UPDATE: Via Brad Blog, Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research defined specifically how the climate crisis magnified the Oklahoma tornado:
The main climate change connection is via the basic instability of the low level air that creates the convection and thunderstorms in the first place.
Warmer and moister conditions are the key for unstable air.
The climate change effect is probably only a 5 to 10% effect in terms of the instability and subsequent rainfall, but it translates into up to a 32% effect in terms of damage.
As we observe the aftermath of the horrifying tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, I can’t help but to feel simultaneously crushed by the loss and brutally angry by the disease that likely produced it. For so many reasons, including personal experiences with similar tragedy, my heart goes out to the people of Oklahoma City as they struggle with the catastrophic, practically atomic destruction in their community.
Although it’s times like these when Americans invariably rise to the occasion and affirm our commitment to our national community. We always do. Americans, more often than not, stick together and help those who can’t help themselves, whether by the collective participation in government or by personal and immediate assistance. We’re good at it.
However, this is where I can’t help but to feel a powerful anger. I’m not supposed to write this yet but as I connect the scenes of horror in Oklahoma with so many other worsening weather-related disasters, I wonder if our American community will actually band together to cast aside ignorance and political intransigence to actually mitigate the disease, the climate crisis, instead of simply reacting to the aftermath of its symptoms.
Yes, dammit, when it comes to the increased frequency and severity of these kinds of storms we ought to be immediately asking serious questions of the people who, for decades, have not only resisted action on the climate crisis, but who’ve deliberately injected misinformation and conspiracy-mongering into the debate in order to finance their re-election campaigns, while pacifying our human self-indulgence and hubris. Americans are hesitant to sacrifice convenience, and so we elect too many leaders who tell us we don’t have to because it’s all a hoax. Don’t worry, be happy, and vote accordingly. For these leaders, mostly Republicans, it’s a win-win. They always win the ignorance vote, and, with it, they always win the financial backing of corporations that are actively engaged in worsening the crisis.
The political misinformation campaign is as strong as ever. Just last week, it was reported that 97 percent of all climate scientists agree that the crisis is real, man-made and happening now. Not surprisingly, the remaining three percent reportedly had less experience and knowledge in the field. Concurrently, according to Gallup, 41 percent of Americans think the climate crisis is exaggerrated. Why? Here’s an example.
Over the weekend, Sarah Palin posted on her Facebook page a photo of her daughter playing in the snow with the following caption: “One last blast of Alaska winter today, hopefully? This is what “Grad Blast” means in Alaska! We’ll move our graduation b-b-q indoors and watch the mini-blizzard from ’round the fireplace. (Global warming my gluteus maximus.)”
As of this writing, 53,372 Likes and 1,995 Shares.
Yes, because there was a dusting of snow in Alaska on Saturday, global warming isn’t real. In fact, the snow in Palin’s back yard might’ve actually been a symptom of climate change. It turns out Anchorage set a new record for the longest snow season ever: 232 days. (A slew of other records were broken as well.) Palin and similarly idiotic deniers don’t understand that a symptom of global warming happens to be the increased severity of all varieties of weather: snow, rain, hurricanes, tornados, heat, cold and so forth. They also don’t understand the notion of climate and global temperature averages versus local weather. Just because it’s cold in New York City in February doesn’t mean global warming isn’t occurring — large sections of the planet might simultaneously be experiencing record high temperatures. Science: complicated stuff for mouth-breathing yokels like Palin.
By the way, I’m only singling out Palin because she was the most recent doofus in the conga-line of ignoramuses to hop in front of the radar. Clearly the numbers show that there continues to be an American pandemic of casual nescience in the face of arguably the most threatening crisis to face humanity since the potential for nuclear war. My ongoing fear is that we’ll simply resign ourselves to the roundelay of worsening natural disasters, and, instead of doing what’s necessary to maintain a hospitable climate for our species, we’ll focus exclusively on thwarting the impact of the climate crisis with more levees, sturdier houses and comprehensive insurance policies. For instance, Chris Christie has done nothing for the environment in New Jersey, but he’s announced the construction of a series of sand dunes to protect against another Hurricane Sandy scenario when, in fact, he and other politicians ought to be focusing on both the disease and the symptoms.
Again, maybe it’s too soon to segue from Oklahoma City to the climate crisis, but as with the gun debate it’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate the catastrophes from the politics because the severity of future catastrophes depends entirely upon what we do today, just as the politics and inaction from years ago have contributed to the extreme weather events of 2013 and beyond. We have no choice but to dose a layer of anger with our sympathies in times like these. Through vocal accountability, we might actually make some progress. And make no mistake: there are people — human beings — who are accountable for the climate crisis and its accompanying natural disasters.
How many more monster storms will it take for us to become fed up with it all — to band together and demand a preventative approach rather than merely banding together for triage? If we’re going to break through and solve the climate crisis, we have to defeat our crisis of ignorance. I’m not exactly sure which is more daunting, but we have no choice. We have to achieve this or acquiesce to more of the same — indeed, cataclysms of ever increasing severity. We can take it seriously now before the body counts are incurred, or we can simply weep and pray after the fact as the body counts rise. Even in my most pessimistic hour, I honestly believe we can still do it.