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Texas And Oklahoma, Hotbeds Of Climate Change Denialism, Wracked By Another Year Of Warming-Worsened Droughts

By Jeff Spross on January 14, 2013 at 5:44 pm

"Texas And Oklahoma, Hotbeds Of Climate Change Denialism, Wracked By Another Year Of Warming-Worsened Droughts"

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If the latest news reports are any indication, the droughts that have wracked a large portion of the contiguous United States continued piling on the damage in Texas and Oklahoma through 2012. The effects will reverberate for years — and global warming will make such brutal droughts (or worse) the region’s normal climate if we keep listening to the deniers’ call to inaction.

It’s a particular bitter irony, given that the political and media cultures of both states, with Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) leading the charge, have been contributing enthusiastically to climate change denialism.

The National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration recently determined that 2012 was the hottest year on record for the lower 48 states, and research by NOAA and other institutions has linked extreme events like Texas and Oklahoma’s drought to climate change. As of December 2012, more than 42% percent of the lower 48 states were experiencing “severe” drought conditions, and 63% of the United States’ new winter wheat crop is in the drought-hit areas.

In Texas in particular, the situation is sufficiently dire that the Republicans in charge of the state are being forced to finally take concrete steps to build new reservoirs and repair the state’s water infrastructure:

In 2011, the last time the Legislature convened for one of its biennial sessions, Representative Allan Ritter, a Republican and the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, was unsuccessful in getting lawmakers to approve legislation imposing an annual fee on water users like homeowners and businesses to help finance projects in the state water plan.

But on Thursday, Mr. Ritter proposed bills that would draw $2 billion from the state’s emergency Rainy Day Fund to establish a water infrastructure bank that would lend money for the projects. This time, his proposals received support from Republican leaders and groups that are often on the opposite sides of issues, including the Sierra Club’s Texas chapter, the Texas Association of Business and other industry groups. At least 20 percent of the money available in the fund would be used for conservation and reuse efforts.

“There were people who were trying to talk about water last time, and there wasn’t any money, and there wasn’t the critical mass,” said James Henson, the director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas, Austin. “Elite opinion begins to coalesce after a little while, and it takes people a while to get the issue out there, and I think that’s part of what’s happened with water.”

The Texas drought began in 2010 and is now the third-worst the state has seen since 1895, when record-keeping first began. The Texas Water Development Board estimates that without additional water supplies the state will be short 8.3 million acre-feet of water by 2060 (3.07 acre-feet is equivalent to one million gallons) and the shortfall could cost the state $116 billion that year. Even more tragically, since Texas is a conservative state and stingy with its budgets, the need to address straining water supplies is crowding out other critical investments such as eduction and social services.

The situation is much the same in Oklahoma, according to EnidNews.com. Gary McManus, a climatologist for the Oklahoma Climatological survey, expects the drought to topple state records again going all the way back to 1895:

“Right now, about 37 percent of Oklahoma is in exceptional drought,” McManus said.

Statewide average temperature for the month of December was 41.9 degrees, 2.9 degrees above normal, McManus said. He expects the calendar year statewide temperature for 2012 to be 63.1 degrees — which will topple the previous calendar year record of 62.9, set in 1954. [...]

Oklahoma has experienced two previous notable droughts — a five-year drought from 1951-1956, and the infamous “Dust Bowl” drought of 1931-1941.

The biggest difference McManus sees between those droughts and the current drought is time.

“This drought, compared to those, would still be in its infancy,” McManus said.

August 1, 2012 was the hottest day on record for Oklahoma since 1936, with more than half the state clocking temperatures of 110 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

Climate change and global warming exacerbate the cycles that lead to more frequent and severe droughts: Precipitation patterns shift to dry spells interspersed with deluges, rather than a more even distribution, and snow melts occur earlier. The overall result is less well-watered soil, which then evaporates more rapidly under global warming’s higher temperatures. That means less moisture in the air, meaning even less precipitation, while the drier ground is left to bake — thus driving air temperatures even higher.

Meanwhile, the damage is continuing in Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and other parts of the Midwest, while threatening the water supply for Mississippi River and its critical economic role in American shipping. Across the Atlantic, the Mediterranean is experiencing more frequent droughts, and analysis by NOAA came to the conclusion climate change driven by human activities is largely to blame.

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32 Responses to Texas And Oklahoma, Hotbeds Of Climate Change Denialism, Wracked By Another Year Of Warming-Worsened Droughts

  1. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    As long as the denialist bosses have their money, their power, their air-conditioning and their precious guns, don’t expect any change of attitude. These are creatures who cannot grow intellectually, ethically or spiritually. And they are determined to ‘win’ by taking the rest of humanity down with them.

