Unnatural Disasters: Hurricane Ida, Western Wildfires and Carnegie’s Johnstown Flood

Part 2 - Climate change: For today’s billionaires, a new “Act of God”

September 18. 2021 satellite photo of the KNP wildfire in northern California
September 18. 2021 satellite photo of the KNP wildfire in northern California. | Photo: Copernicus Sentinel-2 Satellite, European Union

By Chris Fry

Part 1 described how rich capitalists like Andrew Carnegie successfully managed to deflect blame in the corrupt courts for the Johnstown flood of 1889, which they said was caused by an “act of God”. It goes on to link this to today’s capitalist class’s role in creating global warming, which greatly increases the intensity of storms like Hurricane Ida, as well as sparking a massive increase in the size and number of wildfires.

An October 19, 2020, Reuters article stated:

A jump in climate-related disasters this century, along with the global coronavirus pandemic, show political and business leaders are failing to stop the planet turning into “an uninhabitable hell” for millions, the United Nations said on Monday.

The last two decades saw the number of disasters caused by extreme weather nearly double to 6,681, up from 3,656 between 1980 and 1999, according to a report issued ahead of the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction on Oct. 13.

And on Sept. 17, the Washington Post reported that:

The United Nations warned Friday that based on the most recent action plans submitted by 191 countries to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the planet is on track to warm by more than 2.7 degrees Celsius [4.9 degrees Fahrenheit] by the end of the century — far above what world leaders have said is the acceptable upper limit of global warming.

Even a lower increase would mean millions of people losing their homes to rising seas, vast sections of permafrost lost and extinction for scores of animal species.

These dire reports have not caught the capitalist class unaware of how they, particularly the “energy” sector, the oil, gas, and coal companies, who have vastly increased the carbon-dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, warming the climate and the oceans. As a matter of fact, they have spent decades not only hiding this, but also spreading disinformation to prevent the public from learning about it.

Most, but not all, of these corporate bigshots and their politician puppets now admit that global warming is “human caused”, but of course none will say that it is because of their insatiable drive for more and more profits for their capitalist class.

This has prompted the House Oversight Committee to demand that oil and gas company executives testify, with their “invitation” letter to Exxon executives stating:

“We are deeply concerned that the fossil fuel industry has reaped massive profits for decades while contributing to climate change that is devastating American communities, costing taxpayers billions of dollars, and ravaging the natural world,” read the letter to Darren Woods, the Exxon chief executive.

“We are also concerned that to protect those profits, the industry has reportedly led a coordinated effort to spread disinformation to mislead the public and prevent crucial action to address climate change,” the letter said.

But one would be naïve to expect that these minions of big business will actually do much about this. An article in the Daily Poster points out that even while Biden has been touring hurricane and wildfire-ravaged parts of the county, declaring global warming a “code red” emergency of the planet, his White House announced plans that they will go ahead and lease 78 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico for oil drilling. They are overriding their own climate panel to do this:

In fact, Biden’s officials have instead used that power to officially declare that the warnings in the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report “does not present sufficient cause” to reevaluate the drilling plan.

Of course, environmental groups are up in arms about this decision:

“We’ve been very patient with his administration,” says Hallie Templeton, deputy legal director for Friends of the Earth, one of the environmental groups involved in the litigation. “The honeymoon’s over. It’s now September, they’ve been in office for eight months. It’s time for them to show that they have priorities and are meaningfully going to move in the right direction.”

So, if big business and its government will not make changes in its production of energy necessary to stop and even reverse this destructive global warming, what is the answer?

Capitalist distribution linked to Capitalist production

Climate activists, particularly academics and research workers, have brought forward many well-thought-out proposals to vastly reduce the usage of fossil fuels. They promise that effecting these proposals would create millions of new jobs, which is true. Many of these plans are contained in the so-called “Green New Deal”, along with other much-needed reforms.

The original Great Depression era New Deal proposed reforms came from popular mass movements, where millions of people demanded changes in the failing capitalist system that threatened their existence and, more importantly to Wall Street, the existence of the capitalist system itself. With the current movement, it also demands planet-saving reforms to stem the devastating effect of global warming.

With the onset of the Covid Pandemic, demands for emergency measures such as rent moratoriums, additional unemployment benefits and so much more have reached such a crescendo that the capitalist government has had to make temporary concessions to these righteous demands. Now these concessions are being eroded even while a new Covid surge is sickening and killing thousands, with millions still out of work and tenants being evicted, thrown out onto the streets. But it is not surprising that there is no real momentum among the bankers, corporate heads, or their well-heeled political servants from both parties to do anything meaningful to change their production process to slash carbon emissions.

Billionaire Elon Musk’s global warming “solution”, for example, is to create a colony on Mars, bringing along a million unpaid “indentured servants” to answer to his every need. And of course the capitalist class prefers the taxpayer purchases of extremely lucrative weapons contracts as the Pentagon prepares for a new war against China versus spending on alleviating the terrible effects of these global-warming-induced storms, droughts and wildfires on the workers and oppressed, here and around the world.

Marxism and global warming 

In 1875, Karl Marx wrote a letter to his friends called “A Critique of the Gotha Programme”. He spent much of the letter criticizing the vague and inadequate reform proposals by a group forming the German Social Democratic Party. But he also expressed a message that today’s activists must study:

Any distribution whatever of the means of consumption is only a consequence of the distribution of the conditions of production themselves. The latter distribution, however, is a feature of the mode of production itself. The capitalist mode of production, for example, rests on the fact that the material conditions of production are in the hands of nonworkers [property owners] in the form of property in capital and land, while the masses are only owners of the personal condition of production, of labor power. If the elements of production are so distributed, then the present-day distribution of the means of consumption results automatically. If the material conditions of production are the co-operative property of the workers themselves, then there likewise results a distribution of the means of consumption different from the present one. Vulgar socialism (and from it in turn a section of the democrats) has taken over from the bourgeois economists the consideration and treatment of distribution as independent of the mode of production and hence the presentation of socialism as turning principally on distribution. After the real relation has long been made clear, why retrogress again?

Marx is saying that to effect permanent and meaningful changes to the distribution of goods and services for the workers and oppressed, they must make the means of production, the factories, the refineries, the oil wells, the pipelines, the banks, all of this the “cooperative property of the workers themselves.”

Global warming makes this goal more urgent than ever, since the massive profits from the existing production processes, which are at the core of the climate problem, prevent the capitalist class from even considering the radical changes necessary to make the planet continue to be habitable. Only the oppressed and the workers, who are not anchored to fossil fuel energy sources, can, with the ownership and control of the means of production, reverse these terrible consequences of global warming.

Part 1: Unnatural Disasters: Hurricane Ida, Western Wildfires and Carnegie’s Johnstown Flood

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