April 25, 2013

Illinois drought and flooding isn't climate change. It's a Climate Clusterfuck.

Remember the stories about rivers in Illinois earlier this year? They were about a long drought so bad it was slowing barge traffic on the Mississippi River down to a halt.

And here we are in spring with our rivers and half the state flooded. In fact, heavy flooding forced the closure of about a dozen locks on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. Sections of both rivers have been closed to barge traffic.

I just took the train from Chicago to Springfield and I saw all kinds of water in places where it isn't supposed to be. It's bad.

(Photo Credit: Chris Young)

In the Quad Cities, WQAD TV news has a story about drought and flooding hitting a Christmas tree farm along the Rock River. Drought had killed 900 trees when they first covered the farm in July. Now, he has to visit his trees in a boat. He says he has never seen it go from one extreme to another this badly before.

As usual, almost no one in the press is pointing it out, but this is exactly what those nagging scientists told us would happen. They warned the Midwest would have more erratic, extreme and unpredictable weather, including more droughts, and more severe storms leading to flooding. A federal report on the impacts of climate change in the Midwest summarized:
The likely increase in precipitation in winter and spring, more heavy downpours, and greater evaporation in summer would lead to more periods of both floods and water deficits.
The 2009 report even warned that low river levels would cause problems for river traffic. It's like they could see into the future. That report was either written by clairvoyant fortune tellers, or a group of scientists who really knew what the hell they were talking about.

So yes, we get both more flooding and more droughts thanks to climate change. Barge traffic is interrupted in both winter and spring.

At this point it's more descriptive to go ahead and call it a Climate Clusterfuck. That's what we're dealing with from here on out.

More attention is given to the threat of rising sea levels on the coats, but the Mississippi River Valley is already being hit hard in ways that harm our regional economy, food supply, and safety. No one can say exactly what the weather would have looked like this year if climate change wasn't happening, but we do know that if we really want more seasons like this and worse, then we should keep burning fossil fuels.

That reminds me of two downstate Illinois Congressmen who see this problem and think we should keep promoting a major cause: coal. Freshmen Representatives Rodney Davis and Bill Enyart held a joint press conference promoting a bill giving the Corps of Engineers more power to keep barge traffic flowing down the Mississippi River.

Yet, Enyart also joined with Davis' mentor, BFF, and fellow coal lover John Shimkus, to form the Congressional Coal Caucus. In their joint statement both said their goal is to create jobs by promoting coal.

Jobs are good. But, when discussing rivers, both Enyart and Davis said keeping barge traffic moving is essential to the regional economy. Whether they realize it or not, they admitted that burning coal is harming the regional economy and costing us jobs due to the impacts of climate change on river traffic.

This is short term thinking. They're introducing a bill to deal with one immediate impact of climate change while simultaneously fighting to expand the industry that contributes most to the problem. Fighting for coal means each year climate change will do more damage to Illinois crops, rivers, cities, and our economy.

Politicians like to make everyone happy, but they have to make a choice. They can either continue to be servants of the coal industry, or they can serve every other industry and citizen in Illinois. They can no longer do both because climate change is the overwhelming threat to us all.