‘We All Owe Al Gore An Apology’: Record Flooding Changing Minds On Climate Change

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A recent spike in natural disasters across the central United States has taken place in recent weeks, including tornados, record-breaking rainfall, and rising rivers due to floods, NPR reports. And as rising waters create problems for residents and businesses from Mississippi to Iowa, many locals are beginning to consider more seriously the specter of climate change and its possible impact, not just to the globe, but to them personally.

While it is true that not one of these events can be directly correlated with climate change, the trend of extreme rain in particular is projected to continue as the planet continues to incrementally warm.

“Somebody at my office told me, ‘We all owe Al Gore an apology,'” said Breigh Hardman, as she stood on a bridge over the stolen Arkansas River in Fort Smith.

A former vice president and one-time presidential hopeful, Gore, in 2006, released his documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which was largely credited with kickstarting awareness and activism around the issue of what was then characterized as global warming and is now referred to more commonly as climate change.

NPR, in their coverage, spoke to almost two dozen people in Oklahoma and Arkansas who were going through flooding in their area. They shared their thoughts on climate change in general and what it means for them in particular. All of them expressed agreement that the climate was changing, although some still did not specifically associate it with the increased rain and flooding they were experiencing.

Nor did they agree on the cause. Six of those interviewed indicated that they believed the driving force behind the change was God.

Those sentiments generally align with recent polling by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University. Their work has shown that more and more Americans are finding themselves concerned about the issue of global warning and more willing to indicate that they believe in its existence. A smaller majority were aligned in agreement that the phenomenon is mostly caused by humans.

Another study by the group revealed that personally experiencing what seems to be the effects of climate change is the most common reason that people begin to become more concerned about it.

“Most studies do suggest that experiencing an extreme event does effect one’s beliefs about climate change,” said Elizabeth Albright, who is an assistant professor at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

Extreme rain and flooding are projected to be both more common and more severe in the U.S., according to the most recent National Climate Assessment. How that could impact national perceptions of the science remains to be seen.