Last week, 47 senators launched a failed assault on science, supporting Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) resolution to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s scientific finding that greenhouse gas pollution endangers the public health and welfare. The EPA finding was based on decades of science, synthesized during the Bush administration by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the U.S. Global Change Program. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the leading denier in the Senate of the threat of climate change, justified his vote for the Murkowski resolution by claiming the science is just a United Nations conspiracy:
We all know now that the IPCC, which is the United Nations, their science has all been debunked. [Americans for Prosperity, 6/9/10]
The Climategate scandal forced open the inner sanctums of the IPCC, and the public finally saw the political science the body had produced. [Senate floor, 6/11/10]
This weekend, catastrophic rainfall devastated Oklahoma with floods, leading “authorities to declare a state of emergency in 59 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties“:
Oklahoma City Micronet (OKCNET) reports that a rainfall observation of 10.21″ in OKC has exceeded the 1-in-500 year rainfall total for a 12 hour period. Moreover, the 9 inches that fell in 6 hours meets the requirements for a 1 in 500 year flood event.
Evacuations are under way in some Oklahoma City neighborhoods, Mayor Mick Cornett said Monday. People there are dealing with vicious flash-flooding and scattered power outages as more thunderstorms head their way. The National Weather Service said almost 10 inches of rain fell between 2 and 11 a.m.
The IPCC report, which Inhofe says is a sham, warned of the coming floods caused by the rise in global temperatures:
Over the 20th century, based on changes in sea surface temperatures, it is estimated that atmospheric water vapour increased by about 5% in the atmosphere over the oceans. Because precipitation comes mainly from weather systems that feed on the water vapour stored in the atmosphere, this has generally increased precipitation intensity and the risk of heavy rain and snow events. Basic theory, climate model simulations and empirical evidence all confirm that warmer climates, owing to increased water vapour, lead to more intense precipitation events even when the total annual precipitation is reduced slightly, and with prospects for even stronger events when the overall precipitation amounts increase. The warmer climate therefore increases risks of both drought − where it is not raining − and floods − where it is − but at different times and/or places.
“Heavy downpours are now twice as frequent as they were a century ago,” the U.S. Global Change report states. “Projected changes in long-term climate and more frequent extreme events such as heat waves, droughts, and heavy rainfall will affect many aspects of life in the Great Plains.”
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) also voted to reverse the scientific finding that global warming pollution endangers the public. That day, catastrophic floods from freak rainfall washed out an Arkansas campground, killing twenty:
Crews on Monday found the body of a young girl who was the 20th victim of a flash flood that devastated a popular Arkansas campground, but they continued searching because it wasn’t clear whether the girl was the last person reported missing.
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and and Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) also voted to reverse the scientific finding that global warming pollution endangers the public. This weekend, extreme rain caused record flooding throughout Nebraska, washing out bridges and damaging crops:
Two streams have broken long-standing records: The North Loup at Taylor reached its highest flow since the Geological Survey began recording water measurements there 73 years ago, and the Elkhorn at Ewing reached its highest peak for both water level and flow since recording began 62 years ago. The Geological Survey said that 30 percent of the long-term stream gages in the state were at record highs for June 13. Storm totals at some locations in the central and northeast exceeded 12 inches.
Sixty Nebraska counties may request disaster assistance following recent storms that caused flooding and damage across the state. 44 counties have requested assistance from the State. The State of Nebraska is working with emergency management officials throughout the state to respond to areas affected by the storms.
These senators are denying the threat of manmade global warming at the bidding of industrial polluters, because, as Lincoln said, “it is up to Congress to decide when a regulatory policy endangers the economy and threatens jobs in both traditional and new energy sectors.” I just wonder how much destruction our destabilized climate has to cause before these senators recognize the real threat our nation faces.
In an interview at Climate Progress, top National Center for Atmospheric Research scientist Kevin Trenberth explains the “systematic influence” of global warming on extreme precipitation events:
There is a systematic influence on all of these weather events nowadays because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms and it’s unfortunate that the public is not associating these with the fact that this is one manifestation of climate change. And the prospects are that these kinds of things will only get bigger and worse in the future.