A global warning

TORRENTIAL RAIN and floods in the Indian sub-continent have killed hundreds and left millions of people homeless. Like the swollen rivers, this number will rise as more rain is forecast.

Manny Thain

The devastation has been exacerbated by deforestation of the hill slopes by loggers and ‘developers’. Millions of people are forced to scrape a living in shanty towns. But the soil beneath their feet has been robbed of the means to hold it together – the trees felled for profit – and is washed away in massive mudslides.

Lack of food is an immediate problem and water-borne diseases are already present. More than 500 refugee camps have been set up offering the barest minimum relief. But most people are left to survive on their own.

After Hurricane Mitch wreaked havoc in Central America in 1998, the European Union promised £170 million of aid. Not one euro has been delivered to this day.

THESE CATASTROPHES cannot be described as ‘natural’ disasters. The damage caused would not be so devastating were it not for the deforestation. And the ferocity of the world’s weather systems is linked to ‘global warming’.

The scientific consensus is that Earth’s atmosphere is heating up, probably as a result of carbon dioxide emissions causing the ‘greenhouse effect’. This could lead to temperature increases of between 1 – 3.5 degrees centigrade by the end of this century.

Higher temperatures mean that there is more energy driving the Earth’s climatic system. Surface warming increases evaporation and consequently the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere. This shifts the intensity of rainfall. Some regions get drier, others experience an increase of massive storms, more extreme climates and melting ice-caps.

The higher temperatures also cause water to expand – the main factor raising sea levels.

The so-called extreme weather events resulting from this process have left three million people dead in the last five years, with 96% of all deaths occurring in the neo-colonial world.

Last year’s floods in Venezuela killed 40,000 and 30,000 died in eastern India when a 160 mph cyclone created a 20-foot tidal surge.

This year, mudslides in north-east Brazil have displaced tens of thousands of people and killed hundreds. Nearly one million people have lost their homes in Madagascar in two cyclone disasters and thousands died in flooding in Mozambique.

Yet, rains have failed in Ethiopia, northern Kenya, Afghanistan, Pakistan and north-west India. In the US, severe drought-induced forest fires have now spread to eleven states.

Hiding behind international summits, the multinational corporations and their puppet politicians ensure that any agreements to curb global warming are broken if they stand in the way of their profits.

When the International Monetary Fund bailed-out Indonesia’s economy in 1997 it encouraged the expansion of palm oil plantations, directly linked to the devastating forest fires which annually rage there.

Without a rich elite creaming off the wealth in society, that wealth could be ploughed back into the economy and society as a whole. Working-class people, impoverished peasants and oppressed minorities would have good living standards and enough time to participate in democratic decisions taken at local, regional, national and ultimately international levels.

The fight to save the world is a fight to change the world: to move away from the self-seeking, profit-driven system, towards a world based on human solidarity. Humanity requires an environmentally sustainable world. That requires a socialist future.