The beginning of 2013 has seen huge floods ravage Queensland yet again. Thousands of people have been displaced and several people have lost their lives. In excess of $2.4 billion of damage has been caused so far.
Cyclone Oswald caused the damage but the disaster has been made worse by the profit-driven system. Not only are there not enough resources being put into the clean up effort, but profit has yet again been put before people’s needs when it comes to prevention.
Many climate scientists say that global warming has played a role in making storms like this more severe and more frequent. Research indicates that extreme weather conditions are likely to increase in the future if climate change is not addressed.
Climatologist Kevin Trenbeth says that climate change is a factor contributing to all extreme weather events. This is because “the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be”. Extreme storms absorb this excess moisture causing heavier rainfall.
Capitalist governments and the mainstream media have avoided discussing the relationship between climate change and natural disasters. If we really want to limit the extent of the damage caused by natural disasters then we need real action on climate change.
Unfortunately for the big business interests behind the major parties and the media outlets, it is not profitable enough to move away from dirty fossil fuel energy production and towards renewables. Therefore any genuine action on climate change needs to challenge the profit motive that determines how energy is currently produced.
If the coal fired power plants were bought into public ownership and put under democratic control we could then implement a plan to transition from the burning of coal to renewables. At the same time we could also protect jobs and local communities. This needs to be part of a wide scale plan to transition to a zero emissions economy, implemented in the limited time we have before irreversible damage is caused.
Further to this flooding should be taken into consideration when building homes and infrastructure. Where to build, and what structures are needed, should be carefully planned. We need more investment into services, flood levees and pumps – not less.
Far from this approach the Queensland government has been slashing funding in these areas. Last year the LNP Government slashed a $1.2 million training program that provided cadets for the State Emergency Service (SES), the Queensland Fire & Rescue Service (QRFS) and the Queensland Ambulance Service.
Job and funding cuts in other areas have also had a big impact. Thousands of jobs have been cuts from health which has put a huge strain on local services. The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) has said if energy companies had more staff, power could have been restored much earlier.
To top off the misery of the floods many people were devastated to discover that their insurance did not cover them for flood damage due to deceptive policy agreements. For people who live in flood prone areas the cost to be covered is sky high. Far from being there to help, greedy private insurance companies have made a packet from people’s misfortune. This type of rorting should be made illegal.
While a crack down on dodgy insurance companies is required, what we really need is to develop a social and economic system that not only limits the likelihood of natural disasters but one that is also well equipped to deal with them when they do occur.
Capitalism, a system that puts profits before all else, is not adequately equipped to deal with natural disasters in any way. We need a system that is planned, well resourced and democratic. Only in that way will we be able to live in different climates in a way that is beneficial to both people and the environment.
By Socialist Party reporters