A deadly heat wave is sweeping the country. Yesterday, extreme heat advisories were issued for areas where cumulatively about one-fourth of the population lives. And it’s not just the United States — record temperatures are being felt around the globe.
Climate change is making extreme weather events like the heat wave more and more common and intense. If the capitalist system that prioritizes short-term profit above all else remains in place, the future for humanity looks bleak. But if the government and the economy were controlled by the people instead of the billionaires — socialism — then we could immediately get to work on solutions.
Here are three steps that a socialist government would take immediately to address the dangerous heat:
1. Guarantee adequate housing for all
There are far more empty housing units than homeless people in the United States — who make up around half of the 1,500 people who die from extreme heat each year. A socialist government would seize these empty units from the investors who own them and redistribute them to provide shelter to those who lack it. Homes that do not have air conditioning would be outfitted with AC free of charge, with priority given to elders and people with medical conditions. While this is being carried out, a socialist government would set up 24/7 cooling stations in every neighborhood.
2. Ensure safety for those who work outdoors
Protecting workers’ health should always come before profits. On days when temperatures are simply too high to safely work outside, outdoor workers would be given the day off with no loss of income. Outside of extreme heat waves, a socialist government would work with unions to develop a comprehensive set of measures to dramatically improve safety. This would include cooling stations at workplaces, more legally-mandated breaks, and shorter working hours.
3. Transform cities to curb deadly heat
A socialist government would strive to make cities comfortable and safe places for people to live – not just centers of profit-making for big business. To address the deadly “heat island” effect in urban areas, green space would be greatly expanded with new parks and efforts to plant trees and other native vegetation. All buildings could be retrofitted with “cool roofs” or “green roofs” that help control temperatures.