Volatile ways

11/26/2012

Economic turbulence supports need to address climate change.

Economic turbulence supports need to address climate change.

Drought has long been a problem in southwest Kansas.

Unfortunately, the painful fallout of that unwelcome situation and other weather extremes promise to exact an even greater toll until the nation gets serious about global warming.

That's the take of a group of Iowa scientists who believe increasing instability in weather patterns will lead to more extremes during wet and dry years.

The Iowa Climate Statement, signed by 138 scientists and researchers from 27 Iowa colleges and universities, was released in the wake of the costly 2012 drought that destroyed crops all across the nation's Grain Belt, from South Dakota to Indiana.

The study becomes all the more noteworthy considering Iowa's experience with weather extremes. The top U.S. grain-growing state also recently endured devastating flooding, with an estimated $10 billion in damage in 2008 — the worst disaster in the state's history.

Many factors contribute to weather conditions, as researchers involved in the study noted. They added, however, that scientists who study global warming have correctly predicted increasingly volatile weather patterns, and view the harsh drought and other recent severe weather developments as a sign of things to come.

In the Iowa Climate Statement, scientists called for greater consideration of changes that could be made to reduce the economic impact of extreme weather trends. Not surprisingly, they recommended ways to combat global warming — namely steering toward more renewable energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Still, some experts dismiss the link between weather volatility and a warming climate. Critics also argue that doing more to address global warming in the United States would accomplish little as such countries as China and India continue to emit increasing amounts of pollutants that contribute to global warming, with little interest in change.

But that's no reason for the United States to shortchange efforts to reverse the trend.

While the recent study out of America's heartland offered important food for thought, weather volatility and its impact on economies and natural resources alone should be more than enough to further conversation among policymakers on strategies to minimize the wrath of the worst Mother Nature has to offer.

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