Perhaps it is because news is reported so quickly and pervasively that there is a sense that aberrant weather is becoming the norm. We learn of every drought, flood, hurricane or tidal wave nearly as it happens. Those events along with the accompanying human tragedy have become staples of the evening news.
That abundance of information, buttressed by scientific inquiry is changing public opinion. Even the most ardent of environmental naysayers are conceding something seems to be happening to the world’s climate.
A warming of the planet by even a degree over a century, they say, can have a significant effect.
That was the message of Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”. The film chronicled the toll of climate change on the world. The awareness it raised helped gain a Nobel Peace Prize for the former Vice-President and the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The accrued effect of increasing amounts of Green house gases, principally Carbon Dioxide, in the atmosphere helps warm the planet.
Generally, the impact is felt the most at the edges. Polar ice is melting at a far faster rate, raising ocean levels and altering weather patterns. High altitude glaciers and mountain snowpack are eroding. Low lying coastal regions are inundated as deserts have become drier.
For those places on the Earth that experience seasonal storms, climate change could make those storms more severe and more frequent. The odds of Katrina – caliber hurricanes, say some scientists, are greater.
As for inland Iowa, the expectations are for the state to experience the same sort of weather associated with it historically – only more so.
In fact Iowa may be situated the best amid some daunting global circumstances. Other regions of the country seem likely to suffer more from the impact of climate change.
Generally, it is expected the weather will be warmer and wetter. While precipitation will be greater it is more likely to fall in torrents, which means run-off will also be greater and less controllable and less beneficial.
Much of Iowa was once a wetland. Its marshes filtered nutrients and held them in the soil. But, the wetlands were tiled and drained to capture the farm land that yields today’s bounty.
If the rain comes as a deluge, the run-off will provide minimal benefit to crops. The plumbing intended to drain fields will divert the water into streams, testing levees and overtaxing municipal water systems, and it will carry the beneficial nutrients to places where they will lessen water quality and threaten fisheries.
Indeed, an analysis appearing this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports that changes in the oceans and drought around the world are impeding the planet’s ability to absorb carbon.
The Scientists also report emissions of carbon dioxide have soared well beyond the worst case projections of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.