The Mississippi River is a critical shipping route in the United States. Wheat and corn, construction materials, coal and petroleum, chemicals and other goods are shipped on the river.

Galloway: “If we were to see a shut down in the river, the Mississippi and its tributaries, it would obviously have a tremendous economic effect.”


That’s retired Army Brigadier General Gerald E. Galloway, now an engineering professor at the University of Maryland.

A major disruption of the Mississippi could devastate the United States’ economic and national security. The two are intrinsically linked — economic power gives the U.S. greater clout in global affairs.

But natural ebbs and flows in the river’s water level and the aging infrastructure of locks and dams make it harder for barges to navigate. Extreme weather such as floods or drought, intensified by climate change, could add pressure to an already stressed system.

Galloway: “It is very clear that if we want to use the Mississippi as a measure of transport in a national transportation system that rivals those in the rest of the world, it is important that we take care of it.”

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Mississippi River Lock and Dam No. 2, near Hastings, Minnesota (source: USGS).

More Resources
The President’s Climate Action Plan
The Cost of Delaying Action to Stem Climate Change
Framing Climate Change as a National Security Threat

Lisa Palmer is a freelance journalist and a fellow at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, SESYNC, in Annapolis, Md. Her writing covers the environment, energy, food security, agriculture,...