Climate Change Comes to the Midwest

by Ashley Wherry

Currently the Earth has warmed 1 degree Celsius since the 19th century, and according to the United Nations we are on track for warming closer to 3-5 degree by 2100. We have seen only a portion of the warming expected by the end of the century, and it is already having huge impacts on human life and our environment.

The Mississippi River is experiencing the longest lasting flooding since 1927. In Kansas since May 22, dozens of levees in the Kansas City District of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers have been overtopped or breached. In Nebraska 40 levees have been breached in the Omaha district. In the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Spring Outlook stated over 200 Million people are at risk for flooding in their communities. While extreme storms are nothing new, Climate Change is making those extreme storms even more extreme and occur more often. One of the major impacts from Climate Change, especially in this region, is increased precipitation which we are starting to see. Which has overwhelmed much of the infrastructures dams and levees constructed in the past.

Not only is the United States’ infrastructure performing poorly at its current job it is fully unprepared to handle the future levels of climate change. The American Society of Civil Engineers, rates the US infrastructure. They estimate the US has over 30,000 miles of levees which it rates with a D. The United States has over 90,000 dams which the ACEA also rates with a D, according to their numbers there is over 2000 dams which they rate as having a “high-hazard potential”.

Even when this infrastructure fails the Capitalist class is not the ones being impacted. The impact of this can be clearly see in the outcome of Hurricane “Katrina”. Where wealthy people had private armies available to protect their homes. This was originally an “unconfirmed” rumor that spread, but a few years after, several Mainstream Media Outlets picked up on the story. This is an excerpt from a Mother Jones article on it:

”Some, like Blackwater (which has since redubbed itself Xe), were under federal contract, while a host of others answered to wealthy residents and businessmen who had departed well before Katrina and needed help protecting their property from the suffering masses left behind.” ”In this dangerous environment, Common Ground began to rely on white volunteers to move through a city that had simply become too perilous for blacks.”

When disasters like this hit it will be the most oppressed sections of the working class who have to pay the most. Even for disasters we are warned about working class people are unable to leave work to escape and are required to keep showing up to work. People are forced to choose keeping their job which allows them to provide for themselves and their families or risking their lives by staying. Of course, the bosses and their families are fully capable of packing up their bags and belongings and getting out safely.

US Infrastructure Needs Work

America’s infrastructure has been in decay ever since Reagan’s policies resulted in huge reduction in infrastructure spending. How bad infrastructure has gotten has been very recognizable to anyone living here, which is probably why both candidates promised infrastructure spending in the 2016 elections. Donald Trump promised over 1.5 Trillion Dollars in new infrastructure spending, which despite his party controlling congress they did not carry this out. This was of course not a surprise, since this was clearly only a tactic that was used to win people’s confidence. Since Obama also promised infrastructure spending, this has been something both parties continuously refuse to deliver on. When we do see infrastructure spending it often ends up being a privatization scheme. In Donald Trump’s 2018 State of the Union Speech this was made clear:

“Every Federal dollar should be leveraged by partnering with State and local governments and, where appropriate, tapping into private sector investment — to permanently fix the infrastructure deficit.”

Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are actually capable of carrying out this infrastructure plan in a way that is not just a huge gift to the capitalist class. Thus, they are just putting it on hold, while the American working class is affected the most by poor infrastructure. While this goes on, the climate crisis will continue to put further strain on the already failing infrastructure.

We should also keep in mind while improving infrastructure is vital, infrastructure to just mitigating climate change will be extremely expensive and not a method we can rely on alone. A 14 Billion Dollar upgrade to the seawalls and levee system around New Orleans is only supposed to last less than a decade. If sea levels keep rising billions is going to have to be continuity sunk into infrastructure just for New Orleans. The second largest offshore windfarm in the world, the London Array, cost about 2.2 Billion USD to build and provides enough power for half a million homes. While of course we can’t let cities full of people flood, we should be aware that infrastructure to mitigate these impacts is going to be vastly more expensive then preventing future climate change. The problem there is less profit to be extracted in stopping change, because there is a lot of money to be made in building some of this infrastructure which will certainly be paid for by the working class, and not the capitalist class who got us into this mess.

