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Floods, tornadoes & social revolution

Published Jun 1, 2011 4:34 PM

Whether it’s precipitation driven by strong storms or the lack of rain, the weather has been changing — sometimes drastically. It used to be that weather was one of those things you couldn’t change. You just had to accept what came and make the best of it.

But it turns out that we actually were changing it. We just didn’t know. Now we do. Despite what the energy corporations and their lying think tanks have been feeding the public, there is no dispute among real scientists.

The last couple of centuries of burning coal, oil and natural gas — the so-called fossil fuels — have surrounded the earth with a blanket of heat-trapping carbon dioxide. This in turn has warmed the oceans and the land masses, meaning more moisture is sucked up into the clouds creating heavier precipitation and stronger winds.

We can’t ignore the results. Much of the world has recently become a much more dangerous place to live. We hear fatalistically reported news about terrible droughts in parts of Africa and torrential rains in South America. But now that deadly flooding and tornadoes are hitting the Midwest and the South, wouldn’t you expect there to be a sense of urgency in government and the media here?

The Union of Concerned Scientists on May 19 held a telephone press conference from its offices in Washington, D.C., soon after the Mississippi River reached its highest flood levels ever recorded.

A panel of scientists discussed the connection between extreme weather events and global warming. Reuters reported: “Heavy rains, deep snowfalls, monster floods and killing droughts are signs of a ‘new normal’ of extreme U.S. weather events fueled by climate change, scientists and government planners said. ‘It’s a new normal and I really do think that global weirding is the best way to describe what we’re seeing,’ climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University told reporters. ... Hayhoe, other scientists, civic planners and a manager at the giant Swiss Re reinsurance firm all cited human-caused climate change as a factor pushing this shift toward more extreme weather.”

Reuters is a British news service. Why wasn’t this reported by the Associated Press and the powerful U.S. networks?

Weather & ‘security’

Alabama was hit by a wave of tornadoes in April that together killed 243 people. Those were followed on May 22 by the deadliest single tornado to hit the U.S. in 65 years, which killed 140 people in Joplin, Mo. — with 100 more still missing.

By May 28, this year had 519 confirmed fatalities from tornadoes — already matching the previous record — and there’s still a month to go in tornado season.

Scientists are cautiously saying that global warming causes more tornadoes. While the number of tornadoes reported has been increasing, more accurate reporting of these storms could have contributed to that. But better records have long been kept of actual tornado deaths, and these are definitely on the rise.

If 519 people had died in plane crashes this year, wouldn’t there be a huge investigation? Wouldn’t the responsible authorities be told to take immediate action to protect the flying public? And what about that well-financed agency, the Department of Homeland Security? Why does it seem to do nothing except manufacture “conspiracies” so it can railroad people to jail and call that a victory over “terrorism”? No security there.

The lack of any meaningful response to global warming, despite its costs — and they are only beginning — creates an atmosphere of pessimism and leaves the field open to the most irrational “explanations” of where we are headed.

When capitalism first came on the scene as a social system, combatting the medieval views of the feudal nobility and the church, it championed science as against mysticism and fatalism. It nurtured optimism that the ability of humans to unravel the mysteries of nature would bring us as a species to a much better place, able to end famine and disease, and develop our productive skills so that all could enjoy a comfortable life. The rigors and hardships suffered by the majority of producers would become a thing of the past.

Science & social change

Those days are long gone. The forces of production have developed exponentially under capitalism — but wildly, driven by the market and the lust for ever greater profits. The class divide has widened enormously. The application of scientific thinking to social questions has been sabotaged by the urgent need of the big corporations and banks to make their bundle and the rest of society be damned.

Look at how long it took the medical industry to demand that smoking be discouraged. It took the intervention of the big insurance companies, which didn’t want to pay for all the illness and deaths caused by smoking, to get laws that would encourage a healthier life style. And what it will take to move to a sustainable economic system is immeasurably more demanding than merely banning smoking.

Is it a stretch to mention the “rapture” craze in this analysis of the results of global warming? With climate scientists much maligned, charlatans who quote scripture that the end of the world is nigh are free to hoodwink the gullible. And people are gullible because the knowledge they need to understand their world is hard to get through the haze of obfuscating, reactionary talk shows and a profitable mass culture that promotes the “paranormal,” scaring people half to death with sensational and mystical nonsense.

The salvation of the world and its peoples lies in social change that will clear away all the obstructions to rational use and development of our natural and human-made resources. This means taking ownership and control away from the class of super-rich who presently make the rules and decisions. They always have a narrow goal: to promote their interests as a highly privileged class that derives its power from its ownership of capital. Private ownership must be overthrown and social ownership instituted. That’s the only real meaning of socialism, and it requires the revolutionary reconstitution of society.

There is a convergence of interest between the working class, which historically has had to stand up to capital just to survive, and all those intermediate strata who are deeply concerned about the freight train of climate change bearing down on us. All progressive struggles are lifted once the workers are in motion. What once seemed impossible becomes possible at last.