The Czech Republic and eastern Germany are digging out from the worst floods in a century but here in the U.S. just under half the lower 48 states are afflicted with the worst drought since the 1930s. Is this global warming with a vengeance, drowning one continent in a deluge and turning another into a dust bowl?
The Czech Republic reported $2.8 billion in damage inflicted on Prague but the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia argued that this official estimate is far too low. Central Europe suffered at least $20 billion in damages. Among the hardest hit was Dresden, the crown jewel of the Saxon princes, painstakingly rebuilt by the German Democratic Republic. It had been nearly destroyed by British and U.S. bombers in the most devastating non-nuclear firebombing of World War II, a deliberate scheme to destroy the city just before the Soviet army liberated it. Now there is despair that a city destroyed by incendiary bombs has been devastated again by flood.
Here in the U.S., the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports “above normal temperatures and drier than normal conditions” across large parts of the U.S. At the end of July, “49 percent of the contiguous United States was in moderate to extreme drought. … The past 12 months were the driest August through July on record in four southeastern states (Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia). Three other states (Arizona, Nevada, and Delaware) had their second driest August through July in the 107-year period of record.”
Drought conditions have persisted for years in some regions with water levels in reservoirs and aquifers dropping ominously. In Maryland and throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, mandatory water conservation is being enforced with a ban on watering lawns or washing cars. The drought, has wilted crops and turned the usually verdant state brown. The last 11 months have seen the lowest precipitation levels since the National Weather Service began compiling records in 1871.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported “more then 75 percent of range and pastures … classified as poor to very poor” in five western states – Nebraska, Colorado, California, Wyoming and South Dakota – forcing cattle ranchers to sell off their herds at a drastic loss for lack of fodder.
Wildfires also continue to burn across large areas of the west with more than four million acres of forest and fields burned by the end of July, NOAA reported.
Every year about 400 people die across the country from heat-related illlnesses and this year is no exception. Senior citizens and those with heart disease are most at risk, especially those forced to live in non-air conditioned inner-city neighborhoods.
Global warming was clearly a factor both in the devastating European floods and in the sweltering heat and drought across the United States. Experts on “climate change” point out that global warming brings on “extreme” weather, drier droughts, more devastating hurricanes, tornadoes and floods. The average temperature for the contiguous United States was 76.4 degreees Fahrenheit in July, 2.2 degrees greater than the 1895-2001 long-term mean for the month. It made it the fifth warmest July since records began in 1895. Thirty-nine states were warmer than average and Utah had its warmest July on record, NOAA reported.
George W. Bush pooh-poohs warnings of global warming as “unproven science.” He recently weakened a standard requiring a 30 percent improvement in the efficiency of central air conditioners cutting it to a 20 percent improvement. The Sierra Club called it “an irresponsible decision that will increase costs for consumers and increase global warming pollution. It will cost consumers $1 billion annually in higher energy bills, increase emissions of carbon by 2.5 million tons per year, the equivalent to the annual output of 1.7 million cars, and force the construction of 48 new power plants by 2020.”
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