17 May 2011

Just ask Noah


Climate Change: Neck Deep in the Big Muddy
by Glenn Scherer
The Mississippi River has risen to levels never seen in U.S. history – lapping levee tops and threatening cities and hamlets from Memphis to the Gulf. Floodwaters cover an area bigger than Connecticut, the result of a record 90 inches of precipitation in the Midwest.

Some would point an accusatory finger at human-caused global warming. But as any climatologist will tell you, no single weather event is attributable to global warming.

Meanwhile, Texas is in flames. It has endured the 7 driest months on record, with drought parching 98 percent of the Lone Star state. No one has ever seen the like of it, with 2.2 million acres already scorched black by wildfires.

Of course, as any Obama administration official will gladly testify, no one weather event can be traced back to climate change.

Out West, record snowpack, a staggering 200 percent above normal, has brought severe flood risks to Utah, Wyoming, and Montana. While eastern Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona are enduring drought and gearing up for an equally severe fire season.

Of course, as any freshman Tea Party Congressman will insist, no one weather event can ever be said to be created by human-caused climate change.

And who can forget last month, when 312 tornadoes smashed the Southeast, with a record-setting 228 twisters spawned in a single day? Some of those killer funnel clouds were a mile wide and stayed on the ground across several states.

Of course, as any Exxon or Koch brothers-funded climate change skeptic will scold you, no one weather event can ever be seen to be the result of human-caused climate change.

Go out in your backyard, stick a thumb up in the air or look at what's blooming today, and you'll likely know. The times are a changin' –fast. Your community and mine are hotter, dryer or wetter, with nastier storms than you or your grandparents ever saw.

But… as any Fox News anchor will assert, no single weather event can ever be seen as being the product of human-caused climate change.

But, how about thousands of weather events? Shattered heat records. Drought records. Deluge records. Winters grown milder and shorter. Summers grown longer and brutally hot. Icecaps melting, ice shelves collapsing, glaciers in galloping retreat. It's exactly what climate modelers began forecasting two decades ago.

Except, the scientists told us then these sorts of catastrophes wouldn't hammer us until 2050 or later. Hell, Greenland wasn't supposed to melt significantly until after 2100, but it is melting significantly now. Global coral reefs are dying now, global food harvests are in decline now, and food prices are breaking records now due to changing climate.

Still, we're a nation with its head in the sand. Worse, like a drug addict whose connection just got popped, we're sniffing out fossil fuel under every rock; raping the Canadian tar sands; readying drilling platforms in Arctic seas and Gulf deepwater; and turning vast swathes of rural America into a pincushion of drilling rigs fracked for natural gas.

This spring, President Obama even called for an enormous expansion of the dirtiest, most polluting industry of all. Under his plan, new coal mines will increase U.S. climate change emissions by over fifty percent beyond what we're producing currently.

Damn the risks. We need our energy fix!

Meantime, the Mississippi rolls on. "We've never seen anything like this. I was scared not knowing what's going to happen or where we can go from here," said flood victim Tamara Jenkins of Frayser, Tennessee, talking to CNN.

Well, Ms. Jenkins, you may be neck deep in the Big Muddy and not know what's going to happen next. But the fossil fuel industry, our president and congress do. They have complete confidence in our business as usual energy policy, and say we should push on.

After all, Ms. Jenkins, every damn fool knows that no single flood of biblical proportions can be attributed to human-caused climate change. Just ask Noah

Glenn Scherer is senior editor of Blue Ridge Press. You can comment at scherer@blueridgepress.com.

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