Global warming expert: Flooding caused by climate change
August 4th, 2011
Omaha, NE – This summer has seen its fair share of drastic conditions around the country, including record flooding along the Missouri River. The reason may lie in a controversial theory that addresses climate change.
Overlooking the swollen banks of the Missouri river at Omaha’s riverfront landing, one scientist has an important explanation for the past three months of flooding. While many consider the flood man-made, a result of water releases by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers upriver, this theory aims to look deeper into the root of the problem.
“The Missouri River is flooding,” said Dr. James Hansen, Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, during a visit to Omaha on Tuesday. “We’ve had 100 years floods now a couple of times on the Missouri River recently. That’s one of the expected consequences of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide.”
Hansen, who is considered by many to be one of the world’s leading experts on global warming, said the Missouri river is a prime example of how global warming is affecting the earth.
“This is a problem which is not easy for the person in the street to see,” he said. “Unless you do statistics, and you see that the frequency of these events is changing. It’s not so easy to see that changes are occurring because the climate system has tremendous inertia.”
Hansen explained, “The ocean is four kilometers deep, the ice sheets are two or three kilometers thick, so they don’t respond immediately as we begin to change the atmospheric composition. What that means is that we’ve only experienced about half of the warming that will be cause by the gases already in the atmosphere.”
According to Hansen, that presents a major problem for several generations to come, as long as we continue to sweep the problem under the rug.
“The full effect is going to be felt by our children and grandchildren,” he said. “And if we continue to increase the amount of CO2, the effect will be even larger.”
Hansen drew a comparison to the handling of the national debt. “If we spend more money than what we’re taking in, we’re leaving a debt for our children and grandchildren to deal with,” he said. “Parents do not naturally treat their children and grandchildren that way, and they don’t want the government to treat their children and grandchildren that way.”
So what’s the answer? According to Hansen, the responsibility lies in effective policy making to combat global warming. That includes a gradual reduction in carbon emissions. Hansen proposes a rising price be placed on carbon emissions, which should be collected from the fossil fuel companies at the first sale.
Without comparable measures taken by the government, Hansen said the public can expect more of the extreme weather patterns that much of the country has experienced lately, including more severe droughts and floods in the decades ahead.