India’s monsoon floods have affected more than 8.5 million people with more than a million living in temporary shelters and some 300 people killed. Just a few months ago, it was a very different story. The previous two monsoons were unusually weak. The result was a terrible drought in northern India, and parts of Pakistan and Bangladesh exacerbated by another extreme weather event - record heat. India experienced its highest temperature ever this summer, a blistering 51C. Rivers ran dry; water holes evaporated; reservoirs became dust. More than 300 million people were affected by water shortages - the equivalent of the entire population of the US. A city of half a million people was left completely dry. It had to rely on supplies brought in by train.
These examples of extreme weather were widely reported but what tended not to be discussed was the underlying cause. Climatologists believe the monsoon is becoming even more erratic as a result of global warming. Long-term studies have shown the number of extreme rainfall events in South Asia increasing while low-to-moderate events are decreasing. And increasingly erratic and extreme weather is precisely what scientists expect climate change will bring. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted "rainfall patterns in peninsular India will become more and more erratic, with a possible decrease in overall rainfall, but an increase in extreme weather events".
Those who are going to suffer the most from climate change are also those in the most poorest and undeveloped countries. It is the least powerful that will suffer. The main obstacle to mitigating the problems brought about by climate change is capitalism, where production is geared to profit, and production costs have to be kept to a minimum. Attempts to tackle climate change in the context of a world market economy will, at best, achieve only limited results. The way the capitalist system works rules out the effective action at world level that is needed to begin tackling the problem. Capitalism encourages economic activities that contribute to it.
The solution is that the competitive struggle for profits as the basis for production must be ended. This requires that the Earth’s natural and industrial resources become the common heritage of all humanity. On this basis, and on this basis alone, can an effective programme to deal with the problem be drawn up and implemented, because production would then be geared to serving human interests and no longer to make a profit for competing enterprises.
Socialist Party (India): 257 Baghajatin ‘E’ Block (East), Kolkata – 700086,