The Biggest Climate Crisis of the Year?

What is the biggest climate whuping in North America?  If you’re thinking hurricane Sandy you’d be wrong, and at the opposite end of the spectrum.  Nope, it’s drought.  Never ending drought. The Midwest is desiccating; the Mississippi River may soon be too shallow to float the big grain and coal barges. The care takers of the Missouri River are contemplating cutting back its flows into the Mississippi because (the authority is divided, not unified)   low water upstream is threatening its own surrounds. [Note, the article linked to makes this sound like an unreasonable bureaucratic decision rather than a save-ourselves-first move.]

The colossal devastation and loss of life wrought by Hurricane Sandy makes the storm one of the greatest disasters in U.S. history. The storm and its aftermath have rightfully dominated the weather headlines this year, and Sandy will undoubtedly be remembered as the most notable global weather event of 2012. But shockingly, Sandy is probably not even the deadliest or most expensive weather disaster this year in the United States–Sandy’s damages of perhaps $50 billion will likely be overshadowed by the huge costs of the great drought of 2012. While it will be several months before the costs of America’s worst drought since 1954 are known, the 2012 drought is expected to cut America’s GDP by 0.5 – 1 percentage points…

Drought: civilization’s greatest natural enemy
People fear storms, and spectacular and devastating storms like Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina have stirred more debate in the U.S. about taking action against climate change than any other weather event. But I argue that this attention is misplaced. Drought is our greatest enemy. Drought impacts the two things we need to live–food and water. The history of civilization is filled with tales of great storms that have killed thousands and caused untold suffering and destruction. But cities impacted by great storms inevitably recover and rebuild, often stronger than before. I expect that New York City, the coast of New Jersey, and other areas battered by Sandy will do likewise. But drought can crash civilizations. Drought experts Justin Sheffield and Eric Wood of Princeton, in their 2011 book, Drought, list more than ten civilizations and cultures that probably collapsed because of drought. Among them: The Mayans of 800 – 1000 AD. The Anasazi culture in the Southwest U.S. in the 11th – 12th centuries. The ancient Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia. The Chinese Ming Dynasty of 1500 – 1730. When the rains stop and the soil dries up, cities die and civilizations collapse, as people abandon lands no longer able to supply them with the food and water they need to live.

Read all at Jeff Masters Wunderground

I don’t know if Ken Burns newest offering, The Dust Bowl, [November 18 and 19, 2012 8:00–10:00 p.m. ET on PBS] will resonate anymore than the plain facts on the ground, from Texas to North Dakota, but one way or the other intelligence is over due from taking hold.

[And an interesting conversation with Burns, here.]