Bill Nye Grimly Predicts The Louisiana Flood Is Not The Last Disaster Climate Change Will Bring
On Tuesday morning, CNN's Chris Cuomo spoke with Bill Nye — once upon a time the most famous "Science Guy" in television history, now a regular commentator and analyst on the ongoing march of climate change and all the environmental perils that come with it. And, perhaps needless to say, Nye saw a prime example of this playing out in the Bayou State. Bill Nye said that climate change caused the Louisiana floods, and that the science going forward shows that these kinds of disasters will become more and more common in the region.
Specifically, Nye told Cuomo that flooding in the region is being exacerbated by rising sea temperatures ― the warmer it gets, the more water molecules expand, putting additional pressure on the state's protective levees. Furthermore, a higher oceanic surface temperature means that more water evaporates, leading to increased rainfall.
As Cuomo observed, one of the startling things about the recent flooding is what caused it — or to be more specific, what didn't. While Louisiana has contended with awful natural disasters before (most memorably Hurricane Katrina back in 2005), this recent surge of floodwaters wasn't the result of a hurricane, but a tropical storm. In other words, the severity fell short of some of what the state has faced in the past, but the costs in terms of damage and human displacement have been no less devastating.
I don't have the answer to this, except it's gonna get worse. It almost certainly will get worse. Everybody, as the ocean gets warmer, which it is getting, it expands. Water gets ― molecules spread apart. And then as the sea surface is warmer more water evaporates, and so it's very reasonable that these storms are connected to these big effects.
Nye also pointed out a grim truth that all Americans should keep in mind when they watch footage of flooded streets, ruined houses, and drowned neighborhoods: This is what climate change's impact can look like in one of the most developed countries on Earth, which ostensibly has more money and resources than so many others. For smaller, poorer nations around the world facing similar threats from rising sea levels, the resources of the U.S. government aren't waiting in the wings.
As it stands now, the Louisiana floods have reportedly killed 13 people and displaced tens of thousands more, with an estimated 60,000 homes ruined. The recovery effort is going to be a long and challenging one — though as Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has reminded us in some of his public statements, even that conversation is even a little premature right now. It's hard to talk recovery while an emergency is still ongoing, and the situation in Louisiana is still far from stable.