The U.S. Global Change Research Program reports that research shows the destructive energy of Atlantic hurricanes has increased in recent decades. The intensity of these storms is likely to increase in this century. (www.latimes.com/news/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-hurricane-sandy-heads-to-northeast-20121027,0,3886956.story)
This storm is exactly the sort of thing climate scientists have been worried about for years, wrote Amanda Staudt, a senior scientist with the National Wildlife Federation. Global warming is putting hurricanes on steroids and were beginning to see the effects. (www.zmescience.com/ecology/climate/hurricane-sandy-global-warming-29102012)
It is hard to overstate the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy across much of the eastern seaboard, but especially in New York and New Jersey. In New York City alone, there are up to 40,000 people who have been made homeless and, nearly two weeks after the hurricane hit, 200,000 remain without power. The Jersey shore essentially has to be rebuilt. Estimates of the total cost for clean-up and rebuilding after Sandy stretch up to $50 billion.
Sandy exposed the woefully inadequate and antiquated state of the infrastructure, including power distribution, public transport, the lack of effective barriers to the storm surge, etc. Both New Jersey and New York were forced to introduce gas rationing. In New York City, a police officer was placed at each open station to prevent violence due to line cutting.
It is true that the response of the state and federal authorities was more effective than in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when thousands of poor people, overwhelmingly black, were allowed to die in New Orleans and hundreds of thousands went into a semi-permanent diaspora. But the reality is that the first priority of the ruling class after Sandy hit was restoring power to Wall Street.
As the days went by, anger increased in working-class communities like Far Rockaway, Coney Island, and Red Hook that could see the lights on in Manhattan, where Wall Street is located, while they were still in the dark, many without heat or adequate food. Occupy activists established Occupy Sandy, which effectively mobilized a large number of volunteers, particularly in Red Hook, to show real solidarity to many of those hardest hit. In the process, they showed up the inadequacy of FEMA and the local authorities.
Even more seriously, the disaster caused by Sandy should have been no surprise. In reality, there have been multiple warnings. For example, in 2009 Mayor Bloomberg convened a panel to investigate the likely impact of climate change on New York. It reported that the average temperature in New York City had already gone up 2.5 degrees F over the past 100 years, while sea levels have gone up by a foot in the same period. They projected that by 2020 there could be a further increase of 1.5 to 3 degrees F and a rise in sea level of 5 to 6 inches. These are the conditions that created Sandy and will inevitably create further devastating storms.
Nor is global warming only playing a role in creating storms. The record heat wave this summer devastated crops in the Midwest and will lead to increased food prices. The consequences of global warming are getting more and more concrete for working people.
The aftermath of Sandy will make it impossible for capitalist politicians to completely avoid the question of the impact of global warming. If nothing else, they will invest to build a sea wall around lower Manhattan. But the needs of working people and the environment will remain completely subordinated to the profit-driven logic of the system.
We call for:
Federal help in repairing or rebuilding homes, whether it is good public housing or providing interest free loans.
No profiting from rebuilding. For publicly owned entities to do the work. Union rates of pay for all reconstruction and repair workers.
For massive investment in infrastructure, including expanding public transit, refitting buildings with solar panels, and building storm defenses, to be paid for by Wall Street and the 1%.
End the reliance on fossil fuels. For a massive jobs program to retool the economy based on green technology.
This post originally appeared online at www.socialistalternative.