Hard Rains Falling in Ohio Sign of Global Warming, Environmental Report Says

OhioNews Bureau

ONB COLUMBUS: In the 60s, Bob Dylan sang about the metaphorical "hard rain" that was going to fall in poetic response to the tumbling, trying tumult of the time.

But according to a report detailing trends across the nation that point to the affects of global warming on the rising frequency of extreme storms, the real-life hard rains and severe snow storms Ohio has experienced with greater frequency will continue until carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are radically reduced.

As the fourth leading emitter of CO2, Ohio may be reaping a bundle of bad weather it helped to produce through the deleterious emissions that come from many industries, but especially from coal-fired electric generating plants.

“Just last August we dealt with record flooding in Ohio, and now, less than a year later we are already experiencing record breaking storms, again. At the rate we’re going, what was once the storm of the decade will soon seem like just another downpour,” said Amy Gomberg, an environmental advocate, in a media release from Environment Ohio (EO), a statewide non profit policy research and advocacy organization.

Among the report’s findings, which covered large rain and snow events across the nation from 1948 to 2006, is that heavy rainfall or snow is now 43 percent more frequent in Ohio than they were a mere 60 years ago, and that the trend for the nation is similar.

EO says it supports the efforts of Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and those of his colleagues in the Midwestern Governor’s Association (MGA) to set regional goals for reducing CO2 emissions.

STRICKLAND, MIDWESTERN PEERS, PRODUCING PROPOSALS

In advance of greenhouse gas committee meetings scheduled in Chicago on April 7 and 8, as part of MGA's move toward policy formulation that will grapple with issues like carbon offsets, target-setting, data and reporting, modeling and allowances, as they relate to generating electricity in the region, the OhioNews Bureau sought and received answers to several key questions from Governor Strickland's office.

Strickland responded to questions from the OhioNews Bureau through his chief of communications, Keith Dailey, who in turn consulted key members of Strickland's energy team, one of whom, Mark Shanahan, his energy adviser, will be in Chicago.

When asked what Strickland’s evaluation of the progress of the Midwest Governor's Association (MGA) in reducing regional reduction of carbon dioxide and what his administration has either proposed or achieved in this regard, ONB was told that the first work group meeting on the regional CO2 program was just held, but that the advisory committee is developing a work plan, organizing subcommittees and preparing to explore recommendations that will go back to the governors.

Gomberg, who will be in Chicago and participating as a member of the committee on Allowances, said Strickland’s Energy, Jobs and Progress proposal, a comprehensive energy proposal that has passed the Ohio Senate and is now nearing completion in the House, “is a solid step in the right direction with regard to recognizing the need to diversify Ohio’s electricity mix with renewable energy and reducing Ohio’s demand for electricity through energy efficiency.” She said diversifying Ohio’s electricity mix with renewable energy will help meet the state’s increasing demand for electricity with non-carbon sources of power. “In order to actually do our part to curb global warming we also need to aggressively reduce existing carbon emissions from Ohio’s power plants,” she said, noting that “diversification is one part of the solution but committing to reduce carbon emissions in the short and long term is the most clear cut and necessary action that needs to happen.”

Dailey said Strickland’s energy and jobs proposal encourages a diversification of Ohio’s energy sources and supports advanced technologies like carbon sequestration which aim to reduce carbon emissions.

With a new president to be selected in November, ONB wanted to know what Strickland, whose name has been floated as a potential candidate for vice president should Sen. Hillary Clinton become the Democratic nominee, would policy advise the next president would offer Congress or what executive steps should be taken that will help Ohio and its neighboring states further achieve success on this issue?

“Governor Strickland is calling for a federal regulatory approach, which he believes is essential and which avoids the complications of a patchwork of regional rules and procedures,” Dailey told ONB. Continuing, he said the “governor is optimistic that Congress and a new administration will take action in the next two years” and that “Congress must pass legislation that ensures an even playing field for all states, particularly states like Ohio that has both a substantial power sector and a substantial manufacturing sector…A national response to this international issue is critical,” he said.

EO’s Gomberg chimed in saying, “Congress should indeed enact a plan that is fair but it also must be effective by ensuring aggressive reductions. A key component of this is to ensure that any cap-and-trade program requires the pollution allowances to be auctioned off rather than given away for free to polluters.” By auctioning pollution allowances, she said, “we affirm that no one has a ‘right’ to pollute” and that instead “we claim the atmosphere as a common resource, to be managed for the benefit of the public, which no polluter may foul without due compensation.” Through the auctioning of pollution allowances, Gomberg believes citizens prevent the accumulation of billions of dollars in windfall profits by polluters and then put those revenues to work on behalf of the public. Allowance revenues can support efforts to transform America into a clean energy economy, she added, which can then provide a regular dividend or rebate to American consumers.

ONB asked if more will be needed or if the comprehensive energy bill he is sent and expected to sign will be enough? Dailey said Strickland believes that “our challenge is to develop a full understanding of the potential economic impact on various sectors in Ohio and to analyze what impact various federal proposals will have.” He said this challenge that will be addressed for years to come, and that the response to this challenge will likely change over time with changes in science, technology and the economy. He said it would be very short-sighted to think any single package of legislation will meet our responsibilities.

“It is crucial to remember that the most important bottom-line is not that of the utilities or even of particular segments of Ohio’s economy but rather it is that of all Ohioans,” Gomberg added. “Ohioans cannot afford the most severe impacts of global warming” because “without aggressive reductions Ohioans will endure more of the flooding that we have experienced in the last year that destroyed homes and lives. She said it’s “important to ask ourselves: how many times can someone afford to have their home under water? How many times can they recover from these types events and manage to keep their home?”

She said that the world’s leading scientists are in agreement that the only way to curb the most severe impacts of global warming is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 80 per cent by 2050. And given that Ohio is the fourth leading contributor to carbon dioxide emissions in the nation, “we clearly have our work cut out for us.” Ohio is lucky, she said, because it is in a “fortunate position in that we can leverage Ohio’s strengths by developing our own renewable energy resources, reducing demand through energy efficiency and positioning Ohio to be the ‘Green Jobs center of America.’”

“Making commitments and taking action now, such as becoming a full participant in the Midwestern Governor’s Greenhouse Gas Reductions Accord, is the type of action that we need now to keep Ohio strong and do our part to curb global warming.”

The report analyzed daily precipitation records spanning from 1948 through 2006 at more than 3,000 weather stations in 48 states. It then examined patterns in the timing of heavy precipitation relative to the local climate at each weather station.

REPORT'S KEY FINDINGS

Scientists expect global warming to increase the frequency of heavy precipitation.

An increase in the number of downpours does not necessarily mean more water will be available.

Weather records show that storms with extreme precipitation have become more frequent over the last 60 years.

New England and the Mid-Atlantic experienced the largest increase in extreme precipitation frequency.

Climate divisions covering more than half of the land area of the United States show a statistically significant trend toward more frequent storms with extreme precipitation.

These findings are consistent with previous studies of extreme precipitation patterns, both in the United States and across the globe.

The severity of the trend toward more intense downpours in the future depends upon our emissions of the pollution that drives global warming.

To address global warming, America should limit emissions of global warming pollution, while improving energy efficiency and increasing the use of renewable energy.

John Michael Spinelli is a former Ohio Statehouse government and political reporter and business columnist. He now serves as the OhioNews Bureau Chief for ePluribus Media Journal. Find ONB archives here.

If readers have a news tip or story idea about Ohio politics or government, contact the OhioNews Bureau at: ohionews@epluribusmedia.org

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