Thousands of fish die from heat wave as scientist blames climate change

Robert Bowen

AP reported today that thousands of fish died just last week in the Midwestern United States because the heat wave made the rivers too hot. At the same time a leading scientist said statistical analysis confirms the blistering heat is a result of climate change.

Iowa DNR officials reported that about 40,000 shovelnose sturgeon were killed in Iowa last week as water temperatures in the Des Moines River reached 97 degrees. Iowa Officials said the dead sturgeon were worth nearly $10 million, because their highly sought eggs are used for caviar. The fish are valued at more than $110 a pound.

Meanwhile, Nebraska fishery officials said they've seen thousands of dead sturgeon, catfish, carp, and other species in the Lower Platte River, including the endangered pallid sturgeon, According to AP, Gavin Gibbons, a spokesman for the National Fisheries Institute, said the sturgeon kills don't appear to have reduced the supply enough to hurt regional caviar suppliers.

The hot weather in Illinois has killed tens of thousands of large and smallmouth bass and channel catfish and is threatening the population of the greater redhorse fish, a state-endangered species. So many fish died in one Illinois lake that the carcasses clogged an intake screen near a power plant, lowering water levels to the point that the station had to shut down one of its generators.

Why is this happening? NASA scientist and Columbia professor James Hanson published a study Saturday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science that concluded that statistically what's happening is not random or normal, but pure and simple climate change. "This is not some scientific theory. We are now experiencing scientific fact."

In an Op Ed in the Washington Post Saturday, Hansen wrote:

“Our analysis shows that it is no longer enough to say that global warming will increase the likelihood of extreme weather and to repeat the caveat that no individual weather event can be directly linked to climate change. To the contrary, our analysis shows that, for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change.

The deadly European heat wave of 2003, the fiery Russian heat wave of 2010 and catastrophic droughts in Texas and Oklahoma last year can each be attributed to climate change. And once the data are gathered in a few weeks’ time, it’s likely that the same will be true for the extremely hot summer the United States is suffering through right now.

These weather events are not simply an example of what climate change could bring. They are caused by climate change. The odds that natural variability created these extremes are minuscule, vanishingly small. To count on those odds would be like quitting your job and playing the lottery every morning to pay the bills."

Last week another scientist who was a global warming doubter released a study confirming that global warming is real and caused by humans. That study by University of California professor Richard Mueller was financed in part by the Koch Brothers.

While scientists are making the case that climate change is causing this devastating drought, Republicans in Congress have doubled down in their denial of science. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) continues to call global warming a hoax. Inhofe has received over $500,000 from oil companies since 2007.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KN) said today "I think the science suggests you have to have long-term trends, not one-year droughts,” according to UPI. He added that his district saw worse conditions in the 1950s and 1980s and "variability in the drought is not unusual." Congressman Huelskamp received $47,300 this year from oil companies

Sen. John Boozman, (R-AK) agreed. "We've got oppressive heat and we've broken some records, but there's a lot of records standing that have been there for a long duration. These things cycle and we've been unseasonably wet and we're cycling into a hot, dry period."

What will it take before Congress decides to do something about the carbon gasses that are causing climate change? If the drought, fires, and violent storms aren’t working, maybe a wake up call from the voters might.

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