Monday, August 15, 2016

Louisiana Flooding Climate Change and the Politics of Ignorance

Global warming is fueling Louisiana's record setting floods but people in the state continue to vote for presidential candidates who contribute to the problem and eschew representation that advocates for climate action. Although it is being called a once in 500 hundred year rainfall, it is becoming evident a pattern of increased precipitation points directly to climate change. Higher levels of precipitation have also been observed elsewhere. For example both Europe and Australia also experienced anomalous rainfalls for the month of June. While it is commonly said that these rains are way above average, these dramatic downpours are making a mockery of our historical statistical averages.

The torrential rains that have plagued Louisiana for the last few days eased on Monday August 15th however, the threat was far from over and it will be some time before the waters recede. Four people are dead and thousands of homes have been severely damaged by the historic flooding. The National Guard and US Coast Guards rescued at least 20,000 people in scenes reminiscent of hurricane Katrina. At least 10,000 people are currently residing in temporary shelters. Six rivers have are at record highs in the state and vast swaths of the state are still underwater including Baton Rouge.

On Sunday US President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration for the state that will see federal aid flow into the state to help with recovery efforts. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards -- who was evacuated as water flooded the Governor's mansion -- declared a statewide state of emergency on Friday. He called it a “historic flood event” and on Sunday as the rain subsided he warned:

"It's not over, the water's going to rise in many areas. It's no time to let the guard down."

Meteorologists are calling the August storm a once in 500 year rainstorm and Climate Nexus referred to the event as a “classic signal of climate change” . These extreme weather events are happening with greater frequency in recent years.

The powerful storm is a function of record warm water temperatures just offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. More heat means more water vapor and more heavy downpours. These temperature increases are attributable to rising greenhouse gas emissions.

This is the second once in 500 hundred year deluges in Louisiana this year, the first having occurred in March. Of course Louisiana is not alone. There have been at least six other 500-year rainfall event across America in little more than a year, The April Tax Day flood in Pattison, Texas, was a once in 10,000 year event.

These storms are consistent with the EPA's warnings.
"changes in the frequency and intensity of storms, increases in precipitation, and warmer ocean temperatures... coastal flooding...Coastal areas are also vulnerable to increases in the intensity of storm surge and heavy precipitation. Storm surges already flood low-lying areas, damage property, disrupt transportation systems, destroy habitat, and threaten human health and safety....Climate change will likely bring heavier rainfall and more precipitation to some coastal areas. This could lead to increases in runoff and flooding."
We are heading into what is expected to be the worst hurricane season since super storm Sandy decimated the East Coast in 2012. These floods do not only destroy homes and cause billions of dollars of damage, they are also deadly (Sandy killed 233 people).

Warm seas mean we are heading into what is expected to be one of the worst hurricane seasons on record for the East Coast. NOAA expects that there will be 12 to 17 tropical storms this year with five to eight of those expected to develop into hurricanes.

Climate change is political, Republicans deny anthropogenic warming while Democrats under Barack Obama's leadership have been champions of climate action. The president's green accomplishments are remarkable given Republican obstructionism.

This election cycle as with the last three presidential elections, voters are faced with a binary choice. In 2008 Louisiana voted Republican (aka the fossil fuel party). In 2012 Louisiana again voted Republican (Mitt Romney's fossil fuel powered climate denial). In 2016 the state is poised to vote Republican again. According to the most recent polls, voters in the state massively support Donald Trump's regulation killing, climate hating fossil fuel nightmare.

Given the costs associated with extreme weather it is hard to understand the voting record of people in Louisiana. How can they suffer through the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the destructive aftermath of the BP oil spill and not realize the dangers of both global warming and fossil fuels. It is hard to understand how the state has experienced unprecedented storms in 2016 and yet refuse to support climate action.

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