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Louisiana Flooding One More Link To Warming Climate

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Louisiana Flooding One More Link To Warming Climate

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A woman nuzzles her son as they wait to show U.S. President Barack Obama their flood-damaged home as he tours their neighborhood in Zachary, Louisiana, U.S., August 23, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

President Barack Obama’s visit to flood-ravaged Louisiana didn’t assuage those critics who lambasted him for his failure to come earlier, but he didn’t expect it to. As he noted while there, “This is not a photo-op issue. This is how do you make sure that (months) from now, people still are getting the help that they need?”

The president has learned to live with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune — as well as the outrageous accusations of his arrow-slinging detractors. It goes with the territory.

Still, it’s no surprise that Republican nominee Donald Trump attempted to gain electoral advantage over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, an Obama ally, by visiting Louisiana before the president did. Trump gained positive press coverage and accolades, not only from his GOP allies, but also from a stalwart Democrat, Louisiana native James Carville.

“Donald Trump came — thank you, Donald Trump. He gave $100,000 to a church in Greenwell Springs. It was very effective,” Carville said in an appearance on Fox News.

But those who are genuinely concerned about the catastrophe in southern Louisiana ought to be grateful to the president for his leadership on at least one issue: climate change. (They should also be grateful for a well-run, high-functioning Federal Emergency Management Agency, but that’s another column.) While the experts rarely link a single event to global warming — and climate scientists have not said that it caused the devastating Louisiana floods — they point to increased rainfall and flooding as a likely result of a warmer climate.

As president, Obama has done more to mitigate climate change than any of his predecessors. Unable to budge a recalcitrant Congress, he nevertheless has managed to push through tightened vehicle emissions standards as well as stricter regulations for coal-fired power plants. He also helped lead the successful effort to secure a global agreement to reduce carbon emissions.

Trump, by contrast, has joined up with the flat-earth Republican chorus that insists climate change is a “hoax.” As the imaginative GOP nominee once tweeted: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

Tell that to the Californians who are suffering through the fifth year of a severe drought — with not only acute water shortages, but also devastating wildfires. Tell that to the Brazilians and Central Americans who are living through the Zika epidemic, believed to be spread by mosquitoes, which breed more easily in a warming climate. Tell that to the leaders of the Marshall Islands, who worry that their nation may not exist in a few decades because of rising oceans caused by warmer temperatures.

Climatologists say the 10 hottest years on record have all occurred since 1998. Last year took the medal for all-time high, but scientists now believe 2016 will best that record.

Warmer temperatures lead not only to more devastating droughts, but also, counter-intuitively, to more rainfall in certain areas. That’s because warmer air is capable of holding more moisture.

By any measure, the rainfall and resulting flooding that struck a wide swath of southern Louisiana earlier this month was historic. The storm occurred over several days and didn’t attract the attention that meteorologists give to major weather events such as Hurricane Katrina.

But experts are calling it the worst natural disaster in the United States since Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast in 2012. (The damage from Sandy was also exacerbated by climate change, which created more flooding because of rising oceans.) Neighborhoods believed to be safely outside the floodplain were inundated with water. Tens of thousands of people have been left homeless, and more than a dozen were killed.

And while Louisiana has seen the worst flooding of late, it’s not the only state that has suffered. Five other states — Texas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Maryland and Virginia — have all experienced severe flooding in the last 15 months. Those hundred-year events are coming with increasing frequency.

Trump, like his fellow Republicans, will continue to deny that climate change has anything to do with the severe weather events that just keep on coming. His visit to Louisiana, then, is much like the rest of his campaign: an episode from an un-reality show.

(Cynthia Tucker won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007. She can be reached at cynthia@cynthiatucker.com.)

Photo: A woman nuzzles her son as they wait to show U.S. President Barack Obama their flood-damaged home as he tours their neighborhood in Zachary, Louisiana, U.S., August 23, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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Cynthia Tucker Haynes

Cynthia Tucker Haynes, a veteran newspaper journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner, is a Visiting Professor of Journalism and Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at the University of Georgia. She is also a highly-regarded commentator on TV and radio news shows.

Haynes was editorial page editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper for 17 years, where she led the development of opinion policy. More recently, she was that newspaper’s Washington-based political columnist. She maintains a syndicated column through Universal Press Syndicate, which is published in dozens of newspapers around the country. Besides winning the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007, Haynes has also received numerous other awards, including Journalist of the Year from the National Association of Black Journalists.

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3 Comments

  1. TZToronto August 28, 2016

    I’m a bit surprised that Carville was unable to see through the self-serving nature of Trump’s brief visit to Louisiana. What did Trump actually do? He handed out toys (that he did not buy) for 49 seconds, gave some money (Did he hand over a certified check?) to an anti-LGBT church, and then left. Meanwhile, his visit took up the time of many public servants who might otherwise have been involved in mitigating the effects of the natural disaster. OK, he did show that someone on his campaign staff told him about the tragedy in Louisiana, and he did take time out of his busy schedule to say hi, but his visit won’t win him any new votes. LA is already going red, and President Obama’s “late” trip to view the devastation won’t lose him any votes since he’s not running. Neither Trump’s visit nor Clinton’s absence will have any effect on recovery in the area, but President Obama’s trip to see for himself what’s going on will.

    Reply
    1. Jon August 28, 2016

      My 1st thought reading the article was “what the hell is wrong with James Carville?” How f can he not know that Donnie wasn’t there out of compassion or concern for the flood victims. Donnie was there to try to fool people into believing he cares about other people besides himself. Donnie cares only about Donnie. His compassion for others was demonstrated after the mass murder in Orlando in June at The Pulse by a Muslim. Trump immediately began bragging about he had predicted it and a yuuuuuge number of people were tweeting him congratulating him for his foresight. Not one word of sympathy or expression of compassion for the victims, their families, and loved ones. No The Donald would nev

      Reply
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