Changing Weather Raises Fears of Global Cataclysm


Changing Weather Raises Fears of Global Cataclysm
reprinted from
The People
January 27, 1996


The recent record-breaking blizzard that ravished much of the East Coast was unusual, to say the least. More important, however, is that it was the latest of a series of unusual weather-related events that have been occurring worldwide with increasing frequencyQevents having serious and far-reaching implications for the human race and the planet we inhabit.

Ross Gelbspan, a former corecipient of the Pulitzer Prize for "public-service reporting" who wrote extensively on environmental matters during his 30-year career as an editor and reporter, recently pointed out that, "New record-setting weather extremes seem to have become as commonplace as traffic accidents...." Gelbspan wondered "how long we can go on pretending that nothing is amiss with the world's weather." Among other things, Gelbspan noted the following:

* Spain has experienced its fourth consecutive year of drought in a region where the annual rainfall usually amounts to 84 inches.

* In 1995, the summer in London was the driest since 1727 and the hottest since 1659.

* In Northern California, the last fall season was one of the driest in recorded history.

* In the U.S. Midwest, a heat wave following a "second '100-year flood' in three years" left 500 people dead.

* In New Orleans, after five winters "without a killing frost," the city was infested with an "extraordinary number of cockroaches and termites."

* The "10 hottest years in recorded history have all occurred since 1980." (A report issued by the British Meteorological Office and the University of East Anglia found that 1995 was the warmest year GLOBALLY since records were first kept in 1856.)

According to Gelbspan, "The continuing emission of greenhouse gases would create protracted, crop-destroying droughts...a host of new and recurring diseases, hurricanes of extraordinary malevolence and rising sea levels that could inundate island nations and low-lying coastal rims on the continents."

Last September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, composed of 2,500 climate scientists, rather bluntly warned that we were entering a period of climatic instability during which we could expect "widespread economic, social and environmental dislocation..." because of the continuing pollution of the limited space of the inner atmosphere.

"It is fitting," says Michael Perlman, author of POWERS OF TREES: THE REFORESTING IMAGINATION, "that the...panel...has confirmed" the fact of global heating. "It would be more fitting if WE finally take seriously the implications of global heating and act decisively to stop what could turn into climatic mayhem."

"Yet," Perlman adds, "as evidence of ongoing global heating grows, WE try ever harder to avoid the subject." (Emphasis added.)

It is important that the "we" in the above be clearly identified. The chief sources of the greenhouse gases result from the burning of oil, coal and wood. Those who profit from this air-poisoning process are the present energy industries that collectively have become the largest single profit-hungry entity in the world. As such, they have significant profit- oriented interests and relations with automobile, shipping, transportation, banking and other major industries, as well as with governments that exist primarily on oil revenues. The oil industry alone generates sales of over $1 trillion a year; while its daily sales amount to over $2 billion.

Is it any wonder that with such tremendous economic interests at stake that what Perlman calls a "chorus" of the fossil-fuel complex contends that global warming "is mere 'speculation' or 'conjecture'Q'left-wing' or 'doomsday' fantasy; [that] climate change is 'unproved'; [that] we should be 'skeptical' because there are so many 'uncertainties' in the theory; [that] in any case, it's 'unrealistic' to expect societies to make needed changes and that such changes would 'cost jobs'"?

Is it any wonder that this "fossil-fuel industrial complex" spends millions of its ill-gotten profits on a persistent campaign of disinformation that is readily augmented, amplified and widely disseminated by the capitalist media, "while the concerns of the dominant majority of the world's scientific establishment are marginalized"?

"Capital," Gelbspan penetratingly notes, "keeps its nose to the wind." He then cites the work of the Global Climate CoalitionQ euphemistic designation for one of the oil industry's leading public relations outfits. In the last 18 months, the GCC has spent "more than a million dollars to downplay the threat of climate change." It expects to spend another $850,000 for the same purpose in the year ahead. The GCC, of course, has not been alone on that crusade. In 1992 and 1993, the National Coal Association spent almost three-quarters of a million dollars on the global climate issue.

It certainly is not a very reassuring picture. There is very little promise in the present social premises that the trend toward what some are calling climate mayhem will be reversed. Despite all warnings, the situation will continue to deteriorate as long as the capitalist system continues to exist. As Karl Marx trenchantly observed in his historic work, CAPITAL, "After me the deluge! is the watchword of every capitalist and every capitalist nation." Accordingly, the capitalists will defend their source of profits by every means in their powerQand we will edge ever closer to the brink of social disaster. We'll be taken over the brink unless the workers awaken to the danger, recognize that capitalism is both the cause of the problem and the obstacle to its solution, and take steps to abolish capitalism and establish socialism.

Socialism, of course, could not immediately halt the use of coal, oil and wood as energy sources; nor could it immediately clear the atmosphere of the already accumulated greenhouse gases. Socialism could and would set corrective processes in motion by eliminating the anarchy and duplication characteristic of capitalist production; by putting an end to the massive production of nuclear arms; by decreasing the use of fossil fuels wherever possible; by the elimination of a host of other wasteful industrial activities and polluting practices that are part and parcel of the capitalist system and the mad drive for profits that it engenders. It would, thereby, provide time and resources to our researchers and scientists to enable them to discover and/or develop alternative nonpolluting energy sources, even as nature begins to clear the atmosphere.

-- N.K.