Global warming and the seas

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While corporations reap record profits, the workers of the world have their backs against the climate change wall. Massive climate disruptions are threatening to become the “new normal.” All but one of the top 10 warmest years since 1880 are 21st century dates.

Last year saw massive flooding that washed away entire villages in Africa, severe drought on almost every continent that destroyed billions of dollars worth of crops, lethal tropical storms that hit major U.S. East Coast cities, and super-typhoons in the Philippines that washed hundreds of people into the ocean. According to scientists, this is only the beginning.

Climate change is already taking hold and transforming the planet. The burning of fossil fuels drives rising global temperatures that can turn entire regions into uninhabitable zones. This endangers billions of poor and working class people, especially those living near sea level.

Humanity’s majority cannot rely on capitalist rulers to fix this problem; they must take power and do it themselves.

Compelling climate facts. Something beyond natural weather variation is clearly changing the climate. Scientists report that higher temperatures can only be explained by the gases emitted when humans burn fossil fuels — coal, oil and natural gas. This is from human industrial activity since the rise of capitalism.

These greenhouse gases trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere and gradually increase land and sea temperatures. Because the planet is huge and the oceans take a long time to heat up, it takes decades for current human activity to show up as climate change. But these effects are now speeding up dramatically.

The latest climate data — and everyday observation — show that earlier estimates of the changes our planet is in for were too conservative. Increases in sea levels are at record highs, rising twice as fast yearly in the last twenty years as in the previous 80 years.

Enter climate science deniers. Global warming contrarians, funded by rightwing billionaires, twist facts and sow confusion. They argue that climate change is not happening, or is so distant that no action is necessary. Over the past decade, $146 million has been funneled to climate change denial groups to create public skepticism.

But new megastorms, whose effects are primarily born by the suffering global poor and working class, are undoing all their work. A survey done last year — before the Hurricane Sandy disaster — found that 88 percent of U.S. residents know action needs to be taken on climate change, even though it has economic impacts.

A coming flood? For years scientists have been warning that Arctic ice is disappearing at an alarming rate. Satellite imagery shows that the last ten years have seen the lowest sea ice extent since records began in 1979. Records demonstrate that 600 million square miles of sea ice cover has been lost in forty years.

Now multiple sources have confirmed that sea ice thickness has also deteriorated — to one-fifth of its 1980 level. Warmer temperatures have sped up the melt and reduced snowfall, slowing down the replenishing of the ice. This creates an Arctic death spiral that scientists predict will result in a complete collapse of summer ice within a few decades.

This news comes on top of grim data from Greenland: the massive ice sheets covering this northern land mass are melting at record rates, dumping millions of gallons of water into the ocean. The most extreme melting on record occurred in 2012, when for several days in July, nearly the entire surface of the ice sheet was melting — the first time since records began. The seasonal melting period lasted two months longer than the 40-year average!

The melting of the polar ice caps, retreat of the Greenland ice sheet and the ocean’s natural expansion due to increased ocean temperatures are estimated to raise sea level by 2.5 to 6.5 feet by the end of the century.

If business-as-usual continues unchallenged, much more greenhouse gas will be pumped into the atmosphere, fueling irreversible climate change. Coastal cities will see massive flooding and erosion. Island nations will sink into the sea. Millions of poor and working people will lose their homes and farms forever. Only the rich can hide in their arks built with the stolen fruits of other’s labor.

The capitalist class has no answers to the crisis they have created. They focus on quarterly profits rather than essential but costly investments in renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and climate change mitigation projects such as reforestation and levees. The logic of the market requires limitless growth, putting short-term profits above all else. Global warming requires coordinated, large-scale collective action and a long view of history. The owning class will burn as many fossil fuels as they can and fight any alternative to energy industry profits to the end.

Much can be done. Eliminating fossil fuel use as fast as possible is essential. A University of Delaware study found that 99 percent of energy needs can be met through 2030 with solar and wind power generation, along with power grid storage, using current technology. Taking the real cost of fossil fuels into account, renewables are far more cost-effective than coal, oil, or natural gas.

But even if fossil fuel use ended tomorrow, global temperatures and sea levels would continue to rise abnormally fast. Society must also mitigate the effects of a warming planet. Flood control infrastructure, storm-surge drainage, and hurricane-proof levees must be built to protect cities and coastal land from swelling oceans. Vast disaster plans must be put in place to deal with climate crises.

What is needed to implement a sane response to global warming is a mass movement with radical demands, willing to take militant mass action to win them. Ultimately, the only way to change course is for working people to take the power away from the ruling elite and put people and the planet first.

Many are already standing up to the carbon-traffickers of the world. Massive civil disobedience is being carried out to stop the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline, keep Powder River Basin coal in the ground, shut down dirty power plants, and say no to unsafe and toxic nuclear power.

The spirited involvement of youth in the fight for climate sanity is already happening. Born onto this planet in a time of crisis not of their making, they are the ones who will bear the brunt of climate change. They have the least to lose from standing up to corporate polluters and the most to gain from freeing the commons from the oily grip of capitalism!

Mark Drummond is a young labor and environmental justice organizer. Contact him at FSnews@socialism.com.

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