"I face this challenge with profound humility," Obama told the gathered faithful in St. Paul on June 3, 2008, the night he secured the Democratic nomination for president.
And then, in arguably the least humble speech ever made by a successful presidential aspirant, he told his flock that "this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal." The sheep believed him.
Along the Great Lakes, however, especially Lake Ontario, even the faithful have ceased to believe. Many of them are being flooded out of their homes.
I sensed something amiss when I arrived late May at my humble summer digs on Lake Erie. For the first time in 30 years I had to get my feet wet if I wanted to walk the beach.
This sounds like the ultimate in first-world problems, and for me it is, but for others it is a third-world problem. They are in danger of losing their homes to the lake, at least along the Ontario shoreline.
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Although my neighbors on the lake lean Democratic, they blamed Obama. This was the first I had heard of the controversy.
A December article in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle began thusly, "The international body that oversees Lake Ontario water levels has adopted a controversial new set of rules, a move that marks a major victory for environmentalists who said the former regulations have harmed the lake's ecosystem."
The goal of the revised rules, known as Plan 2014, was to help "restore 64,000 acres of wetlands along the shoreline and improve fish and wildlife habitat there."
The article continued, "Those wetlands have been damaged under the old plan, which seeks to keep water levels within a relatively narrow range, environmental experts have said."
Lake residents and business owners had a different take. They argued that "any increase in the peak lake level" could cause serious damage along the shoreline. The report noted that adoption of Plan 2014 would be "sure to infuriate" property owners.
The plan was adopted a little more than a month before Obama left office. "Opponents have already denounced the move as a lame-duck action," the newspaper reported. Critics were expected to ask Trump to reverse it.
That was December. This is June. The eastern Great Lakes had a rainy spring. That happens. The headlines tell the story. This one from May 15: "It keeps going up: Lake Ontario water levels highest in nearly a century."
By May 22, things had gotten worse, even for the environment. "Environmental damage from Lake Ontario flooding could be permanent," and this from public radio station WRVO.
By May 30, the state of affairs had gotten pretty dire: "Lake Ontario's water levels, highest in 100 years, are damaging homes, businesses."
Three days later, President Trump withdrew from the Paris Accords, and the progressive faithful went nuts worrying about rising sea levels, the most immediate concern of the climate doomsday crowd.
Al Gore called Trump's move "a reckless and indefensible action," one that "undermines America's standing in the world and threatens to damage humanity's ability to solve the climate crisis in time."
Although worried about the world, Al Gore did not seem particularly worried about the $9 million beachfront home he bought in Montecito, California, in just about the same year he predicted the North Pole ice cap to disappear.
Meanwhile, around Lake Ontario, where people's homes actually are being sucked into the sea, the ambitious governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, had little time to worry about the ice cap.
On Memorial Day, Cuomo stood near the flooded southern shore of Lake Ontario near Rochester and called the International Joint Commission's handling of lake levels "a series of blunders" and denounced its science as "flawed."
Sensing a rare rift on Democratic environmental front, the editorialists are hoping to paper over the political damage. "Blame nature for Lake Ontario flooding, not Plan 2014," reads the June 6 headline on Syracuse.com.
That headline, I can assure you, works much better inland than it does along the lake.
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