Worst drought ever devastates Europe amid capitalism’s climate crisis

From Britain to the Balkans, a record drought is devastating Europe. More than 60% of the European Union and Britain are facing drought conditions, according to the European Drought Observatory, in what a European Commission scientist has called Europe’s worst drought since 500 years. Major rivers and lakes are drying up, farmers are facing unprecedented crop failures and energy supplies are collapsing amid unprecedented heat and lack of rainfall.

The summer of 2022, which has broken records for heat, forest fires and now drought in Europe, has highlighted the urgent need to tackle global climate change. It has now reached such a scale that, without prompt and large-scale action, it will threaten basic societal functions essential to human life, such as the ability to provide water, food, electricity and safe housing.

The extreme drought this summer was caused by record rainfall in Europe this year and successive heat waves, including the heat wave in July that shattered temperature records. Extreme heat and drought have also led to record wildfires, with 615,341 hectares burned this year across Europe, the highest figure on record as of mid-August. The drought is disrupting key food and energy supplies, already undermined by the NATO-Russia war in Ukraine, further pushing up the prices of essential goods amid the ongoing inflationary crisis.

On the Rhine, barges are transporting goods at 25% capacity due to low water levels. Water levels are now at 40 centimeters but are expected to drop to around 30 centimeters, which could completely halt transport on the river. Such shutdowns in 2018 cost the German economy around 5 billion euros.

France last week forced its nuclear power stations, which produce 70% of its electricity, to operate at reduced capacity: dumping high-temperature cooling water into rivers at record levels is an ecological hazard. Amid the current energy crisis, however, the French energy agency has now ordered plants to return to full capacity regardless of the resulting damage to the environment, including plant and animal life. Of the 96 French metropolitan departments, 86 are on drought alert. The Loire, the second largest in France, can be crossed on foot for much of its length.

The water level of the Danube, the longest in Europe, is currently 43 centimeters, the lowest since records began. In Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania, dredging efforts are underway to keep the river navigable for barges, which are crucial for food and energy supplies to the Balkans. In southern Germany, the water temperature of the river has exceeded 25°C and is expected to reach 27°C by the end of the month, the same temperature as the Caribbean Sea.

Across Europe, fish are threatened by record water temperatures and low oxygen levels. The entire fish stock in the Conopljankso reservoir in Serbia died after it dried up completely.

The surface of the Oder River, which flows between Poland and Germany, is now practically covered with dead fish. While Polish authorities have disputed reports of heavy industrial contamination in the river, it is clear that as the volume of water in the river has fallen to record lows, concentrations of industrial pollutants have risen. arrow.

European farmers are facing massive crop failures, with production of key grains down 30-40% in Italy and nearly 20% in France. The Spanish olive oil harvest, which accounts for nearly half of global exports, is expected to be a quarter of the average produced over the past five years.

In the Po Valley in northern Italy, 60 percent of this year’s harvest was lost as farmers were unable to use local rivers for crop irrigation. This has already caused at least 6.2 billion euros in damage. The region, which produces 30 to 40 percent of Italy’s food supply, has seen virtually no rain this year. Near the Po estuary, water levels are so low that salt water from the Adriatic Sea has flowed 30 kilometers upstream, killing crops near the banks of the river that had so far survived the drought.

Drinking water supplies are at their lowest in all Po Valley towns, including Milan and Turin. Water levels in the region’s lakes are also at historic lows, including the popular tourist destination of Lake Garda in northern Italy, which has almost completely dried up.

Even the northernmost and wettest regions of Europe are suffering. Low water levels in Norwegian reservoirs reduce its ability to generate hydroelectric power. This has led to warnings that it may have to cut energy exports, further exacerbating the energy crisis caused by NATO threats to refuse to pay for Russian gas and Russian threats to cut off supplies. Eight regions of the UK are facing drought conditions, including the capital, London.

These events underscore the urgent need for an internationally coordinated campaign to stop and address the consequences of global warming. Trillions of euros must be invested in high technology, key infrastructure, irrigation technologies, clean energy production, food security programs and other initiatives to ensure the globe remains habitable for the future. humanity.

Achieving this requires a direct attack on the capitalist system, and the wealth and privileges of its corrupt financial aristocracy. Trillions of euros were found overnight amid the stock market crash that followed the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet that wealth has not been used to wipe out the virus, which has since claimed more than 1.6 million lives in Europe alone, or to fund critical infrastructure investments, but to bail out a small elite of wealthy investors who don’t answer to anyone.

As with the pandemic, the measures needed to combat global warming are well known to scientists and government officials, but the international institutions of the capitalist nation-state system have failed to mount a coordinated response. Instead, they delve deeper into war. EU governments are pledging hundreds of billions of euros in increased military spending, preparing to escalate NATO’s war against Russia in Ukraine.

The current drought exposes the much-vaunted 2015 Paris Accords, which aim to limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. Extreme weather conditions caused by just 1.2°C of global warming are already catastrophic. Looking at the devastation in Europe today, one has to wonder: even if capitalist governments implemented the Paris Accords to the letter, how many of Europe’s rivers would dry up and how much of its farmland would become barren?

The global warming disaster will continue until a movement is built to stop it in the European and international working class, in opposition to the entire ruling elite. Just look at the German Greens, supposedly the main ‘green’ party in the European political establishment: they are leading the campaign for EU rearmament, while endorsing a return to the use of highly polluting coal for power generation amid the wartime energy crisis.

Young people and workers seeking to fight global warming must draw the necessary conclusions from the ruling elite’s refusal to act and its suicidal will towards a new world war. To overcome these threats to civilization, the anarchic profit system must be ended and replaced by a socialist, scientifically planned world economy. This requires building a mass anti-war and socialist movement in the working class to remove control of the global economy from the hands of the financial aristocracy and subordinate it to social need, not private profit.