Climate change gets biblical


[from yesterday]

Two stories this morning bookend the ongoing saga of climate change: sea level rise and drought. Biblical plagues almost.

Rolling Stone’s Jeff Goodell visits the Norfolk naval station to see the impact of sea level rise on naval operations. Large tides and heavy rains already leave some areas underwater. A storm had moved through the area the night before, leaving trucks at the main refueling depot axle-deep in seawater:

“Military readiness is already being impacted by sea-level rise,” says Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, who mentions that with all the flooding, it’s becoming difficult to sell a house in some parts of Norfolk. If the melting of Greenland and West Antarctica continues to accelerate at current rates, scientists say Norfolk could see more than seven feet of sea-level rise by 2100. In 25 years, operations at most of these bases are likely to be severely compromised. Within 50 years, most of them could be goners. If the region gets slammed by a big hurricane, the reckoning could come even sooner.”

Already, employees have a hard time getting to the base when the roads flood. The state of Virginia is in charge of 300 miles of flood-prone roads in the Norfolk area. However, addressing that threat is not a priority for climate deniers in the legislature.

Politicians more focused on the 24-hour news cycle don’t seem to have room in their world for the kind of longer-term planning climate change demands and you’d think their job descriptions would. Republicans once talked openly of the issue as a national security matter, writes Goodell, but that talk “vanished from the party after 2008, when the GOP turned into a subsidiary of Koch Industries.” Perhaps they will pay more attention once the newly passable Arctic Ocean becomes a flash point between the U.S. and Russia.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent …

“We are facing a water situation that hasn’t been seen in California for 1,200 years,” says Marcia Kemper McNutt, editor in chief of the journal Science. The Washington Post’s Darryl Fears examines the coming megadrought researchers from NASA, Cornell and Columbia predict for the American southwest and plains:

The research is newly published, but its findings are not dramatically different from similar studies in the past. Beverly Law, a specialist in global change biology at Oregon State University’s College of Forestry, co-authored a study of megadroughts three years ago.

It showed that a drought that affected the American West from 2000 to 2004 compared to conditions seen during the medieval megadroughts. But the predicted megadrought this century would be far worse. Law said Thursday’s study confirmed her previous findings.

“We took the climate model .?.?. and compared” two periods, 2050 to 2099 and 1950 to 1999, she said. “What it showed is this big, red blotch over Southern California. It will really impact megacities, populations and water availability.”

Their study is here.

In anticipation of shortages, corporate players are already gobbling up public water systems. Wet gold, you might call it. Between magnates who want to sell you the water you drink at a tidy profit, frackers who want to tie up public water to drill for oil and gas, and the droughts and coastal flooding caused in part by burning what they extract, you’ve got a perfect storm of a cultural disaster brewing. Or a swirling, economic death spiral. Take your pick.

Goodell writes reassuringly:

The House Armed Services Committee is now chaired by Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas, who argued in a 2011 op-ed that prayer is a better response to heat waves and drought than cutting carbon pollution.

Steve Martin tried that as a rainmaking con man in Leap of Faith. Maybe that was Thornberry’s inspiration.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : Global Warming

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