We need a massive program to rebuild our infrastructure that has been damaged by both Capitalist parties refusing to fund it. We need to repair our dams and levees and our rail and public transportation services need an overhaul and needs to be taken out of private hands. Transportation makes up a huge amount of the USA emissions (29 %). We need to be able to travel the country and our cities without using cars which are expensive, pollute our environment, and reliance on them makes our spaces unfriendly to the young, elderly and disabled. This can’t be done unless we bring all of this under an economic plan based around sustainability and controlled by the workers themselves and not by the bourgeois state run by either of the two capitalist parties.

The Impact on Agriculture

Beyond the water having an impact on our infrastructure, all this flooding is impacting agriculture in the midwest, America breadbasket. United States corn planting as reported on Twitter by Matthew Pot is at its lowest rate in recorded history, typically by May 26th 90 % of the corn crop is planted, while this year only 58 % is. Fields being very wet will also impact wheat harvest, it can also impact the quality of the yields and how much money farmers are able to make selling their crop. Farming works best when there is stable weather and as the earth warms further disruptions to crops and ability to farm is only going to get worse, and we all suffer when agricultural output drops and food prices increase. We need to make changes to our agriculture to make it more sustainable, while newer farming techniques have been developed that help protect top soils and protect against drought, such as no-till farming. Much of this remains only available to wealthy farmers within the global north. The poorest farmers should receive assistance, freedom from debts, be provided with newer equipment to make use of techniques that help protect the soils and make the crops more drought resistant. We should promote what is must sustainable rather than what is most profitable, and make sure farmers aren’t producing food that is unsustainable, for both the climate and for themselves.

The Public and Climate Change

The impact of all this and the great cost is already becoming clear to people. Public polling in the United States consistently show a desire for increased clean energy and action on the climate, but this does not transfer into change. The Democratic Party, which is supposed to “represent the left” and is ostensibly for preventing climate change in this country, has banned a debate on Climate Change and said any candidate who participates in one will be punished. The Democrats, despite claiming to be for fighting climate change, are not able to do so because the party is not capable of acting against the interest of capitalists. Even minor market-based solutions like the Green New Deal fail to find support among the party, because, even if the individuals involved do care, neither party can break with those who fundamentally own them. Many proposals require the taxation of everyone as if we were all equally responsible for this disaster when what’s really needed is to make the capitalist class pay for the mess they got us into. And this needs to happen as part of a global plan to combat climate change because no single region or country can tackle it alone. Research should be conducted on a global scale open to everyone. In an emergency like this one, there should be no business secrets and no patents preventing important technologies from helping people just because of the profit motive.

If we want to actually combat climate change a lot of things need to change. It has to be a global effort of the working class. We need to shut down the single largest polluter the United States Military who produce more emissions then the entire country of Portugal, who not only contribute to climate change directly, but also aid in making sure capitalists can extract resources via supporting regime change or just “peace keeping troops”. We need to prevent further exploitation of lands for fossil fuel extraction. The Occupation of the Hambacher Forest in Germany is a great effort in trying to stop this and has faced down attacks from the bourgeois state trying to protect the profits of the capitalists. However we need to remove the Capitalists ownership of these lands entirely if we are to fully prevent their continued exploitation. No Capitalist is going to willingly hand over land that they invested in. We put these lands into hands of the public not private capitalists and say “No!” to more extraction of resources that damage the environment. All of the necessary changes that avoid the future that we are currently headed towards is not going to happen with the consent of the ruling class. We need a revolution to establish a democratically planned economy, run by the workers for the workers. If we fail to do this climate change might very well end us.

To paraphrase Rosa Luxemburg, today it’s “Socialism or extinction” rather than just barbarism.