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Chris Ford: The Great Winter Storm of 2013 - Climate change comes calling again!

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

 The Great Winter Storm of 2013 has seen the spectre of climate change come knocking on our door again!

This latest storm, the largest and most significant in New Zealand for nearly 40 years, has crippled many parts of the country due to a combination of snow, rain, sleet, hail, ice and wind. The people of Wellington have probably experienced their biggest storm since the Wahine Storm of April 1968 and Aucklanders are being warned to brace for the same conditions.

Meanwhile, while my own city of Dunedin has escaped the worst of the snow, the combination of a high spring tide and gale force winds at sea have added to the coastal erosion already underway in the coastal suburb of St Clair. Farmers and urban dwellers alike have also had to put up with record snowfalls in other parts of the South Island.

Altogether, it appears that the Great Winter Storm of 2013 has surpassed the Great Storm of 2011 in terms of reach, damage and velocity.

It's a fact that coming on the heels of the worst Summer drought for 70 years, this Great Storm is but another harbinger of more extreme weather to come. Yes, we've had extreme weather events ever since Earth first got an atmosphere billions of years ago. This has led to the planet experiencing warm and cold cycles throughout its history.

But the key difference in the 21st Century is that we, human beings, have abused our planet. Or more precisely, since the onset of the modern capitalist industrial revolution 200 years ago, carbon based industry has expelled literally millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into our skies, thereby, destabilising the intricate dynamics that help regulate Earth's climate.

Therefore, the processes of unregulated capitalism have induced human beings to over consume at the planet's expense. And this has been at the behest, particularly in the modern age, of corporate capital who have been keen to make a short-term fast buck rather than think of the planet's future. Furthermore, that's why elements of corporate capital have been keen to fund the work of climate change deniers who merely argue that, at worst, the extreme weather patterns being witnessed now are just merely part of a natural pattern and that there's nothing to be concerned about.

However, New Zealanders who are shivering in the worst Winter storm in living memory, Indians who are facing the prospect of flooding along the River Ganges, Britons and Europeans who have come through the coldest Spring in recorded history, and Coloradoans in the US who are facing the prospect of more wild fires might well disagree with the climate change skeptics. Absent climate change, would we be subject to as many adverse weather events in any given year as we are now? Probably not. And if that were the case, we would now NOT be seeing as many people dead or injured or economic losses in the tens of billions of dollars as we are presently witnessing through climate change.

That's why this week's Great Winter Storm is just climate change knocking on our door again. It's on the verge of coming in and making itself feel at home. What we must do, though, is pressure governments and the ethos of untramelled capitalism before it does so!



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