By Sophie Squire
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Politicians and business leave us to suffer the heat for the sake of profit

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Bosses and governments failed to prepare to deal with the heat crisis they caused
Issue 2814
Two health workers sit with signs reading JP Morgan funding overheating - climate emergency is a health emergency. Heat

Health workers in Extinction Rebellion protested at JP Morgan’s headquarters for funding fossil fuels – linking it to the heat crisis (picture: Extinction Rebellion)

Wildfires raged across Europe and temperatures reached life-threatening levels in Britain this week, revealing the urgency of the climate crisis—and governments’ complete failure to deal with it.

Hospitals in Britain warned of a winter-style crisis due to heat‑related illness, while vital infrastructure started to buckle under the strain of unprecedented high temperatures. Highs of up to 40 degrees led the UK Health Security Agency to issue a level 4 heat-health alert—which meant that temperatures were likely to endanger life.

Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change predicted that if temperatures reached this point several days in a row, between 1,500 and 2,000 people could die.

Those most at risk of death due to extreme heat are some of the most vulnerable in society, including the elderly and the very young. And it can also be extremely dangerous for those with existing health conditions, including asthma, heart disease and mental distress.

Meanwhile, rail workers were tasked with hurriedly painting tracks white to reflect heat in bid to stop them warping in the high temperatures. Despite years of rising temperatures and warnings, profiteering bosses had failed to spend the money to make sure basic services can keep functioning.

Instead people were warned to avoid all but essential transport. Basically the message was to stay in your home and wait out the heat.

But even that can be deadly. A report from Loughborough University last week found that, during heat waves in 2018, some 4.6 million bedrooms overheated.

It noted that, in 2018, four heat waves caused 1,067 excess deaths. Yet developers still don’t build new houses and flats to resist the heat.

James Prestwich of the Chartered Institute of Housing said, “We’ve seen buildings designed that don’t cope well with the increased temperatures we now experience in summer. The problem is particularly acute in new build flats in city centres” he added.

“What we’ve seen is buildings that have been built with a lot of glass and not necessarily the best through flow of air through corridors.” The problem is massive—from 2016 to 2021, 570,000 homes were built that were completely unsuitable to withstand hotter temperatures.

And the Climate Change Committee recently condemned a “shocking gap” in government policy regarding insulating homes. Not only does insulating keep homes warm, but if done correctly, it can keep them cool.

And your workplace can be an equally dangerous place to be during a heatwave. Currently, the law does not specify the temperature at which it is too hot to work.

Regulations say that employers must provide a “reasonable temperature” to work in, but that temperature is decided by the bosses. Schools are not prepared for the heat either, with schools either closing or children’s uniform policy being suspended.

It’s yet another indictment of the system that short term profiteering of bosses has not only triggered catastrophic climate change—but is also failing to prepare for the consequences.

Weather extremes kill all over the world

Extreme heat caused massive wildfires across Europe this week. In Spain 22,000 hectares of scrub and woodland have been burnt since a heatwave began a week ago.

The heatwave had already caused the deaths of 360 people in Spain as of Monday. A number of firefighters and emergency personnel had already died fighting the forest fires.

In Portugal firefighters battled 13 forest fires across the country, where some 659 people died in the space of just a week. Even before the heatwave hit, some 96 percent of the mainland in Portugal was suffering some drought.

And upwards of 16,000 people had to evacuate from the south west Gironde region in France. Changing wind directions could mean that even more people need to evacuate. Over 200 reinforcement firefighters were drafted to tackle the blaze.

In several regions, officials were forced to impose pollution warnings. In Greece 71 forest fires broke out within a 24-hour period.

But it’s not only extreme heat and wildfires that are claiming lives. Floods have killed at least 12 people in south west and north west China this week.

In the south western province of Sichuan, up to six people died, and another six in the north western region of Gansu. Torrential rainfall caused the flooding, with 3.9 inches of water falling in the worst-affected places. The floods come at the same time as heatwaves across China.

In some regions temperatures have risen to as much as 42 degrees. Amid rising temperatures caused by climate change, flooding is becoming increasingly common in China.

Don’t settle for adaptation to hot future

It’s right to be angry that governments and bosses have failed to adapt to extreme weathers resulting from climate change. Yet extreme heat and adverse weather will continue to claim lives and destroy homes, and no amount of adaptation can stop that.

In many ways, politicians would prefer to talk about adapting to the climate crisis than solving it. They suggest that it is possible to deal with temperature changes with the proper adjustments.

The best way to stop temperatures from rising is to stop burning fossil fuels, which are directly responsible for soaring temperatures.

United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres told a meeting of 40 government ministers on Monday, “Half of humanity is in the danger zone, from floods, droughts, extreme storms and wildfires.

“No nation is immune. Yet we continue to feed our fossil fuel addiction. We have a choice. Collective action or collective suicide. It is in our hands.”

But the reason governments won’t act is because that would mean taking on the might of the fossil fuel industry—and the tens of billions of pounds tied up in it.

Stopping climate change needs a democratically planned socialist society, and a move to renewable energy. But that means fighting to wrench the future of the planet out of the hands of the fossil fuel industry.

Join mass action to take on fossil fuel funders

Ordinary people must take the streets not only to demand governments act amid rising temperatures, but to end fossil fuel production that is suffocating the planet. 

Doctors for Extinction Rebellion (XR) cracked the windows of JP Morgan bank in Canary Wharf, east London, on Saturday. They targeted the bank as it has invested £332 billion pounds in the fossil fuel industry since the Paris climate agreement of 2016.

Climate activist group Just Stop Oil has joined with the Fuel Poverty Action group, and the Justice project to form a coalition called We All Want to Just Stop Oil. Together they have organised a protest on Saturday in London to demand an end to fossil fuel use and to hit back at the cost of living crisis.

Organisers have planned a sit‑in at Parliament Square and then a march through the streets. Just Stop Oil said this will be just the first of a “major wave of popular mass action.”

And XR is set to begin its latest rebellion in London on 10 September. The group wrote on its website, “We are serious about getting our demands met, and we recognise we have a lot of work to do to get there.

“We need to grow our movement—not just in numbers, but in strength, vision and trust—and the next months are crucial.”

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