House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) took to Facebook on Tuesday to recast California’s worst drought in 1200 years as a “man-made water shortage” — not worsened by climate change, but by President Obama himself.
He also asserted that, in the midst of the historic Dust Bowl conditions, Americans still have a God-given right to green lawns.
Boehner, of course, famously said in May that he is “not qualified to debate the science over climate change.” That just affirmed what was clear from his bizarre 2009 assertion: “The idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical.”
But admitted scientific ignorance doesn’t slow the Speaker down. What has sparked his blinkered outrage this time is this photo he posted on Facebook:
Boehner brags here about what “Congress is doing to end President Obama’s man-made water shortage in the West.” Indeed, the House just passed a bill that essentially blames environmental polices for causing the drought, specifically policies that reduce water use to protect endangered fish species.
But actual scientists aren’t saying environmental uses caused California’s worst drought in 1200 years. Actual scientists explained earlier this year that the primary extent to which the drought has a man-made component is that man-made global warming is making it a lot worse. Man-made warming, they said, has led to record high temperatures. And according to the National Science Foundation, climate change has tripled the chances of the current weather pattern that has blocked California from getting precipitation (the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge).
Meanwhile, Boehner is outraged that people are being urged not to maintain their water-intensive green lawns in a semi-arid region during this epic drought. From his Facebook post:
If ever there was a phrase that perfectly encapsulates liberal environmentalists’ backwards priorities and regressive ideology of restriction and scarcity, it is the one now displayed on a government sign in Arcadia, California: “It’s ‘green’ to go brown.”
For the record, the soil moisture deficit in the state is truly unprecedented as measured by the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI). Again, according to actual scientists, “the current event is the most severe drought in the last 1200 years, with single year (2014) and accumulated moisture deficits worse than any previous continuous span of dry years. … In terms of cumulative severity, it is the worst drought on record (-14.55 cumulative PDSI), more extreme than longer (4- to 9-year) droughts.”
No doubt if Boehner had been Speaker during the 1930s Dust Bowl, he’d not have been urging Oklahomans to ignore those science-based conservation efforts pushed by FDR and just keep watering their lawns.
Here is California’s groundwater depletion over the last three years as observed by NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE):
NASA: “The ongoing California drought is evident in these maps of dry season (Sept–Nov) total water storage anomalies (in millimeter equivalent water height; anomalies with respect to 2005–2010). California’s Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins have lost roughly 15 km3 of total water per year since 2011 — more water than all 38 million Californians use for domestic and municipal supplies annually — over half of which is due to groundwater pumping in the Central Valley.”
So yes, the whole notion that environmentalists are somehow responsible for the water shortage is a canard. A good debunking is here. You can also watch a very recent discussion of this issue between MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and Steve Fleischli, director of NRDC’s water program here.
Finally, if climate science deniers like Boehner get their way, and we continue to take little or no action on climate change, then here is what NASA projects the normal climate of the entire country will look like from a soil moisture perspective.
If anyone has a “regressive ideology” that will inevitably lead to “restriction and scarcity,” if anyone wants to see the entire country go from green to brown, it would be Speaker of the House John Boehner.
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