Historic flooding, caused by a “bomb cyclone”, has struck parts of Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri, causing damages that will exceed $1.3 billion in Nebraska alone. NOAA predicts this will only get worse this spring:
Nearly two-thirds of the Lower 48 states face an elevated risk for flooding through May, with the potential for major or moderate flooding in 25 states, according to NOAA’s U.S. Spring Outlook issued today. The majority of the country is favored to experience above-average precipitation this spring, increasing the flood risk.
…“The extensive flooding we’ve seen in the past two weeks will continue through May and become more dire and may be exacerbated in the coming weeks as the water flows downstream,” said Ed Clark, director of NOAA’s National Water Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. “This is shaping up to be a potentially unprecedented flood season, with more than 200 million people at risk for flooding in their communities.”
My emphasis — 200 million people at risk.
We are always asked not to politicize such events. This request nakedly serves fossil fuel interests, who don’t want us to talk about what their profit-lust is doing to our world, to our communities, to our food supply.
So I’ll point out that Missouri, Nebraska, and Iowa are represented by six Republican climate-denying Senators:
- Nebraska: Ben Sasse and Deb Fischer
- Missouri: Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley
- Iowa: Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley
None of these Senators have a ranking higher that 14% from the League of Conservation Voters. (Hawley doesn’t have one yet, but you know where he’ll land.) None have advocated strong, immediate action on climate; most deny or dither on whether it’s even real or man-made.
That’s an absolutely critical abdication of responsibility for their communities — though honestly, one has to put the blame on the voters themselves, who put these folks into office. Politics is not a business of courage: Elected officials generally do what is asked of them, or they get replaced. The voters of these states have chosen ideology over their own self-preservation; over their own physical safety and livelihoods. I can only attribute that to a media failure, which has put climate change as just another tribal political issue to fight over — and therefore to ignore as too lefty, too hippie, too polarizing — as opposed to a matter of mutual self-preservation. These states have state climatologists (thank you On Point and Meghna Chakrabarti for featuring one from Illinois this week) — who get ignored at the federal level, I’m guessing because of the influence of Fox News, the Koch brothers, et al.
Now, this presents a political opportunity. That will sound crass, but politics is how we get things done, or not done. Very simply, very progressive Democrats will act on climate; Republicans and middling-Democrats will not. Our own Elizabeth Warren has been touring the country, going to places Democrats don’t usually go, and delivering policy-heavy speeches, connecting real policy plans to real lives. It is long past time for progressive Democrats to go on offense in the places left vulnerable by climate change, which is everywhere. As NOAA predicts, two-thirds of the population of the United States will be vulnerable just this spring alone. Could this get political? Do you think?
The Republicans turned their backs on their own constituents’ most basic needs of physical safety. They simply have to be replaced — or change their minds rather drastically. Someone’s got to go in and issue the challenge — why not Warren?