Louisiana (TFC)– Louisiana’s shores are once again swelling to devour homes and businesses, streets and roads. Record flooding interrupted the lives of thousands, killing at least 13 in the process. As rescue operations continue, onlookers realize that climate change can’t be closeted anymore. Will this most recent lash from nature shake Americans into responding to the crisis? Or is nothing to be learned?
Over two feet of rainfall drowned Louisiana last week, emptying over just three days. The “historic flooding” was spawned after a low pressure system combined with record amounts of atmospheric water vapor, Washington Post reports. The disaster has displaced untold thousands, and killed around a dozen people. Those figures are expected to rise.
Although the state is flood prone, this event does illustrate the effects of ongoing climate change. Flooding is a key characteristic, caused by increasingly unpredictable storms and rising ocean levels. “Louisiana is always at risk of floods”, says Texas Tech University climate researcher Katharine Hayhoe, “but climate change is exacerbating these risks.” Hayhoe relates Louisiana’s situation with gambling dice, wondering when we’ll realize “the dice are loaded.”
Climate change is a very complicated phenomenon, related to and affecting numerous planetary functions. There’s the obvious warming factor encouraging many to use the phrase “global warming”. Worsening floods are resulting from an atmosphere increasingly moistened by human activities. As more water vapor is retained, even more can be dished out.
A National Academy of Sciences study examined heat wave trends, finding the excess atmospheric moisture. NAS’s analysis on international trends indicate “heavy rain events have been becoming heavier over the last several decades.” According to the study, Washington Post reports, current climate models “very consistently” predict future weather events.
Some wiggle room exists with the study though, and with the Louisiana flooding. Researchers are quick to point out the difference between climate change causing such occurrence, and what their findings show. Climate change increases the likelihood of the event occurring, which is perhaps more complicated an idea than simply being a “cause”. “No event”, explains Columbia University researcher Adam Sobel, “can be viewed solely as a consequence of long-term trends.”
According to Washington Post, researchers could potentially design a model of weather events in the a world without human activity. Such an “attribution study”–as it’s called–hasn’t yet been conducted though. Even then, climate scientists are dubious if the cause would be identified, or if yet more questions will surface. For scientists, being as specific as possible takes priority over hasty, rushed work. Or at least it’s supposed to be that way.
Researcher Katherine Hayhoe feels “we design our infrastructure and plan our society looking backwards.” “Looking backwards does keep us safe”, she says, Washington Post reports, “when the climate is stable.” Our climate is changing, however, and “relying on the past to predict the future will give us the wrong answer.” That answer, Hayhoe confesses, may endanger the species.
Over 2,800 people remain in shelters following Louisiana’s disaster, BBC reports. Campaigning politicians visited, including Republican nominee Donald Trump and Green Party Candidate Jill Stein. Dr. Stein decried the floods as “further evidence posed by the global crisis of climate change.” “Until we humans make global sweeping changes to our economic system”, she continues, “we must expect these types of disasters to happen regularly.” Although Trump has called the climate crisis a hoax, he aided the unloading of supplies for survivors.
But while people pay respects, little conversation on how to prevent–or prepare for–another flood is being held. Stein is one of the only candidates–besides former Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders–who’s regularly cried out for radical responses to the climate crisis. Other nations realize they can’t wait, and have taken measures to prepare for future disasters. Systems such as early warnings for floods, and architectural adaptations are being developed across Africa and the pacific islands. Agriculture and food sustentation is also a factor, as some areas will experience intense drought, or have floods contaminate farms.
They need the world’s attention and support, as their successes will foreshadow humanity’s future chances. Climate change isn’t waiting for it to become politically and financially beneficial, nor for naysayers to wake up. Louisiana show’s the need to not only green technology and decrease of our carbon footprint, but preparations for what’s already going to come.