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Hurricane Florence: Capitalism, climate change, and manmade disasters

By Steff Yorek |
September 13, 2018
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Hurricane Florence set to hit Carolinas

Hurricane Florence is about to make landfall on the Carolina coast. The storm is a monster, at 500 miles across, with sustained tropical storm winds extending out 200 miles. Florence is forecast to stall offshore near Wilmington, North Carolina early Thursday and roll slowly south before coming on shore Saturday, Sept. 15, near Charleston, South Carolina. Up to 40 inches of rain in a 24-hour period are possible, with flash and river flooding extremely likely. The storm surge at high tide will be of six to thirteen feet.

Hurricanes in a warming climate

A few years back, Senator Jim Inhofe brought a snowball to the Senate floor. As much as the Oklahoma senator wanted it to – the snowball didn’t disprove climate change any more than Florence proves it. Hurricanes in themselves, are not new and no particular weather event can be definitively linked to global climate change and the overall warming of the earth. Scientists are seeing changes in the behavior of individual hurricanes that are linked to climate change. Florence is exhibiting some of those characteristics.

Hurricanes forming as far north as Florence often do not make U.S. landfall, as dominating weather patterns cause them to turn northeast and back into the Atlantic. Record warming of sea water at the poles is linked with an abnormal collapse of the polar vortex, causing that weather pattern to instead steer Florence into the mainland. This same warming at the poles reduces the winds that drive hurricanes forward. Florence will be an enormous rain event, because it is drawing moisture from waters that are three to four degrees warmer than average and because it will move very slowly. These characteristics make it similar to Hurricane Harvey that devastated Houston in 2017.

At this point no one who is serious about science doubts that climate can change is real, and that human activity is driving that change. Specifically, capitalism is a system that is all about the highest rate of profit. Corporations have the lion’s share of the responsibility for the greenhouse gases that are fueling climate and making ‘extreme’ weather events more common place.

Mother Nature hates trailer parks? Not really

Climate change is just one portion of the manmade disaster. Wealth inequality and the poverty imposed by the capitalist class is the most direct and pressing thing turning natural disasters to manmade ones. In storms like Florence, most people die from a lack of electricity and flooding. Poor people die from being without insulin and medications or from running out of oxygen or by being without the transportation to evacuate and nowhere to go during the evacuation. Flash flooding wipes out poorly-fortified housing and those homes don’t get bailed out by federal flood insurance, while the beach homes of the wealthy get bailouts.

Cuba, a country with great expertise in keeping people safe in a hurricane, sends transportation to pick up people and belongings and take them to evacuation sites. Additionally, they send out community work teams to trim branches that might knock out power lines and assist with the board-up of homes.

During Hurricanes Harvey and Rita prisoners were subjected to cruel and unusual conditions, including being trapped in cells flooded with sewage, no climate control, little clean water and food. In South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster is setting up a very similar situation, by refusing to evacuate MacDougall prison. MacDougall is in the evacuation zone near Charleston.

Trump says: 3000 deaths an “incredible unsung success”

During a White House briefing on hurricane Florence, Donald Trump touted his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico as “an incredible, unsung success.” The official death toll of Hurricane Maria was formally raised to 2975 people.

Since that is what is termed a ‘success,’ anyone who is not a Hilton Head real estate mogul can expect to see no meaningful assistance beyond a few rolls of paper towels.