As images of Apocalypse seem to flow from the broad swath of America’s great plains and down through the realm called The Bible Belt, the recent radio pastor’s May 21 End Times prediction seems not so far off the mark. Certainly the Senator from Oklahoma, Mr Inhofe, famously quoted as saying that the theories of global warming were “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people” would prefer to think his State was smote for Biblical errancies rather than as a confirmation of those pin-head scientists whose computer models suggested exactly the kind of weather now afflicting America and the world. I do not know what sins his fellow Oklahomans and the next door Show Me folks committed, though I suspect they are little different than those of the rest of humanity, but the calamity being visited on them is perhaps a twisted justice for the politicians and preachers whom they seem to follow, and the choices made for them by a misguided economics.
Mr Inhofe, long in the pocket of the regional oil business, can be heard saying many things regarding oil or hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, always in support of the industry. Surely he will soon say that the ravages inflicted on his State in the last days is solely the work of God, and we better get praying. And it’s all the fault of people clamoring for non-hetero marriages, and has nothing whatsoever to do with human use of oil and energy !
While local meteorological observations often seem to counter-indicate global warming, and spring might be cooler than usual – as it has been here in Korea, and for my friends in Italy – or the heavy snow-pack in the American Rockies and Sierra-Cascades would indicate colder winters, these are often intuitively misleading, and in fact merely confirm the expected consequences anticipated by computer models. “Globally” as it were, the temperature of the earth has been steadily rising for a hundred years. So has the number of humans and their use of carbon-based energy. The rises are annually small, and people tend not to notice it. Cumulatively though it becomes very evident as plants and animals long adapted to one range of temperatures confront a change sufficient enough to kill them, or force them to move northward to climates they can function in. The arrival of semi-tropical birds in once temperate zones is an example.
The weather patterns we have seen of late in North America perfectly fit the model of a warming earth. Warmer air carries more moisture, as anyone who has visited a tropical area would know. The cycle is simple: warmer water bodies – seas, oceans – evaporate, their moisture becomes airborne, and we get a nice hot sticky tropical air. This results, typically in such areas, in monsoons and typhoons – massive rain storms. As this expands its geographic reach owing to a cumulative global warming, these wet air masses move into new areas, and the kind of rains which the Mississippi and Ohio river valley areas experienced becomes a new “normal.” The massive record snow packs of the western mountains – quite likely soon to become flash flooding in the areas west of the Rockies, and in the Sacramento Valley in California – are another to-be-expected consequence of global warming. Essentially the land-mass of North America may begin to expect weather conditions more like that of India – a huge wet season, followed with a long dry one. The consequence will be a severe strain on systems which were designed to cope with quite another range of probable weather: the hundred year flood plain will become an annual one; the levee systems of the Mississippi and Sacramento River delta areas will become utterly inadequate and towns and cities built along them will probably have to be abandoned. The American mid-west – tornado alley – will be subjected regularly to the kinds of massive mile-wide systems that have ravaged Joplin and Tuscalosa in the last month. The flimsy architecture of this region – mostly wood frame or brick – will largely prove itself insufficient to withstand a new weather pattern of massive seasonal storms with winds of 100 to 150 miles an hour. A glance at the pictures from these events shows that such architecture is as flimsy as a trailer home in such events. If, as can be expected, such weather becomes a real norm, it would likely mean mass migration from the area. River areas would become too dangerous to live near; the vast unbroken and open interior – ideal for the generating of twisters – could become too volatile for many to tolerate. And along the coasts, particularly the gulf and east coasts, the probable oceanic storms – hurricanes – would likely chew up coastal towns and housing, not to mention snatching the beaches away.
Apocalyptic enough? I am sure Mr Inhofe will be praying mightily while pocketing those oil industry coins. Meanwhile one of his peers, who perhaps is running for President, the thrice-married “family values” man, Mr. Gingrich, will be there with him.