  2. PeterM says:

    Up-to-date weekly average CO2 at Mauna Loa
    Week of January 6, 2013: 395.51 ppm
    Weekly value from 1 year ago: 393.01 ppm
    Weekly value from 10 years ago: 374.68 ppm

    So Goes life in the FAST lane– hasta la vista baby

  3. Mike Roddy says:

    Texans and Oklahomans are not dumb, but are victims of a homer media. Local newspapers and television stations dare not say “global warming” and “drought” in the same sentence. As a consequence, many of the locals receive no quality information about climate science.

    There are a couple of solutions here- Katherine Hayhoe and friends can address local audiences, and climate activists can put pressure on Texas media companies. The probability of success is not high, but any movement of public opinion in those locations will be important in the long run.

  4. RepublicansLie says:

    Texas and Oklahoma may have to “hit bottom” in order to recover from their addiction to corruption, money, and oil.

    It is too bad that the American People have long tolerated their innumerable crimes against our country and world. Sorry, Texas and Oklahoma–it is time you grew up.

    • John McCormick says:

      How to win friends an influence Oklahomans and Texans, Not.

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

        Yes. No matter how irrational and hare-brained the Republican rank and file act, they still deserve our empathy in their travails. That’s the way to differentiate ourselves from the Right, it keeps our moral understanding intact, and it denies the Right the oxygen of hatred that keeps their inner inferno burning. We need these people coming over to humanity, one by one, rather than bunkering down and buying more assault rifles.

  5. Paul Klinkman says:

    Another side to this story:

    http://www.chron.com/news/article/2011-Texas-drought-slaughtered-301-million-trees-3893965.php

    After the forests turn to dead sticks, megafires with fire tornadoes happen.

  6. Jack Burton says:

    I have an old Navy buddy who is a farmer in Kansas. I talked with him on the phone last eek. He believes climate change is a liberal hoax designed to force people to pay a carbon tax so liberals will have more tax revenue to hand out to minorities in the form of welfare and food stamps. He is typical of most people in his local area. Though he did mention that the county he farms in is in the second year of devastating drought which is closing down farming as no crops or hay can grow. He said one more year of this and the land will turn to desert. Already sand storms blow up from time to time. And before the drought began, they had record breaking extreme tornadoes and record breaking flooding from all time record rain fall events.
    He can’t connect extreme weather to climate change, because the political culture denies anything being said or supported by so called liberals and democrats. These people live a life of blind hate for what they call liberalism, though they mostly benefit from government farm programs and their kids live freer lives due to social liberalism that has set them free to be different or what ever they want to be. Blindness!

    • prokaryotes says:

      According to some texas radio host the carbon tax is a scheme for NWO. I wonder who paid him to say this or invite people with a very british accent to his show.

    • Dennis Tomlinson says:

      And yet, a century and more earlier we might have complained about the (extra-liberal) radicalism of many agrarian Kansans. What happened? Thomas Frank wrote about this nearly 10 years ago in his still relevant, “What’s the Matter with Kansas.” It’s been a few years since I read it, but I believe Frank states their meta-metamorphosis was due to words (spoken, written, and broadcast) and the ebb and flow of groupthink.

    • Creekman says:

      The beliefs expressed by your old Navy buddy are widespread in the rural Southeast, too. I live in an area not far from the home of 19th Century agrarian reformer, Tom Watson (see “Tom Watson, Agraian Rebel” by historian C. Vann Woodward). As a young man, firey populist Watson championed the interests of small farmers black and white against the influences of wealthy capitalists. Sadly his latent racism, combined with his hatred for Democratic “liberalism” in the early 20th Century, led to his demise as an agrarian reformer.
      Today the “hate for what they call liberalism” embodied in their visceral dislike of Obama blinds many traditional family farmers to the real cause of their condition: climate change. Meanwhile, their subsidized wealthier neighbors “adapt” to the continuing drought by tapping underground aquifers with center-pivot irrigation systems. (I know of one “family” farmer whose goal is 50 pivots.) This is happening at lightning speed. And it is unjust…and simply insane.

  7. Senior says:

    God is turning up the heat on these nonbelievers!

  8. Bob Bingham says:

    Texas is like a tobacco farmer who smokes and has lung cancer. Some tough decisions will have to be made.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Such as whether to be buried or cremated.

