After last weekend’s deadly tornadoes, President Biden is navigating a unique and delicate conversation on climate change, stopping just shy of blaming global warming for the disaster.
During his address on Monday, the President highlighted the storms’ extreme nature and ordered officials to investigate the potential influence of climate change.
Shortly after his address to the nation, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell gave remarks on the events in the Kentucky region. The FEMA administrator blamed climate change for the disaster, saying “This is going to be our new normal. The effects we are seeing of climate change are the crisis of our generation. We’re taking a lot of efforts at FEMA to work with communities to help reduce the impacts that we’re seeing from these severe weather events.”
Criswell shared her thoughts during an interview last week on CNN.
“The weather of the past will not be the weather of the future. As long as we are emitting greenhouse gases at a historically unprecedented rate, we should expect this change to continue,” said Stephanie Herring, a climate scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in recent Washington Post interview.
Since taking office, the president has faced an unusual number of extreme weather events. The conversations surrounding each event have most often turned political, as part of a trend from the Biden Administration.
Scientists and Climate Change Researchers are drawing more precise lines between global warming and destructive weather. Some climate activists say the tornado outbreak highlights the urgent need to address global warming.
“We have to be very careful,” Biden said. “We can’t say with absolute certainty that it was because of climate change. What is certain: It is one of the worst tornado disasters we’ve had in the country. And the second thing that’s certain is that it is unusual. It is unusual how it happened, how many places it touched down, and the length of the path. So that’s all I’m prepared to talk about right now.”
However, it appears FEMA was willing to attribute the events directly to climate change and spur further discussion in detail.
Biden visited Kentucky on Wednesday. Kentucky was more heavily impacted than any other region, as tornadoes killed at least 74 people. At least 14 more people died in Arkansas, Tennessee, Ohio and Missouri.
Biden said this week he ordered the Environmental Protection Agency and others to look into whether climate change is responsible for the tornadoes or contributed to their extreme nature.
The specific connection between climate change and tornadoes is not certain. However, experts have said higher temperatures could create a more violent weather pattern.
Climate change is currently at the center of Biden’s domestic agenda. He is trying to push a bill across the finish line on Capitol Hill to make substantial investments in the fight against climate change. The administration continues to point to events like this recent tornado outbreak as a signal for urgency and an example of the continuance of global warming.
It appears there could be a missing perspective by the current administration and climate researchers as they continue to assert that the extremity of recent weather events in America’s Heartland. As someone who has long been fascinated with tornadoes and their history, this conversation has certainly piqued my interest to look closer at the events of this week and compare them to previous events in our nation.
For instance, on April 3-4, 1974, there was a Super Outbreak of Tornadoes. According to the National Weather Service, this weather event affected 13 states across the eastern United States, from the Great Lakes region to the Deep South. In all, 148 tornadoes were documented, of which 95 were rated F2 or stronger on the Fujita scale, and 30 were F4 or F5. Aside from the catastrophic damage, the outbreak resulted in 335 deaths and more than 6,000 injuries.
“Dozens of tornadoes struck Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky, resulting in 159 deaths, over 4,000 injuries, and hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage,” according to the National Weather Service. “Two violent F5 tornadoes destroyed much of Xenia and Sayler Park, a western suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio. Resulting in 34 deaths, the Xenia tornado was the deadliest of all tornadoes from this outbreak and remains among the top 10 costliest U.S. tornadoes on record, approximately $250 million in 1974.”
The entire outbreak cost the U.S. more than $600 million, the equivalent of over $3.3 billion in today’s economy.
Jerry Wolverton, 84, from Nashville, Tennessee, recalled the events of 1974 to TimCast: “Our family experienced so much loss. I lost an aunt and eight cousins in one of the tornadoes that went through Hazel Green, Alabama. We had to help pull their bodies from trees in the day after the terrible storm. I don’t see much change in the climate, but I am grateful we have better warnings today than we did in 1974.”
Nearly a century earlier, the Tri-State Tornado occurred on March 18, 1925. The tornado reached a mile wide at times, and its winds reached 300 mph, putting it at the top of the Fujita scale for intensity. At least 695 people were killed and more than 2,000 were injured by the deadly twister that trekked across Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. Other tornadoes in the 1925 outbreak also hit Tennessee and Kentucky.
The Tri-State Tornado of 1925 was remarkable because its path of destruction was continuous for 219 miles as it traveled between 60 and 73 mph over three and a half hours. The tornado devastated five towns and killed 541 people in southern Illinois in just under 40 minutes.
The events of this past week are devastating. Compared to the events of 1974, the extremity of the weather is a more far-fetched comparison. Considering all such events, data and outcomes is paramount when suggesting that global warming trends directly impact the most recent events.
Amidst the recovery efforts following events like those in Kentucky this week, the voices behind the climate change initiatives continue to utilize such events and media coverage to highlight a political agenda — an act that seemingly dismisses history and looks only at the present political agenda.