by Bill Onasch
Staying Above Water
My wife’s daffodils and the city’s Bradford Pears started magnificent blooming here in Kansas City weeks before the end of another warm winter. We, of course, are not unique. On a color coded world map prepared by NASA KC is in a big region of North America that had a temperature anomolay of +2-4 degrees Celsius in February.
That’s actually quite a bit–but it pales in comparison to other areas that contributed to making this the warmest February on record—following 2015 being the hottest year since measuring began. A vast swath of northern Europe and Asia, right across to Alaska and much of Canada, had above normal readings that ranged from 4-11C. And some spots above the Arctic Circle were hotter yet.
Suzanne Goldenberg opened a Guardian story datelined Ft Yukon, Alaska,
“This year’s record-breaking temperatures have robbed the Arctic of its winter, sending snowmobilers plunging through thin ice into freezing rivers and forcing deliveries of snow to the starting line of Alaska’s legendary Iditarod dogsledding race. Last month’s high temperatures – up to 16C (29F) above normal in some parts of the Arctic – flummoxed scientists, and are redefining life in the Arctic, especially for the indigenous people who live close to the land. In Fort Yukon, an indigenous Gwich’in community eight miles inside the Arctic Circle, the freakishly warm weather is forcing people off the rivers that are their main transport corridors in the winter time. ‘You can’t trust the ice,’ said Ed Alexander, Yukon Flats centre coordinator for the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. ‘This is the warmest winter that we have ever seen up here. We have had less snow. We have had real thin ice. We have had an explosion of growth in the brush clogging up trails and that kind of thing. It makes everything dangerous.’”
The impact of warming causing so much grief for the Gwich’in dwelling in the Earth’s “air conditioner” is also being felt thousands of miles to the south by the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw. Segments of these tribes were resettled by order of Andrew Jackson, under terms of the 1830 Indian Removal Act, to Isle de Jean Charles off the Louisiana coast. For more than 170 years they have supported themselves through fishing and farming. But now 98 percent of this island is under water. There are two reasons for its disappearance:
* Rising sea levels—eight inches over the past 50 years–resulting from melting Arctic ice and volume expanded by warmer water temperatures.
* This combined with sinking due to marshland erosion caused by oil/gas pipelines and well leaks.
In an early case of assisting climate refugees, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has allocated 52 million dollars to relocate the 400 remaining tribe members, including 100 still clinging to a narrow strip of land, to their own new mainland community.
But even that solution may be temporary at best. Torrential rains swelling the bayous in to raging rivers have caused unprecedented flooding throughout Louisiana ruining thousands of homes without flood insurance. And no one in the region has forgotten that most of New Orleans has long been below sea level, dependent on levees that failed catastrophically during Hurricane Katrina—killing 1400, and forcing an emergency evacuation of the city from which most did not return.
A 2014 study by the New York Times estimated 650 million around the world are vulnerable to rising seas caused by global warming. China topped the list with over fifty million. The USA is in eleventh place with over 3 million, 12th place Britain 2.5 million.
These already dated estimates seem too conservative in some areas—including the USA. And they only include the threat from rising coastal waters. There is already significant migration beginning in Africa because of other effects of climate change.
Prosperous Europe has not adequately handled a few million refugees from wars in Syria, Iraq, and Libya and Republicans are opposed to accepting any of them in the USA. And, of course, their presumptive presidential nominee has promised to build a Great Wall along the border with Mexico. Even refugees who evoke popular sympathy don’t fare well. So what will happen to 130 times as many climate refugees as rising waters gradually inundate their present homes?
The key word here is gradual. The threat will likely play out over decades. It might yet be possible to reduce these numbers through rapid reduction of greenhouse emissions. There is some time for an orderly relocation from areas where the process is already irreversible—like Isle de Jean Charles.
While we should give due credit to the action taken by HUD to help 400 in Louisiana it would be foolhardy to expect enough further such efforts by this, or any other agency of any governments that are dominated nearly everywhere by climate wreckers.
The only realistic perspective for preventing this disintegration of human civilization is for the working class to take power away from the culprits responsible. Only then can we develop and implement a global plan for stabilizing our stressed planet–and nurturing it back to health through sustainable production and consumption.
* For those of you who believe the hype coming from the AFL-CIO that the Obama National Labor Relations Board is a good supporter of workers I highly recommend an excellent piece by Joe Burns on the In These Times site—A Current Longshore Battle Shows That the NLRB Is Not a Friend of Organized Labor. Joe sorts through the tortured logic the Board used to uphold a complaint from the company running the privatized Port of Portland (Oregon) that will be very financially costly to the ILWU and will hinder efforts to enforce the West Coast contract in other ports.
* In a blockbuster exposè, a New York Times article is headlined, As Women Take Over a Male-Dominated Field, the Pay Drops. Claire Cain writes, “A new study from researchers at Cornell University found that the difference between the occupations and industries in which men and women work has recently become the single largest cause of the gender pay gap, accounting for more than half of it. In fact, another study shows, when women enter fields in greater numbers, pay declines — for the very same jobs that more men were doing before.”
* Jane Slaughter did an informative round-up in Labor Notes about protests against threatened cuts in pensions affecting 410,000 Teamsters retirees and widows. Teamsters for a Democratic Union are integrating this fight in to their campaign against the current national Teamster officers.
* From the National Nurses United site, “Registered nurses at Kaiser Permanante’s flagship Los Angeles Medical Center begin a seven-day [March 15-22] strike this morning with a focus on improving staffing to protect patient care and achieving economic gains to retain experienced RNs and boost recruitment of new nurses. The walkout affects 1,200 RNs, member of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United who are seeking their first CNA collective bargaining contract.”
* The ink was hardly dry on the Governor’s signature on a new compromise, tiered Oregon minimum wage law when Democrat legislators declared their intention to work to exempt teen-agers from coverage.
That’s all for this week.
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