The ongoing drought has caused the illustrious Mississippi River’s water levels to plummet. Today, almost a hundred boats were sidelined waiting for passage across an eleven-mile stretch of the river that had to be closed down because the water levels had dropped so low that authorities are fearful that vessels might run aground. The fears are not just blind panic; on August 11, a vessel did indeed run aground in this very stretch of water. Now, many are standing up excitedly to blame this on the ever-present global warming debate. So, is this an unprecedented event and a sign that climate change might threaten the greatest American river, both in terms of its grandeur but also its economic impact? Before we get on the global warming train, let’s take a moment and look outside of just what is happening right now.
This is not unprecedented. In 1988, the same stretch of river near Greenville, Mississippi had to be closed because of the same situation. A severe drought took hold of the nation and the water levels ran dangerously low. As a matter of fact, they hit the lowest ever. The 1988 drought saw the lowest level for the river in recorded history. While that is a considerable amount of time ago in strictly human terms, we do acknowledge that in planetary terms, it’s not that long ago. So, it doesn’t really prove or disprove the idea that climate change is causing this problem. However, consider this. If global warming were the cause, why would the river return to normal and have plenty of years where it at perfectly acceptable levels? What’s more, it’s interesting to see how short people’s memories are when they are advocating a cause. For example, after the 1988 drought that left the Mississippi River at record levels, just five years later in 1993, the river overflowed and had one of the worst floods in the century. Every global warming advocate out there is pointing to the drought and the low river levels as evidence of their theory at work, and yet, not one of them ever references back all the way to a little over one year ago. That’s right. 2011 saw epic flooding of the Mississippi in April and May, on par with the other two most prominent floods, the aforementioned 1993 floods and 1927.
This is not a blood feud defense against global warming, nor is it an attempt to make sense of the theories. It is quite clear that something is happening in our world, but is it because of human interference or just another cycle of the planet that has been going on for millions of years and will no doubt go on for millions more? The only point here is that the drought here proves nothing for either side. It is inconsequential in terms of framing an argument for or against climate change and global warming. In economic terms, however, it is very consequential, and hopefully the drought will abate and allow the Mississippi to get back to normal soon. Like it always has in the past, we might add.