Europe is experiencing an unprecedented heat wave that has already killed over 1,900 people. Temperatures across Europe are breaking records. Combined with exceptionally dry conditions, the spread of wildfires and water shortages threaten the continent. Italy is experiencing the worst drought in 70 years. Wildfires span massive areas of France, Spain, Portugal, and Croatia, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes. Heat waves also accelerate ozone production, making air pollution spike to levels above the safe exposure limits set by the World Health Organization.
Infrastructure in the region is not designed to withstand this type of heat. An airport in London had to halt flights because the runways were damaged from the heat. Rail lines had to close due to the risk of buckling tracks. Bridges are being wrapped in foil to prevent them from cracking. Most people, especially poor people, do not own or have access to air conditioners, and as a result are facing serious heat-related health issues.
Meanwhile, the European Union (E.U.) is facing an extreme gas shortage due to a closure of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which links Russia’s gas to Europe. Despite the so-called policy “pledges” that the E.U. has made to decrease reliance on a fossil fuel infrastructure, gas is still a huge driver of the capitalist economy. While the language of these policies claims to reduce funding of fossil fuels and to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, there are no binding agreements to implement those ideas. Instead, the E.U. still relies on the burning of coal and natural gas, needed now to keep air conditioners running and to fly the thousands of water-bombing planes being used to try to put out wildfires.
This heat wave is the 11th of the year, in addition to record-breaking heat waves in Japan, India and Pakistan, Australia, and the United States. Record-shattering heat events are ten times more frequent than record lows so far this year. The climate crisis is making these events more prevalent and more severe. Despite knowing this and pledging in words to reduce emissions, those in power are taking actions to prioritize the fossil fuel economy.
If we want a livable future, we must organize against those making decisions that prioritize profit over our lives, and against the capitalist system that drives it all.