Street asphalt melted in Delhi, India as the country endures intense heat. In some cases, temperatures reached 122° Fahrenheit. The human death toll exceeded 1,100 as residents wait for the Monsoons to begin next week.
Closer to home in Hays County near Wimberley, Texas, the Blanco River rose from its banks to sweep a vacation home off its foundation and slam it into a downstream bridge. Family members remain missing.
“More than 11 inches of rain fell in some spots of Houston overnight into Tuesday—inundating byways and highways, slowing first responders, knocking out power and generally bringing the southeast Texas metropolis to a standstill,” according to CNN.
“You cannot candy coat it. It’s absolutely massive,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott said after touring the destruction.
Abbott’s views as a climate denier came to the surface during the 2014 gubernatorial election campaign against Wendy Davis, when he said, “Many scientists believe that certain human activities impact the climate. Others dispute the extent to which any activity has a particular level of influence on the climate, which is why this matter needs to continue to be investigated.”
Abbott’s skepticism about climate change didn’t stop him from requesting federal assistance from President Obama in the face of real-world impacts of global warming in Houston and Hays County.
These are not the salad days of extreme weather—it’s likely to get worse.
It bears repeating that global warming may not have caused these specific weather events—it made them worse. Because the greenhouse effect makes the atmosphere and oceans warmer, the hydrological cycle changed. Our heat waves are hotter, our storm systems are stronger, and our droughts are deeper. There are simply too many “record breaking” rainfalls, floods, heat waves, droughts, fires, and other disasters to deem them to be random exceptions. What Texas and India are experiencing may be the new normal.
It’s not just me saying this. The New York Times posted an article by Andrew Revkin yesterday that presented the consensus. “Among the clearest outcomes of global warming are hotter heat waves and having more of a season’s rain come in heavy downpours,” he wrote.
The problem isn’t as much that Texans like Abbott ignore the science of global warming, it’s what their repudiation of facts led them to do.
“What’s vividly clear is the extreme vulnerability created by the continuing development pulse in some of the state’s most hazardous places—including Hays County, in the heart of an area that weather and water agencies long ago dubbed “’Flash Flood Alley,’” said Revkin.
“The main challenge to rational planning for flood risk in the country is that private property rights trump even modest limitations on floodplain development,” said Nicholas Pinter, an expert on floods, people and politics at Southern Illinois University to Revkin. “And that sentiment runs deep in Texas. The result is unchecked construction on flood-prone land, up to the present day and in some places even accelerating.”
What to do?
“You can’t fix stupid,” said comedian and Texas native Ron White. “There’s not a pill you can take; there’s not a class you can go to. Stupid is forever.”
Iowa is connected to global weather systems. The spring rain we received as part of the storm system that soaked Houston was needed. Farmers now need a dry spell to get the first crop of hay out of the fields, and to plant soybeans before it gets too late. A radio commentator said soil moisture is good in most of Iowa.
Take the lessons from India into consideration. If we have a repeat of the 2012 drought, drink plenty of fluids, wear a hat, and maybe take an umbrella outside with you. If you are building something, pay attention to the flood zones re-drawn by our recent experience.
If you can do one thing about climate change, support the Clean Power Plan in your state. It is a real world solution to mitigate one of the leading causes of global warming. Contact your governor today—especially Governor Abbott.