A record-setting heat wave hit the Western United States last week in California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Texas and parts of Colorado. Some cities have hit their highest recorded temperature in over 100 years, such as Palm Springs, California, with 123 degrees.This “heat dome” is accompanied by a drought in parts of the West.
The heat wave and drought together create a vicious cycle, as dry soil means less heat is absorbed by it, which contributes to more heat that dries the soil even more. This further increases the risk for wildfires, which have hit a10-year record across the United States.
In Texas, record temperatures caused major power plants go offline. After the freezing winter storms in February caused rolling blackouts in the state, the precarious power grid is again on the verge of failure.
The dual threats of hard winters and summers highlight just some of the dangerous effects of climate disruption. The excess of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere causes global heating, but that does not mean temperatures are always high. Around the world, summers are getting hotter and the land is getting drier, but we are also seeing extremely cold winters. Climate change is causing violent fluctuations in weather. Both extremes – hot summers and cold winters – are a strain to the inadequate power grids in many states, and pose deadly risks to most residents.
What are the politicians and energy companies doing in response? They cut people’s power off and tell citizens to conserve energy at home – as if that is the problem. Since 2015 power failures have increased by more than 60 percent due to soaring temperatures. When grids fail or politicians shut off the power, they turn extreme weather into deadly events. Last February in Texas, an estimated 700 people died from lack of heat due to power outages. In the U.S., heat waves are the deadliest weather-related disaster. Death tolls from heat waves can be three times deadlier than from extreme cold. And when extreme heat is combined with power outages, the death toll is even higher as air conditioners tend to be the only lifeline to get through the record heat. To make matters worse, as temperatures are breaking records, an estimated 10 million people could be facing eviction in the summer months as eviction moratoriums are expiring.
This is the usual logic of capitalism: the rulers botch things up, causing crisis after crisis, and then they shift the burden onto ordinary people. The rich can move around the world and protect themselves from the disasters they create. How long are we going to pay the price for their insane system?
The conclusion is clear: we cannot wait and hope for the capitalists and their politicians to fix this economy. For working people and the poor, the capitalist system is a death sentence.