Saturday, June 14, 2008

Midwest Flooding Should be a Global Warming Story

By: Harry Waisbren

The Center for American Progress's Progress Report from this Thursday focused on the devastating flooding that has caused so much damage in the midwest. The report catalogued the damage, but also emphasized how this catastrophy should be considered a wakeup call to our government and media to truly focus on climate change. This connection can be made because:

As far back as 1995, analysis by the National Climatic Data Center showed that the United States "had suffered a statistically significant increase in a variety of extreme weather events." In 2007, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that it is "very likely" that man-made global warming will bring an "increase in frequency of hot extremes, heat waves and heavy precipitation." The Nobel Prize-winning panel of thousands of scientists and government officials also found, "Altered frequencies and intensities of extreme weather, together with sea level rise, are expected to have mostly adverse effects on natural and human systems." In 2002, scientists said that "increased precipitation, an expected outcome of climate change, may cause losses of US corn production to double over the next 30 years -- additional damage that could cost agriculture $3 billion per year." Scientists have also found that the "West will see devastating droughts as global warming reduces the amount of mountain snow and causes the snow that does fall to melt earlier in the year."

However, Matt Stoller of Open Left noted how this has been far from the case, and he puts the blame on the environmental advocacy groups for not ensuring that our politicians and media cover this issue in the way that they should:

One would think the press would cover global warming in the context of extreme weather. Of course journalists don't. But is this a media problem? Yes, but it's not just a media problem. I looked at the home pages and press pages of the Sierra Club, NRDC, Environmental Defense, the League of Conservation Voters, and Al Gore's We Can Solve It. The Sierra Club is asking for higher mileage standards on cars, NRDC is discussing lead and growing support for action on global warming, the League of Conservation Voters brags about its recent endorsement of Gabrielle Giffords, Environmental Defense asks for lower gas prices, and We Can Solve It puts its new ad front and center.

So yes, the media isn't tying the Iowa floods to global warming. But then, neither are the major environmental groups.

I agree wholeheartedly with Stoller, and I believe that environmental groups really need to get on the ball in terms of messaging regarding such disasters. It is a callous thing to suggest that we need to take advantage of tragedy, but if we do not take advantage of the times when the nation is most focused on what can be done to avert similar tragedies in the future, then we simply are playing into the hands of the politico/media complex that has so successfuly distracted us from dealing with such issues for so long.

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