As part of an ambitious initiative to build climate resilience in the aftermath of disastrous floods, Pakistan has, with Chinese assistance, put up a high-tech environmental observation station to anticipate weather and research climate change. Disasters such as floods, droughts, and cyclones have struck Pakistan in recent years, causing widespread destruction. Since the monsoon season started in mid-June, Pakistan has seen extremely heavy rains—about three times higher than the country’s 30-year average. As a result, Pakistan is facing its worst floods this century, with rivers spilling their banks, flash flooding, and bursting glacial lakes. The climate minister of Pakistan has declared that floodwaters have spread across one-third of the country, making this the worst flooding event in the country’s history.
In the last week of October, João Pedro Stedile, a leader of the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) in Brazil and the global peasants’ organisation La Via Campesina, went to the Vatican to attend the International Meeting of Prayer for Peace, organised by the Community of Sant’Egídio. On 30 October, Brazil held a presidential election, which was won by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, affectionately known as Lula. A key part of his campaign addressed the reckless endangerment and destruction of the Amazon by his opponent, the incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro. Lula’s victory, helped along by vigorous campaigning by the MST, provides hope for our chance to save the planet. This week’s newsletter contains the speech that Stedile gave at the Vatican. We hope you find it as useful as we do.
Environmentalists have been saying for decades that the climate crisis would impact us all, and the mainstream media has essentially ignored it. And if you’re thinking, “Mainstream media covers climate change all the time!” No, they actually don’t. They cover the impacts of climate change like droughts, fires, and hurricanes. But they don’t connect it to climate change. In fact, most of the time they won’t even say the words “climate change.” For example, take Hurricane Ida just last year, which destroyed parts of Louisiana. As reported in The Guardian, in their coverage, “Six of the biggest commercial TV networks in the U.S. – ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NBC and MSNBC – ran 774 stories about Ida from 27 to 30 August, an analysis by the watchdog group Media Matters found.
It’s no secret that climate hazards are rising, with headlines of floods, hurricanes, and wildfires taking over the news. Now, a report from CDP, a nonprofit climate disclosure group, found that 4 out of 5 cities have experienced “significant climate hazards” this year. One-quarter of cities surveyed also expect to see more frequent “high-risk” climate hazards by 2025. Researchers surveyed 998 cities for its Protecting People and the Planet analysis, finding that 80% of responding cities reporting they faced significant climate hazards — including extreme heat (46%), heavy rainfall (36%), drought (35%) and flooding (33%) — in 2022. For 28% of the cities facing significant climate hazards, these extreme weather events threaten at least 70% of the cities’ populations.
In mid-September of this year, Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico as a Category 1 storm. Despite Category 1 being the mildest ranking, the damage was devastating, triggering an island-wide blackout and leaving more than 760,000 without clean water. After nearly a month since the storm, the reality on the ground is still grim. Officials estimate $172 million in damages to roads, excluding municipal roads, which are the majority. Around 900,000 Puerto Ricans have applied for individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). 59%, or three out of every five such applications have been approved. According to Manuel Laboy, the director of the Central Office of Recovery (COR3), FEMA has not approved any of the public assistance applications submitted by the 78 municipalities, 40 agencies and 57 non-profit organizations. FEMA itself has challenged this claim.
Say what you want about the insurance industry — damn bloodsuckers constantly cranking up your bills — but you must admit that they understand risk. It is, at its heart, a simple business: Estimate with great precision how much you are likely to pay out in claims, and then charge customers more than that, so you make a profit. The success of insurance companies is closely wedded to their ability to analyze the real world with accuracy. Some businesses, like advertising, may run on delusion, but in insurance, that sort of thing is poison. So it poses a problem for a certain variety of right-wing free market fundamentalists when the insurance industry begins sending signals that climate change is very, very real — so real that it should be upending our way of life already.
Hurricane Ian caused mass destruction to Southwest Florida, taking dozens of lives and leaving millions without power. But in the midst of devastation, a small solar-powered community was left virtually unscathed — despite being just 12 miles northeast of hard-hit Fort Myers. Babcock Ranch is a solar-powered town with roughly 2,000 homes and more than 700,000 solar panels. Homes and businesses in Babcock are built to be energy efficient and weather resistant, many of them constructed with durable insulated panels meant to withstand Florida’s extreme weather. Many residents have additional solar panels and solar battery systems as an extra layer of protection from power outages. If Hurricane Ian was a test of the town’s resiliency, Babcock Ranch passed with flying colors.
