to the National Water Commission.”
The city of Monterrey has experienced the greatest shortages: drought had dried up the reservoirs that provided 60% of the water for its 5 million people, and the poor are suffering most. Some residents went home without running water for up to six weeks. While the poor were forced to ration water or wait in long lines for water, wealthier neighborhoods experienced few water outages at all.
Meanwhile, the water crisis is being exacerbated by multinationals like Coca Cola and Heineken withdrawing billions of liters of water from Mexico’s public reservoirs to continue production.
Floods in eastern Kentucky
In late July, torrential downpours and torrential flooding hit eastern Kentucky, one of the poorest regions in the United States. After several weeks of searching for missing people, 40 people were finally confirmed dead. Hundreds of people have been displaced by the floods as their homes have been destroyed, and for thousands who have lost power and electricity, a sweltering heatwave has made the crisis worse.
After this tragedy, many media lamented this “natural disaster”, but make no mistake: this is a crisis of capitalism. In Appalachia, decades of coal mining by capitalist coal companies have eroded topsoil from the mountains, leaving rain and storm runoff with nowhere to drain and leaking into the floodplains below. This lowland is where the majority of the residents live because big landowners and mining companies have bought all the “high” land on the mountain slopes over the past 120 years to protect them from these types of disasters while leaving working people vulnerable. A lack of investment in eastern Kentucky’s aging infrastructure also exacerbated the crisis.
Heatwave in California
In early September, temperatures in Sacramento rose to 116 degrees, the highest in a hundred years. Temperatures soared to over 100 degrees in Los Angeles and San Diego issued an excessive heat warning, with temperatures soaring into the upper 90s.
That heatwave may have been the worst in California history, but as researchers have found, the effects of extreme weather events are not evenly distributed: Poorer, often black and Hispanic neighborhoods often suffer from neglect by city officials and lack infrastructure and green space around them To cool surfaces effectively and to provide shade. In cities like Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose, neighborhoods with large Latino communities recorded temperatures four or five degrees above the subway average.
Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico
Last Monday, Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico, leaving most of the island without power. The power outages pose dangerous challenges to the island’s health sector, which uses freezers and refrigerators to store medicines and is now forced to rely on generators. Due to a lack of electricity, the water supply was also cut off.
While Hurricane Fiona was a natural disaster caused by climate change, the severity of the blackout was a direct result of colonial imposition and capitalist greed: In 2016, Congress established a Fiscal Control Board to oversee Puerto Rico’s debt restructuring by the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management , and Economic Stability Law (PROMESA). However, “in exchange for the debt restructuring, Puerto Rico had to accept the terms imposed by this unelected group of figures in the pocket of Corporate America.”
After Hurricane Maria destroyed most of Puerto Rico’s power grid in 2017, this tax agency forced the island to hand over its electricity services to LUMA, a private Canadian-American energy company, against the will of the islanders.
Energy services provided by LUMA have been largely unreliable, with more frequent outages since taking over Puerto Rico’s power grid last year.
The climate crisis is here
These extreme weather catastrophes are a reminder that the climate crisis is here. Capitalism has wreaked havoc across the world in its quest for endless growth. We need a new, socialist system that puts the needs of the people above the pursuit of profit.