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Extreme weather set to get worse

The UK has just experienced record rainfall in June – double the average. Until now, scientists would only go so far as to say that this is consistent with weather patterns that can be expected from climate change.

But with extreme weather affecting large areas of the United States, the scientific case against continuing with the capitalist system of production for profit is mounting.

Massive forest fires, heat waves and droughts are devastating much of the country. This comes just a week after Tropical Storm Debby flooded Florida. Some 113 million Americans are now in the excessive heat advisory zone. That’s more than a third of the entire US population.

A relentless heat wave has gripped the eastern United States. More than 2,000 heat records have been broken over the past week. Thousands more were set in June. Even more striking, the first day of July also broke records for the highest-ever recorded temperatures on any date at spots in Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Nashville broke its all-time record, hitting 1090F. Authorities urged people to stay indoors and cancelled outdoor events this weekend. A violent thunderstorm known as a "derecho" left a more than 700-mile trail of destruction across the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic on Friday, cutting power to millions, killing at least 23 people. Fast-moving fires have destroyed hundreds of homes in Colorado and are threatening thousands more. The fires have grown so large you can see the effect from space.

Whilst many scientists remain cagey about the direct attribution of these extreme weather events to global warming induced by “human activity” – more precisely 150 years of capitalist industry – they are all agreed that the chances of such events are already much higher as a result of the effects of polluting emissions.  According to Dr Clare Goodess, senior researcher at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit:

Over the last five years or so, a growing number of peer-reviewed studies have provided convincing evidence of a detectable human influence on the increases in high temperature extremes which have been observed over the last few decades over the globe as a whole and over large-scale regions such as Europe. It has been demonstrated that human influence has more than doubled the risk of a hot European summer like that of 2003 occurring, and substantially increased the risk of flooding which occurred in England and Wales in autumn 2000.

Kevin Trenberth heads climate research at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Colorado. "We are certainly seeing climate change in action," he said. "This year has been exceptionally unusual throughout the United States."

So what does the future hold if the current capitalist mode of production is allowed to continue spewing its waste products into the environment?

Michael F. Wehner, staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory sums it up:

It is important to know that the amount of climate change that we have experienced so far is very small to what is projected to occur by the middle and end of this century. By 2100, today's most extreme weather events will seem relatively normal.

The present system is clearly not sustainable, whichever way you look at it. The good news is that mounting worldwide revolt against the effects of attempts to solve the financial and economic crisis provides the best chance for the convergence of a global movement against the out-of-control capitalist machine. Waiting for something to turn up is simply not an option.
Gerry Gold
Economics editor
4 July 2012

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