sites/all/files/flood_0.jpgIn a recent interview about the historic Mississippi River flooding happening right now in the United States, Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, stated, “Ironically, many of the states that have been most affected by the tornadoes and the flooding have representatives in the Congress who have voted against legislation relating to climate change, such as the legislation affected the EPA and their ability to regulate greenhouse gases. So I think these legislators should be asking questions: Why is this happening? Why are we breaking records?“    

Our friend and fellow 350 organizer Aaron Maus in New Orleans recently asked his Senator the same thing in a letter, because even though the people in his community are no strangers to natural disasters, the storms are becoming increasingly frequent and dangerous, and so far his elected officials haven't acknowledged that climate change is a root cause of the problem.

However, according to Aaron, some people in his community are starting to make the connection between climate change and worsening natural disasters related to weather, and they’re ready to do something about it. On 10/10/10, to raise awareness about the connection between fossil fuel consumption and climate change, Aaron and others in his community organized a Bike Rack Installation Work Party, followed by a city-wide tour of bike paths throughout the city. For Moving Planet on September 24th, we hope to see something just as inspiring, with New Orleans residents pedalling beyond fossil fuels en masse toward a sustainable future and a stable climate.

Here's what Aaron had to say about the public discouse in his community around worsening natural disasters and climate change, followed by his letter to Senator Vitter:

“We here [in New Orleans] have thrived and suffered by way of mother nature. It is difficult however for people to even know against this historical background of a very active mother nature that things have changed, that there is a new influence on the game and that we are making it worse. Perhaps it is that extreme events are so common that no one thinks to question them. People I personally know have had the dots connected, but that is because I broach the subject for discussion. I more often than not feel like Cassandra who foresaw the destruction of Troy but could get no one to believe her. Forgive me if I sound frustrated. I do not like having the very existence of my home threatened directly by climate change (again!) yet having the public discourse on the subject so low and the political action so willfully, deliberately ignorant and lunatic backwards. It is with a dog-headed stubbornness that I write to my Republican Senator. It may not do any good, but I feel better after doing so.”

Senator Vitter:

The Mississippi river floods of 2011 are directly a result of climate change. Both the exceptional
snowfall this last winter and the extraordinary deluge in the Midwest which fed the river at the end of April are expected and predicted manifestations of Climate Change. If I must draw the links, the bulk of the extra heat from climate change is absorbed by the oceans which when warmer evaporate more moisture into the atmosphere and which falls more often as extraordinary precipitation events at all times of the year. Most recently in April, the surface temperatures of the Gulf of Mexico were 1 degree C above normal, a big change for a large body of water. The warm gulf put extra moisture in the atmosphere which fell as a biblical deluge in the Midwest and is now threatening Baton Rouge, New Orleans, all the other Louisiana river cities, and worst of all devastating the Atchafalaya Basin as we all are well aware.

My question to you is what are you doing about this? Not the flood specifically (I trust and know
that we are in good hands when it comes to coping with a disaster and its aftermath), but as we move forward and past the current disaster, what are you doing to address the underlying cause of this flood? An analogy is apt here. Right now we are dealing with the symptoms of an illness, but not treating the illness itself. Reinforcing levees and providing disaster relief to all those affected is necessary, but we are only treating and tolerating the symptoms as they crop up. In the end we will still be very ill.

Senator Vitter, what are you doing to address the underlying disease, the cause of this latest disaster: our CO2 emissions and the resulting Climate Change? I urge you to do everything you can to change the dialog in Washington on climate change so that we can address and solve this problem. We are already being affected and our future ever the more so depends on positive action now. Thank you.

Aaron Maus

As people along the Mississippi River continue to struggle with severe flooding, another deadly tornado has touched down in the mid-west, this time in the town of Joplin, Missouri. Our hearts go out to the residents dealing with the aftermath of that storm, and to the other communities around the world that are feeling the impacts of a changing climate.

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