- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 19, 2011

There are those on the left who look at tragedy and spot opportunity. Such is the case with terrible flooding that struck Australia last week, killing at least 22. On Tuesday, former Vice President Al Gore asserted that the root cause of the destruction was not torrential rain, but mankind. “As the earth warms, scientists tell us that we will see more and more extreme weather conditions,” Mr. Gore wrote on his blog, citing an ABC News report on the disaster. “Each of these occurrences further underscore [sic] why we need to take immediate action to solve the climate crisis.”

Waters topped 14 feet in Brisbane, the capital city of Queensland, forcing most residents to flee Katrina-style destruction. The few who remained used canoes and boats to float down the middle of what would ordinarily be the busy streets of a thriving metropolis. The deluge provided a steady stream of grim images for international television news crews on the scene, inspiring Mr. Gore to imply that last week’s devastation has been so unprecedented that only mankind could be responsible.

Except there’s nothing unprecedented about what happened down under. Floods and extreme weather always have been with us, especially in that part of Australia. In February 1893, continuous rainfall caused the Brisbane river to rise 27 feet, inundating the area and taking 11 lives. Homes were ruined, the north edge of the Victoria bridge washed away and 2,000 sheep drowned. Extant photographs of that great flood depict residents canoeing down famous boulevards like Queen Street.

The primary difference between the flooding then and now is that Queensland’s population has grown from 400,000 in the 1890s to 4.5 million today. That means the 19th-century death toll was four times greater on a per capita basis. It’s not clear how Mr. Gore could credibly blame this more destructive event on the industrial revolution. The Black February flood did hit shortly after Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach invented what was arguably the first automobile powered by an internal-combustion engine. It’s unlikely, however, that the world’s supply of 1.5 horsepower, two-cylinder motors at the time were responsible for emitting enough carbon dioxide to create this “climatic disruption.”

The simpler explanation is that today’s global-warming concerns are inspired by a long history of quacks who have blamed floods, disasters and bad weather on a variety of actions of man that purportedly displeased nature. The medicine men, oracles and shamans of bygone eras advanced their personal agendas by exploiting natural climate cycles that, in truth, were entirely beyond their control. Just as doing a rain dance or sacrificing a goat did little to avert past disasters, so too the modern-day equivalents - a windmill and a Toyota Prius - are not going to solve problems better addressed by engineering.

Brisbane holds a lesson for the rest of the world. Instead of wasting scientific expertise and taxpayer funds on pointless “green” projects, efforts would be better directed toward shoring up riverbanks and coastlines to minimize the damage from the inevitable flooding that has, and always will, occur.