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The Progressive

Global Warming and the Pakistani Flood

It's impossible to look at the images coming out of Pakistan and not shake your head at the brutality of Mother Nature.

But is it Mother Nature's fault-or our own?

Is this just a freak occurrence, or the result of global warming?

I was speaking with Brian Tokar this morning. He's the director of the Institute for Social Ecology and the author of "Perspectives on the Climate Crisis and Social Change," and he believes that the flood, along with recent freak weather like Russia's drought and fires, can be traced back to our destruction of the environment.

"The weather is noticeably more chaotic," he writes in his book, "corresponding rather closely to climate scientists' longstanding predictions."

In one of those predictions from 2007, the IPCC said global warming will cause "increased deaths, disease, and injury due to heat waves, floods, storms, fire, and drought."

And while pinning any one event on global warming is tricky,

Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry, director-general of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, told Reuters: "The only explanation can be the link to climate change. Because that area very rarely receives monsoon rains."

Other stories in the mainstream media have made the same connection, including one in the Telegraph of London and one from AP.

If global warming is the culprit, we'll need to send more than helicopters and international aid teams to Pakistan.

We'll need nothing less that "a sweeping ecological transformation of society," Tokar says in his book. "Our survival is imperiled by the overconsumption of the world's affluent minority."

We need to get off fossil fuels, he says.

We need to pay the Third World a "climate debt" or "climate reparations," since it is the United States, along with other industrialized countries, that have done almost all of the environmental destruction, while at the same it is the people of the Third World who are suffering the most from it, he says.

And we need to explore the "positive, even utopian, possibilities for a post-petroleum, post-mega-mall world."

"It is clear today that the past two centuries of capitalist development," Tokar writes, "have created the conditions that threaten everyone's future."

That sure seems to be the case in Pakistan right now.


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Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild is senior editor of The Progressive magazine.

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