My heart aches for the people in Oklahoma who have suffered the loss of all their material lives but in addition, many have lost loved ones, many of those children, huddled in an elementary school for safety. Unfortunately, the twister cut a death road right through it.
After all the natural disasters we have suffered in the past fifteen years, it is tempting to believe that we are reaping the consequences of our refusal to seriously address the damage we are doing to our planet. It is so very tempting. And a lot of people are saying just that.
I was tempted. My first reactions were probably much like yours. “Now tell me again that there is no such thing as man-made climate change.” Of course there is, and we know it to be a fact. We know it because of studies done again and again. The science is clear, and the scientific community is also clear, remaining at the level of 97%. When independent studies are conducted, looking at nearly 14,000 peer-reviewed articles on climate change, only 24 were skeptical. That’s a powerful number.
Yet a fair look at the data regarding tornadoes does not suggest that we should make the assumption that climate change is the culprit in what seemingly are more severe and fatal tornadoes. You can look at the actual listing of tornadoes in America since the earliest recorded one in 1671 to the present. A number of things should be remembered:
- Reporting in terms of damage and severity of twisters changes over time. We use a new system for instance starting in 2007, the Enhanced Fujita Scale. We have better equipment for measuring intensity and damage.
- We are much more populated. Areas that were virtually uninhabited are no longer so, and fatalities may reflect that to some degree.
- We have better warning systems that no doubt save lives.
The facts are that scientists generally do agree that climate change is driving a lot of weather phenomenon such as heat waves, drought, flooding, hurricanes and snowstorms. But tornadoes are something else again. The science is not there. There is still much that remains unknown about tornadoes and the main causes–energy in the form of warm, wet air meeting colder air, and wind shear, cut in opposite directions as far as climate change is concerned. This doesn’t mean that climate change is not driving tornadic activity today, but no one can say that with certainty at this point.
Numbers suggest that 2011 was one of the worst years for tornadoes, but so far 2013 seems relatively sedate. However it is also noted as of the last few years, there seem to be tornadoes of higher intensity and with greater loss of life than we have seen in most of our lifetimes. That is merely anecdotal evidence at this point, and points to no clear trend as far as the science is concerned.
While we generally approve of Democratic Senator, Sheldon Whitehouse and his positions on any number of issues before the American public, he spoke to quickly in my humble opinion in assigning a causative claim to the Oklahoma twister in Moore to “climate change”. Since the science simply doesn’t support the allegation, Senator Whitehouse only serves the reactionary right when he offers up an opinion that can be so easily taken apart.
This is distressing for the reason that as we all know (all of those who are rational, read the actual scientific papers and listen to their testimony) that man-made climate change is real and it is taking and will continue to take a serious toll on this planet, making life uncomfortable for many, and perhaps unlivable for many others. I read just yesterday of, if memory serves me, a small island in Fiji where the inhabitants recently moved a seaside settlement inland by a mile to get away from rising ocean levels that were washing into their crop lands and destroying them with salt water. That is reality.
It simply doesn’t help to cry wolf at indefensible tragedies no matter how tempting. There is more than enough reality to use as examples.
- Can we blame the Oklahoma tornado on climate change? (rawstory.com)
- Is tornado intensity increasing? (livescience.com)
- Can we blame climate change for the tornado that took out Moore, Oklahoma? (grist.org)
- The Oklahoma Mega-Twister Is More Weather Than Climate Change (science.time.com)