Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Houston's Hurricane Harvey

As millions of Houston residents faced deadly flooding from Hurricane Harvey, Naomi Klein wrote, "Now is exactly the time to talk about climate change, and all the other systemic injustices — from racial profiling to economic austerity — that turn disasters like Harvey into human catastrophes."  Klein pointed out that the media's failure in connecting the dots between human-caused global warming and the severe destruction now underway in Texas was a "highly political decision."

As Hurricane Harvey battered Texas the death toll from monsoon flooding in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh surpasses 1,200.

Linking the dots between the hurricane, the devastation in Asia, and climate change, economist Dean Baker writes: "The monsoon rains and cyclones [Bangladesh experiences] are likely to get worse in the years ahead, as one of the effects of global warming." And, given that the country is lacking vast resources, "many more people are likely to be dying from floods."

According to David Helvarg, executive director of ocean conservation organization Blue Frontier, with Harvey, "we're seeing the impacts of climate change. There was "a flooding event right there in Houston last year that the Houston flood control district said was a one in 10,000-year rain event. Well, it's a year later, and you're having another one," he said, and continued, "This is the new normal. This is the new reality...”

Meteorologist Jeff Masters described the disaster
Here we are, in the midst of a mega-disaster on the scale only surpassed by Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina in recent decades, from a hurricane hazard we've never seen on such a large and destructive scale—torrential rain. The damages from Harvey will undoubtedly run into the tens of billions of dollars, making Harvey's rains the most destructive ever experienced from a hurricane.”
 Perhaps climate change did not produce Hurricane Harvey. There have after all been hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico all along, and some of them have been monstrous but climate change made Harvey worse than it would otherwise have been.
Humanity’s problem is that approximately zero dollars are being spent on research, development, and deployment for these specific problems. Development of a number of other key renewables innovations, the medium-hanging fruit, are also going begging. Capitalist corporations only want to harvest the low-hanging fruit for their own immediate profits. Capitalism loves the “using existing methods” mantra because it means that new disruptive technologies will never come along to threaten their current investments.
Several news reports have shown the impact of Harvey on Southeast Texas's low-income residents. In Rockport, a coastal city 225 miles southwest of Houston, the BBC reported many residents were unable to evacuate ahead of the storm. One woman stayed "because she had no means to leave and no place to go. We're all the working class people. We're the ones who go to the restaurants and wait on you and pick up your trash and do all that work. We don't have a lot of money.”

Perhaps nothing is more astounding than the revelation that after 21 years of negotiations, painstaking research and countless hours of technical quibbling, there has been a glaring failure to stem global warming trends. The Socialist Party is not surprised. We long ago, as far back as1992 Rio, it predicted the reluctance of capitalist businesses to take any meaningful action that may impact upon their profit margins. Economic imperatives based on capital accumulation and expanding growth are causing the destruction the planet. 

 It would be difficult to find fault with the concerns of the environmentalist movement about how the planet is being abused. Global warming is a real concern for anyone who examines how modern society is developing. Where socialists would differ from the eco-activists is in two major areas. Firstly, in their analysis of what causes the problems and, secondly, what is the solution to the problems.

Some environmental activists make the assumption that the problems are caused by social ignorance and that the solution can come about by a series of legal enactments that would save the planet from its present dangers. The Socialist Party would repudiate such a simplistic analysis. Global warming is not caused by social ignorance. All major governments are aware of the problem. The drive for more and more profits make it essential that fossil fuels and CO2 emissions continue. While the profit motive remains, all attempts by the environmental movement is futile. Only the establishment of world socialism can stop this insidious destruction of our planet. We say that no government can protect the environment. Governments exist to run the political side of the profit system. And the profit system can only work by giving priority to making profits over all other considerations. So to protect the environment we must end production for profit.

Production today is in the hands of business enterprises, all competing to sell their products at a profit. All of them—and it doesn’t matter whether they are privately owned or state-owned—aim to maximise their profits. This is an economic necessity imposed by the forces of the market. If a business does not make a profit it goes out of business. “Make a profit or die” is the jungle economics that prevails today. Under the competitive pressures of the market businesses only take into account their own narrow financial interest, ignoring wider social or ecological considerations. All they look to is their own balance sheet and in particular, the bottom line which shows whether or not they are making a profit. The whole of production, from the materials used to the methods employed to transform them, is distorted by this drive to make and accumulate profits. The result is an economic system governed by uncontrollable market forces which compel decision-makers, however, selected and whatever their personal views or sentiments, to plunder, pollute and waste. Governments do not have a free hand to do what is sensible or desirable. They can only act within the narrow limits imposed by the profit-driven market system whose rules are “profits first” and “you can’t buck the market”.

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