Record temperatures recorded across California in recent days are set to continue as the state is gripped by a dangerous heat wave in a month when the weather is supposed to be cooling off. And now, meteorologists expect winds from a powerful hurricane to prolong the situation through the end of the week. Extreme weather events like this heat wave serve as a bitter reminder of capitalist politicians’ failure to address the climate crisis, and the urgent need for a socialist system to manage the consequences of their failure.
The state capitol, Sacramento, recorded its hottest day ever on record – 116 degrees. Many other cities and towns saw their highest-ever recorded temperature. The heat fueled wildfires across the state – 14 large fires in total, which claimed four lives over the weekend.
Increased energy consumption during the heat wave has put immense strain on California’s electrical system. Power outages have already taken place across the state, and the situation may get worse. Pacific Gas & Electric, the corporation that provides power to most of the state, has warned that hundreds of thousands of people may be affected by planned rolling blackouts in order to conserve electricity.
Extreme heat in the West is contributing to another major environmental disaster: the drying of the Colorado River. A scientific study found that the majority of the decrease in the river’s water flows are attributable to increasingly hot temperatures like the ones being experienced this week. The decline has sparked conflicts between authorities in states that rely on this water source, including California.
This is a major issue for the state’s large and economically important agriculture sector. The big agribusiness firms that dominate the industry rely on wasteful but highly profitable growing practices that consume an enormous amount of water – and sources of that water are running dry.
Agribusiness also relies on the extreme exploitation of mostly immigrant farmworkers who labor outside for long hours. Performing this physically demanding work is highly difficult under any circumstances, but elevated heat has made the situation even more hazardous.
There is simply no way to address the huge disruptions to society caused by climate change without large-scale economic planning. Socialists favor a planned economy because it allows society as a whole to come together and make rational, democratic decisions based on an assessment of the needs of everyone. This stands in stark contrast to the current system in which individual capitalists make decisions based on the desire to increase profits for their own firm with no coordination or democratic input from those who are affected by the capitalists’ choices. This unplanned, profit-driven model is what got us into the climate crisis to begin with.
In a planned economy, the electrical system would be transformed to rely 100% on renewable energy, with massive public investment to make this critical infrastructure resilient to extreme heat waves. Public facilities would be opened to shelter the most vulnerable members of society from potentially deadly temperatures. Anyone displaced by wildfires would be guaranteed dignified housing. Agriculture would be completely reorganized so that it is environmentally sustainable and the well-being of farmworkers is protected as a paramount priority.
This is not taking place under the current system because it would be devastating to the profitability of capitalist enterprises. In fact, some sectors of big business like the fossil fuel industry would be eliminated entirely. But as the onslaught of extreme weather events makes clear, it’s us or them – either the ruling class has their wealth and power taken away, or capitalism condemns the planet to a slow death by climate change.