Climate change and the flood this time – Bill McKibben

Midwest flooding is a taste of climate change in its early stages.
By Bill McKibben, LA Times, May 10, 2011

Last week, at a place called Bird’s Point, just below the confluence of the Ohio and the Mississippi rivers, the Army Corps of Engineers was busy mining a huge levee with explosives. The work was made dangerous by outbreaks of lightning, but eventually the charges were in place and corps Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh gave the order: A 2-mile-wide hole was blasted in the earthen levee, and a wall of water greater than the flow over Niagara Falls inundated 130,000 acres of prime Missouri farmland.

The corps breached the levee to ease pressure on other floodwalls; if it hadn’t, the town of Cairo, Ill., might well have been inundated.

Of course, what the corps is really fighting is a river swelled not just by the power of nature but by the power of man… In Pakistan, Australia and now the center of the North American continent, we’re getting a powerful taste of what global warming feels like in its early stages. (And if for some reason you’ve decided not to believe scientists, then ask the people we pay to analyze risk in our society: In September, one of the largest reinsurance companies in the world, Munich Re, said that “the only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change.”)

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