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Global warming to blame for Bolivian floods?

February 8, 2008 |  2:08 pm

Unseasonal storms have been battering Bolivia, leaving thousands of people homeless and at least 49 dead. Mountain runoff has flooded the eastern lowlands, destroying dwellings, washing out roads and resulting in scenes of  residents wading and paddling in what were once streets.Flood2_2 Bolivian officials see a culprit: global warming, linked to greenhouse gases spewed by industrialized nations. Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca told reporters that First World "maltreatment of the Earth'' had sparked the crisis.Flooding1_2 

Global warming has become a kind of catch-all villain for many woes. From Bolivia's standpoint, rising ocean temperatures associated with warming air temperatures are accelerating evaporation into the atmosphere, resulting in ever more severe storms. 

Bolivian President Evo Morales has called on developed nations to pay an ecological debt. The United States and other countries have rushed aid to flood-ravaged Bolivia. But the asserted role of global warming in this and other natural disasters seems likely to be debated for years.

-- Patrick J. McDonnell in Buenos Aires

Photos: Flood victims in Trinidad, Bolivia; Credit: Aizar Raldes /AFP/etty Images