Record high heat waves, forest fires and floods raise alarm as never before


Worsening heat waves are currently causing many to die in Canada. Not only are the highest ever recorded temperatures very alarming, but so too is the inaction of governments to protect the population despite all the means at their disposal to do so. Meanwhile, both the Canadian and U.S. government refuse to take responsibility for the absence of potable water in many communities. In Canada more than 30 communities on reserves have no safe potable water. This is also the case of several U.S. towns where drought has become permanent. The consequences of disasters linked to nature are affecting the peoples of the entire world, especially Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. It is as if the domination of nature by human beings had never occurred and is beyond reach, which is absolute nonsense.

The serious problem is how to satisfy the obvious need to hold to account the governments of the big powers that harbour and protect the giant corporations and oligopolies which are carrying out crimes against humans and nature with impunity. These giant corporations and oligopolies act as coalitions and cartels to further their narrow private interests no matter what the cost. They are so cynical as to clothe themselves in Green New Deals, also based on forcing governments to do their bidding, while the reputations of scientists and people who speak out are destroyed, through persecution and being deprived of their livelihoods. It is medieval and shows the toll that retrogression has taken on societies as a result of the neo-liberal global anti-social offensive. It reveals the urgency of finding ways to hold governments and those who facilitate the commission of crimes to account.

As of the end of June, a meteorological phenomenon known as a “heat dome” has settled over the western U.S. and Canada causing record high temperatures. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce describes a heat dome as a weather phenomenon that occurs when the atmosphere traps hot ocean air like a lid or cap. This is said to happen when there is a strong change in the temperature of the ocean. Due to convection, the warm air rises over the surface of the ocean in the shape of a mountain or dome. Hot air is trapped by high-pressure fronts, and as it is pushed back to the ground, it heats up even more. The condition also prevents clouds from forming, allowing for more radiation from the sun to hit the ground.

Hundreds of people are thought to have died due to the heat in British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. The “heat dome” is moving eastward and Environment Canada has issued heat alerts from BC to northern Ontario. A heat wave just prior to this affected the southwest U.S.

In BC alone, 719 “sudden and unexpected” deaths were reported from June 25 to July 1, more than three times the number that would normally occur, BC’s Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe informed. Lytton, BC, which reached a record temperature of 49.6 degrees Celsius on June 29 burned down in a wildfire on July 1 under the extremely hot and dry conditions. According to the BC Wildfire Service, on July 1 there were 82 wildfires burning across the province, 52 of which had started in the previous 48 hours. In addition to the hot and dry conditions, 29,000 lightning strikes were reported on July 1. BC is also the province with the highest number of boil water advisories, which on July 2 numbered 212, and lack of access to clean water so that people can stay hydrated is now likely to become worse.

In the U.S., air conditioning in Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon is said to be uncommon due to mild summers. NPR reports that Seattle “ranks as the least air-conditioned city in a comparison of the top 15 metro areas contained in the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent American Housing Survey from 2019. Nationwide, about 91 per cent of U.S. homes have primary air conditioning installed, according to data from the American Housing Survey. By comparison, that figure is 78 per cent for Portland and just 44 per cent for Seattle.” Lack of guaranteed access to water as a human right is also an issue in the U.S., where at least two million people lack access to running water, either due to lack of infrastructure for water purification or transport, or simply not being able to afford to pay for the service. This leads to more deaths during a heat wave.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in a June 30 news item notes that in addition to the effect on people, there will also be: heat stress on “animals and vegetation; air quality (pollutants due to hot stable air); forest fire risk; possibility of landslides caused by glacier melting in mountains; damages and malfunctioning of infrastructure and transport systems not prepared for such high temperatures; and many other social and economic risks.”

The WMO adds: “Other parts of the northern hemisphere are already experiencing exceptional early hot summer conditions extending from the north Africa, Arabian Peninsula, eastern Europe, Iran and the north-western Indian continent. Maximum daily temperatures exceeded 45°C in several locations and reaching 50s in the Sahara. Western Libya saw temperatures more than 10°C above average for June.”

