As I write this: in Cedar Rapids the flood waters covering over 400 city and 600 residential blocks are slowly receding, Iowa City awaits a "500 year" flood, Des Moines evacuated that city’s "500 year" floodplain, the Colorado River barely reaches the sea, Northern California is parched and early wildfires burn after the driest spring on record, and America’s "twister season" death toll of 118 is nearly double the annual norm of 62…with seven months to go. So? The news behind this tragic news: misery from increasingly frequent extreme weather events is precisely what we can expect from global climate change.
What’s this about extreme weather and climate change? How can that be? Our media don’t talk about it, so it doesn’t exist, right?
Sorry, Charlie. In Oregon and Washington, wild oyster stocks and an oyster hatchery have collapsed: devoured by bacteria that thrive in warming waters. At the mouth of the Yukon River, almost one-third of the returning salmon arrive infected with a parasite — one which depends upon warmer waters to allow infections that now render 30% of the salmon caught upriver putrid and inedible. In the largest known insect infestation in North American history, throughout the Rockies in the US and Canada, bark beetles which once died of cold each winter now survive to kill the forests.
"I guess we’re the lucky ones because in our lifetime we got to see these forests. Our children won’t. For many that’s a bitter pill to swallow."
Global warming transformed the bark beetle from a seasonal pest to a perennial epidemic that has become the greatest insect infestation (so far) in North American history. Even this drastic change doesn’t grab national attention. And even if you have heard of the beetles’ destruction of a vast ecosystem – and the vibrio infection crashing oyster stocks – and the Ich disease in 30% of Yukon salmon, you’ve almost certainly never seen all three "slow-motion" consequences of global warming linked together in the MSM.
The British and the Chinese understand global warming has driven their record flooding. The United States? Not so much.
Although you wouldn’t know it from most U.S. media coverage (here or here or here), the record "once-in-a-hundred-year flooding" the Midwest now seems to be getting every decade or so is precisely what scientists have been expecting from the warming.
A 2004 analysis by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center found an increase during the 20th century of “precipitation, temperature, streamflow, heavy and very heavy precipitation and high streamflow in the East.” They found a 14 percent increase in “heavy rain events” of greater than 2 inches in one day, and a 20 percent increase in “very heavy rain events”-best described as deluges-greater than 4 inches in one day. These extreme downpours are precisely what is predicted by global warming scientists and models.
In fact, 2007 saw the second most extreme precipitation over the United States in the historical record, according to NCDC’s Climate Extremes Index (CEI).
Yep. Although the global warming denial industry (which just happens to use the same PR tricks tobacco used for decades) has blown smoke over the fact in most of US media, the increased frequency and intensity of severe weather events is exactly what climate-change models predict as we trap more heat in the biosphere.
As Romm and the Climate Progress folks point out, there’s even an official U.S. government program keeping track of these events: the Climate Extremes Index.
And Romm also points out why the CEI is likely news to you.
Didn’t know that our government kept a Climate Extremes Index? Why would you? The media never writes about it.
This last week Romm also pointed out (as he has done in the past) what the EarthFirst! and eco-nerd crowd have also known for years:
As far back as 1995, analysis by the National Climatic Data Center showed that over the course of the 20th century, the United States had suffered a statistically significant increase in a variety of extreme weather events, the very ones you would expect from global warming, such as more — and more intense — precipitation. That analysis concluded the chances were only "5 to 10 percent" this increase was due to factors other than global warming, such as "natural climate variability." And since 1995, the climate has gotten much more extreme.
Yep. Even thirteen years ago, the chance that global warming causes the increased number of extreme weather events — like the torrential rains over Iowa — we’ve been enduring was 90 to 95%.
Of course, the Village media haven’t told that part of the story. Like the good corporate tools they are, our electronic MSM take heaps of ad money from Big Carbon and abdicate on the known link between global warming and increasingly frequent extreme weather events.
Will our presidential candidates tell the story? Don’t wait for Sen. McCain to take on Big Carbon — they’re the Rethugs’ core interest group. I’ll be astonished if Sen. Obama takes on Big Carbon by informing American voters that global warming from coal and oil increases death and destruction across the nation. Any politician who did that would be at odds with America’s most powerful corporations: and as Naomi Klein pointed out this week, Obama’s pick for econmic adviser indicates the senator is falling in with the usual murderers from the Chicago School of Economics against the rest of us.
Just like with the other deadly problems we face — our broken health-care system, our starving people, the deliberate mass poisoning we call pollution, the criminal occupation of Iraq — we will have to beat up on what passes for our media and our "leaders" until they do the right thing. The first step for MSM and our elected leaders will be acknowledging the plain facts that confront all of us — and threaten our very survival.
Like the plain fact that global warming causes increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events.
Good luck to us, and to the good people of Iowa and the Midwest.
With our media and "leaders", we’ll need it.
[photo credit: jfravel]