Flunking Global Warming 101

Publication, Climate, Frontier Centre

“When the freedom they wished for most was the freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and never was free again.” – Edith Hamilton

President Obama used recent flooding in Fargo, North Dakota, to push his misguided belief in global warming. His comment, “If you look at the flooding that’s going on right now in North Dakota and you say to yourself, ‘If you see an increase of two degrees, what does that do, in terms of the situation there?’” is speculative and completely wrong.

A two-degree warmer North Dakota would mean less snowfall, therefore less flooding. Spring flooding along the Red River of the north is due to snow melt and the geography of the region. This year the cold winter caused heavy snow in the south basin and all across the northern continental US. Obama’s comments do what the focus on global warming does; it diverts us from the real issues. In this case it is flooding and people living in naturally high-risk areas.

I was a founding member of the International Coalition, a joint project of citizens from Canada and the US living in the flood plain of the Red River. Failure of the federal governments on both sides of the border to deal with flooding forced creation of this illegal organization. I won’t forget riding on the bus to the first meeting at the University of North Dakota, and listening to the US federal government bureaucrat in the seat in front of me asking his assistant, “Which way does this bloody river run anyway?” Later I was the first Chair of the Assiniboine River Management Advisory Board (ARMAB) set up to establish management plans for this river, which is the largest tributary of the Red.

The Red River is the largest and one of very few rivers that start in the US and flow north into Canada. This is not an accident but a result of history. The 49th parallel in western North America was a simple geometric boundary that effectively approximated the divide separating water flowing south into the Gulf of Mexico or north into Hudson Bay. The Hudson’s Bay Company was granted land draining into Hudson Bay and that land became part of Canada in 1870 under the British North America Act.

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