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Editorial: Storm Arwen demonstrates the real risks of both climate change and austerity

STORM ARWEN, as it has been christened, has battered Britain over the past few days, with heavy rain, high winds, freezing temperatures and snowfall.

But this natural phenomenon has been made all the more deadly and destructive by man-made processes.

A weather event of this scale and this nature demands a massive response from all parts of the emergency services, including the fire brigade, ambulance services and the police and also from local authorities. These are all services which have been viciously cut and starved of funds for over a decade under Tory rule in Britain.

Covid-19 has devastatingly and cruelly demonstrated the real-world impact of these cuts in the context of health and social care.

Storm Arwen has shown what these cuts to emergency services mean for working people in the face of such an event.  

Even before Storm Arwen and even long before Covid-19 struck, these services were already at breaking point with nowhere near enough capacity to meet ever-increasing demand in normal times.

So when a disaster strikes these are services which don’t just lack the capacity or resources to respond to them, all of which are readily foreseeable, they are already services in a state of normalised operational crisis.

As we’ve seen with both Storm Arwen and Covid-19, the human cost is devastating. At the time of writing, thousands — including some of the most vulnerable — are without power in Scotland and north-east England.

In Yorkshire residents have been trapped by heavy snow and across Britain there have been deaths caused by falling debris. Transport networks are widely disrupted.

The workers in these sectors aren’t to blame. They’re some of the most underpaid and under pressure who have been at the sharp end of cuts and only their determination and sacrifice have kept many services running.  

In this context we see austerity for what it is. A calculated acceptance of the human cost of budget cuts. The ruling class and their political elite have done the maths and are perfectly happy for working people to suffer in the interests of their ideology and big business.  

The ruling class have made the same calculation on a global scale in terms of the unfolding climate crisis.  

They know full well the human cost that the capitalist-made climate crisis will entail. And they’re happy for working people and humanity to pay the bill.  

The worst effects will be and are already being seen in the global South. But here in Britain the impact will be seen too, both directly and indirectly.

Climate deniers often flippantly dismiss this, arguing Britain will simply have “warmer, wetter winters.” Scientific evidence indicates that extreme weather events like Storm Arwen will become more intense and more frequent.  

It is for the left to make clear that austerity and climate change are not inevitable or unstoppable processes that working people and humanity are bound to suffer through.  

The ruling class has chosen to gamble with our lives, our wellbeing, our communities and the fate of our planet and humanity. But working people also have a choice — and power beyond our own estimation.  

Human choices can be changed by human intervention. It’s only decisive action by working people that can end austerity, create a fair society and save the planet.  

The challenge for Britain’s left and labour movement today is to organise that power and make working people confident of our own power. Time is short but we have a world to win.

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