Socialist Worker

Heatwave driven by climate change smashes temperature records

by Sophie Squire
Issue No. 2762

Farm workers are left in dangerous conditions

Farm workers are left in dangerous conditions (Pic: United Farm Workers)


The death toll is rising as a heatwave continues to sweep parts of the United States and Canada.

In the Canadian province of British Columbia officials said that at least 233 people died between 25 June and 28 June. This is 100 more than average.

Lytton, in the province recorded temperatures of nearly 50 degrees Celsius on Tuesday, a new record for Canada.

In the Vancouver area on a single day the police responded to 65 sudden death call-outs.

The heatwave has been attributed to a “heat dome”. This occurs when air from the Pacific Ocean becomes trapped and is heated.

Layers of hot air have increased the thickness of the atmosphere across the region, creating a “dome.” The heat increases the thickness of the air, further increasing temperatures.

The climate crisis will mean that extreme weather events, like this, will become only more common.

Temperatures

Across the Pacific Northwest in the US, the infrastructure is unable to cope with the increased temperatures causing dozens of deaths.

The region, that usually experiences mild weather, is suffering electricity blackouts, and water shortages.

The heat is causing concrete to warp and buckle.

In Portland, Oregon, the city’s light rail streetcar service was suspended due to the heat literally melting its cables.

And hundreds of people were forced to seek shelter in cooling centres as temperatures soared in the city to 45 degrees Celsius on Monday.

In parts of Washington state, school districts paused bus services as the air inside the vehicles became too dangerous for children to travel in.

There are concerns from bosses that the heatwave will affect the fruit harvests throughout the region. But there is no action to protect fruit workers.

Protections

The United Farm Workers union tweeted, “Washington does not require employers to provide us (farmworkers) with the heat protections needed to save our lives. This must change.

“It’s the cherry season so conditions are incredibly dangerous. With labour needs at peak capacity, workers from 12 years old to over 70 are out working.

“When it’s hot we CAN’T rest indoors. If we’re paid by piece rate, there’s a perverse incentive that pushes us to the brink of death.”

Reyna Lopez is the director of the Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste a union that represents farmworkers in the state of Oregon.

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She said, “This year has been a roller coaster of climate conditions. It's the most marginalised communities that are first feeling those effects.”

And the extreme weather conditions aren’t just confined to the Pacific Northwest. Weather warnings remain in place in the states of California and Nevada.

President Joe Biden admitted that the US needed better infrastructure to deal with the effects of the climate crisis in a speech made in Wisconsin this week.

He is currently pushing for an infrastructure bill. The bill will supposedly provide more funds for roads, broadband and public transport—although far less than Biden originally promised.

But climate activists say it doesn’t provide enough funding for climate adaptations.

Executive director of the Sunrise Movement Varshini Prakash said, “Whether or not the Biden administration is aware, the bipartisan infrastructure bill's climate provisions are a measly fraction of his campaign promises, which themselves were a fraction of what is necessary to rebuild our economy and stop the climate crisis,"

For all Biden’s assurances that he is committed to fighting climate change they didn’t stop his secret service from arresting dozens of climate activists protesting outside the White House.

The youth activists from the Sunrise Movement successful blocked all ten of the White House’s entrances on Monday to demand Biden invests in more infrastructure and job creation.

But unless there is immediate action to begin to tackle climate change, there will be more horrors like the present heatwave—and worse.


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