Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Filed under: Ecology — louisproyect @ 6:19 pm

This is the last storm that hit the Northeast that is on the scale of the one we face now:

Even if I lived within the vulnerable Zone A that has been designated as an evacuation area by the authorities, I would still have few worries about flooding since I am on the thirteenth floor of a high-rise.

My old friend Jeffrey is not so fortunate. His house is a block from the Atlantic Ocean on the Rockaways, a peninsula that is 100 percent Zone A. CBS news reported:

Rockaway Beach was on the list for areas of New York City deemed Zone A for evacuation purposes, and by Sunday night, Hurricane Sandy had sent the floodwaters rising.

As CBS 2’s Jamie Yuccas reported, Yuccas was knee-deep in brown, foamy water as she stood on the Rockaway Beach each late Sunday night. The water was funneled through two areas where sand breakers were located and pushed its way toward 137th Street.

Jeffrey lives on 138th Street.

As I am writing this, it is 1:28 PM in NYC and the rain has a taken on a horizontal trajectory while the winds are capable of turning even the stoutest umbrella inside out. And this is a good five hours until the storm has achieved its maximum force.

Frankly my biggest concern is not about being hit by a falling tree or losing my belongings due to a flood. Rather it is loss of electricity. While this is nothing more than an inconvenience, it is a major one nonetheless since I live on the thirteenth floor. A few years ago, during a blackout, I had to walk up and down for necessities and it was not fun. People in their 70s and 80s had it worse. They were just stuck until the power came back on.

Just as was the case during Hurricane Katrina, there are those who pose the question whether this looming disaster is a function of climate change. The New Yorker Magazine offers this:

As with any particular “weather-related loss event,” it’s impossible to attribute Sandy to climate change. However, it is possible to say that the storm fits the general pattern in North America, and indeed around the world, toward more extreme weather, a pattern that, increasingly, can be attributed to climate change. Just a few weeks before the Munich Re report appeared, scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in New York, published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on the apparent increase in extreme heat waves. Extreme summertime heat, which just a few decades ago affected much less than one per cent of the earth’s surface, “now typically covers about 10% of the land area,” the paper observed. “It follows that we can state, with a high degree of confidence, that extreme anomalies”—i.e., heat waves—“such as those in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 and Moscow in 2010 were a consequence of global warming because their likelihood in the absence of global warming was exceedingly small.” It is worth noting that one of several forces fuelling Sandy is much-higher-than-average sea-surface temperatures along the East Coast.

You will note that the New Yorker makes the customary caveat: As with any particular “weather-related loss event,” it’s impossible to attribute Sandy to climate change.

This enables scientists on the payroll of energy corporations to cast doubt on any major storm’s tie to climate change in the same fashion as the “experts” who testified that smoking does not necessarily lead to cancer, emphysema, etc.

As a rule of thumb, the biggest environmental crises we face are subject to the same kind of plausible deniability alibi. For example, there will always be corrupt scientists eager to step forward and argue that pesticides and herbicides do not cause cancer. Since the exact biological process in which cells mutate has not been revealed, this will always provide wriggle room for those disposed to getting some payoff from a multinational corporation.

If cancer remains something of a mystery on the cellular level, there will continue to be debates about whether a particular storm was caused by climate change. While it is becoming more and more difficult to sustain the fiction that greenhouse gases do not lead to climate change, the likelihood of “proving” that a storm was caused by it will remain daunting.

It is obviously left up to socialists to create a world in which humanity strives to create an environment where either catastrophic storms or diseases are minimized. As the rather off-putting Sandra Steingraber put it to me an interview a couple of weeks ago, cancer can be linked to three different conditions: 1. Life-style, such as smoking; 2. Genetic predisposition; and 3. Man-made carcinogens that we have little or no control over, such as PCB’s, etc. While all three interact with each other, it is only the third that we need to wage a political struggle to overcome.

The same thing is true of climate change. There will obviously always be terrible storms. But we need to wage a political struggle to control the emission of greenhouse gases that are the byproduct of petroleum-based energy production, which finally can only be consummated through the creation of a worldwide socialist system.

In 2007 Obama was running as the best friend environmentalists ever had. In this stump speech given in New Hampshire, he says all the right things about climate change calculated to get the votes of those listening to him.

But here’s the reality we face now:

NY Times October 25, 2012
Both Romney and Obama Avoid Talk of Climate Change

WASHINGTON — For all their disputes, President Obama and Mitt Romney agree that the world is warming and that humans are at least partly to blame. It remains wholly unclear what either of them plans to do about it.

Even after a year of record-smashing temperatures, drought and Arctic ice melt, none of the moderators of the four general-election debates asked about climate change, nor did either of the candidates broach the topic.

Throughout the campaign, Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney have seemed most intent on trying to outdo each other as lovers of coal, oil and natural gas — the very fuels most responsible for rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Tweedle-dee. Tweedle-dum.


  1. One things becomes clearer every day. Climate change and the accompanying extreme weather patterns cannot ever be dealt with inside of capitalism. The system’s maniacal pursuit of growth won’t permit it. This is why we continue to get the most specious arguments about controlling climate change. Technological fixes, good behavior by consumers, etc. are all pie in the sky panaceas.

    Comment by michael yates — October 29, 2012 @ 8:09 pm

  2. “Tweedle-dee. Tweedle-dum.”

    i prefer tweedle-dumb. tweedle-dumber. although if the question is whether capitalist politicians are stupid or evil, i go with evil.

    Comment by meltr — October 29, 2012 @ 8:24 pm

  3. Beware your broken-down elevator, Louis: the Swedish Leftist and novelist Stieg Larsson died suddenly when his building elevator was shut down for repairs and he took the stairs to his office on the seventh floor. He was 50 YO.

    Your readers are no doubt thinking of you at this time. Let us know what you can, when you can.

    Howard Beeth~

    Comment by Howard Beeth — October 30, 2012 @ 4:13 am

  4. My parents live in an upper-middle class Long Island town, which is not exactly a bastion of progressive or leftist thought. This is the first flood they’ve experienced (3ft in the house) after 28 years of living there. Last year’s Irene was the only other time there was a close call. Flooding has gone from a distant concern to a fact of life over the course of two years.

    Real estate is the primary political concern that people express there (property taxes are the #1 topic when it comes to discussing local/state politics and people justify their segregationist views by saying an influx of black people will “lower property values”).

    It will be very interesting to see what happens politically as these people become aware that their interests in their home values are in direct opposition to corporate interests in resisting carbon pollution regulation.

    Comment by socialistbicycle — October 30, 2012 @ 7:03 pm

  5. what makes you think they’ll make that connection?

    Comment by meltr — October 30, 2012 @ 9:16 pm

  6. misguided optimism

    Comment by socialistbicycle — October 30, 2012 @ 11:15 pm

  7. Also, the sense of entitlement people have there means they always want to blame someone or something for their problems. I’m just hoping they choose the right enemy this time.

    Comment by socialistbicycle — October 30, 2012 @ 11:19 pm

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