Special Report

Tornado Chasers

Liberals exploit the recent Oklahoma storms in the name of stopping climate change.

By 5.24.13

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Republicans’ capacity for destruction seems to rank up there with Mother Nature's in the eyes of some Senate liberals. And rarely has that been more evident than after Monday’s terrible events in Oklahoma.

In the aftermath of the tornado that devastated the Oklahoma City region, some Democrats decided to criticize conservatives for indirectly causing the tragedy by refusing to aid efforts to reduce global warming. Though climate change has not held the spotlight in the last few years, politicians on the left have seized on the Oklahoma tragedy as an opportunity to bring more attention to the subject.

Rhode Island Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse led things off with a tirade on the Senate floor.

“So, you may have a question for me,” Whitehouse said, addressing Republicans. “Why do you care? Why do you, Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, care if we Republicans run off the climate cliff like a bunch of proverbial lemmings and disgrace ourselves? I’ll tell you why. We’re stuck in this together.”

He went on to bash Republicans for failing to recognize the dangers of ignoring climate change: “You drag America with you to your fate. I will keep reaching out and calling out, ever hopeful that you will wake up before it is too late.”

Whitehouse has since issued a statement apologizing for any insensitivity his speech may have reflected toward the Oklahoma victims. However, he made no effort to retract his statement that conservatives were an indirect cause of extreme weather.

California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer also jumped at the chance to blame Republicans. “This is climate change,” she said, according to the Daily Caller. “We were warned about extreme weather: not just hot weather, but extreme weather.”

For Boxer, it was the perfect opportunity to push her carbon tax bill, also sponsored by noted Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders. The bill would put a fee on carbon emissions to subsidize other energy sources like solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass. “Carbon could cost us the planet,” Boxer said. “The least we could do is put a little charge on it so people move to clean energy.”

But is warming really a cause of tornadoes? Is there any substance behind Democrats’ hot air? Let’s take a look at the science behind the formation of tornadoes, since Whitehouse and Boxer evidently haven’t.

According to the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL), heat plays a small-to-nonexistent part in the formation of tornadoes. Highly destructive tornadoes form from mesocyclones, which are rotating thunderstorms with firm radar circulations. Temperature differences across the downdraft air on the mesocyclone sometimes correlate with the formation of twisters, but studies show that temperature variation often plays no role in their creation.

A prime example of this is the tornado outbreak of May 3-4, 1999. The tornado count over the two-day span rose to 70 and claimed over 40 lives. The NSSL states that “very little temperature variation was observed near some of the most destructive tornadoes in history” during that time.

So it seems unlikely that heat had anything to do with Monday’s terrible storms. Right now the temperature of the lower troposphere over the U.S. is below average. Also below average is the number of tornadoes that have hit the U.S. in the past year and a half. According to The Examiner, Harold Brooks, a research meteorologist at the National Severe Storms Laboratory, notes that “the 12-month period from May 2012 to April 2013 was remarkable for the absence of tornado activity and tornado impacts in the United States.”

Not that politicians like Whitehouse and Boxer care about the facts. It says something that they’re willing to politicize a natural disaster in order to gain political traction. Such statements draw to mind Thomas Schelling, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and global warming advocate, who perfectly demonstrates liberals’ thought processes in promoting their agendas, no matter what the cost.

“Probably you have to find ways to exaggerate the threat,” Schelling said in a 2009 interview with The Atlantic. “I sometimes wish that we could have, over the next five or ten years, a lot of horrid things happening—you know, like tornadoes in the Midwest and so forth—that would get people concerned about climate change.”

The death toll is currently at 24 people in Oklahoma. I wonder: Would Schelling deem this tragedy a large enough “horrid thing” to promote his cause?

Whitehouse, Boxer, and other global warming advocates need to focus more on efforts to help the devastated areas instead of seizing the tragedy to push new bills. Here's hoping this is the last we’ll see of their ludicrous statements on natural disasters.

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About the Author

Claire Healey is an editorial intern with The American Spectator. She is a political science major and a rising senior at Grove City College. She is the Editor-in-chief of The Collegian, the Grove City College student newspaper, and the Executive Style Editor of The Grove City College Journal of Law & Public Policy.