2022 – The climate crisis is hitting the planet’s working class hard and they know it Jeff Sparrow

“What do you mean why am I working in this heat?” If I don’t work, we’ll starve.”

Shiv Kumar Mandal, a rickshaw driver from Delhi, explained why he continues to carry passengers during the prolonged and horrific rise in temperatures that experts attribute to global warming.

It is suspected that Mandal does not see global warming as an issue that is only relevant to the wealthy.

But after the Australian general election, we still hear versions of that claim.

Remember how Liberal Senator Holly Hughes—no less than spokesmen for the coalition—described warming as “almost a luxury issue.”

Likewise, Quillette editor Claire Lehman says those who champion renewable energy do so primarily to signal their own wealth, while viewer Rebecca Weisser attributes the poll as a win for “green, blue-green elites seeking pensions” (which she calls “Has helped immeasurably through an education system that indoctrinates children and youth from kindergarten to university in the cult of climate catastrophe and legitimizes climate strikes during school days, in which the Greens and the Socialist Alliance openly participate”).

Meanwhile, Lillian Andrews goes so far as to claim that the election shows that the Liberals have “become the new party of the common people”, with their climate policies “repeating what were once core values ​​of the Labor Party to protect and defend working-class rights”.

Well, it’s good to have an imagination.

In the real world, anyone who cares about the actual working class understands that global warming hurts the downtrodden and the poor the most, anywhere, anytime.

An intense heat wave in India means temperatures in Delhi have exceeded 42 degrees Celsius for 25 days since the start of summer. Yet millions of workers still toil in the fresh air simply because, like Mandal, they can’t stay out of the sun.

They all suffer under unbearable conditions – and some of them die.

“It’s not just about being tired or upset,” says Avikal Somvanshi of the Urban Laboratory at the Center for Science and Environment. “It’s actually killing people.”

The same distinction between the rich, who can protect themselves from global warming, and the poor, who clearly cannot, is evident in the developed world.

In the face of a heat wave in the United States, the authorities have urged one hundred million Americans to stay at home.

Alexia Gonzalez works for Instacart. Her employers may be in air-conditioned comfort, but she certainly can’t.

“It’s very hot at work, but then people want deliveries,” she told the Guardian.

Across the planet, rising temperatures are turning densely populated areas into “urban heat islands” where concrete landscapes inhabited by working-class families absorb the sun and heat the air.

By combining satellite measurements with census data, University of North Carolina researcher Angel Hsu has shown how heat correlates with poverty and race. Shockingly, almost everywhere in America, communities of color tolerate temperatures on average one degree higher than those of non-Hispanic whites.

Similar factors drive residents to experience the climate crisis in Australia, where, for example, western Sydney develops an astonishing 8-10°C during heat waves than the eastern parts of the city.

It’s not just a matter of temperatures either.

We know that carbon pumped into the atmosphere means more fires and more floods – and we know who will bear the brunt of the well-predicted disasters that will follow.

Researchers looking at wildfires in 2019-2020 say that “the most socially and economically disadvantaged communities experienced disproportionately greater vulnerability than the relatively advantaged ones” during the black summer.

The 2022 floods also hit poor families hard, who tended to live in more dangerous areas and were less likely to have insurance.

In other words, if you’re not fighting global warming, you don’t care about the working class, no matter how many times Sky News raises rhetorical outrage against “awakened elites.”

Given what is at stake for ordinary people, we might wonder why the environment is not so clearly related to the fighters to the extent that green can be declared the new red.

Part of the answer lies in the fact that many of the “climate solutions” advocated by mainstream politicians come straight from the neoliberal toolbox. Decades of philosophical dominance by right-wing economists has meant that the standard response to global warming since the 1990s has focused on market mechanisms similar to those that have made “reform” a dirty word for everyone outside the political class. When policymakers are interested in emissions trading schemes and other free-market remedies, they sound to many ordinary people like brainwaves that have “fixed” public utilities, labor relations, social care and education.

Labor’s longstanding association with neoliberalism, shared equally by liberals, explains the continuing exodus of rusty voters from both major parties.

But to admit this disappointment does not mean to harbor illusions that liberals will somehow establish themselves as a proletarian choice.

For example, it is wrong to regard the election result as the “politics of the rich” and the conservative as the “politics of the fighters”. Conversely, in his detailed analysis of voting trends, data scientist Sean Ratcliffe demonstrates that despite Tails’ success, the Liberals remain the privileged party. “[أنا[هذاصحيحتقريبًا”يتأرجح”هذاجيدجدًاومصوتونراسخوندائمًافيعام2022″[Esstimmtimmernochgrößtenteils“sagter„dasswohlhabendeundetablierteWählereherfürdieKoalitionstimmenundAustraliermitniedrigeremEinkommenimerwerbsfähigenAlterimAllgemeinenweiterhinfürdieLinkeimJahr2022stimmen“[I[tisstillmostlytrue”hesays“thatwell-offandestablishedvotersaremorelikelytovotefortheCoalitionandlower-incomeworking-ageAustraliansgenerallycontinuedtovotefortheleftin2022”[أنا[هذاصحيحتقريبًا”يتأرجح”هذاجيدجدًاومصوتونراسخوندائمًافيعام2022″[Esstimmtimmernochgrößtenteils“sagter„dasswohlhabendeundetablierteWählereherfürdieKoalitionstimmenundAustraliermitniedrigeremEinkommenimerwerbsfähigenAlterimAllgemeinenweiterhinfürdieLinkeimJahr2022stimmen“[I[tisstillmostlytrue”hesays“thatwell-offandestablishedvotersaremorelikelytovotefortheCoalitionandlower-incomeworking-ageAustraliansgenerallycontinuedtovotefortheleftin2022”

That shouldn’t be a surprise.

Working-class voters – in Australia and around the world – are increasingly distrustful of all major parties. But this does not make them conservative by nature. The cow doesn’t really match the butcher.

Understandably, workers want reassurance that they will not lose the guaranteed social dividend in polluting traditional industries in a low-carbon future.

But generations of unionists who were earning relatively high wages in the mining industry would turn their graves over if they claimed that coal—a substance stained with the blood of those who mined it for a century and a half—was inherently good for class work.

And they’ll roll even further into the idea that the giant corporations that profit from planetary destruction don’t care about the consequences for ordinary people.

Jeff Sparrow is a columnist for Guardian Australia

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