Monster at the Gate: Frankenstorm Sandy and Global Climate Disruption
The first estimates of damage from “frankenstorm” Sandy are rolling in: Up to $70 billion in monetary costs. This includes the devastation of the New York City subway system, loss of hundreds of homes, destruction of bridges and roads… Whether it includes the poisoning of buildings and land in Brooklyn’s Gowanus neighborhood from the overflowing of a toxic canal we don’t know.
While these are only the initial estimates, the US corporate-controlled media and politicians have drawn clear conclusions: First is that the damage and loss of lives in Haiti don’t matter. There, a local mayor reported that the entire southern part of the country is under water. Haitian agriculture has been devastated. However, the press reports almost nothing of this.
Global Climate Disruption a Non-issue
The second conclusion is that this has absolutely nothing to do with global climate disruption/climate change. The silence on this connection is as deafening as the roar of that frankenstorm. During the second presidential “debate”, several audience members reportedly submitted questions on this general issue. However, the gate keeper - also known as the “moderator” - refused to call on these individuals. The issue was never raised by either campaign. Nor in reporting on Frankenstorm Sandy has the corporate-controlled media ever made the connection.
By their silence, they are saying that the issue does not exist.
Mother Nature, however, has a mind of her own, and there is no doubt that the conditions that created this storm are directly related to global climate disruption. As Avaaz.org reports:
Here are three ways climate change is making storms bigger and more destructive:
- The Atlantic Ocean off the eastern seaboard is up to 1.5°C above average. Warm waters fuel hurricanes and help them move further north with more force.
- Warmer temperatures lead to more moisture in the atmosphere, which results in hurricanes dumping more rain – which means more flooding.
- A so-called blocking pattern is pushing the hurricane closer to shore. Recent research suggests that this weather pattern will be increasingly common thanks to the warming Arctic.
In addition, because of longer summers, Frankenstorm Sandy comes well past the normal hurricane season. This allowed it to combine with an arctic storm from the north.
The extent of the devastation is also partly due to the defunding of social services and government services in general. Take the lack of funds for toxic clean-up. Greenpoint (Brooklyn, NYC) resident Richard Platzman explains: “The fact is that waste from all these industries — metal-working, pencil manufacturing, everything — all this stuff is going to rise up into the dirt, basements, everywhere,” Platzman said (as quoted in the Wall St. Journal, 10/31/12).
Despite this, however, presidential candidate Romney has called for privatization of public relief and President Obama is silent on the issue.
Then there is the danger to and from the numerous nuclear power plants all along the US’s East Coast. The most critical was Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in New Jersey, where the storm surge came very close to flooding the pumps that cool the nuclear fuel. The plant’s sirens also went out, meaning that the plant would have been unable to warn nearby residents had the pumps actually been flooded. Nuclear expert Arne Gunderson reports further (on Democracy Now): Several other plants have shut down—Indian Point, Nine Mile Point, another one down in New Jersey, Salem. And, of course, reports are still coming in. The ones that shut down did go to their diesels to cool. Of course, the problem is that Salem and the Oyster Creek plant, which we just talked about, were in a refueling mode. And what that means is that all of the nuclear fuel is not in the nuclear reactor, it’s in the spent fuel pool. And when you lose off-site power, you can’t cool the fuel pool. So I suspect in the next couple days we’re going to see reports of, you know, the fuel pools heating up, as—because they were unable to cool the spent fuel pool.
Expect More Frankenstorms
Frankenstorm Sandy is exactly what climate scientists have predicted - more extreme weather events as global climate disruption gathers strength. People in countries like Haiti will suffer the most - not only from such mega storms and the resultant flooding., but also from the exact opposite: droughts. Presently, the majority of human population lives within 100 miles of a coast. As the oceans rise, many of these areas will be flooded, and as we saw with “Sandy” others will be more vulnerable to such frankenstorms. On top of this is the legacy of toxic wastes that capitalism has left us - pools of contaminants, toxic metals in the soil that are brought to the surface by flooding, as well as the threat of further Fukushima’s.
Consciousness on Issue in US
Here in the US the consciousness on the issue is starting to swing back, as a result of direct experience. Surveys show that the percentage of people in the US who believe that the weather is warming dipped from 2008 to 2010 but increased from then until now to between 62 and 66%. This is the result of 2011 having been the warmest year in US history. From 2007 to 2010, the percentage who thought global warming was caused by “human activity” actually declined from 61% down to 50%. Since then, however, it has increased to 53%.
Not Human Caused
As the droughts world wide show, and as Frankenstorm Sandy reinforces, global climate disruption is probably the most serious threat that human society faces. It will cause mass migrations - leading to further social conflicts, mass poisonings due to flooding of toxic containment pools, etc. It will threaten new Fukushimas. It will threaten mass starvation due to droughts as well as floods. It will accelerate the rate of species extinction. The only misconception the climate scientists have helped disseminate is the idea that this is caused by people. It’s not; it’s caused by capitalism.
As they say in the monster movies, “kill it quick, before it kills you.” Except this is no fictional monster film; it’s real life and the monster is capitalism itself.