      • Martin Gisser says:

        Both is a waste, the latter an obscene double waste of energy and nutrients. Classic Late Homo S Sapiens… Compost thy dead on char coal, for optimal re-entry into the cycles of Life plus a little carbon sequestration. But that would be doubly non-wasteful – Try to explain this to the Late Homo S Sapiens…

  9. Ozonator says:

    The NRA sees the AGW killing droughts and wants the same special relationship that the EssoKochs have with America. They want magical laws that make safe/legal any products killing innocents. They want any regulation paid for by victims. They want all the cemeteries, hospitals, and spontaneous toxic abortions to be ignored by the non-extremist media outlets.

  10. Mark Shapiro says:

    Joe and friends,

    Read this diagnosis of AGW politics by Theda Skocpol:

    http://www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org/sites/default/files/skocpol_captrade_report_january_2013_0.pdf

    h/t to the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jan/14/environmental-groups-climate-change-inaction

    and to Bill McKibben in Grist:

    grist.org/climate-energy/beyond-baby-steps-analyzing-the-cap-and-trade-flop/#.UPRraSfyLvc.twitter

    • John McCormick says:

      Mark, thanks for the link to that very informative anatomy of the cap-and-trade effort.

      At page 11, I found the following to be germane to the discussion of the Texas Oklahoma drought:

      “Climate change warriors will have to look beyond elite maneuvers and find ways to address the values and interests of tens of millions of U.S. citizens. To counter
      fierce political opposition, reformers will have to build organizational networks across
      the country,and they need to orchestrate sustained political efforts that stretch far
      beyond friendly Congressional offices, comfy board rooms, and posh retreats. Compromises with amenable business interests will still be necessary. But insider politics cannot carry the day on its own, apart from a broader movement pressing politicians for change”.

      The drought in the heartland of American agriculture is the single most important target for all of us, climate hawks and deniers alike. We all have to eat and America’s topsoil is our most precious resource. And the Ogalallah aquifer is the reason agriculture survive where pumps have not reached sand yet.

      An absolute blitz of the politics and public perceptions of Texans and Oklahomans – and not by EDF – could yield a breakthrough on the politics of AGW abatement.

      Make America hear the plight of farmers and ranchers struggling to survive.

      Make preservation of America’s agricultural sector the most pressing of all national interests.

      Global terrorism is a distraction to the preservation of what feeds and clothes us.

      American farmers may be to next best advocates for a solution to global warming. Certainly the US Treasury cannot afford to provide relief to storm victims while it provides billions to farmers for lost crops and livestock.

      We need a big think on the Texas and Oklahoma angle. We make progress there and the Washington politics will change.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Possibly genuine, possibly another diversion to divide the environmental community. The more we fight amongst ourselves, the more the denialists celebrate. I fear that the truth is that Obama, the Big Greens organisations and the rank and file have all failed. Demonstrably so. As usual in human affairs, greed, stupidity and wishful thinking have triumphed.

  11. BillD says:

    When my grandson grows up, he will read stories to his children about how there were once cowboys,cattle and farms in Texas and Oklahoma.

  12. NJP1 says:

    one way or another we are all locked into the economics of consumption. That’s what’s caused climate change
    That is what we have all been doing for 200 years or so.
    wagging fingers at others who admittedly may be worse culprits isn’t going to change the outcome by very much

    • 2qb says:

      While most of us in G-20 countries may be blindly locked into a fossil fuel-based, consumer lifestyle, it is our leadership and our media that perpetuate it for their own short term gains. Inhofe and his ilk need to be exposed as frauds so we can begin implementing the macro and micro solutions needed to move the world towards a sane, sustainable world.

  13. Uncle B says:

    U.S.A. ! U.S.A. ! Gods “Chosen Ones” ! Invincible. Largest Military Machine in the history of all mankind! Largest economy on the face of this earth ! First to walk on the Moon! First to apply Nuclear Bombs to end wars ! Builders of the best cars the world has ever seen !
    If climate warming is really happening it is by an act of God and will benefit Americans first. If fossil fuel shortages are a reality, again, God wills it so, and for the Aemrican advantage. If hunger exists in the world, it is by God’s hand and to the advantage of the U.S.A.! If Japan in fact washes its radioactive wastes into the oceans of the world, contamiationg huge food sulpply bases, it is to the advantage of the Americans, and done as God’s will. Have faith “brothers” all will be well.

    • kermit says:

      They will tell you that God punishes the US sometimes, too, like he punished Israel, for only we are important enough to punish. And if he punishes us, then it must be because we have tolerated the existence of the unrighteous.

      I leave it as an exercise to the reader to decide who the American Chosen Ones think the unrighteous are.

  14. Nyati says:

    Farmers can afford denial because crops insurance is heavily subsidized by the Federal Government…

  15. JC says:

    James Inhofe is the lowest form of life. Of course the Republicans give him power.