Iowa and the Upper Midwest have suffered unprecedented flooding on the Missouri River. It is of historical proportions exceeding the previous 1952 record by 51% and smashing a 67-year-old record. The latest cost estimates have spiked to over $2 billion dollars, and the Corps of Engineers is warning that there will be continued flooding through the fall.
In addition, the Corps cites a 2012 climate change report on the Missouri River that predicts an additional 6% increase in upper-basin runoff and a 10% increase in lower-basin runoff by 2050. 2018 was the third wettest year in the Missouri Basin since record keeping began in 1898.
Yet with the overwhelming evidence that Iowa’s climate is changing and flooding in Iowa is the new normal, Senator Joni Ernst is stubbornly stuck in climate denial.
“We know that our climate is changing. Our climate always changes and we see those ebb and flows through time,” said Senator Joni Ernst.
The rapidly growing flood damage to Iowa clearly proves Ernst is dead wrong about a natural ebb and flow. The latest Missouri flood isn’t some strange aberration. Since 1988, every Iowa county has suffered flooding, some as many as 17 times. Iowa now ranks as number four in the nation in the number of floods since 1988.
“We’re repeatedly impacted by floods,” according to Larry Weber, who co-founded the Iowa Flood Center at the University of Iowa. Iowa homeowners, farmers and businesses have suffered more than $18 billion in flood damage in the last 30 years. There have been 951 federal flood-related flood declarations during that period.
Since 2011, science faculty, researchers and educators at nearly every Iowa college and university have produced annual climate statements. Their annual climate statements project a hotter and wetter Iowa. The predicted increases in precipitation, especially extreme rainfall events simply overwhelm Iowa’s current infrastructure.
The Corps of Engineers that manages the Missouri River basin flood control shares the concern of Iowa climate scientists.
“Scientists say that, in the Missouri Basin, we’ll be spending more time at each end of the spectrum — longer and more severe floods, longer and more severe droughts,” according to John Remus the Chief of the Army Corps’ Missouri River Basin Water Management Division. “But there are limits,” he said. “The storm that ignited the massive flood was beyond the capacity of Missouri River dams control … It was not designed to handle this.”
Polk County residents are well aware of the increase in extreme rain events. On June 30, 2018, parts of the Des Moines metro received up to nine inches of rain within a four-hour period. Over 6,100 homeowners suffered some water flood damage from that deluge.
Meanwhile, Senator Ernst remains oblivious to the hard truth that Iowa is in the midst of a climate-related crisis. In November, the government issued the Fourth National Climate Assessment. Among the Midwest predictions in that report were increased urban flooding, severe summer heat waves, reduced crop yields and higher livestock mortality from extreme heat.
Ernst was asked about these dire climate predictions for Iowans. She totally failed to provide any meaningful answer, saying, “there is a balance that can be struck there.”
Iowa must elect leaders that are capable of understanding the weather-related threats to Iowans. Iowans deserve political decision-makers that can accept, respect and act on the advice of our scientific community. Denial and outright rejection of scientific facts should disqualify any candidate for an Iowa elected position. Iowa’s farmers, businesses and homeowners deserve a senator that is willing to protect them and their families from an increasingly severe climate threat.
by Rick Smith
Photo by Julie Fleming