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A rising tide of anxiety?

Waist deep floodwaters in the home of Jess Dawson in Moree, Northern New South Wales, Australia in February 2012. Photo: AP Photo/Jess Dawson

Extreme weather — from Hurricane Katrina to the earthquakes in Japan – is captivating in the way that few things are, and its effects are oftentimes dramatic and devastating. So much so that rising tides and flooding can fade from view at times. But recently, Sir Bob Watson, chief scientist at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the U.K. told The Guardian that, “If you had to pick one particular issue I think the flooding issue is the most dominant.”

Flooding continues to wreak havoc around the world: from low-lying areas in the U.S. (like Norfolk, Va., which is the subject of our upcoming broadcast) to the island nation of the Maldives, where coastal erosion threatens to submerge the country under water.  When the waters rise, the mass exodus that ensues can lead to a trecherous journey for thousands of displaced people. Last year in Sri Lanka, flooding affected a million people, resulting in the death of 23. Monsoons in Pakistan in 2010 created ‘heart-wrenching’ disaster for some 20 million residents. (See images of the  flooded zones here.)

While the cause-and-effect link between human activity and climate change remains a hot-button issue, many scientists are in agreement that human behaviors have contributed to global warming. And a 2011 study in Nature directly linked rising greenhouse-gas levels with the growing intensity of rain and snow in the Northern Hemisphere, and the increased risk of flooding in the United Kingdom.

We want to hear from you about this issue. Do you live in a low-lying area threatened by floods? Do you think climate change has affected your habitat? If so, how?



  • Electrasbest

    The warming has been good for me. I live in northern Texas and it has increased the growing season by at least 1 month. That allows me to produce more food from my garden. I do not think that any human activity has anything to do with it. It is a normal earthly cycle. It will be followed by an ice age. There was more of the bad stuff in the atmosphere when we had millions of volcanoes erupting at the same time. I remember reading about the content of the Artic air bubbles that were trapped in ice that was millions of years old.

  • louise

    Our government should treat everyone equally to be fair.   If a house in Norfolk is paid to rebuild, then a house in Ohio hit by lightning should get help, and a house in CA damaged by a mudslide, and a house in NJ where a tree fell on a house.   Obviously that would cost too much, so the government’s role should be limited to clearing roads and repairing community property, and perhaps offering low-cost loans to property owners.   

  • Suzrhodes

    About three decades ago I was a speaker at a regional Audubon conference and heard for the first time their policy that federal insurance should continue to cover devestation, but once properties were flooded, the owners should be reimbursed and move on.  The property should revert to public ownership.  I don’t recall all of the details, but they were clearly way way ahead of their time.  I think the US should strengthen its flood insurance program with this sort of a limitation, which ultimately could also protect precious scenic and recreational resources.  Suzanne Rhodes

  • Anonymous

    It is very sad to hear what you seem to think you know.  Certainly we have had different atmospheres and climates over the history of the earth.  At one time we did not have sufficient oxygen in our atmosphere to support life as it now is.  Certainly at one point there was climate change that was the result of volcanos. These facts are not relevant. You must think critically and you must know the relevant facts.  Fact 1.  Over the last 10,000 years the amount of carbon in the atmosphere has varied from around 180 to 280 (one extreme peak of almost 300) ppm.  In 1950 we reached that peak of 300 and we are now at over 380 ppm.  The computer models that have been used to predict what is going to happen from this dramatic increase in CO2 have if anything been greatly underestimating the effects.  Fact 2. The scientist who have agued against climate change are the same ones who have argued against tobacco causing cancer (literally the same ones not figuratively).  Their agenda is NOT the truth of science.  They are entirely modivated with trying to prevent government regulation because they came from the old world of facism and communism and they fear that government regulation will lead to totalitarianism.  Wacky I know but this is the truth.  Not one of these scientists who is in this group is in any field that knows a thing about climate, They are engineers and the spew propaganda.  Fact 3.  You may love your longer growing season but stop and think about what life is going to be like when the hottest day of last summer becomes the normal temperature for summer and hot days are like nothing you have ever experienced.  Think about when you are not allowed water for your garden.  The rate of change is increasing.  We are now experiencing a change of 1.5 degrees increase.  The best we can hope for it to get it to level out at a 2 degree increase but that is worlds better than the 9 degree increase if we do nothing.  It is very difficult knowing what you don’t know but I can tell you that you don’t know the science and you don’t know the implications.  There are a great deal many more facts that are relevant that I could give you but you must be open minded and you must work hard at understanding them.  Thinking is hard work.  If you think you know as much as the scientists that have devoted their lives to study and research then you know less then nothing.  You have to assume you know nothing and start from there. 

  • Anonymous

    People should not build in flood plains period.  End of story.  They should not be given any form of insurance for building or living where it is known that the area will flood.  This is insane.   I am perfectly happy to chip in to help pay for those living in these areas to move and buy other homes if this is their primary home but I am not at all pleased to pay for them to continue to make the same mistake over and over.