Fighting Record Floods Means Tackling Climate Change Too


Mississippi River flooding. Photo: kevindooley via Flickr/CC BY

The Washington Post has a story today, Floods along the Mississippi River lead to renewed calls for a change in strategy, detailing the various ways that governments are coping with increased flooding. But the discussion shouldn't just be limited to techniques for containing floodwater -- part of the solution to increased flooding is working to mitigate climate change.

I'm sick and tired of this qualifier, but I'll obligatorily trot it out anyways: No, we can't say any single weather event was caused by climate change. But it's getting to the point where some of the most esteemed climate scientists say that it would be "irresponsible not to mention climate change" in the context of extreme weather events (that's NCAR's Kenneth Trenbeth). And it's no different with the record flooding that's currently swamping regions along the Mississippi River. See the following horror story from the Washington Post:

A rising Mississippi River forced hundreds of residents from their homes in Memphis on Sunday as the town's legendary Beale Street began flooding. Further south, cities in Mississippi and Louisiana braced for a surge of rainwater and snowmelt that has been predicted to break records dating to 1927.

And last week, the Army Corps of Engineers pulled a trick it had not been forced to use in nearly 75 years: It blew open a two-mile run of a Missouri levee, sacrificing about 130,000 acres of farmland and 100 homes to save the town of Cairo, Ill.

Desperate times, right? Indeed -- this sort of record flooding is becoming common in regions around the US. And yes, climate change is largely to blame: warmer air holds more water vapor, so as temps heat up, wet regions will get rainier. And scientists predict that this will hit areas of the US especially hard.

The Guardian notes that "American scientists have been warning for years that climate change is influencing extreme weather events. A US government report in 2009 predicted an increase in the number and severity of extreme weather events - heavy snows and rainfall in the mid-west and droughts in the south-west - due to climate change."

Record flooding along the Mississippi, devastating drought and wildfires in Texas -- we can't just build more dikes, bust more levies, or seek federal aid when these extreme weather events hit. We need to start understanding that they're being exacerbated by climate change, and will continue to grow more severe as time passes. And that's why mitigating these storms must be made part of the dialogue. Republican politicians can deny climate change all they want -- but it's happening right now. Actually, it's pretty much slapping us in the face. Let's see if it'll wake anyone up.

More on Global Climate Change and Flooding
Port Cities at Risk of Climate Change -Induced Coastal Flooding ...
Hey Southeast US! Here's Where Climate Change is Really Going To Hurt

Tags: Global Climate Change | United States

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