Environmentalists use new map to argue for policy changes

Interactive tool uses FEMA disaster data since 2010 to show impact of severe weather

The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan mandates reductions in carbon pollution from new, modified or rebuilt power plants. Fossil fuel-fired power plants are the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S., according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio joined other 11 states in a federal lawsuit seeking to block implementation of the plan, which is a key element to President Obama’s strategy to addressing climate change.

Environment Ohio unveiled the interactive weather map at a press conference Thursday where spokesman Sam Gerard said, “We used to think of climate change as a problem that would happen someday, somewhere. But as this map helps demonstrate, global warming is happening now and it’s hitting all too close to home.”

The map, which uses Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster data since 2010, does not include historical data, so users cannot compare the frequency of severe weather decade to decade. And to some degree it reflects political decisions by different state leaders to seek FEMA disaster declarations and seek funding.

While the scientific community agrees that the earth’s surface temperatures are rising, some political conservatives cast doubt on whether climate change is real and other political leaders debate whether human activity is the cause.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is running for the GOP presidential nomination, has said on the campaign trail that he believes climate change exists, but he isn’t sure how much humans are causing it.

“Do I believe there is something called climate change? I do. Do I think that human beings affect it? I do. How much? Not enough for me to go out and cost somebody their job,” said Kasich in Iowa in October, according to a YouTube clip of his town hall speech. “I don’t know that that’s why you have flooding. I just don’t know enough about it.”

A 2014 report from the Royal Society and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences said: “It is now more certain than ever, based on many lines of evidence, that humans are changing the Earth’s climate.” The report detailed how the burning of fossil fuels since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution have increased carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere by 40 percent and since 1900 the global average surface temperature has increased by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

It also said that as Earth’s lower atmosphere becomes warmer and moister, it gives the potential for more energy for storms. “Trends in extreme rainfall vary from region to region: the most pronounced changes are evident in North America and parts of Europe, especially in winter,” it said.

Ohio State University Geography Professor Alvaro Montenegro said if humans do not change activities, the climate change will be much larger over the coming century. “It has to do with, essentially, warmer conditions and a more irregular distribution of precipitation over time. Those are the two things that we are quite confident about.”

The online tool comes as scientists record the largest ever algae bloom — some 300 square miles — in Lake Erie. More severe storms occurring over longer seasons contribute to domestic and agricultural runoff that feeds harmful algal blooms. The blooms impact swimming, boating, fishing and the health of the lake.