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British heatwave is one example of a world in deep climate crisis

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Issue 2615
A woman digs for water during a drought in Kenya, 2011
A woman digs for water during a drought in Kenya, 2011 (Pic: DFID)

Soaring temperatures last week meant that the potential reality of climate change was discussed in places where it would normally be ignored or ridiculed.

Reports that premature deaths from heatwaves in Britain could more than treble to around 7,000 a year by mid-century have brought home the seriousness of the threat.

“The world’s on fire,” was the headline in The Sun newspaper one day last week. It followed it up with a picture from parched fields in Gloucester that was said to resemble the “plains of Africa”.

It’s welcome that the consequences of climate change have eventually been recognised. But it’s an insult that it takes a British heatwave for that to happen.

Many parts of Africa, Asia, South America and the Middle East have faced extreme weather events for decades.

A recent report suggested that years of very low rainfall and consequent soil degradation mean that 50 to 700 million people could be driven from their homes by 2050. The worst affected areas are likely to be the dry fringes of southern Iraq, Afghanistan, sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia.

July saw probably the highest temperature ever reliably measured in Africa.

A United Nations agency reported recently that in the Horn of Africa (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia) “weather has become more and more unpredictable. One drought follows another, robbing poor communities of their limited possessions, and leaving them increasingly more vulnerable.

“Globally, natural disasters strike nearly five times more often than four decades ago.”

Air pollution in Africa, which some scientists suggest causes more deaths and ill-health than malnutrition or dirty water, both contributes to climate change and is then worsened by the excess heat.

Climate pressures intersect with wider factors. Imperialism has robbed Africa, and even after independence environmental factors intersect with the capitalist policies of the global and local rich.

The battles over climate change are global challenges that have to be linked to the battle for a world where people come before profit.

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