Western Russia and areas around the Caspian Sea have also seen unusually high temperatures due to the continued presence of a large area of high pressure, the WMO reports. “In parts of the region including Moscow temperatures are expected to reach the mid-30s°C by day, remaining above 20°C by night. Areas nearer the Caspian Sea are expected to experience temperatures reaching the mid 40s°C and remaining above 25°C at night. It is likely that some all-time temperature records will be set during this heat wave.”

“These early summer hot weather conditions are taking place in human-induced climate change background, (where) global temperatures are already 1.2°C higher than the pre-industrial levels,” the WMO reports.

“Heat waves are becoming more frequent and intense as greenhouse gas concentrations lead to a rise in global temperatures. We are also noticing that they are starting earlier and ending later and are taking an increasing toll on human health,” said Omar Baddour, Head of WMO’s Climate Monitoring and Policy Division.

Apart from the worldwide heat waves, severe weather in the form of storms is also a major concern at this time. Hurricane Elsa, the first of the 2021 Atlantic season, hit the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Jamaica and eastern Cuba with full force winds and threats of flash flooding and mudslides in parts of those islands. With sustained winds of more than 112 kph, Elsa is still almost a category 1 hurricane. The consequences of these storms for the peoples of Haiti and the Dominican Republican are devastating given their impoverishment at the hands of ruling oligarchs in the service of the U.S. and other imperialists while the U.S. blockade of Cuba is a crime which hits the people very hard and makes recovery harder and harder. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind who is damaging the natural environment and causing the conditions which are threatening entire populations at this time.

Meanwhile, the UN Panel on Climate Change reported species extinction, more widespread disease, unlivable heat, ecosystem collapse and cities menaced by rising seas. It said these and other devastating climate impacts are accelerating and bound to become painfully obvious before a child born today turns 30.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the choices societies make now will determine whether our species thrives or simply survives as the 21st century unfolds. In a draft report they say dangerous thresholds are closer than once thought, and dire consequences “are unavoidable in the short term” and that “the worst is yet to come, affecting our children’s and grandchildren’s lives much more than our own.”

The need to reverse this alarming trend is urgent. Humanity has given rise to huge productive forces. They are supposed to be for our benefit but human beings are stopped from bringing them under control so that they can be put in the service of humanity. So long as those who wield political power privilege narrow private interests of global oligarchs, not the well-being of humanity, this will continue to be the case. Unless this is addressed, the colossal development of the productive forces will continue to threaten our very existence.

The financial oligarchy and fossil fuel industry that have captured the state in the U.S. and other countries raise alarms so as to have governments fund pay-the-rich “green economy” schemes. It is cynical and must be stopped. At the same time as they cry in alarm at the real dangers, they carry on committing crimes against nature and humanity.

Even as U.S. President Biden was convening his climate agenda leaders’ summit this past April, his administration simultaneously gave its support to Japan dumping radioactive waste from the collapse of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, directly into the Pacific Ocean! Biden declared the U.S. was putting climate at the centre of its foreign policy, while the U.S., NATO and other western imperialist allies are conducting the largest military war exercises seen since the Second World War in both Europe and the Asia Pacific.

Our environment is called the silent victim of war. War and war preparations are fossil fuel intensive. The single largest consumer of energy in the U.S. is the Department of Defense. It is the world’s single largest institutional consumer of petroleum. Seventy per cent of all energy gets consumed in moving and utilizing troops and equipment around the world, which involves the burning of vast quantities of jet fuel and diesel.

The peoples of the world are striving to take matters into their own hands to restrict and successfully deprive the monopolies and oligopolies and governments in their service of their ability to pollute, destroy, super-exploit, trample on the sovereign rights of nations and of Indigenous peoples, and to wage war for domination. They are taking all kinds of measures in attempts to gain control over the decisions which affect our lives and the human and natural environment. The productive forces must be brought into the service of the well-being of humanity. It is the working peoples’ striving for empowerment that unites people from all walks of life to become an organized force which provides society with the aim to humanize the social and natural environment.

This article was published in

Volume 51 Number 7 – July 4, 2021

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