We are past the point where “stopping” climate change is really possible. With global temperature rise already above 1 degree Celsius and the window on keeping warming below 1.5 degrees rapidly closing, the consequences of decades of political inaction and corporate malfeasance are already making themselves known. Every month it seems like another part of the world is being hammered by one catastrophic climate impact or another, from flooding in Puerto Rico and Pakistan to the extreme heat that melted asphalt in Europe this past summer to the wildfires raging across western North America. In the face of this new reality, climate organizing needs to evolve. For me, this reality really struck home last summer when extreme heat and wildfires ravaged the part of Canada that I call home.
Calamities are familiar to the people of Pakistan who have struggled through several catastrophic earthquakes, including those in 2005, 2013, and 2015 (to name the most damaging), as well as the horrendous floods of 2010. However, nothing could prepare the fifth most populated country in the world for this summer’s devastating events, which began with high temperatures and political chaos followed by unimaginable flooding. Cascading frustration with the Pakistani state defines the public mood. Taimur Rahman, the general secretary of the Mazdoor Kisan Party (‘Workers and Peasants Party’), told Peoples Dispatch that after the 2010 floods, there was ‘enormous outrage about the fact that the government had not done anything to ensure that… when there is an overflow of water, it can be controlled’.
Devastating floods are occurring across Pakistan due to monsoon rains. Since June, more than 1,000 people have been killed by floods, with thousands more being displaced and having to go without food. Capitalism makes these disasters the new normal, with workers, particularly those of the Global South, bearing the brunt. Just this weekend, tens of thousands of people have had to flee their homes in Northern Pakistan due to floods. There are many more that still need to be rescued. More than 33 million people have been affected over the past few weeks, millions of homes have been destroyed, and infrastructure such as roads and bridges have been damaged or destroyed along with millions of acres of farmland. This is not merely just one or a few bad storms.
30 to 33 million persons are reported to be seriously affected by floods in Pakistan, a country with a population of 220 million. Due to this a national emergency has been declared in Pakistan. The previous worst floods in Pakistan were recorded in 2010 when nearly 20 million people were affected, causing damages estimated at $10 billion. This was followed by a very serious flood situation next year in Sindh. What is more, there was some serious flood event or the other for the next five years. This year Sindh and Balochistan are reported to be the worst affected, although serious harm has been reported from elsewhere too. From mid-June to the last week of August, nearly 1000 persons have perished in floods and a higher number have faced injuries.
So what does this new paper say? Well, in essence, some very similar things to our report What Lies Beneath: The underestimation of existential climate risks, written with my Breakthrough colleague Ian Dunlop. When that report was first published in 2017, and then expanded in 2018 with a foreword by Prof Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, it had a significant impact, especially in Europe, with German and Slovenian translations, and a front-cover interview with the German energy magazine, Energiewende Magazin (translation here). It was a key document in the successful campaign to have the Club of Rome adopt a climate emergency position, and its subsequent advocacy which morphed into its Planetary Emergency campaign.
The past week has seen record-breaking heat waves across Europe. Wildfires have ripped through Spain, Portugal and France. London’s fire brigade experienced its busiest day since World War II. The U.K. saw its hottest day on record of 104.54 Fahrenheit. In China, more than a dozen cities issued the “highest possible heat warning” this weekend with over 900 million people in China enduring a scorching heat wave along with severe flooding and landslides across large swathes of southern China. Dozens of people have died. Millions of Chinese have been displaced. Economic losses run into the billions of yuan. Droughts, which have destroyed crops, killed livestock and forced many to flee their homes, are creating a potential famine in the Horn of Africa.
At 6:30am this morning, 2 people from Extinction Rebellion carefully cracked 2 windows at the entrance of the News UK building at London Bridge. At the same time, 4 others – including a scientist – chalk sprayed “TELL THE TRUTH” and “40 DEGREES = DEATH” on the front of the building, and pasted recent copies of The Sun headlines about the heatwave onto windows. Special care was taken to ensure no one was hurt when the windows were cracked. The action comes just two days after six healthcare professionals, including two GPs, were arrested for breaking windows at JP Morgan’s Canary Wharf HQ. This act of nonviolent civil disobedience comes as a response to the media’s coverage of the current heatwave. On Saturday, the British Government declared the nation’s first ever level 4 national emergency heat red alert.